Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Series Review

Overview:

The Black King has stolen half of the chain chronicle (which apparently documents everything that happens in the world) and now he’s using it to engulf the world in darkness. The heroes have already tried to defeat him and failed, but have they given up hope? I reviewed Chain Chronicle week to week so if you want thoughts on the individual episodes click here.

Review:

Before getting into this there’s a couple of things I’m going to make clear. I am a major old-school fantasy fan. I have read pretty much every sword and sorcery style fantasy book I could get my hands on growing up and read out entire fantasy sections of school and public libraries. My appetite for these kinds of stories is voracious and I’m not too picky about quality as long as it isn’t boring. Therefore, when I say that this story is lacking in originality but still really fun, you should probably understand that it really only applies if you are equally fixated on good vs evil, hack and slash with swords, with some magical explosions and the occasional dragon thrown in.

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When this came out in Winter I was really happy because it has been a long time since we’ve gotten an anime that is so unapologetically classic fantasy. It wasn’t trying to give us a subversive hero, add in unnecessary self-aware comedy, give the villains complex backgrounds and having people make morally grey decisions. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but they aren’t classic fantasy and while they can make for stories that feel a bit different, I still just like my fantasy pretty straight forward. There’s something comforting about the familiarity of light vs darkness and the good guys will be down but not out for three quarters of the story before they rally for the final conflict. So I’m not going to spend much time discussing the plot but rather the characters and the execution.

The issues that emerge from these sorts of stories though usually concern lazy writing. Because the story is so familiar and the characters are such well-worn archetypes, writers end up taking short cuts and you kind of feel like you are reading a plot synopsis or a description of a movie rather than being immersed in a story. The other issue that comes along is that the writers themselves are aware that everything they are writing is derivative and so they don’t give anything the extra attention or oomph it needs to make it stand out.

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So does Chain Chronicle have these issues?

Yes and no.

The villains do suffer incredibly from poor writing and limited screen time. They are either mindless summoned puppets who can get cut down in droves and just respawn (so zero care factor from the audience) or they are so beyond cliché in their dialogue it is impossible to take them even vaguely seriously as a threat. Plus, there’s the lingering question of even if they succeed in dying the world black, what then? Is there some sort of grand plan beyond make everything black?

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Realistically this is my biggest complaint of this series as a whole is the lack of real motive or care put into these villains (that and what is with that female villain’s armour). Also, we see not one but two of the ‘heroes’ of the story get turned into demons through their own inner doubts and losing to their inner darkness.

Yuri, as the main hero, has a whole group of friends continuously rallying behind him and trying to bring him back. His character and back story get quite a lot of exploration to understand why he gave in to the darkness and to really hammer the point that anyone can fall. Also giving the whole love, bonds, and friendship theme a boost in the final episode.

Burkhardt on the other hand turns evil and mostly people spend the rest of the series shouting at him and then the Princess cuts him down declaring that she would take on responsibility for him. Um, Princess, wouldn’t it be better to believe in him and try to get him back like Yuri’s group are doing for him? Aren’t you kind of writing off your own subordinate fairly cheaply? And why is Yuri so much better? Then again, Burkhardt’s character is portrayed as a proud narcissist before he turns, we get no back story, and no development. And it turns out he has no friends so clearly he doesn’t fit with the theme of bonds and friendship and so must get unceremoniously crushed.

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It’s fairly contradictory the way these two characters are treated and while I get that we probably don’t have time to explore the back story of every character, why introduce Burkhardt at all and why have him go evil if you aren’t doing anything with that. Or even if they tried to turn him back and his inner self resisted and continued to give in to darkness forcing them to kill him it would have made more sense because it would have shown the moral choice of being evil despite having someone reach out for you.

So yeah, the villains were not great.

In terms of all of the other characters, the biggest issue is the sheer number of them. This story wants to be an epic. It really does with the scale of the threat and the number of alliances and people caught up in the battle. But with 12 episodes instead of grandiose and epic what we end up with is a shallow view of a much deeper world and we don’t really have time to deal with the ins and outs of most the characters.

That said, some of them were really fun. By the half-way point I kind of loved Aram. He was such a cliché character getting picked up by the heroes in a random village and then apparently being excellent at fighting before he learns about hope and bonds and ends up all but being the main hero of the story. Plus, he picked up Furball who was adorable, and then transformed into a dragon (needed a new name, seriously who calls a dragon Furball). Aram was awesome and yes he gave in to the shout your ideals loudly at anyone who disagrees philosophy that so many young, male anime protagonists fall into but due to the sheer number of other characters the effect of this was somewhat diluted making that aspect of his personality tolerable.

