Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anime Review: Sands of Destruction

It's been a while since I've reviewed an anime and picking this out of a group of shows I never heard of was bit difficult but I ended up selecting an interesting one. Sands of Destruction is the American release title for a video game based anime originally known as World Destruction: Sekai Bokumetsu no Rokunin (“The Six People That Will Destroy the World”). The Nintendo DS game came out in 2008 (2010 in North America) and was produced by Sega. The anime adaptation, which also came out in 2008, was produced by Production I.G (Who also did Eden of the East). It was release stateside by FUNimation Entertainment in 2010.

I haven't made it through a lot of anime based on video games before. One of the closest I ever got was Star Ocean EX, which is based on one of my all-time favorites JRPGs (“Japanese Role Playing Games”, for you non-nerds), but the lesson I learned there is that trying to make the translation between the two mediums is likely to completely rape the source material. Star Ocean EX was awful but technically that doesn't mean Sands of Destruction is as well. Plus since I haven’t ever played the game I may not care so much that it might not be true to the original story. It seems that a lot of people prefer the anime for various reasons, so why not take a look?

Full review after the jump.


Kyrie, looking about how I felt watching this show
Kyrie is a normal human kid working in a tavern. He lives on a world where talking, walking animals known as “Beastmen” (Or “Ferals”) rule over humanity with an iron fist so Kyrie typically disguises himself to pass as one of them. One day a mysterious girl named Morte arrives in the tavern and is almost immediately identified as a member of the World Destruction Committee (Or “World Annihilation Front”), an organization that is accused of trying to destroy the world. After a struggle with the authorities the two find themselves on run, along with a dwarf bear named Toppy. To make matters worse Morte freely admits that she is out to destroy the world; she holds the Destruct Code and has the ability to do just that. Thus the road to world destruction begins

The animation in this show is okay but not great. A few episodes are particularly bad but thankfully never fall too far below the line of good taste. It looks better than a lot anime I've reviewed but it's not in the upper tier of beautiful looking cartoons. The character designs for key cast members are really cool, though I assume that the result of the game rather than the anime. The English dub is good, per usual for FUNimation. The world of Sands of Destruction is pretty cool, with continents named after seasons and the oceans replaced by sand. Of course not much of it makes much sense, especially the whole “sand as water” thing (Though Gurren Lagann's “space as water” is a lot dumber) but even so I liked the look of things. Also there isn’t really a superfluous love sub-plot here. Things never seem anything more than platonic between the two leads, except maybe for the very end of the show and even that is really debatable. Such additions are usually distracting and unwanted so I'd say the show was better off without it.

I'll talk about more of the characters in a minute but I will say that I really liked Toppy, the adorable but ultimately badass eye patch wearing dwarf bear. Unlike the other two main characters he comes off as both competent and truly heroic. And did I mention adorable? I love Toppy! No matter what else I say about this anime I can earnestly say that he is my favorite example of overly cute anime sidekick ever.

"After the fight do you want to get some milkshakes, kuma?"
Unfortunately that's pretty much the extent of my enjoyment of this show. This is especially troubling considering that I have read quite a bit of talk about how good this show is, especially compared to the original game. I just don't see it; this show is bad. The main issue I have with thi series is the pacing of the story as once the characters meet and begin their journey we get nine episodes of what feels like filler. Most episodes just focus on the guys walking into a town and getting into a wacky situation while trying to avoid the World Salvation Committee. The main plot isn't really touched on much until about episode ten or eleven but everything before that feels not just dull but also kind of pointless. While watching this series I kept zoning out because it was pretty goddamn boring. The tone is a bit messed up as well since it's clearly a comedy despite the theoretically dark motive of the main character. Ultimately Morte wants to destroy the world but it's hard to take that idea seriously when we have an entire episode where Kyrie is super afraid of his companion's skirt tearing up after he accidentally damaged it. There's slapstick and things are pretty silly, which is fine under normal circumstances but it would have made more sense for the anime to be more of a action drama than a (questionably) action comedy

This brings me to the characters. First of all Toppy is the only member of the protagonist trio that I like. Kyrie does nothing for me. He's more or less that same “wishy-washy” coward type of main character that is all too common in anime. I think the fact that he, despite having no desire to destroy the world, doesn’t do much to try to stop her mad scheme or otherwise persuade her out of it. He simply follows her around with a token disagreeable attitude about the whole thing (And yes, Toppy doesn’t do much about this either but at least with him I earnestly suspect he'd actually do something should the time come when Morte tries to blow up the planet). Weirdly Kyrie is clearly supposed to be the main character but he never comes off as anything other than Morte's sidekick until he very last episode.

