The Fall 2020 Preview Guide
Magatsu Wahrheit -Zuerst-
How would you rate episode 1 of
Magatsu Wahrheit -Zuerst- ?
What is this?
Leokadio and Inimael live in the Wahrheit Empire, which is in the process of relocating its capital. Inumael works as a carrier thinking of the beloved sister he left in his hometown, while Leokadio is a naive young soldier dreaming of his future career. Meanwhile the empire has been destroying many creatures. It is predicted that this will lead to the return of the "light" that released ferocious monsters into the world the last time it appeared. Inumael and Leokadio are oblivious to this and to each other, until a smuggling incident brings them together and changes the course of history.
How was the first episode?
Sometimes, you watch a show and it does something new and exciting and totally blows you away. Sometimes, you watch a show and it takes a lot of familiar elements and does them particularly well. Sometimes, you get a show that falls right smack in the middle: it has enough originality that it doesn't feel like a complete retread, but it's not trying to reinvent the wheel either, and is pretty good all the while. And that, in a nutshell, is MAGATSU WAHRHEIT.
At the very least, it offers a more interesting world than this season's other fantasy mobile game adaptation, King's Raid. While the earlier show was based on an utterly generic swords-and-sorcery setting, this one combines magic and technology in a way that feels somewhat novel. Like yes, there's magic and monsters and people can do cool stuff with swords, but you know what else is really good for fighting off monsters? Guns. And you know what the government really wants to control people's access to? Guns.
I'd be a bit leery about real-world parallels to gun control debates in both the US and Japan, but you know what? If there are aggressive monsters running around, I think people wanting to have easy access to guns to defend themselves is pretty reasonable. Plus, the mix of weaponry makes for a really cool, all-human fight scene in a canyon that kept me engaged for the entire time, which can be tough to do! Clever fight choreography making smart use of terrain, with a restrained invocation of the “rule of cool” grabbed my attention.
The promise of an interesting fantasy world and strong action is bolstered by solid character design and writing throughout the episode. Each character looks distinctive, including even the background characters in their military uniforms, and I never lost track of who was who. By the end of the episode I had a good sense of who each of the main characters was and what drove them, and some idea of their personalities. Leokadio is a pretty standard “idealistic young man who quickly realizes he's in for more than he bargained for”, but the really interesting character is Innumael, a shipping worker who has pretty much the worst day ever. Despite Leokadio's powerful protagonist energy, the last moments of the episode dropped a bomb that indicated that Innumael isn't going to end up as just some mook. It has me intrigued for what comes next.
For all of its faults, I'll give MAGATSU WAHRHEIT credit for going with a setting and tone that doesn't feel completely phoned in. The mashup of creaky-looking modern military tech with science-fantasy trappings is far from original — the jump from vaguely European city-scrapes to a desert scene straight out of the North American Midwest gives me some strong Final Fantasy XV vibes — but it's more appealing to my tastes than a straight RPG-like fantasy setting would be. When it comes to anime adaptations of mobile games, it doesn't beat out the likes of Rage of Bahamut when it comes to making a good impression, but I wasn't bored to tears by MAGATSU WAHRHEIT's very premise, which is more than I can say for a lot of fantasy anime these days .
Unfortunately, the writing has done the show few favors with this premiere, and while I wasn't exactly bored to tears by this first episode, I still couldn't find myself getting excited by a single thing the show did. Magatsu Warheit comes to us from Yokohama Animation Laboratory, a studio with a scant few productions under its belt, and director Naoto Hosoda, who most certainly is not a novice. I know him from his work on Future Diary and Juni Taisen: Zodiac War, and while I don't have a whole lot of love for either of those shows, they at least had a sense of playful energy to them, which is something MAGATSU WAHRHEIT's premiere totally lacks. It isn't just because the animation becomes noticeably stiff and awkward whenever the action kicks in, either; the characters are flat and lifeless regardless of whether or not they're involved in any monster battles or military skirmishes.
Leo and Seitz are generic to the point of feeling perfunctory, both as individuals and as friends, so I had basically no emotional reaction when the episode ended on what was supposed to be a big cliffhanger. Inumael fares a bit better personality wise, and his getting mixed up with the gang of weapons smugglers known as Headkeeper was the part of the premiere that came the closest to being compelling. The gang is just so po-faced, though, that I couldn't really get interested in their half of the plot, either, so Inumael's somewhat tragic stumble into the world of violent political intrigue didn't land as hard as it should have.