The other character I really enjoyed and wished we’d learnt more about was Shuza. He was such an antagonistic character throughout most of the series and I really wish the show had spent a bit more time on him so that we could really appreciate the moral ambiguity he really represented. Everything else in the story was incredibly divided into darkness and light but he managed to be technically on the side of light but had some pretty dark views and really the ending gives us no clue about what now. In my own head I’m seeing him take his army and sweeping across the continent taking advantage of the fact that all the other armies have been significantly weakened. But we don’t actually know what he is doing other than still leading the army because pretty much no time is devoted to him after the battle.

There were other characters that I either liked or didn’t but essentially if you can think of a character who usually appears in these kinds of stories, they are likely to show up somewhere along the way, even if only for a little bit and even if their actions seem pretty inconsequential.

There also some really cool settings and locations, though at times you’ll get sick of them being on yet another road. Also, don’t pay too much attention to travel time. Apparently armies can fast travel (not really but realistically they must have for all of those armies from all of those different locations to be able to arrive in that location at that time). Time and distance mean very little in this story and you kind of just have to go with it.

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All and all, as I said at the start I had a lot of fun watching this. There’s definitely issues and at times common sense has to be dismissed just to get through a certain plot point, and I really wish that they’d either trimmed down the scale of the conflict or given this another 12 episodes to actually flesh out the world in a way that made it feel a bit more real, but entertaining nonetheless. I’d really only recommend this to major fantasy fans who are wanting something just to casually watch where they don’t have to think too much and they aren’t wanting anything unexpected. Otherwise, there’s probably better stories out there to spend your time on.

Still, fun.


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Sword Oratoria Episode 3

Review:

Spin-off by their very nature are always going to be compared to the original and cross overs between events in the original series and the spin-off are more or less inevitable. However, Sword Oratoria seems devoted to walking us through the events that Bell experienced, only without Bell actually being present but for the occasional run past Ais’ line of vision. The end result is that the character we’re following is really not facing any actual conflict or issues and is kind of just walking around while interesting events happen elsewhere.

In fairness to the show, they try to counter this by having the elf girl slowly getting over her fear of fighting monsters and learning to use her magic in combat, but to be perfectly honest they’ve given me no reason to care about her and the story is pretty ordinary at best, so as a distraction from a distinct lack of plot elsewhere it falls tragically short.

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I had a small glimmer of hope that maybe this episode would actually explore Freya’s motivation for pursuing Bell, given this was not really addressed in DanMachi, but Sword Oratoria doesn’t seem interested in giving more information about events in the other story, it seems content to view them from the outside while not adding anything of substance. And that is probably my overall conclusion for this so far. Lacking in substance or anything to engage an audience. This episode was so lacking in detail, I’m thinking without knowing the original story of the monsters being set free most of the events will just feel completely without meaning.

Definitely not a satisfying viewing experience.

Sword Oratoria is available on AnimeLab.


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Granblue Fantasy Episode 3

Review:

So, they crashed the airship. Surprising how that happens when you don’t have a pilot (I mean helmsman) to fly the thing. Actually, this is the episode where Katalina just kind of loses her cool look. From episode 1 she’s been cool and the most interesting of the cast. This episode she’s pretty lame. And part of the reason is because we have to make the new guy look cool.

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Rackman the helmsman who spends all his time repairing an old crashed airship. I wonder if he’ll end up being helpful (eyeroll).

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Okay, I’m mocking a lot but that’s because as watchable as this episode was, it kind of doesn’t do much. We run around the island for a while, run into potential empire agents, and then while our main group are out of town to ask Rackman if he’ll be their helmsman, an army from the empire led by shrimp-crazy-guy shows up. It kind of sounds like it should be fun but mostly its just stepping through the motions and taking us along with it.

Granblue Fantasy is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sword Oratoria Episode 1

Overview:

A spin-off of DanMachi (It is Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon), Sword Oratoria focusses on Ais and the Loki Familia.

Review:

For a show that is supposed to focus on Ais, she’s remarkably passive to absent in this first episode with far more time being given to introducing a young magic user who freezes at the sight of monsters (useful). And because of the kind of show it is of course she’s making puppy dog eyes at Ais.

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That said, it wasn’t a bad episode. After an initial narration where we zoom around the city and see some familiar faces we find ourselves on level 50 of the dungeon with the party from the Loki Familia. We get a reintroduction to the members because even though we’ve met most of them before they weren’t the main characters in DanMachi. Then we get a pretty cool fight against some acid spewing caterpillar thing. Before we start returning to the surface and we get our first direct cross over with the previous series and we see how the minotaur ended up attacking Bell.

