The Fall 2021 Preview Guide
takt op. Destiny
How would you rate episode 1 of
takt op. Destiny ?
What is this?
One day a black meteorite fell on the world, and the world completely changed. The meteorite produced grotesque monsters called D2, which started running rampant. D2 very quickly banned all music, which was the one thing able to overcome them. But there were some people who resisted the D2. They are young women who hold the power of music, the "Musicart." These young women hold "scores" that are able to defeat the monsters. And there are also people who lead these women, the Conductor. In America in the year 2047, which has fallen to ruin thanks to the D2, Takt, a Conductor, is partnered with a Musicart named Destiny. Takt yeans for music to be returned to the world, and Destiny wishes to destroy the D2. Their aim is to travel to New York.
How was the first episode?
As loathe as I am to use a term from TV Tropes, a website I dislike on general principle, the best phrase to describe the logic takt op. Destiny operates on is “The Rule of Cool.” Every detail, every bit of worldbuilding, is engineered not for storytelling potential but on just how cool it would be to see play out on screen. And you know what? It works.
The basic plot follows the same framework as a lot of sci-fi action anime: one day a thing appeared with threatening implications for humanity. Now it's up to two young adults, one boy and one girl, to partner up and use their powers to stop said threat. The young adults bicker a lot as their beleaguered adult guardian tries to keep them under control. Fill in the blanks with a whole bunch of proper nouns, generally involving English terminology, and you have yourself an action series!
In this case, the threat to humanity are D2s, monsters that appeared via a meteor shower and respond to music. The two young adults are Takt and Cossette, a “Maestro” and “Musicart” that fight the D2's. It's not clear exactly how their powers work, which is fine considering this is the first episode and it's more important to draw an audience in than to explain the mechanics behind everything, but it involves his arm disappearing and her transforming as he wields a conductor's baton and she a big sword/laser gun thingy. Their guardian is Cossette's big sister Anna, who is trying to get them to New York via a cross-country road trip when the D2s appear to have ruined the majority of middle America.
Whether a series like this succeeds depends entirely on the execution, which takt op. Destiny pulls off… mostly. The fight scenes are super cool to look at and follow, even if they don't make a lot of sense at their base. The animation, a collaboration between Mahiro Maeda's two powerhouse studios MAPPA and Madhouse, is excellent in every way. The big action setpieces are well-choreographed and look amazing, comparable to ufotable's best work. The quieter scenes contain a lot of detail and subtle body language that reminded me of traveling with my siblings, such as the way Takt slumps in the backseat of the car, boredly tapping out piano fingerings on the window until Anna tells him to stop in annoyance. It does look like they were going for a Shinichiro Watanabe-esque mood with the run-down middle American setting, with RV parks and run-down highway diners, but they don't quite pull off the griminess that would require. (Also, it was kind of funny seeing Pike Place Market's sign in what appeared to be a rust belt city over a second sign that said “Framer's Market”.)
The writing is a bit more of a mixed bag. The worldbuilding is actually quite good; they mix up how they deliver exposition, including a beautiful-looking children's book illustration-style lithograph at the top, and revealing the world's conditions via the diner's proprietor discussing the best route to New York with Anna. However, in terms of character writing, the three main characters spend a lot of time bickering in a way that is, once again, familiar; however, without the context of Takt's relationship to the sisters, it was hard to get a sense of any kind of warmth or relationship outside of obligation. Takt is prone to histrionics about his playing, which having known a number of musicians makes sense; Cossette talks like a robot, which makes less sense.
As a critic, I often declare that character is king and no amount of style can make up for poor story but I have to admit, takt op. Destiny took me in. Turns out, sufficiently cool fights can totally win me over for a half hour at a time. But to keep my attention for a full run? They're going to have to back it up with some substance.
The first episode of takt op. Destiny is like an expertly designed rollercoaster. It starts off with a slow build to the first drop by introducing us to the world through a storybook and letting us know, through the eyes of a child, that the world we see on screen is a world without music—to the point that kids aren't even taught the word, not to mention recognizing the instruments. Yet, despite this, we're shown that music is not hated but revered, with a piano lovingly cordoned off and kept in tune for the day it can be played again. That's solid visual storytelling there.
Then we hit the first drop of our rollercoaster ride with a fight scene between a music-hating alien and our superpowered Musicart/Conductor combo. It's flashy, well-choreographed, and lets you know from the start that you're in for some serious eye-candy on this ride. The use of vibrant red—accented by an equally vibrant gold and blue—is a primer of sorts, giving us a visual shorthand for keeping track of our heroine as she dashes across the battlefield at blinding speed.
