Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Seven Deadly Sins: Season 1
BD+DVD - Parts 1 & 2
The kingdom of Liones in Britannia is in trouble. Once the kingdom's greatest protectors, the Holy Knights have gone rogue, compelled by greed for power to betray the people they're meant to protect as they try to start a new holy war. They've placed the blame for their actions squarely on a group of seven knights known as The Seven Deadly Sins, whom they framed ten years ago. Now as their plans are nearing fruition, Princess Elizabeth, the third princess of Liones, escapes from the palace and seeks out the Sins in hopes that they can help save the kingdom. She's pretty sure that they can't be as bad as they've been made out to be – but she isn't expecting what she gets either in this Arthurian-based shounen adventure.
After an initial run on Netflix, the anime adaptation of The Seven Deadly Sins has arrived on Blu Ray and DVD. This season, which covers roughly the first fifteen volumes of Nakaba Suzuki's original manga, is a combination of interesting references to the legends of King Arthur and a standard shounen fantasy adventure, with those two components complimenting each other surprisingly well. While there's a lot more to be gotten out of the story if you know your Arthurian lore, this is a generally fun show that covers a lot of ground in terms of both plot and emotion.
The main focus of the story is the eponymous knights, the Seven Deadly Sins. (Although we only meet six over the course of these twenty-four episodes; Escanor is still at large.) Ten years ago they were framed for the murder of the commander of the Holy Knights of Liones and fled the country. When the story begins, Elizabeth, the third princess of Liones, has decided to take a chance on them not being as evil as their reputation, because she's having serious doubts about the integrity of the holy knights themselves. Donning a suit of armor as both protection and a disguise, she sets out, soon finding Meliodas, the diminutive captain of the band. Arthur buffs will immediately recognize the significance of Elizabeth finding Meliodas – in myth, they are the parents of Tristan, one of the Knights of the Round Table. Meliodas quickly agrees to help Elizabeth, and along with Hawk the talking pig they set off to find the rest of the group and stop whatever evil plans are afoot in Liones.
The Tristan reference is indicative of the identities of many other significant named characters, with the most immediately recognizable being Elaine, Arthur, and Merlin, although all of the Sins' names are important. The symbolism is perhaps best used in the character of Elaine, whose role covers an impressively large number of Elaines in Arthurian myth (and may be a shout-out to Tennyson's poem “The Lady of Shalott”), but all of the main players are more than simple one-note characters. All of the Sins are driven by past tragedies, most particularly Ban and King, which shape not only their personalities, but also their actions. King is especially vulnerable. His “sin” is said to be “sloth,” but rather than the more literal interpretation of that such as we see in, for example, Fullmetal Alchemist, King's so-called sloth is more a reluctance to feel emotional pain. He carries a heavy burden of guilt from his actions in the distant past, made even more tragic by the fact that his self-blame isn't necessarily true – while his actions resulted in tragedies, he did not directly cause them and has used his feelings as a way to insulate himself from taking risks. Helbram, Elaine, and Diane venture into new territory, both literally and figuratively, while King hides behind his pain until events force him out of it. Interestingly his journey over the course of the series is one that both Ban and Meliodas have already taken, with Meliodas even a few steps farther along than Ban. They've already learned the lesson that even though it's easier to pretend someone else is to blame, even if that's yourself, it's rarely the best way to go through life.
The theme of placing blame is one that surfaces in the actions of the Holy Knights as well. The two instigators, Dreyfus and Hendrickson, have been deflecting blame for at least ten years, which ends up dragging down not only the Sins, but also the younger generation of Holy Knights who are unwittingly at their mercy. While Gilthunder is the best example of this, we also see it take a dark turn in Jericho, whose need to prove her worth is used against her, and in Howzer's growing realization that his has been misled. As Dreyfus and Hendrickson twist history to suit their own ends, they try to drag the rest of Liones down with them, an act which may have parallels in the destruction of the lost kingdom of Danafal in Meliodas' past, although that's only hinted at in these episodes.
Of all of the characters in the series, perhaps the most surprising are Elizabeth and Hawk. Elizabeth is a far stronger person than any of the other players give her credit for being – she's the only one who will loudly stand up to the Holy Knights and has the faith in her convictions to do something about them. She's pampered, yes, but she has no interest in just being a damsel in distress, even if that's sometimes where events place her. By the end of the series, it's obvious that she's been much more powerful than even she's been aware of, something we could also say for talking pig mascot character Hawk. Where Hawk could have been (and yes, sometimes is) incredibly annoying, instead he proves himself to be a valuable part of the team in his own right, serving a purpose beyond being cute and funny. Both Hawk and Elizabeth end up shining in the series finale in unexpected ways, while, along with Guila, they highlight the importance of having selfless motives for what you do. While that's definitely a bit of a cliché, it's one that is endemic to shounen stories as well as the legends of King Arthur, who didn't get to be the Once and Future King by being a selfish jerk.
The English dub largely works, and is by and large enjoyable. Cristina Vee's Hawk is a definite highlight, as she manages to be high and cute without crossing into squeaky and ear-splitting. Ben Diskin sounds like he's having a lot of fun as Ban, and while I do prefer Jun Fukuyama's King to Max Mittelman's, Mittelman does do a fine job as the fairy king. I am less sold on Bryce Papenbrook's Meliodas; although his delivery is very good, there's something that feels a little less carefree in his performance than in Yuki Kaji's. Despite that, it isn't enough to ruin the dub track; neither is the pronunciation of Diane's name as “Dee Anne,” which, to be fair, is more how the name would have been said back when the Arthur stories were being written down. The dub script is only a little dressed up for English language humor, mostly during Howzer's innuendo scene in episode twelve, where it really does work.
The releases are both fairly simple. Although both a DVD and a BD are included, extras are no more than clean songs and trailers, as well as next episode previews. The discs do look good, and the animation is more on than off, with a few moments of beautiful animation to balance out the off-model episodes towards the end of the second set. It's also worth mentioning that despite Meliodas' hands-on approach to Elizabeth's body (which she's not totally uncomfortable with, but is still highly questionable), the series does pass the Bedchel Test, and for the most part, Meliodas' actions are really the limit of the sexualization. Outfits can be skimpy, yes, and Ban's counts towards that, but the characters are largely comfortable with how they're dressed and don't see themselves as sexual objects. In fact, Diane at one point comments how silly someone's discomfort with the amount of cleavage she's showing is, which is a nice change.
If you missed this on Netflix, are a fan of the manga, or just love your shounen heroes way overpowered from the start (no power-up episodes here!), The Seven Deadly Sins is a good show to check out. Its use of Arthurian lore is fun, but the story itself stands alone without it, and the ending makes good use of its manga source without feeling manufactured.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Nice use of myths and legends, characters have more depth than expected, some nice animation, fitting second theme song
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