Zetsuen no Tempest – 11

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As much praise as I’ve been lavishing on Zetsuen no Tempest lately, I still don’t think I’ve been giving it enough credit.

I’ve noticed a curious trend in my reactions to ZnT.  The series on the whole is, at the moment, exactly like each individual episode.  I tend to be mildly interested at the start, something catches me, and from that point on I’m utterly rapt with attention.  It’s almost as if seeing the Golden Ratio play out in dramatic terms – if you put Zetsuen under a microscope or look at it from space, the structure is exactly the same.  This is a series that has to be judged as a whole and not the sum of its parts, and without wanting to sound too hyperbolic I’m beginning to think it has a chance to be an actual masterpiece.

I can’t always describe what it is that makes this show so appealing, but I can definitely say that it has qualities that no other anime I’ve seen in recent years has.  If “charming” and “natural” are good words for Robotics;Notes, “grand” and “operatic” might be a start for Zetsuen.  I’m quite astonished at how beautifully the story is pieced together, something that’s only now becoming apparent, and at how much I’ve bought into the characters after having been rather indifferent towards them even as I was enjoying the scope of the series.  It’s a show where the style is perfectly suited to the premise – nothing less than the fate of the entire world would do for something this grandiose, and nothing less grandiose would do justice to the premise.  As in Shakespeare – and the Greeks who so inspired him – there’s a sense that all the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players (wrong play, I know), and of course that sense is a big part of the plot itself.  It all fits together thematically and substantively in a way that’s rather breathtaking.

A lot of the credit for the recent run of excellence (during which the three principals still haven’t moved more than a foot) falls with Samon, to be honest.  He’s a particular standout in this cast because he’s so utterly different from anyone else in it, but with his tortured intensity and theatrical body language he’d stick out in any show.  I love the dynamic here in that we have a man cast as the villain who’s acting wholly in what he sees as the best interests of the world – and he’s no overreaching fool, but someone who’s in a position to know of what he speaks.  When he urges Mahiro “Shounen!  Think about what is right.” and to “Do what’s right” it’s the proof of his intellectual honesty.  Samon is the antagonist, but he’s no villain – and further, I’m still not seeing any compelling reason to disbelieve that his course was the correct one, given the knowledge that was available to him at the time he chose it.

How refreshing, to see a series where we have a bunch of smart people all trying to do what they perceive as right, in opposition to each other not because some of them have evil ends, but because they have conflicting visions of good.  Yoshino’s motives seem more and more driven by a deep sense that standing by Hakaze is a worthwhile thing in its own right, and less by the force of her argument.  I think Samon is winning the logical battle for the most part – it really does seem as the Tree of Genesis is manipulating events to favor her (not that it’s necessarily wrong to do so) and that Aika was likely part of that master plan.  Mahiro’s motives are certainly the most selfish in that his primary goal is revenge, but even he isn’t unaffected by the intellectual battle royale going on around him.  For all his bluster and recklessness he’s no fool – not as sharp as Yoshino, but a clever lad capable of sorting through the facts and reaching his own conclusions.

Of course, the game seems to have changed now in a fundamental way that neither Samon nor Hakaze suspected.  With the revelation that no one in the Kusaribe Clan was actually responsible for Aika’s death, it’s Hakaze who grasps what the new reality may be – that a new princess may have been brought forth by the revival of the Tree of Exodus – a “Princess of Destruction” as she puts it.  This would surely be a fine example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, and I have my own ideas about just who such a “Mage of Exodus” may be – surely the same ones that many of you have – and I can only imagine the way such a revelation would rattle the foundations of the story as it stands right now.

