Reviewby Carlo Santos, Oct 24th 2012
Episodes 7-13 Streaming
Godou Kusanagi was an ordinary high-schooler until he activated a magical artifact and became a Campione—a "King of Kings" with the power to defeat anicent gods. Several young women are also aiding him in his quest, including holy knight Erica Blandelli and shrine maiden Yuri Mariya. Godou will need all their help to defeat Duke Voban, a veteran Campione whose powers include commanding the undead. Another rival Campione tries a different tactic, summoning the legendary Greek hero Perseus. Will Godou fall by Perseus's blade, or is there some vital information that will give him an edge? Meanwhile, other magic-wielding girls are hoping to win Godou's favor, and when one of them invokes the power of Japanese mythology, it puts the whole world in danger. Then, just when it seems Godou has saved the day, the goddess Athena returns with unfinished business ...
The ultimate struggle in Campione! is the one between action-adventure and harem romance. While Godou is busy challenging the gods in epic battle, he's also trying to fend off the advances of gorgeous young ladies who all want share their powers (magical or otherwise) with him. In the series' second half, this clash of genres only gets clumiser as new girls join the fray and complicate Godou's love life; worse yet, the "Godou can only level up by being kissed" plot device is pushed to the limits of silliness. It's the ultimate conundrum: is it worth sitting through all these clichéd romantic situations (including one incredibly embarrassing make-out scene) just to witness the hero take on tougher and tougher opponents?
Just as in the first half, it depends on how much enjoyment one gets out of these fantastical battles. There are plenty of shows where magical weapons collide and feats of sorcery can topple world monuments, but this is the only one with a deep connection to the mythology of past civilizations. Where else are you going to learn how the Greeks, Romans and Persians each had slightly different versions of Perseus—and then see the hero use that knowledge to defeat the enemy? Later on, the story even expands to include the Japanese pantheon (which of course everyone saw coming), and reveals new wrinkles in Athena's story. However, this infinitely-expanding world also means that the rules of battle seem to keep being made up on the fly: based on some random historical fact, one god can outrank another god, or nullify its powers, or whatever the story requires for its next twist. In addition, Godou's quest for power never seems to get any more complex than "Now that you've beaten this opponent, here's the next challenger you have to fight."
Ah, but that's where the romance makes things interesting, right? Not quite: it just makes things embarrassing. The storyline continues to insist that Godou can only gain new powers and knowledge by kissing the girls in his service, based on the totally arbitrary fact that "[external] magic doesn't work on a Campione!." These later episodes show no improvement from the early ones: all of Godou's relationship-building happens through clichéd harem situations like a scandalous hot springs getaway, a weekend date, and all the girls arguing in One Room over who deserves Godou. The only remotely amusing plot point comes when Liliana, a rival knight, turns out to have a penchant for sappy romantic fiction. Then there's the attempt at serious, heart-heavy romance that really damages the series: a staged confession of love in the final episodes, plus a "transfer of magic" that basically amounts to extremely awkward making-out (and possibly more). It's embarrassing enough when couples are slobbering and crawling all over each other in public; why would anyone want to watch that in animated form?
Maybe that's just the fault of the animation being too detailed for its own good. Yes, the kiss scenes are ridiculous with all the tongue-wrestling and spit-swapping, but it also means the fight scenes are slick enough to rival any big-name, high-budget production. Whether the visuals are hand-drawn or computer-generated—the thousands of floating swords that form Godou's signature attack, for example—the end result is a polished, eye-pleasing product. Bright, glowing colors add to the sense of magic during battle, and even basic elements like shadows and highlights add an extra dimension of realism to the characters. More creative aspects like character design and fight choreography also show a strong effort: Perseus shows up in an outfit that blends the historical and fantastical, then engages Godou in a battle that involves swordplay, archery, and plain old hand-to-hand combat. Athena's magical techniques are just as varied, making it impossible to get bored with the fights. Another clever touch comes when the characters are transported to the realm of the Japanese gods—and the backgrounds suddenly resemble traditional Japanese brush art.
The music of Campione! isn't quite as striking as the visuals, but it does a solid job of matching the series' changing moods. As expected, the big battles are set to the sound of an orchestra on full blast, while tense moments of dialogue get a brooding, ambiguous melody to match. What's more, this soundtrack even turns up the tear-jerking ballad material when the time comes for romantic revelations (despite that plotline being one of the biggest weaknesses). The theme songs, meanwhile, are a microcosm of the strange genre clash going on here: a hard-driving rock opening counterbalanced by a sugary, super-cute ending. Although neither song stands out individually, the jarring contrast between them is noticeable.
From the halfway point to its ending, Campione! closes out as one might expect for a fantasy battle anime. The hero gains new powers, the enemies challenge him relentlessly, and in the end, love and justice conquer all in a shower of sparks. The polished visuals and deep mythological basis make it enthralling to watch ... but then come all the contrived romantic elements, where harem clichés and empty professions of love drag the whole production down. The addition of new girls and whirlwind emotions only makes Godou's love life more ridiculous, rather than improving the story. Perhaps it's better to remember Campione! for what it does right: the rich background story, the epic scale of battle, the sheer energy of each duel. But there will always be those scenes that just don't belong.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B
+ New enemies, new gods, and high-quality fight scenes make for a highly entertaining (and sometimes educational) second half of the series.
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