Thursday, April 28, 2011

Anime Review: The Sacred Blacksmith

Today we’ll be looking at The Sacred Blacksmith an anime I haven’t seen or really heard much of beforehand, as usual. I saw some ads around the internet for the cartoon for a while now but what made me decide to finally check it out was that, judging from the cover art, it was a fantasy series and that’s a genre I’d like to write more about. I’m a fan of sword and sorcery type storytelling (Sometimes, anyway) so it has that going for it.  The show, broadcasting in 2009, was based on a series of light novels by Isao Miura. Now if you recall cartoons based on light novels have been hit or miss on this blog; Black Blood Brothers was a great show but Kaze no Stigma was not my most liked anime (IT SUCKS!) but both had a common major problem: being based on unfinished novels makes for non-endings that tend to be unsatisfying.  So we’re only one paragraph in and we’re already in trouble.

Licensed for North America by FUNimation Entertainment it was just released on DVD this past January (2011, for those of you in the far future).   It was originally created by the animation studio Manglobe.  Now I’m not terribly familiar with their work but they did do Samurai Champloo which is one of the more critically acclaimed shows of the last decade (I haven’t seen the whole show, but what I did see was certainly above average stuff. A future blog perhaps?).  With that show on its resume it’s not hard to give this sow the benefit of the doubt.  And again I must add it has swords and sorcery!  How can it possibly go wrong?

Find out how after the jump.

Cecily, in a rare moment of having her top on
Cecily Cambell is a young knight serving and protecting the city of Housman having succeeded her deceased father (Her grandfather also served as a knight).  One day while on patrol she encounters a crazed war veteran who she ends up battling in a sword fight but she is quickly proven to be absolutely no match for him.  Before she can be murdered however she is saved by a mysterious youth wielding a katana, a weapon she has never seen before.  It turns out that this young man is called Luke Ainsworth and is a talented but antisocial blacksmith.  Cecily becomes determined to convince Luke to forge a katana of her very own, neither one realizing that they’ve just taken their first step into a more complex game of power and control.

I liked the fact that the main character of this series was definitively Cecily.  Despite all her faults she’s a strong female who has a lot going for her: a strong will, outspoken, brave to a fault, a willingness to sacrifice herself to save innocents, stuff like that.  As much as I can tell she’s inferior to her light novel counterpart (I’ll talk more about that later) but she’s not the worst character ever.  There’s a lot here similar to Kaze no Stgma which is more a sign of cataclysmic failure than anything else.  The relationship between Cecily and Luke is very similar to the one of the two main leads from that other show (Tsundere/Asshole Dude) but I was less hostile to it in the Sacred Blacksmith mainly due to the fact that Cecily is so much more likable than She Who Must Not Be Named.  Cecily comes off as being a lot more reasonable and though she may be portrayed as being much weaker than her male counterpart, much like how it was in Kaze no Stigma, but she is much, much more humble and aware of her own limitations.  Not to say that I, you know, liked her all that much; I’m just trying not to crucify this show (Yet).

The artwork is fine. It came off a bit sloppy here and there but for the most part it’s pretty tight.  I’m guessing that’s mainly due to the shows length of 12 episodes and the producers not blowing the art budget in the first five episodes.  The character designs are hit and miss.   I really like Luke’s outfit. The lack of armor helps sell the elegant nature of his style of swordplay and I really like the combination of blue, white and black. Cecily’s outfit is also pretty good as her knight uniform implies the exact opposite style of fighting. I like it.  I’m not too crazy about Aria’s outfit though. Now I’m not saying she’s dressed like a prostitute but her attire does seem a bit needlessly reveling (Plus it looks like she’s implied to be wearing a string thong).  I’m certain that this is more about fan service than anything else and I’ve always been pretty judgmental as far as that crap goes.

Despite the fact that she's actually a sword she's still boring as shit
Talking, walking magic swords should be awesome
Also there’s a depressing amount of sexualized official (And unofficial) artwork of both Cecily and the very young Lisa all over the web. That’s really gross, guys!

Speaking of Fan Service now is a good time to mention what about this series made me want to hang myself, which is a lot.   First of all there are a lot of half naked ladies running around and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Aside from Aria there are also Charlotte’s three bodyguards who look like they forgot to dress in their rush to appear in the show.  I recall seeing panty shots in his show but I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been because I’m not punching holes in my walls as I write this, but God almighty were there a ton of boob shots.  It seems every chance it got the show finds an excuse to get Cecily’s top off and roughly 60% of the show’s dialogue is the rest of the (Mostly female cast) loudly talking about how huge her tits are and how much they want to squeeze them.  Huh?!  I’m not against nudity or mature conversation about breasts in general but it’s all pretty goddamn distracting here.  I signed up to watch a fantasy adventure, not hear how many slang terms FUNimation knows for “breasts”.

