Guin Saga

December 28, 2009

I missed the boat for this one back in spring. But I am SO glad I decided to pick up the batch.

There are several things you should know about Guin Saga before I go into a more orthodox review:

  • It’s based off of a 130 (!!!) volume long series that ran from 1979 (!!!!!!!) to just recently when the author, Kurimoto Kaoru, DIED in the middle of writing the final, 130th volume. The unfinished volume will be published, but NO ONE KNOWS how it truly ends.
  • As if that isn’t intriguing enough!
  • The anime is 26 episodes long and only covers a small fraction of the tremendous original work; I believe the story of the anime follows the first 16-19 or so volumes.
  • There’s no sign of a sequel in sight.
  • No, the novels are not available in English. They are in FRENCH, though, the lucky bastards.

So yeah, I DO need to go edit my “Top 5 series in need of new seasons” post. But really, how sad is that? Kaoru Kurimoto wasn’t even that old. And in the MIDDLE of the FINAL BOOK, no less. That just… jeez. R.I.P.

Plot: Basically Guin Saga is Epic Fantasy. Which, oddly enough, I’m not such a huge fan of. Don’t be shocked, but I actually have not watched or read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I just tend to twitch a little when it comes to most fantasy. I always pick up so many CHEESE vibes. I’m very sensitive to cheesiness. But of course, in every genre there ARE exceptions. And when fantasy is good, it’s REALLY amazing. Which is what Guin Saga is. Once you get through the first couple episodes. This show takes its time setting up and becoming amazing. I mean it wasn’t really til after the first 10 episodes that it really got hold of me.

The first episode is cheesy. There’s no getting around it. The whole first arc of 10 episodes is mainly a battle on a large scale, and at the same time an introduction of the characters and setting. But the second arc… dear lord. POLITICAL INTRIGUE. It was really amazing to see each character interact and develop. In the end there were no “good/evil” characters, which is something I’m fond of; a la Seirei no Moribito.

There’s not much else I can say at the moment other than – add this to the ranks of solid, novel-based, plot driven anime. I’m willing to put it up there with Seirei no Moribito, The Twelve Kingdoms and Kemono no Souja Erin. And also, give us a goddamn second season!

Music: Again, like the first episode it was cheesy at first, but I got used to it fast. It started to remind me of Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Probably Lord of the Rings, too, if I’d ever watched that.  The ending theme was quite beautiful and all over the place yet intertwined, with Klimt-esque background images. All in all the music gave the show a nice, united atmosphere.

Art and Animation: Done be Satelight. I dunno, I’ve read a couple complaints here and there about the animation quality and certainly it’s no Seirei no Moribito. But I ended up liking the art style a lot. Quite similar to the art style of Seirei no Moribito, actually. But man, this show really did deserve Production IG as its studio. Anyways, the point is that Satelight did a fair enough job by my standards, and if there WERE flaws, they must have just been the type that I miss. I thought it turned out looking quite nice.

Characters: I do love a good, extensive set of characters. And that is exactly what Guin Saga offers that I couldn’t resist. From the stoic Guin with his mysterious past and leopard head (though Higashi no Eden’s Takizawa Akira was still the best amnesiac of the Spring 2009 season); to the fiery and naive and ever-so-slightly-Oscar-like Amnelis; to Istovan and his ambitions and issues; and of course the TWINS, what is UP with Remus and that skull-face guy?! And of course there’s the scheming Aldo Naris who may be nice or may be awful. There are tons of different people to keep track of, different countries all with different motives and EVERYONE is changing ALL THE TIME. Just like in real life. Yeah, this is my kind of show.

In conclusion: There’s really something here for everyone, if you allow yourself to get past any aversion to cheesy fantasy (and I promise it’s not REALLY cheesy, I just tend to exaggerate when it comes to cheesiness). One on one fighting and largescale warfare, character development, mystery, detailed fantasy world, romance, POLITICAL INTRIGUE, clever plots, ambitious people in dire need of further development which is why we need a second season, and so on.