Review-Roundup: Seiken Tsukai no World Break 01, Junketsu no Maria 01
This first episode of Junketsu no Maria does a great job of portraying Maria’s innocence. I’m less sure about the series willingness to make the loss of that in a sexual sense an important story-element.
This time I review:
Seiken Tsukai no World Break 01: There’s a dude who has fucked two girls in his past lives. Bad news: He doesn’t really remember that. Good News: They DO remember and still want to fuck him. Also, he’s the Chosen One (but he doesn’t know that yet).
Junketsu no Maria 01: A young, innocent witch tries to stop war while also falling in love with an earnest boy. Also, medieval stuff happens.
Seiken Tsukai no World Break 01 Review:
The series is self-aware enough to be very straightforward with what it’s doing and turning that very directness into something humorous.
A dude who’s special at a school full of special people who have to learn how inferior they are compared to him and a bunch of girls all too ready to fall in love with him for no reason. A shounen-series that just wants to be trash does all that and this series – does all that. Is it trash, then? Surprisingly, less so than you might expect. That doesn’t mean this first episode was actually good in a conventional sense. The series still seems like trash but it’s in the way how that trash presents itself that you actually can find something worth watching in this episode.
This first episode’s virtues derive from a certain sense of self-awareness. It doesn’t go so far as to subvert the tropes this episode is parading around but at least the episode offers a little bit of commentary and lampshading which makes this already a far more competent effort than Absolute Duo. The way this self-awareness manifests itself is in characters using their broadly-written personalities to react in somewhat natural ways to the events around them.
The most important gimmick of the series is that the characters have had a past life that they can more or less remember (apparently it depends on the person how much they remember of their past life or lives). Naturally this show immediately uses that to introduce two female characters who want to bang the main-dude who of course is a bit of an amnesiac amongst all those people who remember their past-life. Amnesia mixed together with a bit of a “childhood-friend”-sort-of trope (you know in how the girls who love him know him VERY well) is what defines the main-character. The first sign of self-awareness is how these three main-characters are just over-the-top in their behavior. The series takes a stereotypic personality and makes its characters perform those roles with 200% effort. The little-sister-girl gushes about how this time around her love for her brother won’t even be a taboo, the other girl just immediately puts the dude’s head into her breasts in order to seduce him and “lighten up” the mood and the main-dude himself is the most valorous hero-person imaginable.
The series still has the usual troubles of portraying slaughter as something great people do (“It’s okay because the other guys are evil” is a poor excuse for killing people) and then there’s the flashforward-intro… I hate those. It’s not like that’s a completely useless storytelling-device but a lot of animes use them as a tease. Big battle-scenes are shoved into the first episode because some producer, director or whatever feared they would lose the audience with whatever would happen naturally in the first episode. You know what the solution to that is? Writing a better first episode! You want big epic battles? Then make the battle in the first episode epic! Forget about the natural progression of making things slightly more epic but just throw it all at the audience right from the start. And after that, just do whatever as long as you’re not repeating yourself.
You look at stylized series like Kill La Kill for example which never shied away from turning its battles into great set-pieces. I think the biggest problem with these more typical shounen-series is that they take themselves way too serious while also wanting to be utterly ridiculous. One solution is to produce something like Akame ga Kill where you get some gory action without the full dramatic weight of having to develop depth. That doesn’t mean Akame ga Kill actually was a good series (or is, if you’re following the manga). There are a couple shounen-series each season that seem unimaginative because they just can’t decide between being a serious drama or being this flashy battle-simulator. In the end they mostly don’t master either. This series is just the same: You can’t say that the battle-sequences aside from maybe the opening-scene (which was a flash-forward) were that impressive but you can also say that the drama in this episode was pretty thin. The series tried to do both and didn’t manage to succeed at either.
With this series it’s all very straightforward but you can really feel how this series WANTS to be like that. This isn’t some trash-series going through the motions of being sub-par, this series tries REALLY hard to sell its trash and that sort of effort actually makes it kinda charming. Naturally it really won’t win you over just by doing that. I mean, the story isn’t great to begin with so it’s easy to see past the charm of trying very hard and realize that this series is still a very trashy affair. But it’s certainly the best trashy series you can watch this season.
Junketsu no Maria 01 Review:
Alone the fact that this series acknowledges ransoms being a thing on medieval battlefields makes this already a more historically accurate than most other animes who have chosen a similar setting.
