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Thunderbolt Fantasy S2 – 01, 02

OP Sequence

OP: 「His/Story」by Takanori Nishikawa


“Xian Zhen Fortress”


「仙鎮城」 (Sen Shizumi shiro)

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”


「奪われた魔剣」 ( Ubawareta maken )

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 Sequence

ED: 「Roll the Dice」by Takanori Nishikawa

Preview

October 9, 2018 at 12:37 pm
33 comments »
  • October 9, 2018 at 1:03 pmYOLF

    Hella. I’m real interested to see Thunderbolt Fantasy covered here. The first season was an astounding sleeper hit for me that oozed style, not to mention its stellar cast, and I’m delighted it’s coming to the attention of more people.

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:31 amZaiden

      Oh wow! Sleeper hit was exactly the word that was lingering on the edge of my mind (yet failed to grasp). So good, and hopefully if I can continue to provide coverage for Thunderbolt Fantasy, I’ll be able to help promote it to a wider audience.

    • October 10, 2018 at 4:20 pmKarmafan

      The people that complain “Ugh puppets” and turn it off after 30 seconds are losing out. This is a very good series and well worth your time.

    • November 9, 2018 at 2:00 amSherris

      Sadly, it will not be covered…

  • October 9, 2018 at 2:18 pmNoctis

    The music alone is amazing. MY first impression was, wtf dolls? But the action was REALLY good. I love the tiny details they put in it.

    We definitely marathon this once it finishes.

    • October 9, 2018 at 6:58 pmOne Pinch Man

      Sawano’ music really elevates this series.

  • October 9, 2018 at 4:26 pmDude

    I was worried that Thunderbolt Fantasy isn’t going to be covered, but I sure am glad for this post!

    First off, the first season was awesome because it brought us to the huge potential of puppetry, especially when it blends live-action with animation without cheese CGI and 3D animation. It showcases the love and attention to detail in costumes and puppet and weapons designs. Fact that artists don’t have to constantly draw the same amount of detail because you just need a few puppets with spare costumes and you get the same quality every frame and scene. I’m not sure about the costing savings between drawing the characters vs getting puppets but I hope that overall the budget can be better spent on effects and sets.

    Story is great as always, the epic music accompaniment is wonderful. The voice acting blends very well with the puppetry.

    I absolutely love this.

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:47 amZaiden

      That was a legitimate concern. I didn’t cover the first episode immediately, time constraints being that my first week of university began last week. But I like Thunderbolt Fantasy way too much to have been dissuaded by that setback :3

      I totally forgot to bring up the music, but it is truly epic in a way that matches the traditional style of storytelling, mixing Taiwanese folk music with the Sawano style. And I just love Sawano’s flexible motifs, that can be used both as background sound for exciting fights, sad moments, or comical scenes. Sawano’s stuff is typically quite tongue-in cheek in regards to the meta of whatever series he’s composing for.

      I also favour the puppetry, and think it’s potentially a step in the right direction, if it can provide excellent entertainment values while offloading burdens from the over-encumbered studios. However, I sadly don’t see this trend catching on any time soon.

  • October 9, 2018 at 6:06 pmstarss

    Do they use strings? I bet the rigs are inside the bodies of the puppets, as well as underneath them. Sorry, I’m new to this kind of puppetry.

    • October 10, 2018 at 12:34 amAngelus

      No strings. The puppet is on a stick and the two forearms have a stick each through them, and these are all worked by people underneath. If you can lay your hands on the prequel movie, there are some production shots during the end credits showing exactly how it’s done.

      • November 9, 2018 at 2:12 amSherris

        The film (OVA) is on Crunchyroll.

  • October 9, 2018 at 8:47 pmPanino Manino

    The lack of cute dolls this season is disturbing.

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:47 amZaiden

      You don’t think Shofukan is a cutie? :’(

      • October 10, 2018 at 4:39 amAngelus

        If you think the guys are cuter than the girls (as I do), is it the show or yourself you need to worry about?

    • November 9, 2018 at 2:13 amSherris

      The lute is the cutest! Kimokawaii!

  • October 9, 2018 at 8:58 pmZen

    The exquisite craftsmanship of the puppets is my favorite part of the show. So intricate and beautiful. And interesting, unique idiosyncrasies of individual characters is the driving force behind the narrative- keeps me engaged although the overall overarching story line isn’t very original or complex.

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:48 amZaiden

      The overarching storyline is hardly complex. But you could say this is typical of most Gen Urobuchi works, where the exploration of characters and themes is often paramount.

  • October 9, 2018 at 10:04 pmBob

    “For me, there are two words that come to mind if I were asked to describe Thunderbolt Fantasy”

    Same: PUPPET WUXIA

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:49 amZaiden

      If I were asked to describe Thunderbolt Fantasy’s genres, that’d be my answer too :P

  • October 9, 2018 at 10:07 pmBROOKLYN otaku

    So cool, SO COOOOOOOL!!!!!!! all about the craftsmanship and SKILL!!! Story a bit bleh, but hey, scratches that WEIRD action doll itch that i DIDNT know i had!!

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:49 amZaiden

      I didn’t know I had it too, until I watched it as a joke. Completely surpassed any expectations I had, and I was just utterly impressed by how good it actually was.

  • October 10, 2018 at 1:03 amAngelus

    Puppetry is a highly experimental format that hasn’t been adapted on a mainstream level in Japan

    What about Bunraku?

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:28 amZaiden

      In my opinion, Bunraku is more hipster than mainstream, kinda like rakugo.

  • October 10, 2018 at 3:29 amDamrod

    The thing i keep wondering is, where can i find season 1 then?
    Tried the usual sites for anime streaming without success and not even youtube has season 1.

    • October 10, 2018 at 3:58 amZaiden

      Crunchyroll has S1. YouTube has S1 where I’m from (could be region locked). But there are dark arts on the internet that I could directly tell you about, if you join our Discord :P

      https://discord.gg/BaV5Gvw

      • October 11, 2018 at 2:35 amDamrod

        Youtube has it region locked for me then as i can’t get it on youtube.
        And those dark arts sound intriguing indeed…
        Sure, i already sold my soul to the devil for the dark powers of the internet so some more dark arts are always nice :D

    • October 10, 2018 at 4:24 pmKarmafan

      Horrible subs should have it as well (unless they did away with batches).

    • October 11, 2018 at 11:30 amZaiden

      I sent you the messages with instructions on Discord. Check it out when you have time :)

  • October 10, 2018 at 4:28 amZJZJ

    I am going to try out season 1 now purely because of your post and the comments. You’ve at least convinced one person!

  • October 11, 2018 at 10:49 pmvinny

    we need more of these puppet shows.

  • October 12, 2018 at 2:05 ammika163

    I am sold! Just marathoned season 1. Plot was enough to keep me going and I just put up with the puppet animation. Will continue with the movie and season 2 now.

  • November 8, 2018 at 12:17 pmZeeli

    Is there a DVD/blueray of S1 out with Eng. subs?

    • November 9, 2018 at 2:20 amSherris

      Yes, the Taiwan release. You can find it on the Pili website if you can read Chinese.

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