Boy Meets Girl and After That Very Little Happens
I’ve mentioned before on Twitter that writing about an anime series that is neither particularly good or bad is actually harder than reviewing something that is terrible. This is largely because at least with something terrible there are those stand out horrific moments you can mention as well as the occasional even average event that allows you to point to something for a mild positive interjection in what might otherwise become an incoherent rant. Anime like Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjoy, Aruiwa Sekai ga Haimaru Seisen (AKA: Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World) are really difficult to talk about and mostly I’m finding that even though I watched the whole series in one sitting and then went back and rewatched a handful of episodes the following day before writing my initial draft of this review, to be perfectly honest my memory of the anime is already incredibly hazy. There’s just so little that actually sticks with the viewer after its finished.
The biggest problem faced by Our Last Crusade is that it is a military romance about star-crossed lovers from opposite factions only it doesn’t do the romance part particularly well and it doesn’t do the military part particularly well. Basically we have two separate genres both delivering mediocre efforts and at the same time stealing run time from the other genre preventing it from making much headway and doing nothing to enhance the other genre elements. It is a shame because on paper the story could be quite interesting with Iska, our generic nice guy protagonist actually starting the story being released from prison for committing treason and being tasked with bringing down an enemy witch that is causing the higher ups all manner of issue. Despite not accomplishing that feat (in point of fact he lets her go in their first encounter and after that seems to just forget about that mission as he gets sent out on others) there never seems to be any actual repercussions. Meanwhile, Alice, our hot-headed ice-magic user vacillates between being the strong Princess and major military asset for her nation and an idiotic swooning maiden depending on what the scene calls for.
Neither character is particularly well written in the end though you can see the intention behind both. Possibly the source does a better job on both because they both could be interesting characters. However here Iska comes off as a B or even D grade version of Kirito from Sword Art Online. He even has the dual wielding with swords thing happening. Where he falls short is that he literally seems to have no emotions. He’s just been released from a year in prison and just seems to shrug it off with an ‘oh well that happened’ kind of attitude. Even when talking about his goal of ending the war he might as well be discussing whether or not he’s going to clean the fridge tomorrow. The one or two moments of genuine emotion he shows usually come in the more romantic comedy style moments tossed into the mix when he’s involved in a weird coincidental meeting with Alice. Even after being drugged and kidnapped he mostly doesn’t manage to muster up a facial expression so to be honest it was really hard to get behind him as anything other than generic protagonist guy who hits things with swords. They might be really cool swords and he is actually pretty cool to watch in action but ultimately he’s got nothing else going on.
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Alice gets a little more nuance largely because she is more expressive both in how she speaks to Iska and through her interactions with her maid and confidant, Rin. Still, she follows a lot of the clichés here and realistically despite being some super-powered pure blood witch she seems to need Iska’s help in an awful lot of situations. That and despite being surrounded by seemingly complex politics she regularly seems to make short sighted or poorly thought out plans. It all seems a little bit at odds with the setting she’s in and you have to wonder how she’s managed to not lose her reputation prior to the events in the story given Alice’s ongoing worry that her interactions with Iska will get her into serious trouble with the Queen.
Despite the fact that our two main characters initially meet on the battlefield each sent to complete missions by their respective sides, what follows are a series of forced coincidental encounters in ‘neutral’ cities that involve Alice blowing off steam by playing around and Iska having various tickets to events forced upon him by well meaning colleagues. It doesn’t really give the romance element a chance to evolve naturally when it feels so incredibly contrived but I will admit Alice and Iska do have genuine chemistry at times. Unfortunately, rather than letting the two characters naturally find a rhythm for themselves we get ridiculous moments where they order the same meal perfectly in-sync. Instead of cute this is actually fairly eye-roll inducing and does little to warm the audience to them or their budding relationship.
Not that it matters given by the end of the 12 episodes they are still mostly in the same pattern that they’ll be in by episode 3. They still declare they are rivals rather than friends. They’ve fought side by side more often than against each other and despite actually having taken Iska captive at one point, neither Alice nor Iska have actually made any serious move against someone who is actually quite a dangerous enemy for their country throughout the series. And neither has been called on this by their bosses. It’s a little weird.
As for the war itself, the anime keeps getting distracted from the Empire vs the Nebulis Sovereignty war by bringing in external enemies from 100 years ago, criminals who endanger both groups, and general inter-governmental political shenanigans in order to give Iska and Alice common enemies to pummel in a combination of swordsmanship and ice-magic. I mean it does given many convenient excuses for the two to not fight each other and turn their attention to the joint threat but at the same time it means that it is hard to take the main war that, according to the dialogue at least, is such a dominant factor in these character’s lives all that seriously. Particularly when we almost never see the effect of that war on the citizens or even the common soldiers.
So with an average, slightly less than average, romance playing out and a military story that is a little too unfocussed to have much impact, there’s little chance that the supporting cast are really going to be able to shine. We get a mix of trope like characters such as the clumsy, loli captain and then characters who really just exist as plot points like Nameless. We also have a lot of lore about Sword Saints and Astral mages thrown about with little that actually makes it make any sense if you actually stop to question the world-building and a whole bunch of set-piece battle sequences that are admittedly pretty cool to watch even if you aren’t sure what they really accomplish.
Ultimately, there’s nothing inherently broken here. It isn’t particularly focussed and it certainly doesn’t conclude at the end of its run time so unless you are inclined to read the source I don’t like your chances of ever finding out what happens to Rin and Iska (assuming you care). This was easy to watch in a single sitting as events did keep pressing forward even if at times you had to wonder why in the midst of everything they’d be going to a performance or spending days wandering around a neutral city hoping for a ‘chance’ encounter with someone. And for all my complaints, the characters are all workable, they just aren’t very remarkable or memorable.
If I had to say, it wasn’t that I didn’t like this but more that it just doesn’t manage to do anything notably well and the bigger issue is that even if this ever gets a second season (which with a MAL score of 6.54 doesn’t seem likely but stranger things have happened) I probably won’t remember enough about what happened in season one to make sense of it.
However, as always, I’d love to know your thoughts on this anime so be sure to leave a comment below.
Images used for review from: Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World. Dir. S. Oonuma. Silver Link. 2020.
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