Someone on the writing-staff of this series really did their homework! Holy shit, this may be one of the most accurate portrayals of medieval Europe I have ever seen in an anime. Well, naturally if you exclude the witch-part… and the part where witches DO exist… and the part where witches were deciding factors in the 100-year-war between France and England… Aside from all that, though, this is a remarkably well-researched first episode for an anime-series.
But before that, let’s get the really annoying parts out of the way: Witches. This may be one of the worst fantasy-tropes out there to be used in a medieval somewhat-realistic setting. Here you have this period where women were unrightfully persecuted for being supernatural beings (which they weren’t) and that whole thing led to them being tortured in the most gruesome manner. On the other hand you have this rather popular trope of “But what if the Inquisition was right…?!” which is as delicate as making a WWII-series about how the Nazis were partially right about the Jews trying to take over the world. Demeaning propaganda from a dominant political force that has turned out to be false are poor material for a “But what if they were right…?!”-story. This isn’t really a criticism of this series in particular but more a criticism of how this trope is treated in general. Most uses of the witch-tropes seem far too ignorant in acknowledging that witch-hunts were a very horrible and very real thing (also, technically its heyday wasn’t during medieval times).
But back to the actual episode… The synopsis made this series sound worse than it actually turned out to be. Who knows what will happen next episode (when the synopsis comes true, I assume) but this first episode served as a rather good introduction to the cast and the world. With a series that’s that concerned with the virginity of her heroine this episode didn’t do a whole lot of fanservice (except when it comes to the chara-designs of the female characters). And the virginity of the heroine is used more for characterization than anything else. Maria is portrayed as innocent and her best buddy, a Succubus, is there to tease her about the fact and reveal her innocence to the audience with innuendo that flies right over Maria’s head. It’s a good way to handle that.
The medieval stuff in this episode is also VERY detailed and compelling. Stuff like a mercenary making a noble give himself up for a ransom are nice moments to show that the writers know their shit. Taking noble prisoners who would get freed for a ransom was indeed the best way to make money on a medieval battlefield. Also stuff like the English Longbowmen and the way the portrayed battle developed before Maria appeared were obviously written by someone who knows European history. That doesn’t mean this is a historical series, of course. It’s not THAT accurate – but it does get more things right than most animes that claim to be set in medieval Europe. Just take the portrayal of the actual battle: The model for that battlefield were clearly all those historical samurai-battle-stories where mostly it was supposed to be just one-on-one-duels where only rarely others interfered. This representation didn’t even come close to the chaos that were medieval battles in Europe.
In the end, it really is just an introduction-episode, though. The episode presents a bunch of characters that do things which have no real consequences. The synopsis actually was a bit of a spoiler in that regard because this episode didn’t tackle the subject of angels at all. But let’s talk about what the synopsis is hinting at: Maria is supposed to lose her power when she has lost her virginity. And there’s some angel also there to watch over here.
Her virginity, really?! That’s such a sexist thing to do! It’s always women who lose power because of such things whereas for men it’s often even a prerequisite for becoming more powerful that they should lose their virginity. Girls always have to accept a loss of power for becoming women. Boys on the other hand have to prove their worth to be accepted as powerful men. That perspective is simply outdated at this point. I mean, it’s even somewhat mainstream now. Look at the Peter Jackson Tolkien-films: In The Two Towers the women and children had to hide in a cave whereas in The Battle Of The Five Armies the women and children decide it’s better to try to help the men instead of just hiding somewhere (I’m not saying that this makes the latter a great movie overall, though).
This series… It’s fine. It does a lot of things right but also doesn’t deliver anything that would make you think it’s great. There’s a surprising amount of accurate historical references in this series but it also doesn’t commit to this enough to be called a historical series. It’s less lewd than you might expect but it still tries to make womanhood a more problematic thing than manhood considering how it’s treated by the story.
Posted on January 12, 2015, in Anime, Junketsu no Maria, Reviews, Seiken Tsukai no World Break and tagged Anime, Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman, 純潔のマリア Sorcière de gré pucelle de force, 聖剣使いの禁呪詠唱＜ワールドブレイク＞, Junketsu no Maria, maria the virgin witch, pucelle de force, reviews, Seiken Tsukai no World Break, Sorcière de gré. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.