The steampunk tale of intrigue slipped under the radar for Daily Streaming this season. Nick and Steve check in on the mobage adaptation about two guys on the opposite sides of war filled with political conspiracy and mutants?!
This series is streaming on Funimation
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Hey Steve, I was wondering if you could help me with my Duolingo tasks today. I'm trying out the German course and I want to check my work: Is this how you translate "The Platonic Ideal of a 6/10 Anime"?
Uh, bitte? I think? And now that I've exhausted what little German I know, let's talk about some good ol' fashioned fantasy war anime. Like your grandpa used to watch on those sweet cathode rays. Yes, we have functioning cars and
soldiers with swords here. Best of all worlds.
So this is MAGATSU WAHRHEIT
, a series based on a mobile MMORPG of the same name. Up front I have no clue how this anime relates to the story of the game, but I can say this at least doesn't have the usual mobage problem of 1500 gaudy character designs per episode. Instead we've just got our 2 leads: War Potato and Unwitting Rebel Potato.
Honestly if I didn't know from the promotional material that this was based on a mobile game—presumably one with a gacha mechanic because nobody makes mobile games without those anymore—I would never have guessed. And I like that! Feels like a throwback to simpler times, and that definitely warmed me towards it more quickly than it might have otherwise.
I certainly got off on the wrong foot, mostly because Funimation
uploaded the first episode without subtitles when it premiered, and I spent about 14 hours intermittently refreshing the page. I'm more familiar with the first 30 seconds of this show than some of my own family now.
Well I don't think we can blame MWZ for that one. I will, however, blame it for trying to have two protagonists when one is so superior to the other, it's kind of baffling how boring the other one is.
Hey now Leo's not boring. He's just a good old fashioned plucky kid who wants to help out his family before learning the horrors of war and– ok. Yeah. The most interesting thing about this dude is how he accidentally frames a man for war crimes.
Literally the inciting incident of the story is that this dude tries to do a tiny good deed but instead loads a box filled with military contraband into the other dude's truck. That's it. Fast-forward a bit, and now best delivery boy Innumael is on the lam with a fringe resistance group and loving it.
And by loving it I mean he's hating every moment of it.
Poor Innu really wound up in the wrong show. Any other series he'd be the bumbling but lovable deliveryman who trips into pratfalls. instead he slips on a banana peel and ends up in prison for treason.
He really does carry this show as far as charm is concerned. The rest of MagWar
is a perfectly serviceable thriller about a magic steampunk dystopian empire and its countless conspiracies, but it only really comes alive when Innu is desperately trying to escape all of that.
It's just classically good storytelling. A reluctant fish-out-of-water straight-laced laborer gradually warms up to the call to rebellion while complaining all along the way. He's flawed, but so much more compelling a focal point than Leo, whose story so far is "generic anime boy learns how to war crime under the tutelage of a serial killer commander."
Actually, I made that sound a lot more interesting than it's been.
Yeah I mean it'd be one thing if Helman weren't cartoonishly evil from the get-go, or if Leo did anything besides stand next to other characters who actually do things, but this just ain't it. It also doesn't help that his motivation hinges on his backstory with Zaitz, who had maybe ten lines of dialogue before Innu stabbed his guts out.
It would also help if he weren't the dingus who loaded the rocket launcher into Innu's truck and knocked down this whole row of dominoes.
That's the real lesson of MWZ: never try to be helpful, because you just might get your brother killed and kick off a magic mutant monster war.
Leo's at least learning an equally important lesson about the reality of being an agent of the ruling class. Though I gotta laugh that the crux of MagWar's
political unrest is that the Evil Empire isn't distributing enough guns to everyone.
Not exactly a message I'm stoked to apply one-to-one to real world politics, but in abstract, it's salient enough. The ruling class, via the government, controls and confiscates power while common folk are left high and dry to fend for themselves.
I do also appreciate the cavalier cognitive dissonance of the military being completely aware of the injustice, but just not giving a shit.
Hey, these folks can handle things themselves. It's not like they're fighting horrific mutant monsters caused by government experiments or– aww dangit.
Come onnnnnnn, guys. You can't just keep building secret research facilities across the country so politicians can use fantasy radon to do crimes against humanity.
I'll admit, the whole conspiracy thing is where MagWar loses me most of the time. By episode 6 we have some idea of the shape of things: evil parliament lady outlawed guns to secretly siphon money off of gun smuggling in order to double-secretly fund her weird mutant labs. What I don't know is why anyone's bothering with this or what any of it has to do with either of our heroes.
I'm of two minds, because I do appreciate the ambition of trying weave these different stories together. I also like that MWZ
avoids huge lore dumps in favor of building intrigue around things like coldfire, light sickness, mysterious tubes, and so on. But it's also a bit too esoteric for its own good at the beginning, and like you said, it's hard to find a reason to care about any of this. Like, for instance, I had no idea what Elfriede was doing about anything until episode 4.