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My issue with this is that Ais was a pretty boring character back in DanMachi (she served her purpose well enough as a potential love interest and a goal to work towards in terms of strength for Bell) but her personality was pretty much non-existent. When I first heard she was going to be the focus in this I had some real concerns about whether she could carry a show and this episode has done nothing to lay those concerns to rest. The things I liked this episode were throw backs to DanMachi and reminders of how fun that show was. Just being back in the dungeon was fun, the ridiculous monsters and the fighting styles, even seeing Bell again was fun. Ais, not so much.

All and all, I have no intention of dropping this. Even is Ais doesn’t manage to develop a personality, there are plenty of other enjoyable characters and its a dungeon crawling fantasy in a world I already love so we’ll continue on.

Sword Oratoria is available on AnimeLab.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Episode 10

Review:

Right, I had a lot of fun with this episode, so my criticisms are not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the free-for-all being set up but at the same time I am concerned that there were so many issues in this episode.

The main one being time. Somehow we’ve all regrouped with the various factions and the army is all ready just to march straight back into the black king’s space as soon as they bring down the shield. Great. Only didn’t it take them weeks to retreat from there and when did they leave the desert? I get that Aram and friends flew back to the Mage towers so I won’t even question that they seem to have instantly arrived (because flight is akin to instant-travel apparently) but Julianna and the others need a couple of weeks at the smallest estimate to be in any kind of position to fight. Nope, they are ready and raring to go.

Then again, apparently this show has no end of ‘magical’ solutions to issues.

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Seriously? Anywhere? Instantly? I know you just built this thing but surely it should be a little bit harder to get inside the black bubble to bring the shield down.

And apparently now the Black King is sitting around watching Aram and friends on his equivalent to a big screen TV. Why? And if he could do that why hasn’t he just sent someone to kill them while they’re sleeping given his minions have been teleporting anywhere they like for the entire length of the show? Is there any reason for kidnapping Phoena at this point? She doesn’t seem like as much of a threat as the guy who is suddenly purifying everything.

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Anyway, cool battle sequence and set up for great fight to come. Just check logic at the door first but that’s much the same as the whole series so far. Plus, dragon involved in fight (not dragon being fought). I really wish someone had changed it’s name. Furball the dragon doesn’t really inspire.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Episode 8

Review:

There was a moment early in this episode where I realised they’d just thrown us into the middle of a battle and we didn’t know who was fighting or which side they were on. And then I realised that of course we knew who the bad guys are, they are all in black. This story is basic fantasy and they throw a million characters at us but other than our core group none of the others really serve any purpose other than momentary assistance, advice, death count, or needing to be rescued. As a result you can just kind of let the names roll past you and ignore them. It makes for light and amusing viewing but at the same time feels like a bit of a waste that this world isn’t fleshed out any more than it has been.

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Of course we spend quite a bit of time on Yuri this episode. He’s gone to the dark side fairly literally but Aram isn’t really in the mood to take that lying down. Enter a magic book and let’s finally see how Yuri got to where he is.

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Mostly I just felt sorry for this poor tree but that isn’t here or there. While it would be easy to say the world building and character development of this show is sloppy, this core group have really become interesting in the last few episodes and the story continues with enough momentum to entertain. The show has never tried to be anything particularly profound. It really is by the numbers fantasy but it does it reasonably well.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas Episode 5

Review:

There’s so much from this episode you could talk about but I guess overall Chain Chronicle continues to be exactly what it claims to be. Sword and sorcery adventure. Watch the hero recruiting allies, forced to face his inner darkness and being betrayed. It does it well enough but there’s still nothing overly unique about this story. It’s just fun to watch if you are into fantasy.

A few points from the episode:

Firstly, Furball is adorable and the fact that he reveals he has teeth at the end of the episode is just hilarious. He is fast on track to become my favourite pet or mascot from this season of anime (poor Kuro from Blue Exorcist).

Secondly, why try to fight skeletons with swords when they don’t work anyway and you are carrying around a group of magic users who seem perfectly capable of taking them out on their own with fairly explosive results (just watch out for the avalanche afterwards).

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Thirdly, why is it that in fantasy characters can get away with dramatic speeches and monologues about the nature of heroism, light, hope and darkness and they don’t just sound ridiculous. Seriously, in any other setting these exchanges would be eye-rollingly stupid and yet put the characters in a fantasy setting and it just seems right.

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Finally, did anyone expect a different response from this guy? And how dumb is he to think that this is a good plan.

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In case you couldn’t tell, I actually loved this episode. Its everything a good fantasy should be and nothing more or less.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Spiritpact Episode 4

Review:

Episode 4 of Spiritpact kind of shows off the best and worst that this series has had to offer. The first third of the episode is decidedly the worst of this show as they showcase Keika being his absolute most idiotic with some poor humour (because why not go for the cliche) and very little point other than giving the audience one bit of information that we know will become significant later on (only it turns out it is going to be significant in the next 5 minutes because that’s how you foreshadow apparently). It’s very tedious. Then the next part of the episode takes off.

