English Dub Review: Dances With The Dragons “Calamitous Song of Jushiki and Swords”

When magic and monsters collide with the modern, even the worst is still true of humanity.

Overview (Spoilers)

Through incredible advances in technology and fringe science, mankind has developed a whole new realm of study: Magic. Controlled by complicated chemical and mathematical formulae called jushiki, scientists have been able to break pretty much every law of physics, and even break into parallel universes. This, obviously, makes territorial boundaries more than a little difficult to keep track of. So, it should come as no surprise when a couple of dragons from the Tseberun Empire come waltzing into Eridana to trash the place. It should also come as no surprise to anime fans that we’ve got a couple of offensive jushiki users with swords ready to carve these two lizards up like Thanksgiving turkeys.

Okay, the first dragon isn’t so bad. The second one, on the other hand, is an 800-year old black dragon. Let me take a quick look at my Monster Manual here… That’s an Ancient class, challenge rating 19. Yeah, this isn’t going to be fun. Our heroes are Gaius Sorel and Gigina Ashley-Bufh. They own their own agency in town for bounty hunter and odd job work. And oh, they’ve got the MP to pay the bills. Between Gaius’ spell-work and Gigina’s big sword, they hack away at the bad guy and save the town. Unfortunately, the chief of police is a bit stingy with the reward money, citing collateral damage.

Gugina vs. Black Dragon
Courtesy: Funimation

This sucks for Gaius. After all, Gigina doesn’t even think about money. Or practicality. He’s an elf. He buys a ton of cabinets for aesthetic value and doesn’t put anything in them. He also buys tons of magic stuff, and puts the bill on the company, even though they aren’t making much money. Gaius has to still teach magic at the university just to make ends meet. Their kill is getting lots of publicity, though, enough that a politician considers hiring them as an escort. After all, Eridana isn’t safe these days. There’s a serial killer on the loose, and she’s been targeting offensive jushiki-ists. She’s obviously hunting for a particular one… could it be Gaius?

Our Take

The concept of this show isn’t a new one, but it is one I dig. I love the concept of “science-creates-magic”, as well as its reverse. I enjoyed the setting of Irregular at Magic High School, though this one reminds me more of some short stories I read such as Elemental by Geoffrey A. Landis. I’m not comparing the writing of this show to that, but the settings are very similar. Here, the users of offensive magic activate spells by expanding shells of alchemical fluids within their gunblades. So, Final Fantasy VIII meets Outlaw Star. While we’re on the dated references, Gaius looks like Sieg from Chaos Legion. It’s visually cool, but a mash-up of concepts so trope-y they border on trite.

Otherwise, it seems like the whole thing was a campaign run in D20 Modern. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m always looking for new campaigns to run. It just gives the whole thing a dated, overdone feel. What I’m hoping for in this show is a bit less crappy action-fantasy and more along the lines of Dresden Files. Gritty, and with a good blend of modern and fantasy. I’m not holding my breath.

Visually, I enjoyed the action portions of the episode. It was kinetic, even if the camera wasn’t always as dynamic as I would have liked. There were some unexpected angles throughout the episode, even in more mellow portions. I had a bit of an issue with how some of the side characters looked, however. I couldn’t tell if their faces were disproportionate by design or by negligence. If by design, it’s odd. If by negligence, it’s a bad sign. The last show I watched that had animation errors this early on was Clockwork Planet, and that was a TERRIBLE show. Please, don’t let this be that all over again.

The voice acting didn’t particularly thrill me. It wasn’t bad, but the voices just didn’t feel connected to the characters. It felt like people reading lines in a room. This is a bit sad because there was great emoting from all the actors involved. I feel like this may have been an audio engineering issue. While we’re talking about the ADR, I feel like they should have found a translation for jushiki to use. It’s a bit cumbersome in the English to navigate this word, and it feels out of place in the setting.

Score

Summary

The episode has some flaws, but it still has plenty of potential. As long as it pulls out a good plot, and keeps at this level in animation, it should be a fun show. I give it seven magic-casting gunblades out of ten.

7.0/10

Marshall Daley

One part best-friend/philosopher, one part creepy mad scientist. Shaken, and sprinkled with geeky factoids, quirky humor, and a major case of skepticism towards the world and you might just find a cocktail that changes the way you see... Everything!

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