Magatsu Warheit has potential. I could see the conflict between Leo and Inumael becoming a lot more compelling if the show commits to developing both characters properly, and the action could become decent if the production improves. That said, there are enough outright good anime coming out this fall that a new show is going to need to do a heck of a lot more than have the theoretical capacity to be mildly entertaining. I didn't hate this premiere at all, but I can guarantee you that I will have completely forgotten everything about it within an hour or two of finishing this preview.
MAGATSU WAHRHEIT? More like Magatsu Just Alright. There, is that enough for a preview guide? I'm tired okay, and we even had to extend this a day because it took 12 hours to get subtitles up for this first episode. Cut me some slack.
Fine, alright, let's end this properly. As you'd guess from that opening excuse for a paragraph, Wahrheit is a perfectly serviceable Super Serious fantasy war story. It's got a number of decent but unremarkable character designs attached to equally OK personalities that go through the motions of the plot of coincidences that make up this first episode. There's a bunch of exposition and proper nouns thrown around, but the actual plot is pretty simple. Newbie soldier Leo, while trying to help nebbish deliveryman Inumael, accidentally loads some contraband meant to be picked up by a group of smugglers onto the guy's truck. This gets Inu thrown in prison, almost certainly destined for execution for a crime he didn't commit, until the original smugglers bust him out of prison and try to escape. From there we get some dead friends and magic swordfights that'll all no doubt lead to some kind of dual-protagonist setup where our well-meaning but opposed heroes have to tragically fight each other.
All of this is delivered with a perfectly efficient script that does nothing to get me invested in any of it. There's some potential, certainly, especially with the attention paid to the increasingly authoritarian rule of Wahrheit's political situation. Leo seems to have joined the military mostly to get a steady job and because his work is supposedly meant to help people, but his first day on the job has him and his company sent to arrest and kill an innocent man to make him an example for anyone breaking the law. That's a potent bit of conflict that could, conceivably, make for an interesting character arc. But as he's written in this episode, Leo's mostly just a generic nice dude who doesn't leave an impression. Inumael is more memorable for his nervous personality, but he's also a near totally passive character through this whole story as others' actions and decision just drag him from place to place, and that makes it harder to get a read on what his future arc could be.
Not that I'm particularly curious to find out. In a weaker season I might have stuck around for a couple more episodes to see where this went, but Wahrheit has the unfortunate timing of coming at the end of a pretty stacked line of premieres with easily a dozen shows more compelling than it. It doesn't really do anything wrong – it tells its story clearly and efficiently, and there's no glaringly stupid or offensive ideas at play – but it also hasn't given me any reason to care about its story or world enough to keep up with things. If most of the season hasn't grabbed you, and you're in the mood for a serious, grounded war story, this one seems like a workable bet. Otherwise, there are far better options for your time.
This new series from the director of The Future Diary and Juni Taisen: Zodiac War is connected to a mobile app game, but if you went into the series not knowing that then you would unlikely be able to tell, as nothing about the first episode suggests any kind of game-based mechanic or situation at all . The word “zuerst” in the title is German for “first,” which suggests that this series may be intended as the prologue for the game. Hence knowing anything about the game at all is probably not necessary.
I say “probably” because this regular-length episode could have benefited more than any other title this season from having a double-length debut (including the one which actually got such a debut). A big story is afoot here, one which will presumably explain how the pillar of light in the opening scene comes to pass, but the path to that looks long and the story here is clearly just in the set-up stages. A lot of world-building plays out here; this is set in a world which mostly features 1920s-era tech and stylistic elements, but limited energy weapons and dinosaur-like beasties also exist. An empire exists whose Diet is gradually claiming power from the Emperor and putting the clamps down on people, starting with their access to more powerful weapons. That makes smuggling a brisk business or big problem (depending on your view), and the two central characters – an innocent worker who unwittingly delivers smuggled goods and a newbie soldier – get caught in the midst of that when a battle erupts between the smugglers and Imperial troops.
What distinguishes this title so far is how down-to-earth it is, both in look and in execution. Characters introduced so far are relatable, with no clearly right or wrong side, and neither their actions nor the action scenes are aggrandized or laced with anime tropes. That does not at all hurt the tension of the major action scene, and you have to feel for the predicament that the worker is stuck in at the end. The animation effort by Yokohama Animation Lab (last season's Lapis Re:LiGHTs) is also a grade above the normal, with active action scenes and a fair amount of background animation. This is definitely not one of the prettier series of the season on pure aesthetics, but its unified look still works well.
I am not going to pass judgment on this series without seeing a bit more, but at this point I am cautiously optimistic.
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