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Last week there was a character introduced who I was pretty sure existed just to be an antagonist, well much like info dump from first third of this episode, they decide to reveal his antagonism in this episode (because why wait and build up to something) but the fight between him and Keika is actually kind of cool and there’s a few interesting moments. The resolution to this episode is also pretty well done.

Spiritpact is available on Crunchyroll.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Episodes 2 + 3

Review Episode 2:

Chain Chronicle picked up directly where we left off with Yuri and Aram defeating the soldiers who were attacking the village. After Aram faints and then wakes up, Yuri gives him a talking to and attempts to recruit him into his volunteer army which by the end of the episode he’s decided to change the name of. This show does not do subtle.

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These are the bad guys in case you couldn’t figure that part out. This is generic fantasy without any surprises so far and to be perfectly frank I’m enjoying it. It’s felt like a long time since someone just did a steep the world in darkness kind of story without trying to throw some massive over-complication in to make it seem more clever. There’s very little to recommend it, it doesn’t stand out from any of the other generic fantasy out there nor does it seem to be trying to at the moment. The writing is okay, the characters generic, the fight sequences passable, and basically if you just want to switch off and do fantasy for awhile this is working.

Review Episode 3:

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Is this the characters admitting they have no clue where to go or what their next step is so we’ll just kind of aim for this group of people and hope they can exposition us out of nowhere? Okay, it’s a fairly standard plot development in fantasy but it doesn’t make it any better. The Princess has gone to round up some allies and Yuri and his group are off to see the sages and then… I don’t think any of them have thought any further than we want to win. There are some cool moments this episode with Aram and Burckhardt (predictable but cool) and the final minutes give us a bit of excitement before the episode ends.

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This remains a fairly generic but decent enough fantasy so far.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Hand Shakers Episodes 1 + 2

Overview:

Tazuna is a high school student who likes to fix machines and has a really annoying habit of saying things are meshing (or not meshing) like this is the best catchphrase ever. He meets a girl in a hospital bed and after they hold hands he goes somewhere else where he’s attacked by another boy and girl team. The write up on Crunchyroll says the point of this is to gain an audience with God but to be honest this first episode doesn’t really tell you anything.

Review Episode 1:

You know that scene everyone complains about in the Fairy Dance Arc of SAO where Asuna is held upside down and groped by tentacles? People really need to stop complaining about that scene. Instead, let’s focus on the girl getting bound/groped in chains, gasping like she’s in some kind of esctacy while her partner essentially stands on her crotch. And then let’s also just look at the only other student we met who’s chest exceeds any kind of size logic given the rest of her physique and moves in a way that defies the laws of physics. While neither of these points are enough in and of themselves to absolutely warrant dropping a show (for me at least, for the most part I attempt to ignore these scenes), when we couple this with really off-putting animation, a bland main character, and a premise that kind of looks like it was cooked up by a bunch of twelve years olds and there’s probably a really sound argument in favour of dropping this at episode 1.

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For me, I’m kind of hoping they settle the whatever it is they’d like to call that chain girl and explain their plot and then maybe grow because this could be kind of interesting it just isn’t at the moment. I did nearly call it when the protagonist suddenly pulled out a sword because of course the guy he’s fighting uses chains but he uses a sword. What is it with anime protagonists having the least innovative weaponse in a series? Not that I’m against swords if everyone is using them but when there is a rich variety of potential weapons and the MC is flailing around with a sword you just have to wonder why.

Review Episode 2:

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Looks like I’ll get my wish about chain girl, turns out losing a fight means losing the ability to go to Ziggurat so I’m guessing she’s done in this story. Unless she intends a real world revenge scenario but it doesn’t seem likely given other than a hospital sequence that pair were more or less swept under the rug.

Finishing the fight in quick order and then going through a really unnecessarily long explanation scene that essentially amounted to a ‘further research is needed and I’m a crazy scientist, watch me crazy’ we then get the obvious now we have to live together (you know, because if he let’s go of her hand she’ll die, only not instantly so it turns out they can have a few moments apart at the moment. She’s also pretty much a blank slate needing help to eat and bathe (so yeah, bathroom sequence complete with bloody nose).

Probably my biggest amusement in this episode was putting these two quotes from the show in the wrong order because it would effectively end the story.

Not the order they were played in and there is kind of a reason given why Tazuna shouldn’t just lose but given how little the science guy seems to actually know I somehow doubt I’d trust his explanation for very much credibility and it will not surprise me when some things we are told in these first episodes turn out to be false.

Hand Shakers is available on Crunchyroll.


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