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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master

How would you rate episode 1 of
YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master ?
Community score: 3.9

How would you rate episode 2 of
YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master ?
Community score: 4.1

What is this?


Yamauchi is a fantastic world where the Yatagarasu live. Yukiya, a young Yatagarasu, is appointed as the personal attendant of the eccentric Crown Prince Wakamiya. Soon, he is entangled in a web of conspiracies attempting to overthrow the heir to the Imperial throne.

YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master is based on the Yatagarasu novel series written by Chisato Abe. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

James Beckett

High-court dramas are stories that I always really want to love, especially in anime form, because I am a sucker for some well-produced period set dressing, not to mention the heightened emotions and sweeping storytelling that can come from such a setting. In practice, though, I often struggle with getting into the minutiae of courtroom politics and high-society maneuvering. The inherently reserved nature of many of the characters living in the world of emperors, princesses, and ladies-in-waiting can make it difficult for me to buy into the story until we get to the point where the juicy drama starts to flow like so much wine from an unstopped pitcher.

The first episode of Yatagarasu had me worried that I would end up bouncing off of it like I have with so many series before it. The art was pretty enough, and I dug the fantastical elements of the mythological raven spirits that were presumably a major hook for the story. Still, so much of the premiere is focused on the usual trading of insults and exposition, to the point where I was wondering why the magical raven stuff was even being included, to begin with. Asebi is a perfectly alright protagonist for this type of anime but I was put off by how much time we had to spend establishing that she is merely a simple and unrefined substitute for her sister who does not belong in a world of palace intrigue.

However, you can mark Yatagarasu as one of the rare occasions where I was glad we got a double-episode premiere because I think the show becomes much more engaging and focused in its second episode. This is where we learn more about the magical raven clans that help distinguish this show from its similar brethren, and I will say that my appreciation for Yatagarasu blossomed once we got to see more of its world and meet more of its characters. Yukiya is the kind of deuteragonist that balances out Asebi quite well, and his journey to becoming an attendant of the mysterious prince was much more immediately engaging for me. Overall, I think this premiere might have worked even better if we cut back and forth between Asebi and Yukiya more evenly, but the setup for this story feels significantly more complete, all the same.

I still don't know if I am going to be compelled to check out every episode of Yatagarasu henceforth, but its prospects are looking much better than they did when I first sat down to watch it. It's a well-animated and creative take on the historical royal drama, and with any luck, it will be able to take advantage of its fantastical trappings and tell a truly memorable tale.

Richard Eisenbeis

I love stories about court intrigue. I love watching the subtle and complex ways the various characters vie for power (especially when our hero or heroine pulls off some crazy Xanatos gambit to claim victory from the jaws of certain defeat).

However, this first episode helped me realize something about myself: I find Western fantasy court intrigue far more interesting than Eastern fantasy court intrigue. I think this is probably due to my familiarity (or unfamiliarity, as the case may be) with the unwritten rules of a noble society. I can more clearly see when the heroine is being talked down to—or the subtle meanings behind actions or gestures—in a Western setting.

All this is to say that I had trouble connecting with YATAGARASU. Asebi is a young woman too pure for the world she finds herself in but that doesn't mean I found her all that sympathetic. She's just a punching bag for the story at this point—as well as something for the other three bride candidates to play on. In fairness, it does this latter job rather well, showing that the rival who seemed the nicest is subtly mocking Asebi while the one who seemed the rudest is just being blunt in a way that Asebi can understand.

Then we get to the other main plot of the story about the boy and his brother from the cold opening. If nothing else, it shows us the world outside of the palace—and from the point of view of someone of more humble birth. How does it connect with Asebi's story? On that, I have no idea.

So, in the end, this falls into the “not bad but not for me” category of anime. It seems competent in the story it's trying to tell—I'm just not interested enough in the subject matter to keep watching.

