Juuou Mujin no Fafnir? (Whimsical Weekend #10)

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.)

  1. Kili
  2. Ren
  3. [Vritra (given the pseudonym “Ritra”)]
  4. Yuu
  5. Ariella
  6. Firill
  7. Mitsuki
  8. [Shion Zwei Shinomiya (Kraken Zwei subdued)]
  9. Tia
  10. [Jeanne Hortensia (enrolled as Shion’s guardian)]
  11. Lisa
  12. Iris

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!)

Spontaneous Saturday 3/28/15: Final thoughts on winter 2015 anime

Disclaimer: The following opinions are expressed by a casual anime viewer with enigmatic tastes. Please perceive with caution. Also, spoilers may or may not be present.

 

Today, I will be talking about the most recently completed series of anime that I have watched. The particular topics that I will discuss are:

  • Opening comments / Things that stood out to me the most
  • Three favorite characters listed in descending order
  • What anime I find to resemble it the closest
  • Overall rating/impression

Don’t recognize the name of an anime or character? Chances are you will be able to click on the first instance of the name and be directed to a relevant MAL (MyAnimeList) page.

So, without further ado, time to get started.

 

Absolute Duo

Opening: The vast majority seems to agree that this is a generic harem anime, and I can’t disagree with them. The main issue is that the title “Absolute Duo” and the genre “harem” directly contradict each other. Even still, I didn’t find it bad or really too generic, but at the same time, it wasn’t outstanding in any way. The main characters are definitely not the most appealing by any means, but some of the supporting characters were interesting. The concept is also interesting, but I think it was more so when I read the manga than when I watched the anime, although that might just be because of the freshness of both experiences…for lack of a better way to word it.

Favorite characters:

  1. Rito Tsukimi. Now, it’s not because of her provocative outfit or her peppy personality; no, it’s her dark side that makes her appealing. Whenever she gets irritated or what have you, her voice changes drastically (for the better if you ask me) and she suddenly shifts personality from a happy-go-lucky teacher to a rough ‘n’ tough fighter. The shift is so dramatic that, by her appearance in the second half of episode 3, I thought she had been possessed, or a spy, or something…but afterwards, she just came back to her peppy self as if nothing had ever happened. That said, her heroic act in defending the school with all her might was pretty much the best part of the finale. I also want to mention that her bunny-like appearance, provocative outfit, and ability to change at will remind me of Kuro Usagi from Mondaiji-tachi, only a more mercurial version.
  2. Sakuya Tsukumo. Much like Momoka Shijou from Mahou Sensou, Sakuya is supposedly the chairwoman of the academy in which the main characters are enrolled, but she looks and sounds so young… It’s mostly her looks and her voice that make her appealing, but I suppose her cheeky personality deserves points as well. Apart from those qualities, there is not much else worth noting about her.
  3. K. That’s right; he’s referred to as “K” (just like the character in Virtue’s Last Reward). He’s pretty much the main antagonist of the series, and he does darn well in opposing the protagonists. He always puts up a fight, no matter to whom, and under no matter what circumstances. It’s mostly because of that and his semi-decent voice that he takes 3rd on my list.

Similar anime: Machine-Doll wa Kizutsukanai. Both anime are set in a school (go figure), involve students working together and sometimes against each other to get stronger, and emphasize the importance of partners. Key differences: Absolute Duo is easier to follow (in terms of plot), Machine-Doll involves less of a harem than Absolute Duo, more of the partners are human in Absolute Duo than in Machine-Doll, and Raishin (Machine-Doll) is overall a better protagonist than Tooru (Absolute Duo). Also, Machine-Doll has a much catchier ending theme.

Overall rating: 8/10. Not stellar, but nothing worth bashing to the ground. Once again, I’m not a fan of the contradiction between the title “Absolute Duo” and the genre “harem”, and every time someone other than Julie tries to make an advance on Tooru, it kinda makes me cringe internally…but hey, the developers could have just as easily chosen Tora to be Tooru’s duo, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. That said, it definitely had its moments, especially the one where Tomoe tried her utmost to face a possessed Miyabi who was consumed by selfish desire.

 

Juuou Mujin no Fafnir

Opening: As I mentioned in Thought Dump 3 (Spontaneous Saturday 2/14), I didn’t think of this anime as any better than average…until episode 6, which, if you ask me, was pretty much the debut appearance of Kili Surtr Muspelheim.

