Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 5th 2013
Blast of Tempest: The Civilization Breaker
episodes 1-12 streaming
For all his bad traits, teenage delinquent Mahiro Fuwa was very protective of his sophisticated younger sister Aika (some would say dangerously so), so Aika treated Mahiro's longtime friend Yoshino with contempt to cover for the fact that the two were secretly dating. Since Aika's unsolved murder a year past, Yoshino has continue to pretend that he has an unidentified girlfriend while Mahiro has become obsessed with finding and killing Aika's killer, to the point that he disappears for a month. When Yoshino next encounter him again, Mahiro is rescuing him at Aika's gravesite from the “28 and unemployed” Evangeline Yamamoto, who is forcefully trying to convince Yoshino to spill on Mahiro's whereabouts. As Yoshino soon discovers, Mahiro has gotten tangled up in an affair amongst mages: a clan who serves the Tree of Genesis (which supposedly protects and maintains the logic of the world) has come to believe that the tree's full restoration would actually bring about the end of humanity rather than its salvation, so their leader Samon seeks to restore and control the Tree of Genesis's opposite number, the Tree of Exodus, in order to keep the Tree of Genesis in check. It's a dangerous gambit opposed by the clan's princess, one Hakaze, so Samon has stuffed her into a barrel and stranded her on an isolated desert island to keep her from interfering. Hakaze isn't the most powerful and clever of mages for nothing, however, and still finds a way to contact the outside world and get help in thwarting Samon's plans – from Mahiro, in exchange for using her magic to discover Aika's killer. Meanwhile, the effects of the Tree of Exodus are turning living things to metal in a world that has “gone out of joint.”
Based on a manga by Kyou Shirodaira (the creative mind behind Spiral), the first half of Blast of Tempest is nothing if not ambitious. It is in many respects an ode to Shakespeare, as some of its story elements are a direct take-off of The Tempest and each of its main characters is meant to be a representation of a main character from a Shakespearean work: Mahiro is essentially Prince Hamlet, Yoshino has elements of Romeo, and Hakaze and Aika represent Prospero and Sycorax from The Tempest, respectively. It also has other small nods to Shakespeare, such as a code word Hakaze carves into her barrel at one point that is the name of another prominent character in The Tempest, and frequently uses quotes from his works. Even the musical score by Michiru Ishima (Fullmetal Alchemist, Le Chevalier D'Eon) seems focused on attempting to evoke a theatrical feel with grand, dramatic, heavy sounds often done more than a bit to excess. The writing also gets in on the homage, as it remains basically straightforward at its core while still working in all manner of involving twists, reversals, and counter-reversals; Shakespeare doubtless would have approved of the plotting. All of it results in a fun ride for the viewers and an overall appealing show – at least up to the point where it gets too clever for its own good, anyway.
The plot is an intriguing one, as it starts out showing that the forces attempting to awaken the Tree of Exodus are clearly the villains but gradually casts doubt on whether or not a clear hero/villain division even exists here. Samon and his loyalists are obviously the antagonists, but why they are doing what they are doing is based on their interpretation of what will genuinely best safeguard the world and is done with careful consideration and forethought. While still deeply respecting Hakaze, Samon is firm in his belief that Hakaze's unwavering faith in the Tree of Genesis is a ticket to disaster and so is acting accordingly, even if that means putting his princess in a position that should render her impotent and will possibly even kill her. He has very specific reasons for not outright killing her, either, reasons that also make perfect sense. The problem for him is that, for all of his careful planning, Hakaze is an incredibly resourceful young woman and luck has favored her in the two she gets to help her. This results in a number of stunning twists and turns which begin around episode 5 and continue almost up through the end of this half.
A core cast of great characters also helps. Samon hides Drama Queen inclinations behind a normally cool and collected demeanor but always acts with careful thought and reason, while Hakaze is just right as a beauty with plenty of attitude but no shortage of sensitivity or reason. Yoshino is another deeply thoughtful character, a young man with a good mind, keen insight, and general blasé disposition who represses his hurt over the loss of Aika and is quite capable of lying, deceiving, and manipulating people when it suits his purposes. Mahiro seems the most straightforward of the bunch, as his “damn the world, I want revenge” attitude rules him, but he can also surprise at times with unexpected insight. The true treasure, though, is Aika, whose former presence pervades her series – despite her absence – more thoroughly than that of any other character short of Cross Game's Wakaba. Her elegance and sophistication mask a manipulative, take-charge personality which seethes with latent sexuality and leaves the boys in her life at her mercy. The way the artistry carefully uses her body language and expressions to suggest so much more than she says is the series' finest subtlety, which certainly contributes to her stealing every scene in which she appears.
For all of the great things that the series does – and it has some slick action sequences, too – its downfall comes in the last third of this run, when one of the two major plot angles stalls out in a confrontation that lasts four episodes without ever actually coming to blows. At first the exchanges of logic and reason are every bit as entertaining and involving as anything else in the series to that point, but they just keep going on and on and on. Mix in plenty of dramatic internal monologues and shifts to a second angle which proves largely irrelevant and one has a bloated duel of the minds which probably could have been resolved equally well in half the number of episodes.
The production effort by a Bones team led by Masahiro Ando (CANAAN, Hanasaku Iroha) is no slouch, either, as the series looks great in every respect and animates well when not taking shortcuts. All of the characters have their own distinct looks and appeals, with Hakaze and Evangeline both being attractive, well-proportioned women and Aika having her own visual charm. Even the CG effects are top-notch and coloring uses an effective range of tones that can, in places, influence the mood and tone. A solid opener complements the episode content, while a cutesy closer seems almost out of place. Fan service is minimal, though graphic content gets intense at a couple of points.
Even while faltering in its last third, first half of Blast of Tempest still packs enough drama, good-looking animation, and interesting characters to carry it through its weak points. Some startling turn of events in the last few minutes of episode 12 will force a significant change for the second half, so whether or not it can reassemble the formula that has worked for it so far remains to be seen.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Aika, strong artistry, fun drama with plenty of twists and turns.
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