An infant bonded with a demonic blade found abandoned in the deep forest becomes host to a legendary infernal sword. Gai sets forth upon the world in search of truth but enemies wielding their own demonic blades have other ideas.
SwordGai The Animation (Season 1)
Producer: LandQ Studios, DLE, Production I.G
Genre: Action, Supernatural, Fantasy, Seinen
Air Dates: Spring 2018
Status: Season 2 in Development to Be Released in Summer 2018
Sub Version Available: Yes
Dub Version Available: Yes
Available on Netflix
What You Need to Know: SwordGai is a Japanese manga series written by Toshiki Inoue and Wosamu Kine. The first twelve episodes (“Part 1”) of the anime adaption titled Swordgai: The Animation was released on Netflix worldwide on March 23, 2018. Part II is scheduled for Summer 2018.
What You’ll Find Out: Gai’s fortune is destined for tragedy. When most children enter the world under the calming music of a mobile surrounded by soft toys and comfort, Gai is found under his mother’s lifeless corpse, hanging from the tree branch overhead while cradling a sword of the damned. It’s with a mixture of mystery and pity, he is taken in by local sword-smith Amon. Raised under the tutelage of a blacksmiths skillset, his education does not come without price as his arm is lost in a tragic accident. Naturally bonded with the sword he gripped so tightly in his arms so many years ago, Amon fashions the “Shiryuu, forging it into an arm which grants him enhanced fighting skills and superhuman abilities.
Years earlier, the Shoshidai, an organization tasked with retrieving and safeguarding mythic and dangerous weapons assign their agents to retrieve the legendary demonic blade “Zsoltgewinn.” In a cruel twist of fate, it is the blade that claims victory by possessing a new bearer in their lead agent Miura.
As the series progresses, new characters and a variety of powerful blades are introduced, each with their own unique story as they are ultimately woven into the master storyline. Through recounts or firsthand experience, Gai learns the meaning of what it is to be a “Chrysalis,” and the inevitable fate of becoming a “Busoma,” nothing more than a berzerker spirit fully merged with the cursed blade and bent only on blood and slaughter.
The tale in which Gai and his comrade Ichijo ultimately faceoff with their archenemy Miura leads Gai to defy the natural law and to assume the form of Busoma while remaining in control.
As the two warriors are about to deliver the fatal blow to Zsoltgewinn’s avatar, the master Grimm the Reaper reveals himself and intervenes, saving Miura from his lethal fate.
What Just Happened? Netflix is ramping up their offerings in numerous categories with its own original programming. In the past year, those offerings have surprisingly increased rapidly within the anime genre. Frankly, with the speed and frequency that makes the selection staggering. But the question is, are all anime created equal. If you’re a fan of the anime culture, you already know the answer. Absolutely not.
It’s interesting to think that Netflix missed its mark with this anime considering its vast resources to employ the best talent for an assured hit. But what we truly have here is just short of a total miss.
The problem is not singular. Instead, the series is mired in shortfalls, all of which leach momentum and interest in the critically important components which make a successful anime.
What struck me initially was the disjointed scenes which disrupt the overall plot. Almost every episode are a series of vignettes of numerous side stories that really have nothing to do with the primary story. It’s not that they are only just poorly written and plotted but that it’s almost entirely incohesive to the point that you end one episode scratching your head wondering what just happened. Not only do they touch on a variety of various accursed blades and their unfortunate bearers which ultimately, at least for the first 12 episodes, have nothing to do with the conclusion. One must assume, (or hope for the sake of those who continue watching,) that their purpose will play a larger role as the series enters into part 2 due in summer 2018. But on far too many occasions, characters and sideline stories are introduced with no reason or intent. The best (or really worst,) examples would in the episodes involving the salacious treasure hunting widow or the pop idol hairdresser that really don’t even qualify as filler.
