Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 13th 2014
Blessing of the Campanella
Sub.DVD - Complete Collection
The city of Ert'Aria, situated on an island accessed by a bridge, is a major international trading hub. It is also home to the Oasis clan, a group of young adventurers who undertake various quests. Most of the clan's members are in some way adept at manipulating El (the setting's equivalent of magic), including the mage Carina (who is also the daughter of Ert'Aria's ruling Duke), the item engineer Leicester, the axe-wielding strongman Nick, and later the "master puppeteer" Agnes. Where a meteor composed of El strikes nearby during a meteor shower viewing party, Leicester and the others discover an automaton named Minette, who was activated by the influx of El and takes to calling Leicester "daddy." While undertaking quests both mundane and unusual, the Oasis clan eventually learns of two threats, one which could imperil the whole world and another which endangers Minette specifically.
Need a soporific for a restless night? Pop the first few episodes of this 12-episode 2010 series in and that should do the trick quite nicely.
As snarky as that may sound, it is nonetheless a fair assessment. Fantasy series do not come more featherweight than this one, which focuses so much on being cutesy that it often forgets to do anything interesting. Occasionally it does muster a good joke, as the Tortilla twins (and one is, of course, named Salsa) make a decent comedy combo, with the droll younger sister constantly messing with the more flighty older one. And occasionally it does deliver some surprisingly intense bursts of fan service into content that usually plays relatively clean. However, that is not enough to offset that the series does not go to any great lengths to establish world-building, develop characters or story, or insert exciting action scenes. It depends almost entirely on the viewer being taken in by the made-to-cosplay outfits, cutesy affectations, and even cute monsters.
The problems start with a cast that is dreadfully dull. Since this is based on an ero game, most of the activity centers on Leicester, a handsome artificer whose entire defining personality trait is being good-natured. He's nice to everyone and noncommittally laughs off any advances or displays of affection, which naturally results in most of the female characters orbiting around him. The only other male member of Oasis only occasionally appears and is almost entirely defined by his use of an axe, so he poses no romantic threat to Leicester. Aside from the Tortilla twins, hardly any of the girls have much real personality, either: Chelsea is entirely defined by being directionally-challenged and utterly unconvincing in temperament as a knight, Carina is a bit possessive of Leicester, Minette is the “see, I'm so cute!” heart of the group, the dragon-in-girl-form Garnet is defined mostly by a rough equivalent of a hick accent, the maid Nina is helpful, and Minette's friend Miriam is unfailingly polite and nice. The only one that has much character is Agnes, a somewhat prideful puppeteer who gradually takes a liking to Leicester herself, but to call her even moderately well-developed would be a stretch. The Tortilla sisters' Golem, despite only ever saying the word “golem,” actually has more personality than most of the rest of the cast combined. The parents of Carina and Leicester are also a little more colorful than any of the younger characters.
The plot and world structure do not give them much to do, either. No indication is given in the anime whether a clan structure (which essentially equates to “adventuring party” in RPG fantasy settings) like what Oasis has is common in this setting, or how it fits into the economic structure of the world; is this just a hobby of Carina's financed by her parents, or an actual money-generating institution? The notion of meteors being composed of what amounts to magical energy is a bit interesting, as is the creation of El-powered devices (Carina's staff, after its upgrade by Leicester, is a pretty handy item), but most of the “quests” end up being rather mundane, the sense of conflict that is supposed to exist between the Tortilla clan and Oasis is virtually non-existent in function, and the role of the Holy Knights is ill-defined. The only place the series seriously explores anything compelling is in the notion of El-powered automatons, particularly how human-sized ones need powerful regulatory cores to remain stable, and that plays directly into one aspect of what passes for a plot in the series. In fact, prior to episode 8, the series may not even appear to have a coherent plot, though beginning around episode 9 it does show that some elements brought up earlier are at least vaguely connected to the bigger picture. Although the onset of the plot is supposed to carry apocalyptic overtones, it actually carries less impact and weight than the second main plot thread, about two girls who apparently need the same thing to survive.
The animation effort, courtesy of AIC, is limited enough that it makes much more extensive use than normal of still shots and never animates more than it absolutely has to; one character's mouth is never visible, for instance. Of the handful of true action sequences in the series, only a couple of late ones show much sense of motion or dynamic flair, with major shortcuts being taken in the others. Fan service in the main series is infrequent but can include mediocre-quality nudity when it does happen; much more is reserved for the Extras, as the “Bathing With xxxxx” bits do not even pretend to be anything other than gratuitous CG-animated nudity, complete with sexy poses. Costume and character design produce a cast that is attractive but nothing special beyond their consistent adornment by earrings which in some way match the character's role. Background art is nothing special, and the color scheme seems a bit flat. Graphic content is virtually nil, so this one earns is 17+ rating entirely for the nudity.
The soundtrack features symphonic orchestration occasionally supplemented by piano. Typically this is used lightly and sometimes supported by accordion to give it a vaguely Italian flair, but only rarely is it more than completely innocuous. A few character-specific insert songs, each sung by the respective seiyuu, are also in the mix. Unremarkable opener "Shiawase wa Tsuki yori Takaku" appears in each episode with a couple of very minor variations. Cutesy and equally unremarkable closer “Mirai Kaikisen” is used for episodes 1-8, while the Engrish closer “Amelia” replaces it for episodes 9-11, with each episode having distinctly different visuals. Japanese voice acting only stands out in one negative sense: the effort of Mai Kadowaki (Illyasviel in the Fate/ franchise, Satomi in the Negima franchise) to pitch up Minette even more results in a voice which can quickly get irritating.
For its release of the series, Nozomi Entertainment opted to split the twelve series episodes and one full-length OVA across three DVDs. An English dub is not included. The aforementioned “Bathing With xxxxx” Extras are – two per disk – in addition to the OVA, which is a collection of short parody gags featuring both the main cast and important supporting characters. Those gags are heavily laced with nudity and easily the funniest content in the whole release. Many of the gags will not make as much sense if one has not watched out the series, so they are a great reward for those who have muddled through the lesser series content. Other Extras spread across the three disks include clean openers and closers.
The Extras being the highlight of a series' release is usually not a good sign for a series, and that is certainly true here. Ultimately Blessing of the Campanella takes an idea that did not have much potential to begin with and shows why it did not have potential. Its few good points are simply not enough to rise it above its grinding mediocrity.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Fan service features nudity, a couple of interesting ideas, very funny OVA episode.
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