Subtitle: “Swallow that #@%!ing bowling ball!”
I picked up this series at the tail end of the winter season because the bloggers that I was following at the time all picked it up. This series is what happens when people watch Ergo Proxy and decide that the problem with that series was that it A) was too visually interesting and B) needed to have a more complex plot. That said, it’s an enjoyable action series that really needs a second season to sort itself out. Ready for a general description of the world and main plot threads? Sit down, this might take some time.
Even Leerin doesn’t quite understand the plot.
Here’s the background: In some kind of post-apocalyptic future/alternate world, human beings live in mobile cities called “Regios” on a wasteland of a planet. The cities are mobile to avoid the masses of giant insects known as “filth monsters”, as the series opens, we are introduced to Layfon Alsef, previously state-sponsored badass (they call it “Heaven’s Blade Receiver”) of Grendan, now a student on Academy City Zulleni. Layfon has moved to Zulleni to start his life over, and learn how to live independent of his extreme martial prowess. Good thing for us that it doesn’t quite work out. Thanks to some machinations by the Student Council President of the Academy (who is also the headmaster? seriously?), poor Layfon is press-ganged into the elite ranks of Zulleni’s Military Arts program and assigned to the rag-tag Squad 17. MEANWHILE, back in Grendan, Leerin (someone special to Layfon) writes letters to him and awaits his return while fending off the creepy advances of her mysterious new best friend—WHO IS ACTUALLY THE QUEEN OF GRENDAN. The Queen is interested in Leerin for some reason having to do with ‘Electric Fairies’, the sentient spirits of the mobile cities. MEANWHILE either on the TV, or in the past, or on an alternate world, a Matrix like story is playing out IN ENGRISH that has some strange connection to the events of the main story. Confused yet? No? How about subplots relating to inter-platoon and inter-city matches, rivals who arrive from Grendan, and strange guys with wolf masks. Yep. It’s all one series, folks.
The series has two main things going for it, sharp action sequences and Felli, the too-cracked-to-be-tsundere psychic on Squad 17. More on Felli in a bit, first about the action…
Does this mean I won’t get my iced coffee?
Oooookay… Let’s talk about Felli instead. Felli Loss helps to crystalize the group dynamics of the series. Because, as she claims, psychics can lose control of their powers when they lose control of their emotions, Felli is a paragon of control. Quiet, doll-like, and all business, Felli exists in perfect counterpoint to her eccentric squad and melodramatic older brother (the Student Council President, Karian Loss). Felli’s character growth is interesting to watch, punctuated with spectacular shin-kicks and withering glances. Like the series hero, Layfon, Felli grapples with her reasons for fighting and forming friendships both within and outside of Squad 17.
I wonder if there’s a shoe big enough to squish this bug?
But this show is also about action. The stuff here is pretty standard action fare, but reasonably well-executed. The animators make excellent use of computer effects to highlight the usage of ‘Kei’—this show’s name for internal energy, spiritual power, etc. While the pacing on some of the fights with the filth monsters is a little confusing, the one-on-one fights between Layfon and Haia are well done, if a little unoriginal. In a tradition as old as popular anime, each of the significant characters has his own fighting style (although, the Zulleni cast all wear—almost—the same uniform, giving the whole thing a 13-squads of Shinigami feel) which means that the large cast carries with it some variety, which I hope will, in turn, lead to some balls-out action in the second season.
The whole thing has decent production values, but is a little short on imagination. Felli, Nina, and the OTHER “Heaven’s Blade Receivers” stand out, but many of the character designs are uninspired. The music is ok (I personally do not care for the OP or ED SONGS, but the OP animation is quite good), and the voice acting is professional, if relatively bland (Felli’s dour whisper, and Karian Loss’s smarmy proclaiming are probably the highlights). For the most part, I feel that the execution is not up to the task of the plot (in comparison to J. C. Staff’s effort on Hayate no Gotoku!!, where the execution carries the show), but the show remains watchable. Hopefully, the second season will bring more action and some answers.
Are we sure this is part of the same show?
The final verdict: Enjoyable action fare. I suppose I could be watching Natsu no Arashi, Asura Cryin’, Sengoku Basara, or even Basquash! (from what I gather, the action is quite good in the last two on that list), but CSR came along in the dead of the winter as Toradora! was winding down. Now, I’m a Felli fan, and mildly interested in seeing where a second season might take this story.