The Winter 2015 Anime Preview Guide
World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman
Rating: 1 (out of 5)
Imagine that you can remember your past life...and of course it was as someone heroic, like a knight, ninja, or princess. Now imagine that you could harness your memories of that life to utilize “plana,” a generic mana substitute, to materialize your greatest weapon from the past and use it to fight nebulous villains known as Metaphysicals. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately it's much more enticing on paper than it is on film as the first episode of World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman shows us.
While not quite as painfully generic as a few of the other shows this season, World Break makes up for it with a high annoying factor and a cast that feels like a Worst of Harem slideshow. Neither heroine option at this point is more than the sum of her tropes, with Satsuki screeching all of her lines and Shizuno calmly plopping the hero's face in her breasts and jiggling while chastising Satsuki for her lack of “lady parts,” a phrase I had previously thought referred exclusively to genitals. Hero Moroha is apparently the reincarnation of both of their past true loves – a knight (and older brother) to Satsuki and a ninja (?) to Shizuno. While to me this would seem to fly in the face of the idea of true love, which would have the same two souls coming together across multiple lives, it does make for a better harem set up, or would in a better show.
Moroha himself is fairly devoid of personality, existing only to defend Satsuki and be pulled between the two girls. There is no element of surprise when he magically manifests his Ultimate Weapon (or one of them; I'm assuming each life came with one) to beat the thug bad guy at the very end of the episode, nor when Alice in Wonderland and the teacher walk in and pronounce him some sort of noble hero soul. The episode is painfully predictable, making the most interesting part of it wondering why Satsuki has her ponytail on one side of her head and her ribbon on the other. That we don't even learn what the monsters the group must fight are beyond their name is another strike against the show because it doesn't give us a reason to care about their world or their safety – or even the development of their powers.
World Break's first episode had me checking how much time was left roughly every two minutes with a break for a cookie in the middle. It's premise was interesting enough to make me hope for better, but it is poorly enough executed and checklist-y enough to make it dull viewing, making this a disappointing experience all around.
World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)
Review: A school has been established to train students gifted with special powers to battle marauding mega-powerful monsters. The male lead is a newly-arrived student who quickly attracts the romantic attention of two girls and seems to be unusual by the normal standards of the school.
This basic premise also perfectly fits one other series this season (Unlimited Fafnir) and take out the “mega-powerful monsters” part and it fits a second (Absolute Duo). World Break unfortunately does not do much to distinguish itself from the other two, and given that neither of those other series is off to a good start, that's a bad sign. It has precisely one interesting variation in its favor: the fact that the students are potential Saviors (who will battle Metaphysicals) and can manipulate either Light skills or Dark Arts because they can remember their previous lives. Because of that, the students are each also heavily influenced by emotions and associations lingering from those past lives. While the latter aspect of this concept has been used many times before in anime, the notion of using it to set up harem relationships – with each girl remembering the male protagonist from a different past life – is actually rather amusing. Sadly, the series quickly starts drowning itself in really dumb harem and “brocon” antics (one of the girls who immediately comes on to protagonist Moroha had a forbidden love with his past self as that past self's sister), as if to reinforce that it has absolutely no aspirations beyond pandering to fandom.
That's the main problem with World Break’s first episode: although it does have some decent moments, when it's bad, it's either cringe-worthy bad or laugh-inducingly bad. One particular example is the two cases where characters talking about “devaluing women,” which given the comments’ timings leaves me to wonder if the writers were actually intending to be ironic or really just didn't have a clue. The artistic and technical merits are not sharp enough to bail the series out, especially with lead protagonist Moroha's distracting off-color hair lick and the really dopey floppy witch hat worn by another character, and the surprisingly limited fan service is nowhere near good or plentiful enough to give viewers that reason to stick with the show. The musical score alternates between far better than the content deserves and reminiscent of a visual novel's innocuous background music.
The only things that prevent the first episode from being utterly worthless are a fairly cool in media res fight against a dragon at the outset and occasional moments of actual sincerity. But those are not enough.
