By Dustin Cabeal
If there’s one thing I can’t forgive in any form of storytelling, it’s a bad ending. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, anime, manga, comic, commercial… if you’re telling a story, you better stick the ending. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a happy ending, but it should match up with the rest of the story. If say, your story is about people fighting to the death for a wish to be granted; then the winner better have an amazing wish lined up. If you can’t see where I’m going with the review, well, then sit tight we’ll get there. Also, if you want to hear me talk about this show in full spoiler detail, you can do that on Super S – Anime Podcast E.042.
The premise is great. It’s has a great set up for a battle to the death scenario. Twelve warriors representing their different houses are sent to a contest every twelve years to do battle to the death and get their wish granted. The rules and stakes of the game change. This particular year everyone swallows a poison crystal and is then asked to retrieve as many crystals as possible. The first twist is that the rulers of these homes are betting entire countries on the winner. The outcome will change the landscape of how the world is secretly ruled. The other twist is that everyone has a special power of sorts. Ranging from unlimited reload, drunken rage skills, and reanimating the dead.
The first episode introduces the viewer to the character called The Boar. We’re given her backstory as she makes her way to the meeting place. You instantly get to know here and feel as if she’s the main character, but by the end of the episode she’s dead. Thus, the first inkling of the formula is established. If you narrate the episode or have your backstory revealed, then you’re dead.
That in and of itself isn’t annoying at all. Even knowing that’s the case, the backstories make their deaths matter. To make a weird comparison, it’s the opposite problem of a slasher movie. Modern slashers aren’t nearly as scary because we know that only one person is getting out alive, but because we don’t care about the characters their death means nothing to us as the viewer. It’s the same here, sure we don’t know which person will make it out, but we know that eleven people need to die and so their deaths could be absolutely pointless. Instead, we get their backstory and see why they’re there and what makes them tick. To the point that when they die, it’s genuinely disappointing.
Eventually, though, all the deaths are disappointing because for whatever reason the worst character of the story gets all the kills and they’re Star Wars level of disappointing. The character that I’m referring to because I’m doing full fucking spoilers in this review is the Rabbit. He’s a necromantist as we learn on the first episode when he kills the Boar with some help from the Snake (who he fucking killed before the game began!!!!). Also, I don’t know why they made up a different world for him because it’s just a necromancer. You couldn’t explain the difference to me in a million years.
An extremely cool and yet annoying aspect of the story revolves around the Monkey who is a pacifist. It makes her entry into the competition all the more unique because she’s really not going to kill anyone. She instead proposes a way that they can all live and make it out together without just one person wishing them all back. Interesting right? Makes you think, hey this character is our main character, right? Fuck no. Instead, they dangle this carrot in front of you for half the season only to kill her off without ever revealing an inkling of her plan that’s mentioned even after her death. Worse yet, they give the backstory of the twins afterward, and it gets a bit dull at that point.
Now, if for some reason all my other spoilers and the general tone of distaste for this series hasn’t swayed you not to watch it, then I’ll give you the last spoiler warning before talking about the ending and the winner of the contest. I encourage you to read it because I don’t think anyone should watch this show. Great premises with shitty execution shouldn’t be rewarded. Whoever adapted this should have changed the ending, plain and simple.
The winner’s power is interesting. We learn most everyone’s powers pretty early in the show or at least before their death, but our winner the Rat doesn’t reveal his until the end. The reason being is that his power is the sight of 100. He can see and go through 100 different routes before making his pick. To put it a simpler way, if he had to make a choice between left and right, he could do both and see which would be more successful to him. Which was cool. Especially the episode in which he explained how he won. The problem was, his wish was fucking bullshit. He goes through and asks everyone else their wish, which we see inklings of throughout the show, but then when it becomes his turn… he asks to forget everything. Which, might have been realistic and believable, if we had spent any real time with him. Instead, it’s five minutes of the episode in which he can’t stop racking his brain over what to pick. Oh, and Monkey’s plan is brought up but established over and over that no one knows what the fuck the plan was… why it was brought up at this point was just stupid. As if they thought or hoped the audience would get some weird false hope.
It’s not that it doesn’t have an ultra-happy ending, it’s the fact that anything else would have been a better ending. He could have wished for a colony on the moon, and I would have believed that and enjoyed it. Like, wow, a moon colony? Fuck it, that’s cool shit. He could have wished for a gas station. To be a clown. To fix his fucked-up rat hair. To beat the level of the video game, he sucked at in which he also played as a rat running from a snake that was just a bit too much on the nose for his real-life situation. But to just forget all the shit he went through, all the lives that were affected by his decisions… hell, he might be on to something because I wish I could forget this show.
The artwork is fantastic for the first six episodes. The action is gory and over the top, but wonderful to see. It’s what instantly hooked me during the first episode, but it quickly went downhill. There were a few good spots towards the end, but if you watch the first episode and compare it to the eleventh or twelfth episode, you can see the visual difference. Not that I’m encouraging you to watch and see, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to go through these episodes again and get screenshots to show you. The songs are both fucking lame and out of place with the tone of the story. I didn’t finish either song once; they were just that bad.
As a reviewer, I don’t think it’s my job to straight up tell you not to watch or read something. I only do so in really rare circumstances. I like to let the review do the talking and just point out the good and the bad, and then you decide for yourself. With Juni Taisen, I’m making a huge exception because it’s one of the most disappointing anime’s I’ve ever seen. If I had watched it in time, it would have been #2 on my Worst of 2017 list. It’s just that damn bad.
Juni Taisen: Zodiac War
Director: Naoto Hosoda
Writer: Sadayuki Murai