The underlying plot is consistently undermined by the one dimensional and rather unpleasant personality of Gai, the story’s protagonist. There is only one consistent formula present and that is that the hero, a term that should be loosely defined, is always miserable. The inner monologue of “why me?” or, “no one understands me,” wears thin after just about the first 3 episodes. To break it up, writers throw in a little demonic bloodlust to make sure you know that he’s a powerhouse. Indeed, there is much ado about nothing as they say about the repeated reference to the Shiryuu and his powerful potential because of his birthright, but after the first couple skirmishes, you really just come to the understanding that he can turn his arm into a sword and is a really good and completely untrained Olympic potential gymnast. Oh and he growls and yells a lot.
I guess the writers believed his realism would balance that vaunted power by reasserting his negative attitude after each battle which in most cases, at least for the first half of the series, means verbally abusing Sayaka.
Oh Sayaka, gurl he just ain’t into you. You see beyond the mopping and resentful mainstay of his character, Gai verbally lashes out and rebuffs Sayaka, the one person who truly cares about him. Why? The hell if I could figure it out. As so often portrayed in the anime genre, Sayaka is a girl who plays one of two archetypes. The first being obsessed with all things cute and cuddly, or in this case spends the vast majority of her time worrying about Gai and makes one futile attempt after another to connect with him. Despite the copious amount of times she spends nursing his wounds, sharing her wonderful and totally delusional memories of the pair as children, or pleading for his safety, ultimately Gai just leaves her anyway. As a result, with the sole exception of one scene when she sees him and suffers his rejection again, she spends her time sitting in her bedroom pining over him. Frankly, the frequency of these instances just about matches the number of battles throughout the entire series.
After leaving the care of his master, (because there’s no such thing as custody and neglect of minors in Japanese anime,) Gai joins yet another companion who also shares the same level of depth. Only in Ichij?’s case, he’s a devil may care tough guy who throws golden halos for a weapon and still has a thing for an old flame, beyond the cougar years and just about ready for hospice care. I’m serious. This lady never married and spent her life in a total state of denial waiting for him to return. I suppose this was the writer’s misguided attempt to place limits and drawbacks to their abilities by explaining the pointlessness of their required stasis so they can delay their transition into busoma, which is going to happen anyway so why bother, but also to provide a parallel to Gai and Sayaka’s predestined fate. Except it fails because, well, not only does it not make any real sense but, it’s really just creepy. More often than not, the anime genre treats female characters with a serious heavy hand of injustice but in this series, the frequency of it not only left me with a really awkward uncomfortable feeling but actually had me wondering how this series hasn’t suffered any real serious backlash. If it did, it would be well deserved. But I digress…
Ultimately the point of any Seinen show is the battle scenes which typically make up for the tepid plot holes. SwordGai certainly has at least one per episode, but after each I thought to myself, “I’m more disappointed than a kid being invited to a sleepover and finding out bedtime is 6:30.” The scenes have lots of rapid cuts and are splashed here and there with CGI of course, but especially in the case of the latter, it actually detracts from the visuals. When employed, it was done so abruptly that it took me off guard and I went back to watch it again just to see if there was any point to it in the first place other than for the sake of flash. There wasn’t. CGI can make or break an anime. In this case, all I heard was shattered glass. Overall the art though decent enough fell short to the character designs. When I first read the show’s description I was excited. I thought it would be more of a supernatural endeavor. I was very disappointed at the appearance of the random suit of armor meets mecha battle gear.
Final Thought: SwordGai is yet another continuation of the degradation of the anime genre that provides fanservice in an entirely opposite manner than the norm by force-feeding the viewer with ultra-masculine qualities as opposed to the equally grievous use of humor breaks and the ever more frequent cutesy element with deliberate intent. With reviews being generally negative I hope Netflix does some serious revisiting of concepts for this summer’s Part 2. But I doubt it. When standing against legacy titles like Berserk, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note, the Fate series, or other critically acclaimed works, my perspective outlook on the future of anime is pretty bleak.
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