OP: 「」 (Tear of Will) by (Saori Hayami)
「ラピスラズリ(第1部)」 (Lapis Lazuli)
Here lies the anime I was most personally interested in this season; apart from the big titles that are sure to garner everyone’s attention, there are other more obscure titles coming out this season that show promise, like always, I tend to keep my reservations in check. Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana – The Teardrop Crystal (god that’s a long title) is a new anime from Graphinica and Yokohama Animation Lab, with almost 9 other studios helping with in-between animation. Which are included the likes of, White Fox and Liden Films Kyoto Studio. Another not well-known outsourced studio for 3D CGi animation. And let’s just say so many hands in different places can not always result in the best of products. It all comes down to how Warner Bros Japan is able to handle all of this outsourcing, and if the people behind the management of this anime can hold out for 3 more months or so. Square Enix seems to have all but ghosted this project.
And you can tell as even if it’s intentional or not, the scene when the first bit of 3D this series has to offer was shown, looked more like a PS1 render rather than the high-quality FMVs we are used to from Visual Works. AKA Square Enix Image Studio Division
Having so many studios, with so many hands in so many different places, can result in a project that can become a little bit of a mess. It’s not a dedicated in-house team that can make sure everything is up to standard with what was originally presented in the PS1 game. The nostalgia factor alone is not enough to carry this project, especially because its execution was also spotty at best.
The Teardrop Crystal doesn’t do a really good job of explaining its word and lore, instead, we are treated to a monologue lore dump by an NPC, which sends our protagonist down the right rabbit hole to advance the story.
I really think this should have been a 2 episode premiere, as this first episode ended right where the story was finally able to pick up. Things were about to start happening for our protagonist. Shiloh (Shimazaki, Nobunaga) (finally Yuno getting more than one line!), our spunky-looking, extroverted, yet welcoming, go-getter. However, this large prologue permeating through more than half of the episode was not necessarily bad, just confusing and obtuse. The most important part of the lore dump happens when Shiloh hands over the apples to the NPC in the church. And it was delivered through fogged exposition, with a clear intent on trying to be mysterious. This is Kingdom Hearts shit right here.
So let’s try and correct that, even though the explanation was good enough, it’s not enough for those uninitiated with the series, let alone the game. There’s some reading material required to fully comprehend its backstory and be able to enjoy this first episode fully. And that’s never good. Blocking potential watchers from understanding the hook of the lore of this story, is not good writing. So what’s the deal?
Long ago the world was abundant with Mana, the source of all magic, but one-day factions across the land wanted to control it and in turn, burned down the mana tree, so long has passed since that age and now the mana tree has reflowered, however, people have forgotten how to use magic. Is made evident by the clear unschooled nature of Shiloh towards “Artifacts”.
So what’s interesting about this series is that in the age we are currently in canon, people don’t really know how to use magic as they live in a post-magic age, and now only select few know about it. This is the power they were talking about. Mana has always had a sword, a tree, or a god you must go and find in a grand quest that fills out 40+ hours of a single game. However much like Dragon Quest, the Mana series is not really about the grand treasure at the end of the journey, but the journey itself. It’s a laid-back JRPG, with western-infused fantasy elements.
However, spending 30 minutes dicking around the overworld doing menial tasks is not exactly exciting or great storytelling, it works in the context of a game, but not exactly in the context of anime. That is not to say the pacing of the anime was slow, by any means I felt it quite snappy. Characters got introduced left and right, Shiloh got to the village with little uproar, and the people living (squatting) at his house are adorable yet likable partners to his adventure. Although those kids are dam annoying. But that’s me – Shiloh considers his house of everyone, and so both Cactus (Kubo, Yurika), weird-looking plant monsters, to orphan children are welcomed all the same. But if it was me I would be kicking them straight out. Maybe one or two nights but dead bodies start to stink and uninvited guests as well.
In town, a mysterious cold character appears (literally) who is looking for his sister (or bride?) and goes up and all but demands information. Ruri (Umehara, Yuuichirou) is on the verge of slapping Rachel(?) to get information about the beloved person he is looking for, this leads to him having to apologize and in turn getting a rock that shows them both Ruri and Shiloh a 3D premonition where this girl is at right now. I mean keeping information from potential individuals who can help you in order to avoid vulnerability. Really? It’s 2022 people!
As they move towards their objective, the episode ends.
I’ve always considered the Mana series the Alice in Wonderland of video games. The Disney movie sort of reflects the original sentiment of the novel but ends up putting Alice in situations borderline wacky and nonsensical. However it’s not about not making sense, but in fact making all the sense, because the original sentiment of the novel, of the original story, is that Alice resolves her issues with empathy rather than trying to fight her way out of things. Much like The Little Prince is a story crafted to teach children how to be kind. Mana holds those same sentiments for me, except it infuses Japanese ideals of living as one with nature, with a little bit of Ghibli thrown in there for good measure.
The Teardrop Crystal certainly proved interesting, however, it annihilates newcomers to the anime and does not do a good job of explaining what it really is about. The Teardrop Crystal suffers many of the same problems as the game, it doesn’t start to get good until you spend enough time with it to understand what it really is about, it’s the sentiment. Don’t worry, it gets good after 30+ hours. Storytelling should be entertaining from the get-go, and should not require playing through a 40+ hour game just to grab the basic strings of its premise. I loved it for what it was, and I’m sure it’s going to give me enough to talk about. But its obtuse storytelling is going to be hard on newcomers. I reckon I’ll give this 3 more episodes to see if it’s a good fit for weekly review.
Full-length images: 36.