Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 5: Attack of the Poor Animation

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 5

Right from episode 1 this anime came across as rough. There was some pretty bad CG and more than a few off model character moments. After that though things kind of settled, until this episode (that isn’t saying there aren’t some poorer moments in the episodes in between but they weren’t noteworthy). Episode 5 on the other hand manages to look incredibly rushed.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 5

It is most prominent when shifting between close ups of characters that look mostly fine, save perhaps a misshapen neck, slightly unfocused eyes or just a general wrongness, to far shots where eyes might disappear altogether and the character looks very much like a placeholder rather than a finished product. It’s actively distracting in this episode and that’s before we even look at the fighting animation which is, in the most generous description of it, terrible.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 5

And all of this is quite the shame because the plot here is rolling along nicely. The concern Yin has as Ning is apparently slipping further into bloodlust and revenge is quite touching. The rebels are pretty cliche but interesting enough and the concept of the fights are pretty cool even if the execution is questionable. Not to mention, this week we saw Zhao reunited with the sisters even if neither side actually knew it and we got to see more of how the Empress feels about Zhao in general. This is a fairly interesting story and with slightly more competence behind its production it could have actually been great.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 5
Part of me wonders if she’s putting on a show for her attendant or if this is how she really sees Zhao.

The end result is I’m sticking with this one and I’m enjoying it for what it is but I can’t say I really recommend it. There’s too many areas where it just under-performs. Still, for what it is there are things to enjoy and hopefully it will bring things together nicely by the end (though past experience probably suggests otherwise).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4: Rising Tension

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

Episode 3 progresses the story nicely with the sisters dealing with the fallout of last week and almost being recruited into the rebellion army (though apparently they just want to live in peace – and that didn’t last very long) and Zhou dealing with the failure of his constructs and wanting to do something nice for the Empress (which still seems really weird given the empire are the ones who ‘killed’ his friends but I guess he is pragmatic about the whole thing. Anyway, all of the plots are bubbling along nicely and working towards a head on collision which should be entertaining.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

We do however have the usual hang-ups of this type of show with the Empress being a kid but also bound by all sorts of codes and honour. She’s manipulated into action, she is upset by the war, and yet her actions perpetuate the violence she’s apparently so hurt by. With limited life experience and some fairly vague direction from those around her, I’m sure she’s doing the best she can but looking in from the outside it all just seems pretty tragic.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

The rebels as well with their usual fighting for peace mentality seem completely unaware of the irony of their own statements. Admittedly, just laying down arms and trying to live peacefully doesn’t work so great when the empire literally stomps your village flat and sets it on fire so I kind of get why they feel a need to fight, but fighting for peace is always a weird moral line given the actions taken are decidedly un-peaceful.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

Still, while there are a lot of cliches being thrown at us and the animation still isn’t exactly amazing, this one has set up a pretty decent story and things are more or less in motion which means they can just pretty much ride this to its natural conclusion (I’d prefer it if they did rather than trying to throw in a dozen or so plot twists). I guess we’ll see what it does in the coming weeks.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 3: The Plot Thickens

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 3

After episode 2 just kind of meandered about in the past and really illuminated nothing that hadn’t already been surmised, episode 3 picks up right where episode 1 seemed to leave off and progressed things quite nicely. All the standards that you would expect from the plot kick in so this one won’t be getting any points for originality, but it is interesting enough as it sets the childhood friends up on opposite sides of the conflict, builds a fairly interesting relationship between Zhao and the Empress, and continues to have the military seem pretty brutal and pretty hopeless simultaneously.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 3

The episode spends the bulk of its time with the sisters, Ning and Yin and that’s to the anime’s benefit as the relationship between these two is fairly entertaining. With Ning getting new arms from the magic scroll thing that seems to just spit up whatever the plot requires, we may have escaped a fallout between the two because of Yin’s over-protectiveness (and I may have just mixed those names up so I’ll check next week). However, another standard conflict may raise its head as the older sister tried not to kill the enemy leader whereas the younger sister, fuelled by rage and revenge, just swooped in and ended him. While her actions are understandable, they clearly took the older sister by surprise.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 3

However, as fun as these characters are, there’s no escaping that the animation in this one is a little on the dodge side. Particularly during fight sequences where they seem to try to step things up and the end result is some fairly uncomfortable visual effects. It is a shame that the look of this show alone from episode one will put a lot of viewers off, because there’s definitely a potentially interesting story here and hopefully one that pays off in the end. If it all derails horribly, so be it, but right now I’m fairly hopeful for this one.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 2: Not Entirely Convinced We Needed To See Any Of This

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 2

This week we are given a complete flash back episode so that we can see exactly how happy Ning, Yin and Zhao were before the Empire destroyed their home and so we can see how the child Empress lost her dad. The thing is, we already knew the three were happy before hand and that Zhao believes the sisters died in the attack and it kind of didn’t really matter about the previous King being killed because we could have surmised from the age of the current ruler that either someone was killed or an illness took out the previous one.


While it might be twenty minutes of essential narrative down time because none of what is shown here couldn’t have either been surmised from episode 1 or just ignored, it is actually kind of fun to watch. Then again, I’m left wondering why not just start with this and show the events after the attack in the order that they actually occurred. I doubt anything that amazing happened in the first episode that required this to be out of sequence.


I’m actually still enjoying this two episodes in, despite a lot of the issues this show has so far had with animation, pacing, and now narrative structure. The characters are pleasant enough and there’s enough going on in the story that my interest is being held. The alternative take on history is extremely fantasised so you might as well just assume this is fantasy, unless humans playing with water and fire magic was common in ancient China and I just missed the memo. So I’m sticking with this. That said, like a lot of anime I end up low key enjoying, I probably won’t recommend this unless it gets significantly better.


Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 1: A Rough Fantasy With Some Potential

I was kind of overjoyed when this started for the simple reason that it is a fantasy (well alternative history kind of fantasy but still it isn’t isekai so no modern humans meandering about making fourth wall breaking observations). I love fantasy and anime has very few anime that are genuine fantasy and not game worlds or featuring way too modern protagonists so this title was always going to get a bit of a look from me despite being a historical setting more than a fantasy, and unless it becomes truly unwatchable I’m sticking with it.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 1

That said, the first episode was okay. Not great. There’s plenty of pacing and animation issues in just this first episode and you could certainly be pretty critical of it and walk away. However, given I’m looking for a fantasy to watch I’m going to focus on the good here.

We get two sisters who have some great chemistry even if the older one is carrying around way too much guilt about the younger one getting injured. I can see that exploding and derailing their relationship any time now, but at least the sister dynamic is pretty solid.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 1

We also have a slave who used to be friends with the sister but thinks they are dead who gets into some trouble but do to extreme plot armour ends up getting a promotion to a noble rank in the empire that is responsible for all the drama in the first place. Yeah, that’s not going to end well considering the sisters just got attacked by the ‘constructs’ of the empire and used some magic scroll thing to destroy them.

There’s definitely magic and martial arts flying around and while the animation isn’t particularly impressive it has so far been entertaining. And yes, the empire already suffers from every cliche imaginable for evil empires including the idiotic subordinates who decide the best way to find out if someone is hiding in a village is to burn it down. Honestly. We get we’re supposed to dislike them without the over the top idiotic decision making.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary

Basically, there’s potential here. There are ideas that could become good and characters who might entertain. I want to believe it might do something with that potential though having been burned many times before I’ll sit on the fence until I see what the next couple of episodes bring.