dark        
spacer

Review: Blast of Tempest S2

0

O Brave New World, that has such tree mages in it

There's something inscrutable about Blast of Tempest. Even now that I've had a few days to digest everything and figure out the answers to most of my lingering story questions, I still feel that there's something about the show that I don't quite get. And it's not that I don't "get" it in some artistic sense, where I don't understand the themes or whatnot; I mean, I'm not sure I completely understand what even happened. Or why it happened.

Or, as Shakespeare once wrote:

What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?

Enigmatic

Blast of Tempest DVD Complete Second Season

Publisher: Aniplex of America

Release Date: Feb. 25, 2014

MSRP: $74.98

Blast of Tempest is a fairly highbrow anime, barring some fanservice here and there. It's inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, something explicitly name-dropped several times, and several characters love quoting Shakespeare whenever the opportunity arises. There's a sense of theatricality to the whole thing that's difficult to explain; it's not over-acted, but there's a whiff of old-school, classic drama to it that makes the occasional acquiescence to typical anime humor feel somewhat out of place. To its credit, the show mixes things up substantially in its second half, but not without drawbacks; things I thought I knew about the series based on the first 12 episodes evaporate, yet the new things that emerge don't necessarily go anywhere.

In the first season, exiled mage Hakaze was trying to fight against usurpers from her own clan remotely, using what little magic she could conjure on the remote desert island where she had been stranded. To do so she enlisted the help of Mahiro, a volatile teen with a propensity for violence, and Yoshino, a seemingly gentle young man with a dark side of his own. Though the world is falling apart around them due to some apocalyptic nonsense (frankly it's not worth trying to explain), Mahiro and Yoshino have already suffered due to the recent death of Mahiro's mysterious sister Aika, who happens to also have been Yoshino's secret girlfriend. The two boys, with the help of Hakaze, might save the world from the evil Tree of Exodus, but in truth, they really just want to find out who killed their sister/girlfriend.

The trio of doom

It was an interesting set-up; Hakaze, by far the most powerful character, was put in a situation where her options were severely limited, and she had to rely on other people to do her dirty work. Mahiro and Yoshino are ostensibly the heroes because they're fighting the forces of evil on her behalf, but really, they just want to know who killed Aika; saving the world is pretty much incidental to both of them. Furthermore, the villain Samon (whom I always want to call "Salmon," because I'm a horrible person) isn't even necessarily evil; for all we know, he could have been right to exile Hakaze when he had the chance. It was a series that wasn't necessarily riveting (although the end-of-season standoff at Mt. Fuji was pretty epic), but it was always intriguing at the very least.

In the second half, all the major characters are on the same team; there are hints at dissension among the ranks, but those are red herrings that mostly go nowhere. Hakaze becomes a much more typical female lead who wastes time fretting over her feelings for Yoshino, and is generally far less interesting than she was at the beginning. The Mage of Exodus, Hakaze's magical counterpart who is totally necessary for saving the world, basically falls into the group's lap with little explanation. Characters that seemed to have promise at the beginning kind of fade into the background, relegated to menial tasks. I'm still not sure who catsuit-wearing Evangeline Yamamoto was, even though she's actually critically important to the plot.

Lest it seem like it's all downhill, the show does do a good job resolving the mystery of Aika, the most intriguing plot thread, in its second half. In addition to learning who killed her, we get a satisfying resolution to the whole "Mahiro never knew that Yoshino dated his sister" arc, and scenes that involve Aika are smartly written and fun. Still, I don't know if the show ever properly compensates for the fact that its most interesting character is dead before the story even started; Yoshino, with a laid-back attitude that hides his manipulative nature, shows glimmers of being interesting, but the show doesn't flesh him out  as much as I would have liked. Hakaze starts out interesting, then becomes tedious. Unfortunately, the best characters are the ones we don't get to spend much time with.

Whatchu looking at?

The mage-on-mage fights (or mage-on-aircraft carrier fights; it happens) are fun, but they aren't plentiful enough to recommend to action fans on that basis, nor is the animation for them noteworthy. The whole show has average to above-average production values, yet for some reason, very little stood out to me. A lot of the show is dialogue, theorizing about the relationship between the magical Trees of Genesis and Exodus, and while some of these conversations are interesting, they're likely to try many a viewer's patience before the series' end.

In the end, I'm just not sure what Blast of Tempest was trying to do. You could say that it was an anime retelling of The Tempest, except -- assuming I'm remembering the play correctly, from way back in high school English -- the story doesn't have all that much in common with it. I see far more parallels to Milton's Paradise Lost, which isn't mentioned even once. Furthermore, was all that scheming that seemingly went nowhere meant to be misdirection, and if so, did we really need so much of it? Instead of feeling complete, the second season feels like a bunch of different elements inexpertly cobbled together; for that reason, the final confrontation lacks impact, even though some of what's going on is rather clever. It's all just too muddled.

Earlobe lover

It's not a bad show by any means, but the show only seems to fire on all cylinders when dealing with Aika in flashbacks; the present is always dull in comparison. Add to the equation that this is a pretty bare bones release -- with no dub, and only clean OP/EDs for extras -- and it becomes hard to recommend with a clear conscience.

Still, warts and all, I feel like I have to lean towards the positive with Blast of Tempest. This show made me think, and even if half those thoughts were "What's going on?" that's still a lot more than I can say for many anime with pretensions of being intellectual. Plus, the whole Aika storyline is worthwhile, and it does take up a significant portion of the screentime here. If you're looking for a consistently taut, action-packed thrill ride, pass this series by; but if you want something a little more cerebral in the realm of contemporary fantasy and are willing to overlook a few flaws, this is probably for you.

7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score are good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them.

 


You are logged out. Login | Sign up

 
 

 

Blast of Tempest S2 reviewed by Karen Mead

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

TwitterRedditEmailFacebook
 
Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures


 



Also on Japanator: Blast of Tempest S2   (0)   From our database:

  • More related stories
    Filed under... #anime #BONES #reviews #top stories

    READER COMMENTS LOADING BELOW...


    LET'S KEEP THE COMMUNITY GREAT


    You're not expected to always agree, but do please keep cool and never make it personal. Report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community team. Also, on the right side of a comment you can flag nasty comments anonymously (we ban users dishing bad karma). For everything else, contact us!



     
     
  •