Speaking of Morte she's absolutely one of the biggest problems with this show. Again, this is not a darker tone show; it's pretty lighthearted all things considered. So having a main character whose goal is to DESTROY THE WORLD AND KILL MILLIONS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE doesn't particularly resonate with me. Perhaps if this was a different type of show I may be more incline to accept an antihero as the protagonist but here Morte just seems like a maniac. Her reasoning for her mission is supposedly due to the fact that the beastmen brutally rule over humanity and a world in such a state doesn't deserve to exist. Except that she finds plenty of examples of people of both races co-existing peacefully, to which she replies “They're just stupid.” It seems pretty clear that her true motivation is revenge for the death of her brother. Now maybe you might say that her character grows over the course of the series but actually she's pretty high on the whole “genocide” thing right up until the very last second of the show where she [SPOILER ALERT] decides she doesn't want to pull the trigger after all, possibly because she didn’t' consciously realize the gravity of the situation until it was right in her face. Which means that not only is she an asshole but she's also a poseur.

And before you argue that she's a sympathetic character I say her complete determination to kill every man, woman and child on the planet implies that she simply has a sympathetic back-story to support her evil motives and she herself is not sympathetic at all. Which the same could be said to any number of Batman villains.

One out of three ain't bad, right?
The two main antagonist from the World Salvation Committee are okay but deeply flawed in execution. Nadja is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, Lia is pretty much a classic Tsundere with a bizarrely inconsistent crush on Kyrie; that's pretty much it for personalities for them. They sort of suffer from Team Rocket Syndrome in that they aren’t a very effected enemy, but that was probably intentional. The big misstep with them is that important points about their respective pasts are never mentioned until very late in the series and, despite the fact that it would have presented a lot of drama throughout the show and help develop them as characters, really compose of a few throw away lines. The fact that Nadja is half-human is REALLY IMPORTANT CONSIDERING HE WORKS FOR THE BEASTMEN! So I would have liked to have more than TWO LINES IN ONE LATE EPISODE talking about it! Plus Lia revelation about having met Kyrie before the show starts SHOULD HAVE BEEN MENTIONED MUCH F**KING EARLIER! I don't know who wrote this series but they are really small minded! Such wasted potential...

Sure would have been nice to have fully developed bad guys
Also the reveal for how the Destruct Code is activated is so goddamn stupid it makes my eyes, ears and nose bleed simultaneously.

I've been led to believe that this anime is way different from the game as far as plot and character’s personalities go, but it seems that a lot of people have agreed that this is a superior interpretation due to it's darker tone. These people must be confused because this show sucks! It's boring, the characters aren't interesting for the most part (And in some cases badly written) and the tone of the show is frustratingly lighthearted. I barely got through this one and wanted to quit several times during the viewing. The only reason I kept going was because I felt I had to write an anime review; if my main motivation to finish watching or reading your fiction is because I needed something to review YOUR FICTION ISN'T GOOD! This anime isn't the worst one in the world by far, and in fact isn't even the worst anime I've reviewed on this blog, but it's the first show in almost a full year (!) that I've actively disliked...and I still prefer Big Windup! to it by a long shot.

I give Sands of Destruction 2 Adorable Pandas out of 5.

Pros 

-Toppy is an awesome character

-The setting is pretty cool

-Key character designs really worked for me

Cons 

-Main characters are almost unreasonably unlikable

-Other characters are utilized very poorly

-It takes forever for the plot to get going

-The tone feels wrong 


That all said the video game actually sounds kind of interesting (Bad voice actign aside). I have a DS; maybe I'll look into it sometime soon. In any case if you have any suggestions or requests for an anime review let me know in the comment section or shoot me an e-mail at betaisdead@gmail.com. Seriously guys; I need some help picking this stuff.

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