In the buildup to the next drop, we are briskly introduced to our heroes, their motivations, and their weaknesses in a series of scenes. We have Takt, a person who longs to play music—even if it puts others (or himself) in danger—and his partner, Cosette, who is just as focused on killing aliens as Takt is on playing music. Together, they have little to no common sense—which is why we have our straight-man character, Anna, who has the unfortunate mission of getting the pair to New York in one piece.
The three of them have a great dynamic. Rather than being unified in purpose, the Musicart/Conductor pair are too self-centered to see the other as anything but an impediment to what they want to accomplish, and neither can see the bigger picture well enough to set aside their own need for immediate self-gratification. Meanwhile, Anna lacks the leadership ability to reign them in.
Of course, for the final big drop in our roller-coaster ride, the episode shows us (in another breathtaking action scene) just how well they can work together when their purposes are truly aligned—even if the superpowered duo is unlikely to take this lesson to heart.
It's a well-built ride, and one designed to get you so caught up in laughs and thrills that you don't notice (or don't care) just how little context you have for what is going on. Are Musicarts human? Why does Takt's arm disappear and turn into a conductor's wand when Cosette transforms? Why are the aliens concentrated in the mid-west? Why not take a plane or a boat to get to New York? These questions and many more are neatly ignored, though in this case, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The point of a first episode of any series is to get the viewer hooked and ensure they come back next week. By baiting us with outstanding visual spectacle and giving us a basic understanding of our heroes and their dynamic, this episode has certainly done that. Let's just hope we get some serious world building done next episode along with the week's helping of action-filled eye-candy.
My favorite part of covering Preview Guide every season is when, every now and again, I encounter a show that feels like it was made specifically for me. I have precisely one complaint about TAKT OP.DESTINY, and that is its stupid title; literally everything else about this premiere put a big stupid grin on my face for twenty-three minutes straight. It's the kind of premiere that almost makes me think that it's worth having to trudge through all of the crappy isekai light novel adaptations and skeezy softcore porn “comedies” that the industry vomits out every few months.
TAKT OP.DESTINY had its hooks in me from its opening moments, where the prologue's gorgeous storybook art style laid out the basic premise of the show: music-hating monsters known as D2 have been ravaging the world, and the only thing that stands in their way are the ultrapowerful beings known as the Musicarts, who are commanded by their Conductors. Then, the show got its hooks into me again when I realized that this story was going to take place not in some generic fantasy otherworld, but right in the heart of the American Midwest. Call me biased, but I always love it when anime try to tackle the insanely expansive geography of the North American continent, since I think it's chock full of great locales to twist up and destroy with a bit of science-fantasy spectacle.
The first comparison that I could think of was the underrated 2017 anime, Garo -Vanishing Line-, which is another show that uses a supernaturally ruined version of the rural United States as its backdrop. This connection immediately made sense when I realized that TAKT OP.DESTINY is also being produced by MAPPA, and that it is being written by the scribe of Vanishing Line , Kiyoko Yoshimura. Yoshimura's involvement also explains why I loved the cast of TAKT OP.DESTINY so much, and why its blunt comedic tone worked so well for me.
Both shows are able to forge a charming and relatable dynamic between their two oft-bickering leads, and I especially related to how this show's leads felt like bona fide Shitty Theater Kids™. Takt and Cossette are both preternaturally strong and obnoxiously single-minded. Takt is so obsessed with his music that he can barely cooperate with Cossette long enough to defeat a single D2, and Cossette clearly possesses an inhuman perspective on communication and social graces.
It's worth mentioning the undisputed champion of the cast, aka the only rational adult capable of kind-of-sort-of wrangling these divas. Her name is Anna, and she gets some of the funniest and most relatable lines of the whole episode. I, too, have spent plenty of time begging arrogant teenagers to just listen to me, for God's sake, and I, too, have watched, tears brimming in my eyes, as they laid waste to everything before me (metaphorically speaking, of course).
In short, TAKT OP.DESTINY is a gorgeously animated romp about a beleaguered babysitter that goes on a good old-fashioned road-trip across a near-apocalyptic America with her two all-powerful idiot children, all while they use their God(?)-given destructive capabilities of classical music and magical transformations to kick the hell out of an army evil bug-monster-things. I love it so goddamn much. If I could use comic panels as official Anime News Network ratings, I'd be pulling out that classic from The Enigma of Amigara Fault, where the doomed victim screams “This is my hole! It was made for me!” I guess I'll have to settle for a measly five stars, instead.
