The Winter 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Unlimited Fafnir is yet another of those kind of flavorless fantasy-harem light novel adaptations we're currently half-buried in, but as far as those shows go, it's not the worst of the bunch. Fafnir takes place in a world where twenty-five years ago, dragons appeared and started wreaking all kinds of havoc. However, along with those dragons, humans with dragon powers also began to be born, known as Type Dragons, or Ds. The Ds were typically all girls, but as Fafnir begins, we learn our hero Yuu Mononobe is the first male D (I know, I know), and this first episode covers his introduction to the D academy/training facility Midgar. He meets up with the airheaded Iris Freyja and his sister Mitsuki, and then receives a demonstration of the dark matter-manipulating powers the Ds have at their disposal.
I'm apparently a lot less mature than I like to pretend, because by far the most notable thing about this episode was how very terrible and accidentally funny the magical terminology ended up being. “He's a D first and a man second.” “I'd like to see his D powers.” “Each dragon is searching for its matching D.” Look, I'm only mortal, and when the general writing isn't good enough for me to take it seriously (this episode also featured plenty of harem-fantasy classics, from the “as we both know” exposition to lines like “I'll show you the difference between us!”), a choice of terminology that turns every other line into an unintentional penis joke is automatically going to be the script highlight. And you could set your watch by the appearance of tired gags throughout this first episode - we got our first “go away, pervert” right around four minutes, first “Nii-san” a minute later, and “I'll never accept you” just before the nine minute mark. The aesthetics here are similarly lousy, with the character designs in particularly looking awkward, inconsistent, and lacking in individual personality.
And yet, in spite of all the bad writing and art, I can't say I had a bad time with this episode. Part of that certainly came down to the unintentional comedy of the script, but the premise here also has some decent hooks to it - the “dragons” our brave Ds must fight all take the form of diverse Godzilla-esque monsters, meaning there's a promise of diverse battles at some point down the line. And though this episode's execution of the dark matter powers wasn't particularly thrilling (almost half the episode was taken up with all the girls firing generic magical attacks at unmoving crystals), the base concept could lead to some interesting fighting techniques. Plus, even though Fafnir definitely falls within the harem spectrum, the fanservice here was neither terribly over the top nor particularly malicious (in the way a show like World Break takes pleasure in outright humiliating its female characters). Unlimited Fafnir isn't an actually good show, but it's a fair enough entry in a generally bad genre.
Unlimited Fafnir is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1 (out of 5)
The adorably clumsy girl. The bitchy blond with the English name. The little sister. The lone guy. Yep, the cast is assembled, so now we throw in some nebulous magic, generic dragons, a dash of Norse mythology, stir, and bake until half done. Et voilà! Unlimited Fafnir. As painfully generic as Absolute Duo, Unlimited Fafnir adds to its lack of creativity with decidedly lackluster visuals: characters only really look on-model when seen close up and “dark matter” looks like the extra large rubber bouncy balls you can buy at the toy store, to say nothing of dragons that look like the designers weren't even trying to be interesting – and it's a sad state of affairs when that can happen to dragons.
As for the actual story, twenty-five years ago these dragons first appeared, wreaked havoc on Earth, and then vanished. Shortly thereafter children began to be born with dragon powers, or rather, the ability to manipulate dark matter. Called “Type Ds” or just “Ds,” they were eventually acknowledged as being regular humans with basic rights, as well as humans' best hope against recurring dragon appearances. Most of them are girls, but a lone male, Yuu Mononobe, has just been enrolled in the special D school on beautiful Midgard Island, where he will learn to use his powers. He was previously in the army, but that didn't foster the imagination necessary to fully utilize dark matter...and besides, according to the teacher, women have amazing imaginations, with the implication that men lack them, which may be the most ridiculous part of the already silly premise. As it turns out, the school has recently discovered that each D has a perfect counterpart dragon, who views her as his mate. When the two meet up, the D transforms into a dragon, which spells disaster for everyone. This is a clumsy attempt to explain why most of the Ds are female, because heaven forbid there should be girl dragons looking for mates too. (Or maybe they died off...? That could work.)
In all honesty, all of this could have been made much more credible had the episode been better executed. The issues with the visuals have already been mentioned, but the pacing, particularly of the second half, is clunky and feels like the show is trying to cram as much source material in as possible in order to get to the action. The explication passages make an attempt at justification by telling us that Yuu needs to learn this as quickly as possible, but there is still a lot of basics-explaining in the latter half, along with the usual antics by the girls at suddenly having a boy in class. This makes neither part particularly well done, giving the episode a very generic feel that could have been avoided, or at least alleviated, with better pacing. All in all, Unlimited Fafnir's first episode trades in annoying characters who at this point appear as flat stereotypes, visuals that are definitely lacking, and a story that suffers from pacing. If those can be resolved, it may well turn out better than it appears. As a first episode, however, it is less than impressive.
Unlimited Fafnir is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)
Review: 25 years ago massive creatures generically referred to as Dragons (though some looked nothing like a traditional dragon) suddenly started appearing around the world, wreaking havoc because of their sheer size. They eventually disappeared only to start returning again many years later. In the interim individuals classified as “Type Dragon” (or Ds for sort) began being born. Each bore a special mark on her body and had the ability to manifest “dark matter,” which could be shaped by the D's will into just about anything, whether it be a weapon, energy blasts, or even effectively a means of flight by creating pressurized air. All Ds are female except for one: Yuu Mononobe, whose sister is also a D. He becomes the newest student at Midgar, an island school/fortress which exists partly to foster Ds as weapons to use against Dragons and, as Yuu later learns, partly to protect Ds from coming into contact with the wrong Dragon, for each D is apparently synched with one of the Dragons and transforms into one herself when she meets the one she is synched with. He gets to see the Ds in action during a training exercise upon joining the school, but first he meets Freya Iris, a klutzy D whom he (naturally!) first encounters in the nude. As he starts to make a connection with her, an alarm warning of an attack sounds, while Freya's mark begins glowing ominously.
So basically this one is a taking a lead from Infinite Stratos in the way it manufactures what will undoubtedly prove to be a harem situation. The notion that the Ds are either the designated mates or larval forms for the Dragons (perhaps both?) is the one true twist here, as otherwise this is a cut-and-dried set-up desperately short on good inspiration. Though it is an establishment episode, it still spends too much of its time introducing the situation and main girls, and somehow manages to do that without providing even a basic personality for many of them. Even Freya, the one with the most screen time, doesn't have much to her beyond being cute, busty, and incompetent. Yuu also doesn't have any personality beyond being a nice, decent guy. In fact, the first episode is warring with Absolute Duo for the right to offer up the blandest start to the new season, and using a mix of Norse and Greek naming conventions doesn't help.
Also contributing to this is what goes on with the color scheme, which seems to fade out at times and does not handle its dusk and nighttime scenes well at all. Character designs favor small and delicate, even for Yuu and the one adult female character, and fan service does not again become anywhere near as prominent as it is in its early scenes. In fact, if it wasn't for the transformation hook then this would be an entirely disposable venture, as nothing it does is done well even for the type of series that it is, but that one factor does at least give us some small promise that it might eventually do something interesting.
Unlimited Fafnir is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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