Their Fight Isn’t To Save The World – Just Their Corner Of It
Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary was one of those odd titles that comes out each season where I haven’t heard of it, haven’t seen any promotional materials, and just kind of go in blind. A fantasy-action, according to MAL at least, it seemed like it could be quite fun. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a fantasy that wasn’t isekai and instead had a faintly historical setting though the inclusion of mechas and ultimately flying armour kind of threw any basis in reality right out the window.
Now, I am going to end up recommending this title, mostly because very few people watched it while it was airing and I feel it really got overlooked in a strong season. However, that recommendation comes with a caution. The animation goes from average to terrible and remains that way through most of the run time. So if you are someone who expects modern anime to have high quality or at least reasonably consistent animation, I’d suggest not even trying this one because you are not going to enjoy it. For those that don’t mind the slightly shoddy visuals, there’s a pretty decent story to be found here.
The setting works very well in Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary. The Taibai Empire is expanding and wants to conquer the world and does so by brutalising the inhabitants of small villages. It is more or less the expansion of China though don’t expect historical accuracy here. Yin and Ning are two sisters whose lives are destroyed when their village is attacked. Yin is waiting outside the village at the time and escapes mostly unscathed but Ning loses both arms (in what becomes an ongoing trend in this story – seriously, how many sets of arms does she go through?).
With this backdrop we follow Yin and Ning as they join up with the rebels fighting the empire. However, their scenes are interspersed with Zhao (Yin and Ning’s childhood friend) and Cheng, the Empress. We see both sides of this conflict and the personal dramas of these four young people all propelled into a war they didn’t start but are now just kind of destined to get caught up in. It borders on melodramatic at times, but each of the characters is interesting in their own way.
Yin and Ning, despite being close as sisters, are changed by the events in different ways. Yin just wants to keep her sister safe and out of the war but Ning is far more violent and wanting revenge for Zhao’s ‘death’ as well as the loss of her arms. It is probably telling that Ning’s fate isn’t exactly wonderful given her motivation rides from one hatred to the next. Yin on the other-hand suffers ongoing heartache as she tries and fails to keep the war away from her life.
Zhao’s transition to serving the empire seems really odd at first but ultimately his character begins to make sense as he consistently chooses the path of least resistance. He’s someone who just wants to get a little ahead in the world and find a small piece of strength for himself. But it is his wavering between his various allegiances that ends up costing him.
Lastly, we have Cheng who is torn between being a very young girl who lost her father and being the Empress of a vastly expanded nation. I really liked that Cheng got treated as a human throughout all of this rather than just being the face of the enemy. Her relationship with Zhao is complicated and interesting to watch unfold even if you know early on there is no way it will end well.
With a cast that all hold their own ground and a setting rich with potential, it is almost a shame that the animation wasn’t up to the challenge. We have sword fights, magic, burning villages, explosive death machines, and impossibly awkward mechas. The story choosing to focus in on the young cast members caught up in events makes things feel more personal and allows there to be some resolution within the thirteen episodes but a lot of the plot is implied or occurs off-screen with plenty more to happen after the end of the final episode, should there ever be a continuation.
As I said at the start, I do recommend this one for people looking for a fantasy or action story though it isn’t without its problems. Still, despite it not being that great, it was a little different and certainly interesting enough week to week.
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DIABOLIK LOVERS OFFICIAL VISUAL FAN BOOK
- Episode 1 – A Rough Fantasy With Some Potential
- Episode 2 – Not Entirely Convinced We Needed To See Any of This
- Episode 3 – The Plot Thickens
- Episode 4 – Rising Tension
- Episode 5 – Attack of the Poor Animation
- Episodes 6 + 7 – The Sword, The Confession, and the Betrayal
- Episodes 8 – 10 – Great Heights and Great Falls; It All comes With Ambition
- Episode 11 – Give In To Your Hate; Embrace the Darkness
- Episode 12 – Everybody Hurts Sometimes Even If You Want to Forget
- Episode 13 – The Small Victory and Loss Within a Greater Battle