Review: Rokka no Yuusha

[Synopsis]: A thousand years ago the demon god appeared and began to take over the continent however was stopped by the legendary Saint of the Single Flower. After driving the demon god into a deep slumber she foretold that it would awaken again one day and that six heroes bearing her power would rise to defeat it and once again drive it into dormancy. Cycles of these Braves appeared to face the demon god every several hundred years after the Saint’s disappearance and were all successful and now the demon god will soon rise again and so too must six new heroes. Adlet Mayer (Saito, Soma), the self-professed strongest man in the world, is chosen to become one of these heroes. After congregating with the other Braves it is discovered that they number as seven rather than six and the task of discerning the impostor sets them all at odds as each member grows more suspicious of the other and the demon gods awakening approaches.

[Characters]:

The cast of Rokka no Yuusha is fairly small as the story is heavily focuses upon Adlet and the six other Braves however this allows for the show to investigate each of the characters to a great extent in the absence of a larger number of characters. Adlet is certainly the character most worth talking about as he stands out distinctly even amongst the other Braves. On the surface is resembles a somewhat typical adventure fantasy protagonist – he is incredibly strong-willed, sincere, and quite ordinary in ability-set in comparison to his fellow Braves. That being said, he is highly perceptive and intelligent in how he fights and problem-solves – both traits lend themselves incredibly well to the story which at a basic level is a mystery. His fighting style is unique and his utilization of traps, crude sciences, and the environment sets him apart from most other characters, especially so from the other Braves most of whom wield powerful magics such as the conjuration and manipulation of swords, gunpowder.

Refreshingly, Adlet is by no means the only intelligent character within the Braves and each member has a strong sense of agency within the plot with perhaps the exception of Goldof. Despite the characters being perceptive and rational, each of them continuously arrive at different opinions concerning the seventh Brave and impostor and what makes them so compelling is that each of their conclusions are legitimized and well-founded. While their character designs are a bit outlandish at first glance they fit well within the aesthetic of the world and I found that I got used to them quite quickly. Rokka no Yuusha is one of the few shows that I can say kept me on my toes as far as which character I put my faith in and trusted as the dynamic of the group and the personality of each character all meshed differently as the plot developed and new information came to light.

The show takes the time to get to know each character and their reasoning both stays consistent with the characterization presented while also evolving as they do throughout the story which added a strong feeling of consistency to the show’s underlying logic. The show is hardly all cold-logic and there are plenty are plenty of emotional characters like Fremy who keep the show engaging in that regard as well. I also can’t underplay the uniqueness of each of the Braves in relation to each other as, beyond what they believe, they each come from vastly different walks of life, have distinct mannerisms and speech patterns, and interact with each other in different ways.

These traits and differences exhibited by each character account for my reasoning that their presence is definitely a strong-point of the show and its focus on character drama and interaction is well founded.

[Art/Animation]:

The art and animation was at first a pretty significant concern for me when the show started out however by the end I was quite happy with how it improved and ultimately handled itself. The initial 3 or 4 episodes suffer a bit from poor character designs and mediocre CG work on the part of the Fiends however after that point the show picks up consistency-wise a great deal – the character designs are far better represented and their animations as well as the movement of the camera become a great deal more smooth and dynamic as opposed to what was initially presented. Baring the first few episodes, the show is strong aesthetically in this area and though it falters at times I would say that animation shouldn’t be a concern going in.

One thing that immediately caught my eye that I found interesting all throughout the series was the world and setting established which felt highly influenced by Aztec structures and buildings. It was an aesthetic I had not seen before in anime and Rokka no Yuusha did a great job bringing it to life. The influence present in the setting can also be found in the character designs which accounts for some of their flamboyant appearances however this too I found to be quite interesting and fun after a turn. The vibrant designs of the other Braves further set Adlet apart who’s design is more typical and muted both alienating him on an aesthetic and often a cognitive level while also adding a unique flavor and style to the show that I can’t claim to have seen elsewhere.

