The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Thunderbolt Fantasy Sword Seekers2
How would you rate episode 1 of
Thunderbolt Fantasy: Sword Seekers 2 (puppet TV) ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Thunderbolt Fantasy, I missed you so much. Thunderbolt's first season was one of the most unique and unexpected pleasures in recent years, a collaboration between famed writer Gen Urobuchi (Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, and Fate/Zero) and the Taiwanese puppet production company Pili International Multimedia. Combining Urobuchi's consistently excellent storytelling with expressive and genuinely thrilling puppet theater, that season essentially came off as a more tightly scripted sort of Puppet JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, telling a bombastic narrative with consistent wit and charm. And though that season came to a clear conclusion, the door was left wide open for continuation, as both protagonist Shang Bu Huan and his duplicitous sometimes-collaborator the Enigmatic Gale were left with their futures uncertain.
This premiere doesn't waste much time recapping old adventures, and quickly dives into the over-the-top drama and martial theatrics that made the first season so fun. After dropping off his collection of insanely powerful swords at the theoretically impenetrable Xian Zhen fortress, Shang immediately learns he's being pursued by Xie Yingluo (“the Princess of Cruelty!”), and doubles back to find a fortress under scorpion siege. There are over-the-top one-liners and spinning kicks and villains who explode into clouds of scorpions, all building up a new dramatic platform and reintroducing us to the fundamentals of this fantastic franchise.
As a self-contained episode of Thunderbolt Fantasy, this premiere definitely suffers a bit under the weight of exposition. Though its explanations of the first season go by relatively quickly, the time spent introducing new characters and conflicts means there isn't much screentime left for either awesome fights or witty banter, the two greatest strengths of the first season. Fortunately, while the overt narrative is a little held down by circumstances, both old and new characters come off as engaging as ever, and the show's puppet actors remain remarkably expressive. In terms of visual design, my only real complaint is that the Princess of Cruelty's scorpion-heavy powers rely on CG animation that really can't compare to the practical effects and puppetry of the rest of the production.
On the whole, Thunderbolt Fantasy 2's premiere is too weighed down by narrative setup to count as a show highlight, but the show's writing and visual design remain as consistent and compelling as ever. The Enigmatic Gale is up to new tricks, Shang Bu Huan is still extremely tired, and their new supporting cast seem like a fine bunch of deadly ruffians. If you can accustom yourself to the visual design, Thunderbolt Fantasy is one of the most rewarding new franchises in recent years. I'm very ready for more adventures with these sword-swinging fools.
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