Jushiki, a system for reproducing natural phenomena and paraphysical acts such as the creation of matter, allows humans to wield a power which they once feared as “magic.” Its mastery has brought advancements to all fields of life, while facilitating the extermination of the once-rampant “Dragons” and “Others.” Gaius and Gigina, two combat-type jushiki wielders, run an office in a chaotic frontier town called Eridana, and make a living using their art to solve problems and collect bounties. One day, a dragon-hunting job falls into their laps. But it’s just the start of a plot far deeper… (Synopsis courtesy of Crunchyroll, because spoilers I may not have given this show my full attention for some reason)
Well, this was the first premiere this season to lose my interest so badly that I started doing my nails about halfway through the episode rather than properly paying attention. Was it the minute long stream of pointless technobabble the episode opened with that lost me, or the mid-episode interlude of bland political intrigue that I had no investment in? Or maybe it was the dull leads who have no chemistry and seem to speak only so that they can try to one up each other’s cool and edgy one liners. It could even have been the murky, ugly colour palette that is used to disguise the fact that even in the first episode there isn’t much in the way of impressive animation. I honestly can’t choose!
I always want to like a fantasy show. Theoretically I enjoy the genre, but it can be especially hard to sort the wheat from the generic, low effort chaff. A lot of storytellers can get away with writing an uninteresting story with mostly unlikeable characters when it comes to fantasy because there tends to be a large fanbase who just want as much of it as possible regardless of quality. And that’s what Dances with the Dragons is, a bland tale with unlikeable and overpowered characters. Gayus in particular seems like the author’s self insert; he’s a cool, super intelligent scientific magic user (I refuse to call them Offensive Jushikiists, it’s such a dumb name) with a hot elf girlfriend and a chip on his shoulder because he’s only the third son of a viscount and therefore doesn’t get the privileges associated with the title. I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for him as we speak. He even shares a voice actor with Kirito from Sword Art Online, so you can tell right away the type of protagonist he’s supposed to be.
Gayus’ combat partner, who he seems to loathe, is a powerful nobleman from another land called Gigina Jardi Doruk Meleios Ashley-Bufh. I know, I didn’t believe it either at first. The part where they name-dropped him was probably my favourite moment of the episode. I want each character’s name to get progressively longer as the show continues. When are they going to meet Jugemu Jugemu Go-Ko-no-Surikire Kaijari-suigyo no Suigyo-matsu Unrai-matsu Furai-matsu Ku-Neru Tokoro ni Sumu Tokoro Yaburakoji no Burakoji Paipo Paipo Paipo no Shuringan Shuringan no Gurindai Gurindai no Ponpokopii no Ponpokonaa no Chokyumei no Chosuke, who also hails from a distant land? I’m on the edge of my seat.
The visuals in this episode are also quite bland. The backgrounds are probably the highlight; the destroyed skyscrapers from the old cities are well realised and help to set the scene and give you more of an idea of what happened to the earth than the opening exposition managed to. However, most scenes are veiled in darkness to hide the fact that there isn’t actually much action going on, they’re just distracting the viewers with pretty lights to show them that a big cool fight is happening, just please don’t watch the characters, please. Even in the daytime scenes the colour palette is murky and unimpressive, and it just made my eyes slide off the television screen every time I tried to watch for too long because it was so dull.
I think by now it’s safe to say that I did not enjoy my time watching Dances with the Dragons. If you really, really love fantasy and are willing to overlook a lot of caveats for an adventure set in a fantasy land, you might manage to get something out of this show. Who knows, maybe it will improve? With more time they could establish a more compelling narrative and turn the political subplot into something more interesting, or the serial killer who wants to murder all the magic users might add some intrigue. I don’t intend to stick around to find out.
- The elf girl has a nice character design, but apparently bad taste in men
- The idea of a fantasy setting based in the ruins of modern Earth could have potential
- Unlikeable protagonists
- Exposition delivered awkwardly, comes from the “As we all know,” style of exposition
- Middling production values