The show doesn’t boast terribly great CG and the Fiends are both bizarre in appearance and execution however luckily we don’t see them all that often after the central drama of the story begins and their later appearances in the show are handled slightly better. That being said the poor use of CG was one of my initial concerns with the show but luckily Rokka no Yuusha improved dramatically as time went on and while I would not list the visuals necessarily as a strength of the show, I would say so of the unique designs and aesthetic.

[Story]:

As I mentioned earlier, the first 3 or so episodes of the show came up a bit short and the actual premise of the story doesn’t arrive until the 4th episode however I wouldn’t say that it’s plot was terrible beforehand. Rokka no Yuusha doddled a bit before arriving at its premise however once getting to that point it changed dramatically and what I first hard dismissed as a vanilla, demon-killing, action show turned into a mystery-centric, battle of both logic and physical prowess as the Braves clashed with one another. The early episodes also differ noticeably in terms of pacing and the show slows down a great deal for a few episodes midway as it unpacks the logic and implications of the Braves’ dilemma however I found this to be far more engaging than what was present prior and the methodical pacing in the mid and latter parts of the show was highly enjoyable. The show does an amazing job juggling suspicion from what character to the next and I, as a viewer, found the way in which Rokka no Yuusha approached the mystery genre to be highly compelling in its presentation of developments and perceived facts.

Perhaps the strongest point of the story outside of the plot itself was its ability to first evolve into something far more cerebral than what was first laid out but also its ability to maintain the action and adventure feel established early on while evolving immensely elsewhere was impressive. Perhaps even more impressively – it never felt like the latter action was happening for action’s-sake but rather it occurred quite naturally within the context of the situation and the intelligence exhibited by the characters and plot felt present within the action sequences as well through their strategic progression and execution.

The story is quite slow in how it unfolds as it is almost entirely focused upon its premise of there being seven Braves and one impostor and so it may disappoint those who were more interested in the premise in its entirety and its conflict with the demon god and the role of the six heroes. Hopefully the show receives a future installment however the point at which it ends gives a full and pleasurable conclusion to the events at hand, resolving both the mystery and conflict while remaining open.

[Music]:

The music was good all throughout and the soundtrack had a handful of memorable songs. The area where I felt Rokka no Yuusha succeed the most in a musical sense was in how its songs were diverse to the point that they lent themselves well to the heroic, action adventure setting present in the premise of the story while also presenting an apt selection of music to support the show’s mystery themes and the many high-tension moments therein. The music matched the tone of the show well in each of it’s endeavors and intricacies and was certainly one of the points of success attributing to the show’s overall enjoyability.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

Rokka no Yuusha surprised me, plain and simple. What initially felt like one of the seasonal action shows where stereotypical heroes run around and combat monsters rendered in poor CG rapidly became something extremely engaging and special. It has its fair share of problems such as its lackluster animation and art early on and occasional quality drops throughout however these negative elements pale in comparison to the areas in which the show triumphed.

Rating: 8

I gave Rokka no Yuusha an 8 because of its compelling and self-involved cast of characters, its unique aesthetic and combat feel, and the intelligent nature with which it explored its own evolving plot in dynamic and rational ways. The missteps in the art and animation department hinder it from scoring any higher for me and some of the character interactions were not as convincing and well-conceived as others however  the end-product of these things was nothing less than enjoyable.

[Recommendations]:

Anyone who finds themselves classically interested in show’s that come off as well-figured, logical, or rational would like the manner in which Rokka no Yuusha plays out as the characters provide compelling reasons for why they think what they do and act accordingly. For the same reason I would recommend it to any purveyor of the mystery genre as it presents an engaging plot in this regard and the manner in which the show allows you to postulate yourself rather than keeping the viewer purposefully in the dark was a strong point of the show. The show has good action and should attract those interested in the more tactical side of combat however those interested in this category will have to find enjoyment in the rest of the show as the fighting intermittently takes a backseat as the show unfolds. To those who look into the show, I do highly suggest reaching at least episodes 4 or 5 before deciding to drop as that is where the show is most transformative.

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