English Dub Review: Dances With The Dragons “The Cardinal’s Celebration”

When the cardinal’s away, corruption will play.

Overview (Spoilers)

Gaius and Gigina have a new job. A Cardinal Moldine is in town, and one of Gaius’ old school buddies wants the two of them to be guides and bodyguards. This begs the question: why them? The Cardinal has his own staff of offensive Jushikists… Screw it. That word is dumb. He has his own staff of mages. Why did he leave them behind? Moldine dodges the meat of the question, telling them that his staff would “get in the way of (his) fun”. Well, if that isn’t suspicious…

Worse than that, Gaius has to tell his girlfriend Jiv that he can’t go with her to the festival with her. They were going to make a day of it. No way he can go with her now. The festival celebrates the Singing Princess, a noblewoman from long ago that liberated Eridana from foreign powers. The city goes all out, even using magic to do fireworks, which the cardinal loves. Gaius has a chat with Moldine about his motivations, and the holy man lays it all out. As long as the people are safe and happy, he is willing to lie, cheat, and murder to make that peace happen. The odd job mage is a bit concerned by that response. He’s also a bit surprised that the two of them are dismissed as soon as the cardinal reaches his hotel room. What is he up to?

Moldine meets with a shadowstepping spy named… well… Shadow. The two talk in riddles, in case anyone is listening. Whatever they are saying, it has to do with the serial mage-killer that’s been plaguing the city. Well, since they have some left, Gaius and his old buddy Halidel hit the bar. The discussion meanders from Gigina, to an old, illegal spell, to lost loved ones and how they drove these two men down very different paths. Gaius gets sloshed, so Gigina comes to literally pick him up. As he goes, he compliments the barkeep’s choice of furniture, remarking their alluring legs. Wait, so his thing for furniture isn’t an aesthetic, it’s a fetish?!? Okay, well, we all have our thing, I guess.

Go Home, Gaius. You're Drunk.
Courtesy: Funimation

As they walk home, they run into the serial killer. She is Nidvork, and she’s looking for her husband’s killer. Husband? They don’t know who she’s talking about. Her magic is something potent, though, and she regenerates to boot. They barely manage to escape with their lives, but not with empty hands. A bit of her was left behind on Gigina’s sword.

Our Take

This episode builds the plot a bit before things really get moving later on. That, unfortunately, means that it isn’t exceptionally exciting. It doesn’t bother at hinting anything either. There are definitely two factions in the holy city, and they aren’t friendly with each other. I find it disquieting that the legislative body of this country is its church. It’s rather rare to see a religious organization that isn’t corrupt as crap when it becomes the government. Since we see spies, assassins, and factions in this one, it looks like it’s going the same way.

We get a bit of time to see how the two main characters actually interact. They despise each other and only work together out of necessity. While they claim that they are unsuitable as a team, due to opposite approaches to a problem, that actually makes them a solid pair. Gaius is a caster. He needs a tank to aggro the enemy for him. Gigina is powerful but lacks versatility and control of the battlefield. Together, they have everything they need. Except for a healer.

Still, they look out for each other, just in different ways. This kind of relationship has been played out a dozen times in shows, so it isn’t all that revolutionary. At least it isn’t a rip off of the relationship of the Elrics from FMA or the crew of the Bebop from Cowboy Bebop. It would be all too easy to pull either one in this setting.

Unfortunately, all this animosity in the main partners and suspicion with the supporting cast leads to the big problem of this show. Nobody knows how to emote. Sure, they aren’t monotonous. They have a cadence to how they talk, but they all have a single emotional state. That’s not just a problem with the voice acting. The characters don’t change their facial expressions at all. Gaius doesn’t so much as raise an eyebrow at the cardinal admitting to murder. This series has the potential to have great dialogue and character interaction but wastes it all with emotionless, self-important blah. The voice actors have little with which to work without it looking horribly off, but at the same time, they aren’t being terribly creative with their emoting. They sound like people reading a script, and that’s sad.

Score

Summary

Between a slower plot and emotionless dialogue, this series is looking less like a late-comer to the nineties anime era, and more like a snooze. Pick up the pace or move your face! You get six immovable masks out of ten!

6.0/10

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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