Still technically a weekend because I haven’t had work since Friday
Juuou Mujin no Fafnir (alternatively known as Unlimited Fafnir, henceforth referred to simply as Fafnir) is a fantasy harem light novel series written by Tsukasa (ツカサ) and adapted into an anime for the winter 2015 season. I have already talked about the anime once before, but because I am currently reading through the light novel and have also rewatched the anime, I decided that I would go back and provide further detail, be it through rephrasing or adding on to what has already been said.
Back when the anime started airing, I was the type of guy who could (and would) chase breezes when it comes to anime series; I would pay no heed to clichés or minor animation faults or anything like that. Even though I had already watched Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance, which is very similar in terms of execution (in the beginning if nothing else), I somehow decided that Fafnir was worth my attention. That, plainly and simply, was how I got into it.
The lore of Fafnir is centered around gargantuan beasts known as dragons (which are not quite comparable to the types of dragons normally depicted in mythical stories) and humans with dragon marks who are sometimes sought to become mates of the dragons (i.e., transformed into dragons themselves). The humans with dragon marks, who are also characterized by their ability to generate dark matter (a substance that can be molded into a different material by the user’s imagination), are called ‘D’s (with no connection to male genitalia, mind you), and the main character, Yuu Mononobe, happens to be the only male who fits this criterion. Initially a part of NIFL, a military organization meant for dealing with dragon disasters, he starts off having been transferred to Midgard, an island meant for housing an educational institute for ‘D’s, and becomes acquainted with the other ‘D’s who are all female. In particular, Yuu is assigned to the Brynhildr Class and becomes comrades with:
- Mitsuki Mononobe, his foster sister
- Iris Freyja, the first person whom he met on Midgard
- Lisa Highwalker, a blonde tsundere who initially disapproves of him
- Firill Crest, a (mostly) emotionless avid reader
- Ariella Lu, a brown-haired tomboy
- Ren Miyazawa, a red-haired laptop girl of few words
- Tia Lightning, a transfer student (introduced later in the series) who starts off under the impression that she is a dragon and his wife (she is called Tear in some translations, but I prefer the name Tia because it’s more of a real name (I’ve never heard of “Tear” being a name outside of fiction) and, as mentioned in the light novel, is short for Tiamat (which is dragon-related))
However, Yuu finds himself different from the other ‘D’s not only in his gender, but also in his combat experience. While ‘D’s are usually trained for dealing with dragons, Yuu is initially only experienced in man-to-man combat. Fortunately, Yuu has a dragon living inside him (“Green” Yggdrasil) that provides weaponry for the destruction of other dragons in exchange for his memories. It does get the job done, but with the drawback of hindering his relationship with Mitsuki.
Throughout the story, it is made clear that decisions are to be made when a dragon attacks. The best case scenario would be to eliminate the dragon, but such is much easier said than done. Because dragons are such threats, the characters are occasionally stuck contemplating between two options: (1) killing the ‘D’ whose mark has changed color, or (2) letting that ‘D’ transform into a copy of the dragon in question. They obviously stand and fight to the end, but they always take care to prepare for the worst case scenario.
Anyway, I’d say that about covers it for basic plot elements. So, I mentioned how I got into the series, and the next step would be to talk about how it has managed to keep my attention for so long. The way I was the first time I watched through the anime, it was not hard for a series like this to do such a thing. However, a less common phenomenon is for such a series to leave a legacy even after I finish watching the anime. I would say that this series is nothing special…that is, if not for the existence of one particular character: Kili Surtr Muspelheim. Yes, she is the one depicted in the third panel of the image at the beginning of this post.
Kili starts off as a terrorist responsible for the death of Tia’s parents and the creation of Tia’s two horns, and she appears to Lisa (and is soon encountered by Yuu) in an attempt to kidnap Tia and force her to live as a dragon. In spite of her villainy, however, she is surprisingly attractive (especially with that long black hair), voiced wonderfully by Marina Inoue (who also voices Yozora in Haganai), and has some amazing super powers centered around the conversion of dark matter into thermal energy.
