Sunday, October 14, 2012

Anime Review No. 43-The Sacred Blacksmith

The Sacred Blacksmith
12 episode TV series, October-December 2009
Studio: Manglobe, Director: Masamitsu Hidaka, Writers: Masashi Suzuki and Rie Koshika
Licensed by Funimation

Well, Fantasy has gone to the Now portion, where I cover two titles I own that are more recent. This is only to prove that I do own anime titles from not just the 90s but also from more current years.

Now, onto The Sacred Blacksmith: a title I’ve owned for a few years. I got it at a Best Buy while I was living at out-of-state college. It was something I had never heard, but was intrigued by the cover art and the fact that it was the complete collection for about $25. This was back in the day when anime distribution companies (like Funimation who released this) began to sell anime in complete collection sets, as opposed to single DVDs with only 3-4 episodes per disc for a good chunk of money.

Anyway, The Sacred Blacksmith concerns the tale of Cecily Cambell, a female knight and head of a noble house within the city of Housman. She wants to be well-known like her father and grandfather, but never gets the chance. One day, during a battle when it seems things are going wrong for her, she is saved by Luke Ainsworth, a mysterious and brooding blacksmith with a strange sword (a katana as it turns out). She wants a katana for herself so as to prove she can help to protect the city, so she asks Luke to make one for her. In the process, Cecily gets dragged into an unexpected adventure, one involving mystical swords and the mystery regarding Luke and his cute elfin assistant.

First off, onto the difficult part: I want to like this show, and on the face of it, the premise (a coming of age story with a strong female lead) of this series is pretty interesting. For the first few episodes, it seems that way. But then, it veers off into another story dealing with a princess in exile. They spend 3 episodes on a separate story that really feels out of place. It feels out of place in part due to a different writer for those episodes. Even when it tries to tie itself it with the main story, it feels a bit forced. And after it’s finished up and the main story continues in episode 8 with only 4 more episodes, it smells of filler quite fairly.

Ok apart from that, the rest of this series in quite good. The setting is very much High Medieval/Early Renaissance European, in terms of architecture and clothing. This looks and feels like a period piece. There is a glimmer of a larger world, but for the most part, the story takes place within the area surrounding the city of Housman, part of democratic federation of trade cities, independent from any kingdom.
Luke, Cecily, Lucy and Aria: the main cast
 The cast of characters are very interesting. Cecily is a nice, strong, likable female lead, which is surprising given the setting. She throughout the series is the one I root for as she grows and develops. Luke, a t first, seems like a brooding angst-ridden guy who doesn’t give much of a crap about others. But, he too develops though in a different way than Cecily. Lisa, the cute elfin assistant to Luke, is a mystery left unchecked until the final episodes, which threw me for a quite a surprise.

Now, the prime concept behind this show is the demon swords, mystical weapons from a past conflict. One of them is unique in that it can take human form, and that is Aria, demon sword of the wind.  Her interactions with Cecily, akin to most sisterly relationship, elevate her to main cast status in my eyes at least. There are other demon swords, but none of them have much impact on the plot as Aria does.
Example of the good quality animation here
 The animation is also very top-notch. Manglobe, the studio responsible for Samurai Champloo prior to this, do a fantastic job here as well. It looks quite impressive, given the show is 3 years old by this point. It is consistent throughout, with little to no moments of off-model shots or anything. The opening song is also very nice, being full of energy and gets you pumped up for this show (oh yeah!).

The English dub is quite fine and serviceable. Once again, you might be better off to watch in English given the medieval setting and characters. This came out during the period when Funimation started to dominate the anime scene here in the States. As such, the dub is really good, with consistent performances from most of the cast.  Of note is Monica Rial as Lucy, she has always been a favorite of mine in dubs, both ADV and Funimation titles.  

Overall, The Sacred Blacksmith is a decent and entertaining fantasy series. It has a few issues with the tacked-on story in the middle, but other than that, it works well. It is very well done in most aspects, from animation, setting, dub, etc. I would definitely recommend this.

See y’all in 2 weeks!

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