Kili = bawse Kili

Honestly, I just can’t get over how amazing and alluring this character is. After episode 7, as the anime kept progressing until episode 11, I had a harder and harder time preventing myself from wondering, “When is Kili’s next appearance?” After episode 10, I could hardly contain myself. “If Kili doesn’t make a return appearance, I will be disappointed,” I literally said. Thankfully, she finally returned at the end of episode 11. By then, I could hardly wait for the finale. Upon watching it, I will definitely say that the conclusion was satisfactory. I don’t know how to feel about the whole kissing thing, though. Could it be that…she has something of a crush on Yuu (the main protagonist)? That being the case, why did she choose to lead a life of solitude? I mean, well, she was generally in solitude, but she did get to spend time with the protagonists thanks to her mild-mannered alter ego Honoka Tachikawa.

That leads me to question something: Kili’s MAL profile claims, “Her name is Honoka Tachikawa.” To me, this seems to contradict the anime canon. Towards the end of episode 11, Kili herself, in her Honoka guise, states: “I figured the easiest way to find Tear after she was taken by the NIFL would be to disguise myself as someone else and let her be sent to Midgar. With biological conversion, I can change my form as much as I like.” Her next line: “Honoka. I liked this name quite a bit. But I think I’d like you to call me by my real name.” These quotes put forth two key implications: 1) she and Honoka Tachikawa are not one, and 2) her real name is not Honoka Tachikawa. (You may think those implications are the same, but there is a subtle difference.) Well, one of three things could explain the situation: 1) she lied (which she had no real reason to), 2) her profile pertains to a different canon (i.e., the novel, which I haven’t read), or 3) there was some sort of miscommunication, be it through the translation or through whoever edited her profile.

Anyway, enough about Kili; I mean, she is 50% or more of the reason why I like the anime, but honestly, I’ve been going on too long about that one character…an antagonist, no less. Aside from her, though, there was nothing too outstanding about the anime. Iris and Tear are annoying characters, although not so much the former, but all of the other characters are okay. No complaints about the concept, and that final plan to defeat the Basilisk worked like a charm (although, to be honest, unsurprisingly).

Favorite characters:

  1. Kili Surtr Muspelheim. Not big surprise. Now, I’ll come out and say it: Kili is my favorite anime antagonist of all time. She’s beautiful, has a soothing voice, and has some neat super powers. Not only that, but as we discovered in episode 11, she’s quite the master of disguise. Hairstyle, uniform, eye color, even right down to the voice… Needless to say, the disguise was a dead ringer. I mean, there was a healthy bit of foreshadowing prior to when she removed her disguise, what with the snap of her fingers and the transition screen of episode 11, but it was still a pleasant surprise. I take it magic cannot be copied, but because Honoka Tachikawa was pretty much a blank slate of a character, no one could have been any the wiser. Anyway, my point is: Kili is awesome. Favorite anime antagonist, 6th favorite anime character, 3rd favorite female anime character.
  2. Yuu Mononobe. On the surface, he may seem like a generic harem protagonist, but at least he has some spine on the field of battle. While he seems to be under the discipline of Loki Jotunheimr, my concern is that they never seem to talk face-to-face, only through electronic means. I’ll also mention that he put up quite a fight against Kili, even though he couldn’t deal with her properly until the finale. Dang, though, that one moment when he used a fragment of his broken shield to put Kili in a checkmate position, that was astounding.
  3. Mitsuki Mononobe. It’s hard to decide among the pool of characters other than Kili and Yuu, but I would have to say Mitsuki stands out among all of them, if only due to her long dark hair and usually stern personality. Not to mention, she has a backstory full of feels, which becomes an important plot point in her initially tattered relationship with Lisa Highwalker. Most of all, though, she was the mastermind behind the final plan to defeat the Basilisk, even if just to mend relations between her and Lisa.

Similar anime: Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance. If you know the anime, you probably saw this coming. They both start the same way (lead male stumbles upon a naked girl), lead male has remarkable combat experience, both series involve magic and weapons, they both fit the harem genre, and there are some awesome antagonists between them (Kili in Fafnir, Restia and Jio in Blade Dance). Key differences: Blade Dance is more ecchi, characters differ somewhat, and the threats in Fafnir are dominantly colossal beasts.