Through her mind alone, Kili can create fire and explosive dark matter, and she can melt material such as bullets and guns. She was confronted at one point by a direct attack from Lisa, but she deflected it as if it were nothing. As if that wasn’t enough, she is capable of biogenic transmutation, which allows her to take on any appearance she pleases, notably that of her mild-mannered alter ego [Honoka Tachikawa] (who actually becomes friends with Yuu [and, in the anime, the rest of the Brynhildr Class] before revealing her true identity), and even to heal her own wounds (a quirk that is sadly not seen in the anime). She can also do this biogenic transmutation to other people, which is how Tia got her horns. How is this all possible? In volume 4 of the light novel, it is explained [that she is made of dark matter]. (See those brackets? They indicate spoilers. Highlight the white text within at your own risk.)
So…yeah. The first five episodes of Fafnir were not all that interesting, but then when Kili made her first major appearance in the second half of episode 6, I was left thinking something along the lines of, “Wow…what an amazing character,” and then I became more invested in the anime as I continued watching (hence the image at the beginning of this post). The time between her disappearance at the beginning of episode 7 and the unveiling of her disguise at the end of episode 11 made me increasingly anxious as it passed by, but the finale was well worth it. Her final fight with Yuu made her seem like a pushover (especially considering how close she was to having her way in episode 6), but…well, that’s to be expected. I mean, the battle couldn’t be dragged out any longer because there were still some loose ends to tie up, especially the attack on “Red” Basilisk and the aftermath thereof. I mean, I will admit that it’s a bit disappointing, but hey, that’s just the way it is.
Primary thoughts on the anime as a whole:
- The story was decent. I particularly liked how the conclusion played out and how the characters were affected.
- While the nomenclature of ‘D’s is questionable and might turn off some (if not most) critics, I wasn’t the type to care about that sort of thing, and I’m still not.
- I had no strong feelings about the music or visuals. The theme songs were meh.
- The characters as a whole were…above average, I’d say. Tia was bleh, Iris was meh, Loki (NIFL representative, formerly Yuu’s commanding officer) and Lisa were okay, Charlotte (the principal of Midgard) was good, Firill and Mitsuki were decent, Yuu was great, Kili was awesome, and everyone else was darn near forgettable (although Ren stood out the most amongst the forgettable characters).
Needless to say, since the first time watching, Kili gradually ended up becoming one of my favorite anime characters of all time. As such, when I was reading through the Mondaiji light novel, I figured that Fafnir would be next on the list, especially since I had read some dissonant information on a certain character profile of Kili. I did mention that the Fafnir anime is an adaptation of the light novel, and it’s specifically based on the first three volumes, although with a few notable differences. There is also a manga adaptation of the light novel, although from what I’ve read of the manga (i.e., only a few chapters), it seems to follow the light novel more closely than the anime.
To summarize the light novel a bit, it’s a story told mostly from the first-person perspective of Yuu, although some parts are from the perspective of Mitsuki, and there are even a few third-person parts as well. As such, not only does the light novel explain and describe more than can be fit into twelve episodes of anime, but the first-person aspect of the light novel makes it so the character’s thoughts and senses are more vividly communicated. Additionally, as mentioned before, volumes 1-3 of the light novel differ in canon from the anime, not to mention the light novel canon carries on much longer (and, consequently, goes further beyond face value).
