Juni Taisen: Zodiac War Series Review – No Twists, No Turns, Little Excitement, But Not Fatally Flawed

Overview:

12 Zodiac themed warriors have been chosen to take place in the Juni Taisen (big death match) where the winner will have a wish granted. That’s pretty much it.

Review – There will be spoilers:

If you are looking for an anime with a clear grasp of the big picture (the how and the why and all those things) than Juni Taisen is not for you. Then again, if you are looking for an anime that treats its characters as more than just fodder for increasingly less shocking deaths, is consistent in pace and action, and occasionally manages to seem like you should perhaps care about the characters, you probably aren’t making it very far into Juni Taisen anyway.

Maybe that seems ‘overly pessimistic’ as one person told me I was being after my review of episode 1 where I raised concerns that killing off the only character the audience had any connection to was probably not a stroke of narrative genius and I wasn’t really sure how this show would manage to be interesting given it seemed locked into a 12 episode/12 hour fight sequence with fairly telegraphed deaths (okay, I wasn’t that specific in my episode 1 review though in hind-sight I should have been). So it might seem like I was being pessimistic then and now, but I actually have no reason to change that view. While there are some good things to be found in Juni Taisen, my main impression as I finished the series was one of relief because to be honest this was a chore to finish by the end. Crunchyroll advertising insisting there were twists and turns to be found just kind of bugged me given there wasn’t one twist from start to finish in a story that ended up being ridiculously linear and vague.

Juni7b

Despite everything, I still would recommend this for a watch if it had explained why the war was taking place. And I mean, really explained. Not just some vague rich guys/countries are gambling on it and somehow we’ll redraw the map after it is done. The audience never sees the weight of the contest or the outcome in terms of the effect it has on the world so basically we just watch 12 characters try to kill each other and hope it amuses us. And again, that could work. I like horror. I don’t mind the occasional brutal death. However if you want to know who is next just know the order of the Chinese Zodiac (which unfortunately I knew all too well because it is the basis of a board game I played as a kid) so after week 2 it was more of less locked in who was next to die and who would win the game.

Does that mean it couldn’t be fun? We could still get some great action, couldn’t we? Episode 1 had an amazing display of animation where we saw the Boar training and becoming the awesome warrior she apparently was. It was spectacular. Yet everything after just seemed to have less energy and drive. None of the fights last any particular length of time so if you want to know what you will mostly be watching it is characters sitting around running an internal monologue. Usually this is closely followed by their death.

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One or two of the characters were interesting enough. I didn’t mind the Chicken or the Tiger and Rat (when he appeared) was always making me curious even as he slept through the tournament, but mostly the characters were characterised by arrogance or pride. None of them seemed concerned enough about their potential deaths and almost all of them died after severely underestimating an opponent. Once or twice this might be seen as an okay move but the repetitive nature of this became truly dull viewing.

The character designs are quite well done (if a little insane and I’m sure many people will have issue with the fan service like nature of the female warriors’ outfits (they certainly aren’t designed for defence), but they nicely exemplify the zodiac and at least there is no issue with distinguishing the characters. Besides, if you start throwing rocks at the girls you would have to wonder just what the Rabbit was wearing and that is a question that I think many people will have after just one episode. Again, that isn’t designed for defence.

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Visually, Juni Taisen is kind of interesting as the actual tournament is taking place at night with all the scenes being quite dark. By contrast, almost all of the flash back sequences are brighter as is the final episode when the victor is trying to decide what to do with their prize. This kind of attention to detail is appreciated.

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Basically, I loved the concept this show had and was looking forward to it, but found that the actual story and the execution was lacking even though it looks great and it is clear a lot of effort has been put into it. I don’t think I have any real need to ever revisit this series and it isn’t one I can overly recommend given what it is lacking, but it isn’t a complete train-wreck either. Basically it ends up being just kind of average.

Episode Reviews:


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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17 thoughts on “Juni Taisen: Zodiac War Series Review – No Twists, No Turns, Little Excitement, But Not Fatally Flawed

  1. I agree that average is probably the best way to describe this series. The ideas behind were interesting. Some of the characters and their backstories were cool. Also one perk of not having an “main character” meant that at least until the figured out the pattern you were at least guessing for a bit about who the victor was.I did also appreciate the final episode with the dilemma concerning the wish itself. That was a nice touch. But the series was really kind of formulaic, so many of the fight scenes just ended way too quickly (come on give us a good battle), and way the victor one was just anti-climatic. Also I agree with the consensus that the world building was incredibly lacking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t mind how he won, given any other method would have seemed ridiculous given he was clearly outclassed in any kind of fighting. But yeah, other than the first episode there really wasn’t much in the way of decent action in the action series.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The world building was definitely needed. Just telling me that this is going to redraw maps doesn’t really help me understand why anything is happening and if you never show us the consequences it is almost as though they don’t exist.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I concur, it should’ve further explored the mechanics of the death games. I mean, what kind of ability allows the arbitor to grant any wish? Magic?​ It’s the same problem with Death Parade, except that DP did what JT wanted to do better in most aspects.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was going to start this as a recommendation from a friend, but reading this final review (without the episode reviews) I feel like I’ll be let down. Are there ANY characters one could ACTUALLY connect with or no?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For me, no. The rat was the closes I got and he did literally sleep through a lot of the series. Some people liked a few of the characters more than me, but you really do just meet the characters right before they die so it is hard to actually form a connection with any of them.

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  4. Poor Nisio.
    The anime does its best to make it clear that it’s trying to be predictable, but everyone keeps hyping up how ‘unexpected’ the ‘twists’ are.
    I mean, the only twist is that no one wins in the end.
    All hope and virtue ended up being pointless, as the only character without a dream ends up winning.
    It’s not a masterpiece, but I at least admire the story for being gutsy enough to commit to its exploration of nihilism…
    To fight without a goal renders the victory as worthless as that lack of conviction.
    Nihilism + war = basic literary combo.
    But yeah, I don’t blame you if the show wasn’t enjoyable.
    It’s pretentious when it could have just been another forgettable ‘rule of cool’ action show.
    But hey, at least it tried.

    Liked by 1 person

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