Reviewby Carlo Santos,
Episodes 1-6 Streaming
High-schooler Godou Kusanagi is on a trip to Italy, hoping to return his grandfather's ancient stone tablet to a family friend ... until a girl named Erica stops him and tells him that the tablet is actually a spellbook. Godou learns there is an entire hidden world of "rogue gods"—deities from past civilizations—who roam the earth. When a battle between two gods breaks out, Godou uses his stone tablet, along with Erica's guidance, to steal the powers of Persian war god Verethragna. Godou is now a "Campione"—a human who has defeated a god! However, more foes await: Greek goddess Athena wants to take back an item that has fallen into Godou's hands, while other Campione around the world wish to challenge him. With Erica at his side, and other young women joining him in battle, Godou must be ready to face all these dangers and more.
In more ways than one, Campione! caters to the fantasies of young men. First there's the part where the protagonist has godlike powers, and can lay waste to entire city blocks while fighting otherworldly beings—a fantasy that the series handles well. Then there's the fantasy of having gorgeous young women throwing themselves at the hero's feet—which, sad to say, is far less exciting and turns out no better than any other high school harem of the week.
So goes the strange duality of Campione!, which bills itself as a love comedy crossed with magical battle. The bombastic ending of Episode 1, with swords ablaze and Godou's golden aura tearing up the landscape, pretty much seals the deal on this being a worthy action series. It sports the usual "teenage kid discovers amazing powers" setup, but unlike shows that borrow from Japanese folklore (totally overdone) or make it up along the way (even worse), this one draws from more eclectic influences. The pantheons of the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, and even Phoenicians come into play, and just for good measure, Erica quotes a Bible verse or two. However, this deeply-researched world also runs the risk of being one big muddle: Godou uses a Greek artifact to gain a Persian god's powers, and later gains the assistance of a Shinto shrine maiden, among other things. With so many factions involved, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to draw a clearer line between the good guys and bad guys?
Still, all this cross-cultural warfare is a great thrill ride, and promises to only get better when another Campione! versed in dark gods shows up in Episode 6. Unfortunately, the ride is often interrupted by long stretches of juvenile romantic comedy: it's the Godou-and-Erica fanservice show (plus innocent third wheel Yuri) throughout most of Episodes 2 and 3, and Episode 5 is practically all filler with its goofy baseball challenge and a trip to the cell phone store. While there are some relevant plot points amidst this dreck, too much of it consists of predictable boy-meets-girl gags. There's Erica popping up in Godou's bed, usually undressed; Yuri throwing fits of jealousy (and getting all lovestruck when Godou does hang out with her); male classmates raging over this ordinary guy getting the attention of the hot new girl; and even an obligatory bento lunch scene. That's a lot of mediocrity to wade through just for some mythologically-powered fight scenes.
But what an impression those fight scenes make. If Episode 1 is a harbinger of what the show is capable of, then the promise is met in Episode 4, where Godou battles Athena, and to a lesser extent Episode 6, where for the first time we witness another Campione!'s powers. Practically every attack involves an elaborate ritual invoking the power of the gods—it's like the old "yell out the name of the attack" cliché, but souped up with centuries of human history. The special effects accompanying each of these moves are a wonder to behold: glowing auras of light, mythical animals charging from the heavens, and dozens of floating swords, all seamlessly worked into the visuals. This is a series that spares no expense when it comes to bringing full color and motion to the fight scenes ... which probably explains why the other, much longer segments look embarrassingly cheap. The portrayal of Godou's school life often relies on clunky animation or static imagery, unimaginative camerawork (let's show two characters in profile talking to each other), and character designs drawn from the usual teen-to-young-adult mode. Were it not for Erica's striking blonde hair, or Yuri's priestess getup, even the members of Godou's harem would be easily forgettable.
The epic scope of each battle is further enhanced by a blaring, full-orchestra soundtrack that draws heavily from blockbuster movie scores. Long incanatations and reciting facts from world mythology are one thing, but add brass and strings in the background, and suddenly that feeling of earth-shattering power becomes complete. As expected, however, the music becomes much more lightweight whenever Godou is trying to weather his way through school life; there's not even a catchy melody to help him along. Both opening and ending theme songs are uptempo numbers, but fail to leave a lasting impression—probably because they're both attached to animation sequences that rely on generic "let's show all the characters" shots.
Campione! could be a great show full of mind-blowing battles, but it keeps on shooting itself in the foot by trying to weave in the romantic-comedy element. Truly great harem comedy needs to be more outrageous and unpredictable than this, or more sweet and heartfelt—instead, it goes through the motions of the genre at a mediocre level. What it ought to be doing instead is focusing on a genre it already handles at an excellent level: superpowered battles informed by centuries of ancient gods and heroes. That's where the series shines, if only for a few minutes at a time, and it's where the animation is most stunning. If Campione! sticks to that divine path, instead of indulging the carnal desires of young men, there may be hope for it yet.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Deep mythological background and eye-catching (though brief) fight scenes make this battle anime stand out among others of its kind.
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