It just seems like such a needless supervillain plan when you could just have a straightforward story about an empire consolidating state power and examine that. Why do we need all this steampunk James Bond stuff?
Or all the exciting stuff about whose funds are being funneled where and what that means for the Diet and zzzzzzzzz. This is why each episode of MWZ feels like it's about five minutes too long.
Also on the topic of lore, I would appreciate at least like, a thesaurus during all this.
See, I'm so deep in the Fate muck now that this doesn't even phase me. At least these words mostly resemble existing terms/names and aren't things like "spiritron" or "Daybit Sem Void" or "Scandinavia Peperoncino."
I suppose I shouldn't expect too much from a show with names like Leocadio, Innumael, and Shake.
Don't believe those lying subtitles. Her name is Shake-zula, the mic rula, the old schoola, you want a trip? She'll bring it to ya.
For real tho, her middle name is Grundle.
It's a real shame, since despite a serious case of Action Girl Cleavage, Shake is at least a decent member of the cast. She's the first member of the smuggling crew to vouch for busting Innu out of prison when he gets caught with their bounty, for instance.
Admittedly, I questioned the logic of a rebel group risking their collective asses to rescue a complete stranger, but it quickly becomes clear that Headkeeper as a whole is just Like That.
Admittedly having your ragtag group of criminals help rescue a little girl from a forest monster is a good way to make them likable. Not that they need it when their enemy is this dude.
Good point. But it's true, I instantly warmed up to Arnolt once he pulled out a katana in order to investigate a shadowy figure on the road.
Episode 3 as whole is a weird outlier compared to the rest, but it's also probably the tightest-written. And it features some of the strongest Innu faces.
It's a fun, mildly spooky horror mystery! Even if the exact nature of the monster seemed pretty obvious. But that's probably just me being jaded.
Nick, are you suggesting that a little girl being transformed into a horrific monster as a result of government-sponsored research is perhaps ground already trodden upon by past dark fantasy anime/manga series?
On that note, it's weird that all the mutant monsters are women, right? Like that feels weird to me.
Oh yeah, in my mind, the iffy gun politics are almost fully eclipsed by the almost surely iffier gender politics to come out of MWZ. I mean, I could be wrong! I'd love to be wrong! But each monster is a mutant woman with a pronounced and distended stomach, and the reasons behind that are all but certain to be On One.
Well I think we should have faith in this show to handle it alright. After all this is the deft and nuanced political thriller that gave us this guy:
Boy I do not feel great about literally any part of Helman's backstory!!
It's like somebody got stupefyingly drunk and tried to recount the origin episodes of Moriarty the Patriot
Funny, it's basically the nightmare version of Moriarty the Patriot my cynicism dreamt up before the show actually aired. Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case, and instead it lives here, where it can be safely sequestered away.
Are you the bastard son of an abusive noble who killed your servant mother? Obviously the best way to get revenge is to kill a bunch of poor women and frame him for the murders like 10 years later!
Oh noooo in your warped quest for revenge you accidentally became a tool of the oppressors. No stoooop.
It's a bonkers bit of backstory that only kept me on board because I could listen to Kenjiro Tsuda
's gravelly rasp forever.
Tsuda always pulls his weight when it comes to voicing smarmy bastards, but he deserves extra accolades for everything he's carrying here. I wanna talk about a good character now, so here's Irma.
Meh, I feel the way about Irma that Helman's mayonnaise here feels about hugs.
She just wants to smuggle guns and fold origami, and that's the kind of salt-of-the-earth aspiration I can respect.
She's not bad, but she also shows up right when all 14 of MagWar's subplots start to converge, and gets lost in the shuffle for me.
That's fair! Things devolve into chaos almost comically quickly, and as always, Innumael takes the words out of my mouth.
Episode 6 is basically just everyone saying this every couple minutes.
And if I had to guess, this is probably where the "real" plot starts kicking in. Whether that's a good or bad thing, who's to say? But I'm a little interested in seeing how things develop, I'll admit. I didn't think that'd be the case before I started the show.
I'm at least curious, if for no other reason than finding out what JRPG villain-ass reasoning the mad scientists responsible for all this will offer up. I mildly dunked on this series with the "6/10" thing, but that's honestly how I feel about the show. It's competent, largely inoffensive, and moves along fast enough to keep my attention, but there's something lacking somewhere that keeps me from really clicking with it.
I might bump that up to a 6.5/10 imo, but otherwise I totally agree! I think there's an important place for 6-7/10 shows in the anime ecosystem. Sometimes you just want something competent enough to hold your interest but not exceptional enough to feel the need to invest in. In that regard, I enjoyed my time with MWZ
, and I hope it manages to uphold that baseline of acceptability. At the very least, it better keep dunking on Innumael.
Oh I get the impression our boy's only just begun to suffer.