That’s fairly minor.  The real problem is that the show is boring as hell. I watched all the episodes closely but it’s one long dull blur.  I recall them talking a lot about wars and demon contracts but it really all went nowhere plot wise.   I recall hearing that the main plot of the story was that Luke, the titular “Sacred Blacksmith” is working on a sacred sword to replace the one that has been holding the dreaded “demon king” (Whose name I can’t for the life of me recall) captive and keeping him from running rampant on the world.  Well that plot line doesn’t reach its conclusion.  Like most of the other shows based on light novels I’ve reviewed this story ends rather abruptly, as if begging for a sequel.  So a lot of plot threads, including the demon king’s imprisonment as well as details regarding the demon swords that are constantly showing up, go unresolved.  I kept waiting for some big battle between the main characters and some monstrous and unspeakable doomsday creature as a climax but instead I got a short fight with a villain (Who couldn’t be more obviously evil if he had a black top hat and a mustache) whose motivation for stirring up trouble in the show was…um…because he’s an asshole?

This guy?  A villain?  Nooooo!
The cast doesn’t help much because frankly every single one of them are fairly simple characters that I’ve seen in anime shows a thousand times before.  As I said Luke and Cecily are basically just repeating the relationship we saw in Kaze no Stigma except that Luke is a much bigger jerk than Kazuma and Cecily is much more likable than She Who Must Not Be Named.  Luke is such an uncompromising ass though and it’s so hard to really get behind him.  The show doesn’t even really try to make us sympathize with him until surprisingly late in the series and by that time I didn’t care.  And Cecily, while not the worst, is still guilty of being bi-polar at least.   She goes from friendly to murderous shockingly fast and has tried to beat Luke to death for amazingly poor reasons multiple times and is prone to screaming her head over when she thinks things aren’t going her way.  Weirdly I hear that her counterpart from the books is much more even tempered and also a much better swordsman.  I guess they altered this for the cartoon because they wanted to adhere more to typical anime tropes.  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, MANGLOBE?!  Why would you want to circumcise a character like this?  What do you gain from it?  The rest of our cast are just caricatures and are worth almost nothing.  There aren’t really any stand out characters here to balance out the weak plot.

The cast of the show (I assume anyway, since I was sleeping)

I didn’t hate this show but it’s not a very fulfilling experience.  The plot is average at best and feels incomplete, the characters are all stereotypes and nothing here feels very original or interesting.  But the thing is that this is really just an average show.  It’s not awful and you may in fact like it if you subscribe to a lot of what the writers are offering.  I do not.   If you get the opportunity to watch this show feel free to check it out but take in mind that I will never go out of my way to watch it ever again if I can help it.   It’s a sub-par show that doesn’t warrant a blip on the radar.  It may one day get a sequel that might raise the show’s stock.  We’ll see.

The Sacred Blacksmith gets 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


Pros

-Strong female lead

-Certain character designs struck a chord with me

Cons

-A lot of other designs did not strike a chord with me

-An extremely dull plot full of holes 

-Boring characters who are the same character you’ve seen in a thousand anime

-Weird moments of fan service are distracting

5 comments:

  1. I wish they made more!!

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  2. They may yet still make more one day. They certainly have a lot of material to draw from.

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  3. They should make more. they just left me hanging at the end. same with kaze no stigma. i personaly think they have a good plot. but the clifhanger at the end :(

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  4. WTH was this guy talking about getting her top off? There was only 2 times in the whole series it was off (ok 3 if you count a 2 second flash back). The first time was only 2 ir 3 seconds long and the 2nd time was a bath scene where she was underwater and you could barely see anything. Sounds almost like didn't really watch ti or just didn't pay much attention when did watch it for what actually went on. Basically seems like he went in wanting to hate it so made sure he was going to no matter how it was.

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    1. Well seeing as I gave it a decent rating I'm fairly sure I didn't hate it or go into it wanting to hate it. Since I wrote this review four years ago I can't say I recall every detail about what nude scene happened when and for how long but I do recall that the scenes seemed unnecessary and distracting. Not a deal breaker though.

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