One thing seems clear – one way or another, as the first cour draws to a close we’re in for a major reset.  It seems that it’s about time for Hakaze to return from the past (naked).  The means have been deduced by the boys and Hakaze and confirmed by Samon – her skeleton would act as the perfect transmitter, and Samon has hidden a sacrifice on her island just for such an emergency.  Does this mean a new alliance between Hakaze and Samon against the Mage of Exodus?  It seems very possible – Samon’s very plan was built around the notion that he would team with her again should things go off the rails, even if this is a different sort of debacle than he expected.  If my suspicions for where things are headed are right, it’s Mahiro who’s going to be in for a major existential upheaval soon.  And there’s still the matter of the mysterious Junichirou, not a mage – “I do not possess that ability”, in his own words – but someone able to toss powerful mages about like rag dolls without breaking a sweat.  The means of his power and his desired ends are the most obscure of anyone in the cast, and that makes him someone that could fundamentally change the direction of the story.

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  1. t

    It's a real testament to how great this series is that it delivers its best material when everyone simply stands still and talks to each other for four episodes!

    The long conversations and near-monologues give the show a more Shakespearean feel than ever,and I love it!

  2. A

    The show reminds me of UN-GO in how both show seemed to be only mediocre at best at the start of the series, but showed over the course of the series how great they are. Now it remains to be seen if this show can hold up the greatness all the way to the end.

  3. A

    It's great that ZnT tends to be more faithful to the manga in the recent episodes, it makes me feel good and I can finally enjoy it as much as I wished at the begging. I couldn't agree more with this review, it's like I have nothing left to say.

  4. x

    Wait… So who do you think this "Mage of Exodus” is? Many of you already have an idea? How come I have no freaking clue??

  5. Click the link in the post… 😉

  6. s

    I just feel it's pretty obvious she's not going to be in the plot just for the flashbacks between the 2 boys. Such a key character will never just hide behind the shadows of their respective series. Not to mention the person behind that voice being such a big name in the industry, both the girl and her VA is just too stand out-ish to be considered a 'b-list' charcter. 🙂

  7. t

    But the question then is – how does that work? Is she able to defy the world's logic to the point she can come back from the dead? The facts so far state that she was killed and the killer couldn't be found because they are able to be forgiven as they use magic

    None of the magic that was used to ascertain that information should be valid if she didn't actually die! So – suicide with an impending resurrection is the only way that theory could ever hope to play out…

    I'm missing something really obvious aren't I?

  8. I

    Is the mangakas of Zetsuen woman?

    Because if so I think my theory that female mangaka are better at creating story and characters (a current shoujo abomination aside) than male mangakas in general. I feel comedy and cool art wise the male mangakas do a better job but few them can make a thematic, intellectual and consistent story that is as good as female mangakas (especially those making shounen).

    Although I think this may only apply to Shounen since there definitely are some great Seinen male mangakas, Keitaro Takahashi for one. Does anyone else feel the same way?

  9. t

    I think there are lots of great female mangaka but you had to pepper your generalisation with too many qualifiers and exceptions for it to really stand up.

    Lots of mangaka are bad, some are good. Their gender may inform the story they choose to tell but is not a reliable indicator of how good that story will be.

  10. Based on their names I'd guess they're men, but with this magazine (Shounen Gangan) you have a good illustration of why we pay way too much attention to genre labels.

    I don't personally see any lack of male shounen authors who can write great story and characters. Togashi, Watsuki, Adachi… I think you find plenty of examples at all levels of the quality spectrum when it comes to that.

  11. I

    May be its because I keep comparing stuff like Naruto and Bleach to FMA and D gray man. Artwork for Zetsuen looks like it was drawn by a woman though.

    I think I should refine the parameters of my theory to just Shounen Action/Battle mangas, as I completely forgot about sports or romance manga

  12. t

    Seriously – revise your theory by throwing it out. There are great/intelligent shonen action/battle manga written by men too. Two examples of each doesn't justify this weird rule.

  13. I

    Also I recently started keeping up with the manga for Zetsuen.

    No spoilers, but I completely agree with Enzo that it has masterpiece potential; something very similar to Death Note about it.

  14. B

    Umm, how long is this show supposed to be? Are we supposed to, like, get all the big reveals in another episode or two? Seems like either the show is running long or we need some wrap up to start soon.

    Haha Junichirou. "Her boobs were bouncing all over the place! How can you call yourself a man if you won't help someone like that?" That guy is all class, keep it chill bro.

  15. Two cours – 24 or 25 eps, presumably.

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