OP: 「His/Story」by Takanori Nishikawa
“Xian Zhen Fortress”
Note: Scroll further down to see my explanations as to why everybody should be giving Thunderbolt Fantasy the time of their day!
Other than time constraints, limiting my ability to do an opening post, I had other considerations in mind which made me hold off from making an introductory post last week. I heard that the prescreening was intentionally done as a combined Episode 1 + 2 package, the implication being that Episode 1 by itself would be a lacklustre way of starting off the season. Now that we have the double package, which PILI intended to be a cohesive starting point, let’s dive into the world of Thunderbolt Fantasy!
Season 2 continues where Season 1 left off – in the middle of a dark, stormy night, even the same hermit wandering through the rain without an umbrella. But I assure you, that’s no ordinary hermit. This is our protagonist Shofukan, who continues on his quest to render the remaining 35 divine swords obsolete. Unfortunately, misfortune seems to hound him wherever he wanders. An enemy from his past capitalises upon his mistake, and successfully causes a major setback in his plans. However, her greed for wanting to kill him prevents her from fully achieving her primary goal, a much deserved stroke of luck. Still, what she managed to attain might be sufficient for world domination depending on how powerful her mysterious master is. Who knows.
As always with Thunderbolt Fantasy, it’s impossible to predict how things will turn out, but I’m definitely excited! I’m especially pleased that Kichou-san is back, because his twisted schemes were friggin’ hilarious, never failing to amuse me. And he had the most insane ways of trolling people, regardless if they were friends or foes. But I get the impression he might have unwittingly met his match. At the moment, I personally believe that the new villain with glasses is wary of Kichou-san and is merely playing along with his whims. It’d be interesting to see a potential battle of the minds play out, though I’d still be fine if Kichou-san does manage to utterly bamboozle the villainous faction. Finally, the episode ended on a cliffhanger. After being tricked, a poisoned Shofukan lies on the cusp of being overcome by some zombies. Fortunately he isn’t alone. His trusty pal Ro Fuyo tracked him across the Wasteland of Spirits and is there to back him up. I’m certain they won’t have the protagonist dying here, plus Ro Fuyo has proved his mettle in crossing the wasteland, as well as handily fighting alongside Shofukan. The only question would be whether the antagonist can get her hands on the rest of the divine swords. If that were to happen, Shofukan’s war against evil would get exponentially harder, though it wouldn’t be impossible for him to ultimately prevail.
“The Stolen Sorcerous Blades”
Why you should be watching Thunderbolt Fantasy:
For those who are new to Thunderbolt Fantasy, I will avoid spoiling the previous season. But I want to do my best with regards to selling this show, as one that people should 100% be trying out. If you have time, the Thunderbolt Fantasy pre-broadcast special explains things from the Japanese production’s perspective, shedding light on the thoughts that went into the show. After all, considering that he’s wholly investing his efforts into a new venture, there has to be a good reason why Gen Urobuchi’s talents no longer service the anime industry.
For me, there are two words that come to mind if I were asked to describe Thunderbolt Fantasy – daring AND phenomenal. No other show is quite like it. If you like shounen, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance you’ll enjoy this, provided you don’t mind traditionally clothed folks fighting with swords with the occasional touch of spiritual magic. These are features specific to Wuxia, a genre that can be described as an ancestor of shounen, and the one which Thunderbolt Fantasy belongs to. Then, there’s another special ingredient in the mix – puppetry. But what the puppetry added winded up being a catalyst for unimaginable success. Absurdity is absolutely overblown, meaning you can never take things too seriously. What good would that be? In my mind, being too serious would take away from the fun. Thunderbolt Fantasy is like a carnival performer who showboats super hard, knowing exactly what it is doing while successfully entertaining viewers every step of the way. It unapologetically wrangles premium vintage cheese all over your nachos, and you either take it or leave it.
That said, I can see why it wouldn’t be for everyone. Puppetry is a highly experimental format that hasn’t been adapted on a mainstream level in Japan. While many could consider it a cultural mismatch for Japan, it’s not difficult to see why Urobuchi fell in love with the medium. Urobuchi’s style as a director massively compliment what the medium of puppetry has to offer. For starters, it’s just so brash and shameless – we all know the unexpected things that Urobuchi creates when given free reins. Then there’s so much to say about how character-driven the show is – typical to all of Gen Urobuchi’s fictional pieces. Yet you might wonder whether the static faces would hinder the portrayal of emotions. Fear not. The expressive voice acting and body language make all these emotions very clear, and you would be able to distinguish characters based on the exaggerated intonations of their voice as well as their unique gestures. Surprisingly, these also wind up becoming poker faces, perfectly tying in with how often the characters try to outscheme and backstab each other. And when there is action, the show holds no reservation in being flashy, often served with accompaniments of extremely cheesy dialogue.
The story for both seasons boils down to big bads wanting powerful swords, only for the reluctant Shofukan gets caught up in protecting them. While the premise doesn’t sound outstanding, I must stress that there is significant depth that I haven’t touched upon so far. It’s the journey and overall philosophy behind reasons and motivations, that underpin what Thunderbolt Fantasy is truly about. So I strongly urge that people give the first episode of the first season a shot, since it will give you a taste of what to expect. What are you waiting for? I’m sure that if you go in with an open mind, you will surely be pleasantly surprised! Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to say. Even if I cannot find the time to continue providing coverage for Thunderbolt Fantasy, I sure as heck hope that I’ve managed to convince one or two people to try it out! Thank you for reading my post, and maybe see you next week?
ED: 「Roll the Dice」by Takanori Nishikawa