I'm sure that watching this wasn't the longest twenty-three minutes of my life, but it certainly felt like it at times. In part this could be due to the fact that I've never really been a music person, but I tend to err on the side of it being that the episode seems overly full of nonsensical elements that aren't adequately explained. We know that meteorites rained down upon the earth twice at some point in the recent past, and that one set was good and created “musicarts” while the other was bad and created monsters like the “D2,” who alternately look like ticks or apes. We also can piece together that music drives the monsters to killing rages, and that only musicarts, somehow aided by “conductors” can stop them for…reasons? That's where I got a bit lost.
While this is a first episode and therefore it simply isn't reasonable to expect everything to be explained – and in fact, it wouldn't be good if it was – we're also asked to take a bit too much for granted. Chief among those things is the relationship between musicarts and conductors – we don't really have any sense of how that works. Yes, the conductors somehow power musicarts' transformations into D2 killing machines, but the how is an issue; the first time Takt transforms Cosette, he seems to rely on playing the piano, but the second, all she needs is to have eaten a couple dozen boxes of cookies and an entire pie. In fact, the second attack doesn't rely on either music or Takt wielding his magic conductor's baton at all. Is this why Cosette failed? That seems to be the implication of her running back to the previous town to snatch their piano, but exactly how music functions as a source of power feels a little too vague.
Again, this could all be resolved with another episode or two; what seems more likely to be a persistent issue is the fact that Cosette, Takt, and Anna are all incredibly annoying. Anna is understandable; she's apparently Takt and Cosette's handler, and she just wants to get them to New York where Cosette can be “fixed.” (Is she not human? Was she once human? Who knows!) And goodness knows that the two of them are enough to try the patience of a saint – if Cosette isn't fighting, she's eating three times her weight in baked goods, and Takt, simply put, has none and is only interested in music. Neither of them can be bothered to really listen to what Anna says, just merrily doing their own thing and damn the consequences. Yes, they do eliminate the D2s in two separate towns, but in at least one case they also woke them up. I think we're meant to side with them because without the D2s, music can come back, but I'm frankly not sure it's worth the trouble.
If Takt and Cosette don't rub you the wrong way, there may be an interesting story in here. But the two of them really do feel like a very high barrier to overcome, and the lack of solid explanations also hampers the episode. I do like the use of the color red, but that's not enough to make me want to sit through a second outing with these characters.
Now here's a show that should work way better than it does. On paper this awkwardly named co-production between studios Madhouse and MAPPA has a ton going for it that should make it the standout action property of the season. It's got stellar production values, eye-catching and unique designs, and a solid fantasy premise with the extra hook all but made for big, spectacular battles. Plus it's themed around music, which is about the easiest way to get me to like your cartoon. This should be an absolute slam dunk of a premiere, if not one of the best introductions of the season.
But then the main characters open their mouths and start exchanging what amounts for banter, and the wind quickly empties from Takt.OP's sails. You see, our male lead is an antisocial jerk who constantly berates his female companion for no apparent reason. Meanwhile said female lead talks like a robot, spending every scene talking about replenishing calories and nutrients while eating a bunch of sweets, or equally berating her “Maestro” for not pulling his weight. That's their dynamic, and without exception it makes every scene featuring our main duo a struggle to get through. There's a brand of anime screenwriting that mistakes incessant belligerence as clever or charming dialogue, and it's on full display as our deeply uncharismatic leads argue, insult each other, and repeat exposition at one another through the middle section of this episode. You can certainly make antagonistic teamwork charming and entertaining, but the repetetive insults these two throw at each other only serve to make both of them less likable.
Thankfully when the characters aren't talking, the show lets its stellar visuals and high-octane action do the talking. And that, at least, is enough to save this premiere, even as I worry about the longevity of the show itself. The setup is mostly a rehash of the classic Master/Servant dynamic from the Fate franchise, but with some visual trappings evoking musical conduction. More importantly it runs on the same “if it's cool, just let it happen” logic of the best kinds of spectacle-battle series. Cosette not only gets a cool red battle dress and sword, but that sword effortlessly transforms into a laser gun, then back to a sword at will. Why does Takt's arm disappear in order to power her up? Who knows? Who cares!? It's a cool visual delivered with all the self-assured energy necessary to sell it, so I'm willing to turn my brain off and watch some cool monster battles. And when the comedy is purely physical, the great direction and animation again sells it.
The shaky balance between those two extremes kind of has me at an impasse. When the characters aren't filling time with annoying bickering, this is a total blast and some of the most fun I've had with an action premiere this season. But when their back-and-forth is the center of attention I was sorely tempted to fast forward through entire scenes, which is never a good sign for a first episode. I'm curious enough to stick around for a second episode, and hope our leads either develop a better rapport or get fleshed out beyond their antagonistic beginnings. But I'm very much worried the second verse will be the same as the first.
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