Overall rating: 9/10. Maybe a low 9 like Black Bullet, but a 9 nonetheless. I had initially rated it 7, but when Kili made her appearance in the 6th episode, I started to pay better attention to the anime. Even though Kili is the prime reason why I like the anime, she’s not the only reason. The whole involvement with Mitsuki and Lisa gave me feels at times, and some of the combat is pretty interesting. I think around the 7th or 8th episode was when I bumped the series up to an 8, and because they concluded it so well, it then became a 9. I will say, though, the harem changed quite a bit at the end due to Kili’s odd behavior after her last fight with Yuu, and Mitsuki revealing that she “became” Yuu’s sister (implying that they’re not blood-related). Another season? I wouldn’t count on it, but you never know.

 

Log Horizon 2nd season

Opening: I’ve seen several reviews calling the second season “disappointing”, but I honestly don’t see much of a problem with it. I mean, right from the get-go, I noticed a difference in the art, but it hardly bothered me at all. Then again, it’s been an entire year since I watched the first season, so that’s really the only difference I noticed, outside of the introduction of new characters such as Tetra. I will admit, though, it is somewhat disappointing that they didn’t end up returning to the real world despite that being their overall goal, and there seems to be no prospect of a 3rd season (it explicitly said “The End” at the end of the finale). I suppose, though, that there’s not much for Shiroe and the gang to do outside of researching and potentially gathering resources for a way to “connect the two worlds”. Even still, one part of me just wants to know how. That’s the main reason why I stay interested in the anime: to know how.

As an afterthought, I’ll leave a quote from Spontaneous Saturday 10/11, which still rings true in this case: “I really like Log Horizon; it was my favorite Fall 2013 anime and the first virtual world anime I’d ever watched (I’ve never watched Sword Art Online, and I don’t feel like getting into it because I’ve seen plenty of criticism about it). Although the pacing is slow and the anime is more talk than action, the action is pretty darn cool and some of the aspects of the virtual world are interesting to learn about (for instance, the thing about on-the-spot food versus cooked food).”

Favorite characters:

  1. Akatsuki. 4th favorite anime character of all time, 2nd favorite female anime character. It’s really cool how she can move around at high speeds, behaves much like a ninja, and always tries her hardest despite her shortcomings (no pun intended). I also enjoy her quarrels with Naotsugu, which eventually started a sort of phenomenon known as the “Akatsuki curse”, in which Naotsugu gets punished for attempting to say perverted things, despite Akatsuki not being around. I will say, though, that it’s unsettling how she and Minori are rivals in love; I say Akatsuki is more likely to come out on top. Also, I will admit she’s quite cute. Memorable quote: “Our memories weren’t stolen. We offered them up and made them into the power to rise again.”
  2. Nyanta. He’s a cat-man who is agile, employs close combat similar to that of Akatsuki, and is pretty much the cook of Log Horizon (both the guild and the anime itself). The fact that he’s an anthropomorphic cat already strikes some appeal, and his voice and overall coolness add to the appeal, in such a manner that he easily takes the second position.
  3. Shiroe. I mentioned him in Top Three Thursday 12/11 as the second character to whom I can relate the most. This is mostly due to his glasses, his awkwardness in social situations, and his tendency to strategize. The way he strategizes is inspiring, and even though he started getting frantic during episode 24, by the time Henrietta slapped him to his senses, he got back to thinking straight and formulating a series of strategies that ended up working just right. All in all, an interesting main character whose experiences are quite something to behold.

Similar anime: Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei. I mentioned in a recommendation on MAL: “These anime series focus mostly on thought processes and the inner workings of their seemingly magical worlds, but they also contain action-packed fights and bits of humor. Additionally, the protagonists are similar—they work to keep their chaotic environments in check, they show prowess in strategy and in combat, and they have the affection of women but are too dense to realize it.” Key differences: MKnR is not set in a virtual world, other characters vary (obviously), and MKnR has no anthropomorphic animals (or any at all for that matter, excluding humans of course).

Overall rating: 9/10, 4th favorite anime of all time. Log Horizon is really enjoyable, and the second season does not change my opinion of it for the worse. Past that, I have not much else left to say.

 

That about covers it for anime I have watched this season. It was definitely quite an experience, and I never thought I could like one antagonist (Kili) this much. Looking at the Spring 2015 preview (http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=1362597), I’ll be honest: nothing really interests me but Nisekoi and Kiniro Mosaic second seasons, and I still have yet to watch any more than three episodes of the first season of Kiniro Mosaic. My plan, then, is to get caught up once the college semester is over (which won’t be too long; only around 5 episodes of the second season will have aired, give or take a few) and intercept the Nisekoi episodes as they come out. At any rate, that’s all for now.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)