Rebecca Silverman

I truly am a sucker for a good historical fantasy and this appears to be precisely that. That said, I could also see it not being everyone's cup of tea—the first episode introduces a truly dizzying amount of named characters, several of whom have names that involve intricate wordplay or references. It also sets up a complex political system loosely based on the Heian court and the girl who looks to be our primary heroine, Asebi, treads dangerously close to the TSTL line—although she still manages to land just on this side of “naïve and sheltered,” which is a saving grace. But despite these issues, the story is intriguing, steeped in lore and filled with gorgeous costumes and characters who have a pleasing old-school shoujo look to them.

Although it feels like dangerous levels of mixing metaphors, the story's spiderweb has a clear raven at its center, the Empress Omurasaki. (Her name is almost certainly a reference to Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genji.) Omurasaki is in charge of the court for all intents and purposes—and given the tremors we see in the emperor's hand as they play go from an impressive distance (I love the stone holders they use to maintain it), her power is anything but illusory. That must make it smart all the more that her son, the first prince, was shunted aside as crown prince in favor of his younger brother, a man she's now in charge of marrying off. She makes no secret of the fact that she's willing to sacrifice the country in order to humiliate him: the court name she gives to the least appropriate supplicant for his hand is one calculated to show how little she thinks of both the crown prince and the lady Asebi. That the other candidates for consort follow Omurasaki's lead isn't surprising, although some of them are better at hiding it than others.

A secondary story involving a young raven named Yukiya and the prince himself appears to be unfolding as well. Yukiya, the son of a local noble in the northern province, may be too brash for his own good, and he's clearly not adept at the sort of politicking that he ought to be. We're told that in episode two he's to be shipped off to work for the prince as his aide—something which once again speaks volumes about the court's opinion of their crown prince. Either one of these plotlines would have been enough to carry the series and I'm a little concerned that this show will crumple under its own plot weight. But the lush costumes, beautiful worldbuilding details (the raven-drawn sky carriages are amazing), and easy establishing of character makes me more than willing to push those concerns aside. I am very much looking forward to seeing where this one is going.

Nicholas Dupree

This is one of those shows where I love what it's doing, but it is immensely hard for me to follow. I'm always down for stories of court intrigue, characters trying to navigate the cruel and pernicious world of royal politics while everyone wears fancy clothes to hide their fangs. The problem is that those shows usually involve a million moving parts, often with characters sporting multiple names and titles, and my brain shuts off when I need to keep track of it all. Even a relatively straightforward setup like this first episode had me hastily crafting visual aids to keep track of it all.

That struggle is probably why I didn't dock this show more for having such a slow, exposition-leaden introduction. Much like our initial perspective character, Asebi, I need somebody to hold my hand and explain all the passive-aggressive conniving in this corvidae country. Thankfully, those explanations still manage to tell us a lot about the various characters and their perspective. Asebi is the outsider, unaware of all the unwritten rules of courtly life and all but set up for failure. She is so earnest and likable that you root for her. Hamayu initially seems vindictive but is just ruthlessly honest, in contrast to the polite but subtly condescending Masuho-no-Susuki. Shiratama is a bit enigmatic but seems to sympathize with Asebi's as a flounder among sharks. It's all good stuff, and there's a lot of room for interesting dynamics to play out as they all vie for the Prince's hand.

Though we still don't know much about the prince himself—I'm not even sure if we see him in this episode – and that means there are many questions about where the story will go from here. This is a complex story with a ton of moving parts, even before bringing in the fantasy elements like everyone being giant, sentient Ravens in human form. Leaving our central character a total mystery is intriguing, but it also leaves a lot of uncertainty about where this whole thing is going. Alongside that, the last few minutes of this episode introduce even more characters with almost no connection to the rest of the story, which means there are multiple other vectors and storylines to keep track of.

Granted, a complicated story isn't a bad one. It just means that I may wait until all of this show is out, so I don't have to keep all the names, titles, and dueling factions straight in my head for months on end. Overall, this is a rock-solid introduction and certainly worth checking out if you're a fan of historical dramas.

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