The main difference in canon lies in how Kili impacts the Brynhildr Class and is kept in check by Yuu. Specifically, Kili, who is initially taken into Midgard as her alter ego, reveals her true identity in the middle of volume 2 of the light novel, which corresponds to the middle of episode 6 of the anime. In the anime, however, she doesn’t reveal her identity until the end of episode 11, which would be more around the middle of volume 3 of the light novel. To elaborate, it’s almost as if the close encounter with Kili in the light novel was split into two moments in the anime: the encounter at Midgard where she appeared to Tia and Lisa as her criminal self, and the encounter on that one ship where she posed as her alter ego and unveiled her disguise. I say “almost” because the anime doesn’t perfectly simulate Kili’s battle tactics as described in the light novel. In particular, the light novel implies that Kili does not require any preparatory motion to generate dark matter and such; but in the anime, the explosions caused by her are heralded by a snap of her fingers. I would assume that this is partly for dramatic effect, and partly because implementing spontaneous combustion would look silly and be tough to find a way to explain. Even aside from that, the clash in the light novel is so much more fierce than the split clashes in the anime that I would go as far as to say that the split clashes collectively are an abridged version of the full clash. (Another case of the “light novel adaptation curse,” as I would like to call it.)
[As a side note, I mentioned in my primary review that I had trouble wrapping my head around the dual identity of Honoka Tachikawa and Kili Surtr Muspelheim, because the anime was rather vague about it. Having read the light novel, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that…well, actually, both are fake names. She needed a normal-sounding name to infiltrate Midgard, and she gave her havoc-wreaking form a more sinister moniker. Well, that’s how I see it, because the light novel is pretty vague about it as well, albeit less so. (Just before the full clash, Kili said that the name “Kili Surtr Muspelheim” was randomly chosen, and I’m thinking “Honoka Tachikawa” is in the same boat. She also said she liked the latter name, but Yuu refused to call her by that name when she revealed her identity, so she stuck with the former name.)] (Sorry, just had to belt out a lengthy spoiler. Once again, highlight at your own risk.)
Also worth noting is that during the Basilisk arc, when the Brynhildr Class relaxes at a hot spring, only Firill sees Yuu there in the anime, whereas in the light novel, Tia is involved as well. Oh, and I’d like to point out that Ren actually says more in the anime than in volumes 1-3 of the light novel (which makes sense, considering her only form of verbal communication in the light novel is “んん” (“Nn,” basically just a grunt) until volume 6, and the anime doesn’t go nearly that far). Wait, one more thing: Kili has purple eyes in the anime, while colored depictions of her in the light novel show her with green eyes.
As for volumes 4 and onward, needless to say, there is plenty of new content compared to volumes 1-3 / the anime: new dragons, new characters, new plot twists, new character development, new camaraderie, new lore, and did I mention the plot twists? What’s particularly great is being able to see the characters in a new light, even in such a way that I ended up convinced that all of them are awesome in their own right (even Iris and Tia, of whom I was not a huge fan when I watched the anime). With that in mind, I wanted to establish a new character ranking of the Brynhildr Class, including the four characters who are newly inducted as members thereof. (I won’t spoil any further than that Kili is one of those characters, so the other three will be hidden through the magic of white text.)
- [Vritra (given the pseudonym “Ritra”)]
- [Shion Zwei Shinomiya (Kraken Zwei subdued)]
- [Jeanne Hortensia (enrolled as Shion’s guardian)]
With all that said, I think it’s time to wrap things up. To recap, Juuou Mujin no Fafnir is a fantasy harem series that I undoubtedly would not have found all too interesting if not for Kili Surtr Muspelheim. But alas, after having fully watched the anime when it aired, I got interested to the point of reading the first 12 volumes of the light novel and even rewatching the anime. Speaking of which, over the course of the rewatch, I have to admit that I noticed some animation faults that my former self didn’t care about: Firill mysteriously disappearing in episode 7, Lisa occasionally having Iris’s hair color when shown at a distance, and that Basilisk’s head skin looks like an unfinished Blender project.
But anyway, if this series is unfamiliar to anyone, I can totally understand that, because on the surface it totally looks like the type of series to be lost in a sea of fantasy harem series. I also wouldn’t openly recommend the series to anyone, but if anyone is somehow interested, all I have to say is:
À la prochaine! (Until next time!)