The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
Fantasia Sango - Realm of Legends
How would you rate episode 1 of
Fantasia Sango - Realm of Legends ?
Community score: 2.0
What is this?
The story is set in ancient China during the Three Kingdoms era, when various powerful warlords began manuevering to conquer the known realms. After it was wiped out in unforeseen circumstances, the 6th Unit has been reassembled with members from diverse, troubled pasts: the leader and seal practitioner Ōki, the spirit purifier Shunkyō, Teiken, and the demon slayer Shōrei.
How was the first episode?
I damn near had to watch the premiere of Fantasia Sango twice on account of how lost I was at the end of it. It isn't confusing or anything, mind you; the whole episode is a very straightforward affair that simply introduces all of the Hunters and then lets them fight some demons. No, I was feeling so lost because Fantasia Sango's premiere is so utterly devoid of substance that it vanished right out of my brain the minute I finished it. I couldn't even remember the wisecracking talking bucket that follows Ding Yan around!
The only way I can describe it is like this: Fantasia Sango looks and feels like the kind of fake artifact that another, real anime would use as some kind of in-world example of a generic fantasy show. You know that one new anime about the voice actresses, CUE!? Imagine if CUE! had an episode where all of the girls were trying out for some middling video-game adaptation that only had the budget to hire complete unknowns, and it occasionally cut to footage of whatever random scene got slapped together as each girl read lines in the booth. That's what Fantasia Sango is. Except, like, a whole show of it.
So, while it's not a disaster or anything, it's also never a good sign when the only way I can describe an anime is by how bad it isn't, rather than how good it is. The animation is janky but not Rusted Armors terrible. The plot and characters are lame, but not as completely forgettable as The Strongest Sage With the Weakest Crest. And so on.
Is Fantasia Sango the worst thing to premiere this season? No. Is it worth spending your finite time on this Earth to watch? Probably not, unless you're a huge fan of Chinese folklore (or just wished that the Dynasty Warriors games had more demons and talking tea buckets). Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to go immediately forget every last detail about this show within the span of a few minutes. Again.
I was bored the entire time I was watching Fantasia Sango. However, I'll be the first to admit that part of this might be a “me problem.”
While I'm very well-versed in Western fantasy and decently familiar with Japanese Shinto/Buddhism-based fantasy, I'm a complete novice when it comes to Chinese fantasy. Because of this, the base mythology behind what is going on in Fantasia Sango is completely foreign to me. Imagine watching any fantasy film filled with knights, dragons, dwarves, elves, and magic spells—and having never even heard of any of these things before. The film isn't going to bother to explain what any of these concepts are as Tolkien fantasy tropes are ingrained into Western popular culture, but nevertheless, without that basis, everything would seem random. You have no way to infer what is possible, what is not, or how much danger our heroes are in at any given moment; in other words, there is no tension. And then Fantasia Sango presents me with things like a talking bucket of candies that serve as the intermediary between the gods and man. How am I supposed to interpret that?
But even if I did understand the underlying lore, I don't think I'd enjoy this one. The actual premise is about as bland and one-note as you can get: The death and suffering of war create monsters so the Gods choose people to kill these monsters. Our characters fare no better in terms of creativity: They include a boy whose village was decimated by monsters, a girl who can absorb dark energy to become a monster temporarily, a beautiful woman who plays music, and your classic cowardly buffoon for comic relief. But what really gets me is that, regardless of their backstories, our heroes have no agency—if they don't agree to hunt the monsters, the gods will literally kill them (not that any except the comic relief character sees this as a problem). In the end, there was nothing in Fantasia Sango that I cared about even slightly—not the world, not the conflict, and certainly not the characters.
I rarely do a lot of research going into Preview Guide so that I don't come with preconceived notions, but it wasn't more than one minute into Fantasia Sango – Realm of Legends before I thought, "This is based on an RPG, isn't it?" And sure enough, Fantasia Sango is based on a Taiwanese-developed game, the most recent installment of which came out in 2018. That doesn't have to be the death knell for a series, but after this first episode, I can't say that it's doing this one any real favors, either.
Mostly that's due to the fact that the first half of the episode is fully devoted to the twin mood-killers of “too much exposition” and “gathering the cast.” The former does give us an interesting take on the Chinese folkloric monster known as the wangliang; in mythology that's just sort of a catch-all term for any kind of monster, although it may have originally been a much more specific term. In the show's mythology, wangliang are born of the anger and regrets of the dead. They take the form of miasma, and when that's ingested by a living being, they embody the wangliang. Our specific heroes are Hunters called upon by the goddess of breasts and anachronistic glasses, Luozhi, and their mission is to fight wangliang with their special skills. Those range from mildly interesting to incredibly basic, with Ying Ji's word-based powers being the most interesting, even if they're relatively similar to Kunikida's in Bungo Stray Dogs. The flair with which he uses them is at least more interesting to watch than most of the rest of the animation.
The characters are just as much a stumbling block as the over-explanation and pacing. Ying Ji's fine, exorcist Xun Qiao isn't bad and certainly more than the breasts of the operation (actually the team is evenly divided between men and women, which is nice), but Xiao Ling is intensely bratty and Ding Yan fairly obnoxious. And that's not even getting into the mascot character, an anthropomorphic tea caddy (in this case a small wooden bucket) who doesn't know the meaning of the phrase “shut up.” Granted, Ding Yan is so set on never fighting wangliang ever again after a bad past experience that he needs constant goading, but regretfully the rest of us can hear the thing too. That past is probably behind Xiao Ling's abrasive qualities as well, and if it wanted to, the show could develop that angle and fix a lot of the issues with the little girl going forward. This episode doesn't do quite enough to make me think that's a definite, but there is an attempt to hear a possessed man's grievances to free him from the wangliang, so it's not totally out of the question.
But overall this is a clumsily executed episode. The balance is very off in terms of pacing and storytelling, and while I've seen worse art, I've also seen much better. It's a barely middle-of-the-road production with side of the road pacing and plot, and there are better ways to spend your time this season.
You ever get curious about the lore or story of a video game, and load up some fan-made compilation of the story cutscenes on YouTube? Go do that right now for a random RPG, set it to 2x playback speed, and then just watch that for about 22 minutes. There, you now have an approximate viewing experience to the first episode of Fantasia Sango, except whatever you watch probably had better animation.
There really isn't much else to say about this premiere. It's a limp, barely-animated video game adaptation with some of the most generic designs I've seen in recent memory, with every character in this little four-man band looking like a particularly boring NPC who would tell you which way the monster forest is in an actual game. They technically have distinct personalities, but weren't given any time to show them off because the premiere just speeds through their introductions to pack in some uninspired worldbuilding and a big fight at the end. Said fight allows them to briefly show off their individual skills, but all it does is leave me with the distinct impression that I'd rather just be playing the game rather than watching this approximation animated on scrap paper.
I don't know anything about the source video game, so for all I know this is just a terrible adaptation that sucks the life out of a fun RPG. But I'll never know because this premiere is the opposite of enticing. It's all just dull and reminds me of KING’S RAID: Successors of the Will from last year, in that the entire episode is such a forgettable slog that by the end of it I could barely tell you anything about it. It just sloughs off your brain like dead skin.
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