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by Kim Morrissy,

Arknights: Prelude to Dawn

Arknights: Prelude to Dawn
In the land of Terra, natural disasters of unknown causes have been occurring irregularly in many areas. Therefore, the majority of the people, in order to escape those natural disasters, came to live in mobile cities developed over the years. The Originium left behind at the site of such Catastrophes, has led to the rapid progress of civilization due to their immense energy. But it also brought something else with it — an incurable disease called Oripathy. Because the bodies of those with Oripathy gradually crystalize and become a new source of infection at the time of death, in many countries, the Infected are subject to persecution under regimes of segregation and forced labor. Those who were oppressed by the governments are starting to rebel. Rhodes Island, a pharmaceutical company researching a cure for Oripathy, takes up their arms and starts a conquest trying to save all the people from the disease.

The first episode of Arknights: Prelude to Dawn absolutely shook me with its slick direction, ambitious cinematic vision, and gritty storytelling. I'd never played a single minute of the Arknights mobile game and had no idea what to expect, but after just one episode, I was ready to call it the most artistically successful gacha game adaptation ever.

The allure wears off after the first few episodes, however. The villains start coming off as cartoonish, and a meandering plotline bogs down the second half. Although the general plot and vibe of the setting get across quite clearly, most of the characters beyond Amiya and Misha ultimately come off as underdeveloped by the end. The end result is still an anime that punches well above its weight, but it's not necessarily a must-watch for non-players.

To be fair, Arknights was always going to have some trouble finding its footing outside the mobile gaming niche. One of its most divisive elements is the sheer contrast between its goofy animal girl character designs and the grim post-apocalyptic war story it's trying to tell. For what it's worth, I think the character designs are a big appeal. There's a consistency to their designs, and their clothing blends in well with the overall aesthetic. There's also something to be said for a script that takes itself seriously, not allowing any fourth-wall-breaking humor to slip through. If no one in the story is batting an eyelid at how the characters look, why should you?

Another potentially off-putting factor is the point-of-view character, called the Doctor. They're a character of ambiguous gender, a characteristic deftly portrayed through Yuki Kaida's excellent voice acting. The story opens with the Doctor discovering they're an amnesiac, allowing Amiya to provide exposition on the setting without disrupting the narrative flow. Apparently, the Doctor's role is central to the overall plot, but it's not exactly evident in the anime so far. Even after 10 episodes, the Doctor mostly comes across as a passive character to whom Amiya explains things instead of actively participating in the events. That kind of character might work well enough in a video game context, but they sorely lack screen presence for an anime.

Despite those obvious game-like elements, however, the story holds up surprisingly well as an anime. The core plot, which revolves around a society torn apart by natural disasters and a mysterious illness, is genuinely compelling. Amiya's empathy and hopeful attitude lends an emotional core to what could easily be a miserable kind of story. Although there are a few too many proper nouns for my liking, the setting is immersive and well-developed, with areas like Chernobog and Lungmen having their own unique vibe.

The production values add a lot to the appeal. The storyboarding and direction are strikingly confident; the anime uses letterboxing consistently to give off a film-like atmosphere. Even when the animation becomes stiff in later episodes and the emphasis shifts from action to dialogue-heavy scenes, the character art always remains sharp. The immaculate background art and polished compositing work throughout the anime mean that there's never a frame in Arknights: Prelude to Dawn that actively looks bad. It's a strong showing for young director Yuki Watanabe and Yostar Pictures; the latter has been producing flashy anime cutscenes and promo videos for Yostar games, but this anime proves that it has the chops to handle TV shows too.

While far from perfect, Arknights: Prelude to Dawn is a strong example of a mobile game anime adaptation. Both its source material and its animation team are evidently a cut above the crowd. The anime still suffers from the limitations of its format, but that doesn't stop it from being a perfectly entertaining anime in its own right. If you're a fan of the game or just curious about the Arknights franchise in general, this is definitely worth a look.

Overall : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B

+ Strong production values and direction, immersive setting and tone
Most of the characters are underdeveloped, including the point-of-view character

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Production Info:
Director: Yuki Watanabe
Script: Aki Mizuki
Shintarou Douge
Takaaki Ishiyama
Masaki Nishikawa
Yuki Watanabe
Episode Director:
Motomasa Maeda
Tadashi Nakamura
Masaki Nishikawa
Yi Yi Shao
Yuki Watanabe
Kazuki Yokouchi
Unit Director:
Masaki Nishikawa
Yuki Watanabe
Music: Yuki Hayashi
Original Character Design: [email protected]
Character Design: Aya Takafuji
Art Director: Minoru Ōnishi
Momoko Fujikura
Minoru Ōnishi
Animation Director:
Hiromitsu Hagiwara
Feng Cheng Hu
Satoshi Isono
Reo Itoyama
Kahoko Kamahara
Akiko Kawazoe
Do Young Kim
Rina Kogure
Can Ran Luo
Nana Mori
Hotaru Morishige
Takaya Murakami
Rina Nagai
Sara Sakoe
Yūya Sakurai
Masakatsu Sasaki
Kaito Shimizu
Aya Takafuji
Anna Tateno
Kenji Terao
Yuki Watanabe
Zhuo Lu Yu
Sound Director: Yuki Watanabe
Director of Photography: Kōhei Tanada
Executive producer: Haimao Luohewu
Chao Ding
Shan Dong
Kōta Jitsukawa
Yan Jie Pei
Susumu Shibata
Wei Qi Wang

Full encyclopedia details about
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