World Break: Aria of Curse of a Holy Swordsman is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
There's no way around it - this episode was absolutely painful to get through. Normally even the most banal of harem light novel shows have at least one bright spot, or managed to avoid one tired, gross trope. World Break isn't having any of that - World Break is going for the awful harem hat trick. This episode opens with a flash-forward to a final battle with a big dragon, where a bunch of minor characters all do their one attack while the main character preps his big strike. That scene finishes off with a “thanks, everybody… and now… RAAAAAHHH” ending, confirming right off the bat that this series will be concluding in as typical a fashion as any show can. From there, we jump back six months, receive a pile of exposition about Saviors and past lives and Ancestral Arts, and witness a bunch of silly harem antics between flavorless main character Moroha, aggravatingly loud little sister-type Satsuki, and sleepy big-boobed contender Shizuno. After a bunch of pratfalls, boob jokes, and more talk about past lives, we finish off with Moroha unlocking his Secret Power (it has to do with dragons!) in defense of his sister-lover's honor.
It was almost surprising how much of What Is Bad In Harems this one episode managed to fit in. We started off on standard ground with little sister (well, little sister in a past life) Satsuki getting mad over Shizuno randomly kissing Moroha - but World Break was not content to simply make tired jokes about boobs. Although there certainly were boob jokes, including the “put MC's face in your boobs” one, the “that girl has smaller boobs, let's mock her for it” one, and even the “I don't care if you're my brother, have fun with my boobs” one. We also had a changing room scene, a shower scene, and even a “girl is stripped in battle, main character gallantly covers her” scene. That last one in particular is vividly reflective of the sexism inherent in most shows like this - women are things to be claimed or protected from evil men, and their own goals are, in the words of Satsuki herself “to look good in front of you, and have you praise me.”
There's no creativity or noteworthy craft to speak of in World Break - it's really just the basic gags and id of harem light novels, all laid out in a row. If there's anything to be said about it, it's that it's a handy one-episode guide to how the overt tropes of many harem shows are reflective of an underlying worldview that sees women as unknowable prizes to be won. But you don't need World Break to tell you that.
World Break is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: whatever i gave Absolute Duo
Moroha is your average teenager with the magical ability to recall his past life as a holy swordsman, thus giving him the power of the Ancestral Arts, which means he has fantasy RPG combat skills. He's enrolled in an academy for teenagers just like him, and during the induction ceremony (which seems to take place in the exact same assembly hall as the magic school for magic teens from Absolute Duo - nice that they're just reusing locations for shows like this, I suppose!) including Satsuki, a demanding, short-tempered redhead who was his sacred princess/lover/sister in that same past life, and she's all over his jock now as a result. Then there's Shizuno, she of the dark hair, mysterious temperament and giant breasts, who... I think confused him for someone else from a past life but is also all over his jock. They're all getting prepared for a big world-ending conflict where Moroha is the Ultimate Holy Swordsman Savior.
World Break is another generic, flavorless magic teens in magic school action-adventure harem show based on what I can only imagine is also a generic, flavorless light novel series. Like half a million other shows it opens with a scene from what you'd assume is the climax of the series, where the female cast is in chains begging to be freed and Moroha is furiously writing out what looks to be a particularly nihilistic internet forums comment using magic runes in order to kill a dragon that's attacking the school. So we know where it's going, which is nowhere interesting, and in the meantime, we get a whole bunch of bog-standard harem antics, with the notable exception of Moroha's imouto character Satsuki, who has the honor of being so overwhelmingly obnoxious and shrill that you don't feel particularly bad for her when she gets her ass kicked in the school's battle arena. There's a scene later on where Moroha, Satsuki and Shizuno all sit down for some fast food together, and the romantic rivalry between his potential waifus erupts into a contest where they start alternately mashing his confused virginal face between their school-uniformed tits while screaming and pointing and making a giant scene. That they didn't get arrested is a mystery - that I kept watching this anyway is a bigger one.
This is zero-effort junk. The animation is generally passable minus a few sloppy character moments, but the bodies on the women - at least, the ones with enormous breasts - are drawn really strangely, with their breasts sticking out to either side of their torsos like the flaps on a tri-fold wallet. The school uniforms are straight out of every single fantasy/sci-fi based-on-a-light-novel anime you've ever seen. Come to think of it, so is literally everything else about this show. Why am I still talking about this? I have other things to do.
World Break is available streaming at Crunchyroll and January 18th at Funimation.com.
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