Premiere Report - Ulysses: Jeanne d'Arc and the Alchemist Knightby Jacob Chapman,
Ulysses: Jeanne d'Arc and the Alchemist Knight is perhaps the steamiest light novel adaptation debuting this fall, so it may come as a surprise to learn that it's also technically historical fiction. Taking place during the Hundred Years' War in a version of our world where magic and alchemy exist, Ulysses appears to have more in common with Maria the Virgin Witch than The Rising of the Shield Hero, but its super-lurid PV also makes it clear that the series is out to titillate first and educate second.
Ulysses' sound director (Ryousuke Naya) and the voice of the titular Jeanne d'Arc (Yuko Ono) arrived at Crunchyroll Expo to present the series' first episode ahead of its October 7th premiere. The duo prefaced the screening with a short curated Q+A session, where Naya revealed that this was his first time traveling outside Japan and he was having a fantastic time. Ono presented her impressive cosplay of Jeanne's battle attire to the crowd and performed as both her character's wildly differing personalities to prove that it was really her voice delivering "dark" Jeanne's deeper and sultrier lines alongside the cute and innocent ones. (Well, sort of innocent. Her line choice for "good Jeanne" was "If I drink this potion, will my boobs finally grow bigger?")
Spoiler Warning for episode one of Ulysses: Jeanne d'Arc and the Alchemist Knight
Before the premiere could begin, the audience was treated to not only Ulysses' main PV, but also an extra clip of Jeanne that demonstrated her transformation into that darker incarnation. It wasn't apparent at first why this extra sneak peek was shown, but it became much clearer by the time the first episode ended, because the titular Jeanne straight-up never appears! The audience was warned that we would be viewing a work in progress that was only 70% complete, and that turned out to be no exaggeration. There was no opening or ending theme, numerous cuts were interrupted by barely-related stills of backgrounds or side characters, and several jarring edits moved the story forward at a pace that cut it short abruptly before the twenty-minute mark. The most humorous of these edits came when leading man (boy?) Montmorency plummeted from a precarious ladder to fall on his childhood friend Richemont, hands outstretched toward her ample bosom from twelve feet in the air. Everyone in the room knew what shot was coming next, but the episode suddenly jumped to the next scene before Montmorency could make contact. It's obvious that the broadcast version will include the payoff to this setup alongside similar fanservice scenes.
Unfortunately, the broadcast version of this premiere (due to air in only a month) will probably not fix the series' generally poor animation quality. While it thankfully stays on-model in closeups and the two action scenes featuring Richemont play out smoothly enough not to be distracting, Ulysses mostly fulfills the expectations of any low-rent ecchi adaptation with stiffly animated gestures, walk cycles, and perpetual awkwardness in motion for scenes that almost certainly will not be fixed for broadcast, given how many cuts still need to be animated at all. But frankly, viewers are not going to come to this show for the spectacle; they're going to show up for the sleaze. While Ulysses' production limitations keep it from delivering on that level visually, the story is at least morbidly entertaining.
While the episode's first half is a bit of a snooze as characters are introduced to wax rhapsodic about their hopes and dreams and who Nicolas Flamel is, the second half piles on absurd twists that left the crowd clamoring for more. See, this story starts on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, our main cast is on the French side, and Jeanne has yet to even appear, so it's safe to say that Montmorency's beloved harem girls are in for a bad time once they've gotten that first ten minutes of exposition and bonding out of the way. Once Montmorency devotes himself to alchemy to try and correct the tragedies of Agincourt and protect his few remaining loved ones, the show's real premise becomes much more apparent. The room erupted into laughter when the Queen of the Fairies appeared before Montmorency to explain how even Jesus Christ performed his miracles with the power of the Philosopher's Stone, and by episode's end, our hero has transitioned from boy to man with the double-edged power of the Elixir of Life. From here, Montmorency will presumably meet Jeanne and plunge France into extremely lewd chaos with his magical saliva.
If there's anything to be said for Ulysses, it's that the show knows exactly what it's here to do, and none of it will be tasteful. If your anime viewing habits range somewhere between "dumpster raccoon" and "shameless voyeur", well, Ulysses' truly meager production chops hold it back from making anyone's must-see list, but its unabashedly trashy story is certain to yield its own unique kind of entertainment value this fall.
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