Reviewby Luke Carroll, Apr 26th 2011
The Sacred Blacksmith Collection
Can a naive Knight overcome the power of a devil's sword?
Once upon a time, there was a tragic war involving the power of the devils. After the war, the devils' power was banned and the world was restored to peace. Cecily Campbell is a knight looking for a blacksmith to repair the old sword given to her by her father. One day, she saw a man fighting with a ruffian using the tabooed devils' power. The man defeated him with one blow of his weirdly-shaped sword. The man turned out to be a blacksmith called Luke. That fateful encounter was the beginning of their adventure....
Once in a while, a series comes along that is such an oddity, it really makes you really wonder what the production team was up to the day they laid their plans out for the show. Adapted from a light novel series of the same name, The Sacred Blacksmith acts like a fantasy action RPG, talks like a romantic comedy, and walks like a Shounen Jump series that takes a 90 degree turn as soon as the plot is formed, only to get back on track in the dying episodes. And yet despite all this, the show somehow pulls itself together enough that it not only avoids being a complete disaster, but actually becomes semi-entertaining. Until another boob joke crops up, at least.
The main lead in the series is Cecily, a strong-willed girl who acts tough on the outside when needed, but becomes caring and good-hearted when not fighting for her life. She also has a set of decent boobs, which the series deems necessary to point out once per episode on average. During her first fight as a knight guard – a role she inherited after her father passed away – Cecily's life is saved by an unknown swordsman wielding a katana. This swordsman turns out to be Luke, a dashing young blacksmith who lives on a quiet farmland overlooking a rather eerie mountain. Luke also lives with Lisa, a young cutesy girl who takes care of him in almost every way possible, despite his rather cold shoulder attitude to her at times.
The series separates itself into three distinct arcs, the first of which is the introductory arc. Lasting five episodes, the majority of the cast is introduced and the groundwork for the series is laid out. Then, as if the series forgot what it was doing, the next three episodes disregards almost all of it in favour of what could be regarded as filler material that asks more questions than it should. The final episodes suddenly get back on track and try to compile all the different aspects into a compelling finale, but unfortunately it's too little too late, and the ending suffers greatly because of it.
Where the series shines though is in its relationships. Throughout the series, Cecily befriends many characters. These characters all change in subtle ways, but none more so than Aria, the human form of the demon sword of wind. Starting out as an appealing character with a cheery smile, we soon learn that her past is full of bloodshed and human betrayal, which has left her feeling discontent. As she interacts with Cecily, she learns that not everyone wants to use a weapon for killing, and the two ultimately grow as a result from being just friends, to partners. Luke and Lisa's relationship, on the other hand, is much more pedestrian, at least until the truth about Lisa and her past comes out in the late episodes.
Visually, the series is decent to watch, although that should be expected from the company that brought us Samurai Champloo. Backgrounds are detailed and the CG effects are sharp without standing out too much. The character designs are also quite interesting. Cast members are dressed appropriately (although the practicality is questionable), and the main team all have their own special look to them, although you'd wish they'd change outfits once in a while. Unfortunately, some cliché looks such as the old battle-torn leader and the 'man in black' make their way in, but the overall quality of the animation certainly makes up for it.
The dub for the most part is a treat to listen to. Cherami Leigh does a great job for Cecily, bringing across her in-depth fears and good heart with particular accuracy. Anastasia Munoz's rendition of Aria is also splendid, and who but Monica Rial to once again throw her cutesy voice into the mix as Lisa. Although the subtitles fully translate much of the technical terminology used in the series, the scripting for the dub takes a two handed approach, keeping intact much of the materials and items used in the series whilst oddly changing simple and minor things, such as the order of knights Cecily is a part of. It's an approach that thankfully comes off slightly better than it does worse. The opening and closing themes also grow on you and compliment the series well, despite the fact they are polar opposites.
On the extras side of things, we are given the textless versions of the opening and closing themes, Japanese episode previews and a set of Madman trailers. It's a rather odd move for the next episode previews to be separated from the main feature, especially for a light-hearted series such as this where the previews are just as interesting as the episodes. It's also disappointing not to get the added booklet the US received for a few extra dollars.
The Sacred Blacksmith is a series with many problems. It fails to fully develop much of its settings, struggles to carry through on its plot threads, and even throws in a few awkward boob shots just to keep you going. Yet despite all of this, it occasionally emits an undeniable level of sincerity in its characters' convictions, and is fun at times to boot. It isn't a genre leader in any regards, but The Sacred Blacksmith still manages to offer enough to be a pleasant diversion.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Decent designs and art, wonderful character relationships
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