Review for Blast Of Tempest Part 1
For such a literary giant as William Shakespeare, and given anime’s propensity to borrow, pay homage to, and adapt works of literature, it’s a little surprising that we don’t see more of the Bard’s works adapted to anime form. It really basically boils down to one play, Romeo and Juliet. That got a direct sci-fi adaptation in the form of Romeo x Juliet, and it also got an inverted reworking in Nisekoi, this time with two rival gangster families trying to cement bonds by marrying their heirs off together, said heirs actually despising each other and having to fake it. Maybe it’s something to do with the ages of the characters, as a lot of anime is set in high school, and doomed romance between teenagers happens a lot in anime high schools. Of course, ever other cultural festival in anime will have the class putting on performances of Romeo and Juliet, K-On did it, Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple did it, and in a case of things getting all meta, it happened in Nisekoi as well. But that does leave a whole lot of other Shakespeare works to adapt, and it might make a change to see something other than suicidal lovestruck teens. We now get that chance, as MVM’s latest series is upon us, Blast of Tempest, which offers us elements from The Tempest and Hamlet in anime form, as well as more than a few Shakespearean quotes. Alas, they are in Japanese, as this is one title that doesn’t get an English dub. It also doesn’t get a Blu-ray release anywhere in the English speaking world, licensed originally as it was by Aniplex US.
The world of magic is in turmoil. It was the Kusaribe clan’s responsibility, under the leadership of the strongest mage, Hakaze Kusaribe, to protect the Tree of Genesis, the source of their power, but dissent about this duty exploded into rebellion, when Samon Kusaribe deposed Hakaze, kidnapped her, sealed her in a barrel, and left her alone on a desert island where her powers were greatly diminished. It was all that she could do to create a talisman, and place it in a bottle, casting it out into the ocean in the minuscule hope that someone would pick it up.
As chance would have it, that talisman came to one Mahiro Fuwa, and Hakaze is able to communicate with him, explain Samon’s dark intent to restore the opposing force to the Tree of Genesis, the Tree of Exodus, which would mean disaster for the world. She also points him to the talismans that will allow him to use magic, to act on her behalf against Samon and the rest of the Kusaribe clan. The thing is that Mahiro cares little for this. All that he needs is Hakaze to keep her promise to him, to find and point him to the murderer of his sister, Aika. Drawn into this is Mahiro’s best and only friend from school, Yoshino Takigawa, who unbeknownst to Mahiro was dating his sister before she died.
The first twelve episodes of Blast of Tempest are presented across two discs from MVM.
1. The Mage in the Barrel
2. He Said She Was Very Beautiful
3. There Are Things Even Magic Cannot Do
4. The Cursed Pair
5. Everything Happens for a Reason
6. The Paradox of the Skull
7. First Kiss
8. The Hour to Suppress the Princess
10. How to Make a Time Machine
11. Girl of Time
12. Absent Thee from Felicity Awhile
Blast of Tempest gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer on these discs in native PAL format thanks to Australia’s Madman Entertainment, and the image is clear and well defined throughout. There are no visible compression artefacts, aliasing is kept to a minimum, and the animation comes across well. Of course in this day and age, Blu-ray would be better, but Blast of Tempest on DVD is pretty good, it certainly scales up well to a flat panel display, and the show’s excellent production design, consistent character design, and impressive magic and action sequences come across with impact. My only nitpick would be that the font chosen for the subtitles is a tad small, especially on smaller screens.
The only choice here is DD 2.0 Japanese Stereo with optional translated English subtitles. The dialogue is mostly clear, but has a tendency to be drowned out by the music during the more intense moments. In a show where you’re supposed to read the dialogue primarily, you might think that’s less of an issue, but I still found it distracting. The actors are well suited to their characters, and other than the issue of balance, the show’s music is quite impressive. The theme tunes too certainly stick in the mind. The show’s action sequences are presented well, and the stereo certainly gives it some surround effect when Prologicked up. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typographical error.
I have to say that it’s odd that this show didn’t get an English dub, it certainly warrants one, given the Shakespeare quotations that fly thick and fast here. It actually seems daft not to have this show in English. Perhaps Aniplex are going to do what they did with Blue Exorcist, and wait for a Blu-ray release before actually dubbing it.
The discs present their contents with static menus and jacket pictures. The only extras are on disc 2, and comprise the textless credit sequences and trailers for Rosario and Vampire, The Garden of Sinners, and Fate/Zero.
I’ve been procrastinating again, trying to find the words to accurately describe my opinion of the first part of Blast of Tempest. It was all going to be so easy. Up to episode 9, I was really into this show, engaging with the characters, and drawn into the story. Just as you might expect from the sort of show that Aniplex keep for themselves to release in the US, this would have the quality animation and the fan favourite anime thing down pat. I was wholly ready to unleash a lot of praise in the review, one of those effortless reviews that practically write themselves. Instead, I’m wracking my brain on just how to word the fact that Blast of Tempest took a veritable plummet in quality for the final three episodes in this collection, leaving me deflated and disappointed with the whole thing. When you add the fact that this is just the first half, and that it might pick itself up, dust itself down, and deliver a second half that is worthy of the beginning, then you might see my quandary in how just to word this review.
As usual, the characters in an anime are mostly of high school age, but Blast of Tempest very quickly ditches the high school setting for something a whole lot more interesting. Personally, and ever since I read The Count of Monte Cristo as a boy, I really do have a soft spot for stories about epic revenge, and Shakespeare certainly had a handle on this darkest of human emotions when it comes to his plays. Blast of Tempest is all about revenge, Mahiro seeking revenge for the murder of his sister Aika. Then it throws in some Shakespearean relationship dynamics as well. Mahiro’s best friend is Yoshino, and he’s soon helping him in his mission. But Yoshino and Aika were secretly dating prior to her death, and that’s something that he hasn’t got around to telling Mahiro.
The reason for that becomes obvious with the intensity of thirst for his revenge. Mahiro was seriously protective of his sister, to the point that he had feelings for her too that he chose never to acknowledge. She was his sister by adoption, so what he felt for her, he felt compelled to confine it to brotherly affection. It was a tension that became over-protectiveness, and that’s not the kind of person you admit a secret relationship too, even after her death.
This thirst for revenge gets entwined with a battle for the future of the world, when Mahiro encounters a talisman sent out by the mage Hakaze Kusaribe, stranded on a desert island where her powers are limited. She communicates with Mahiro through the talisman, and in exchange for his help, she promises to find Aika’s killer. Her clan overthrew her to resurrect the Tree of Exodus, as opposed to safeguarding the Tree of Genesis, a duty which was her birthright and the Kusaribe clan’s destiny. But factions within the clan begin to see the Tree of Genesis as a threat, and the Tree of Exodus as the one way to safeguard the world, something that Hakaze sees as a betrayal. She needs Mahiro to act as her eyes and ears, and as her sword to put down this clan rebellion. Admittedly this gets pretty complicated, pretty quickly. Blast of Tempest attains the usual anime level of complexity and verbiage when it comes to the way its world of magic works, and it can get to feel like simple babble at points.
The thing is that it’s all secondary at the start of the show. What’s more important are the characters, and the emotions driving them. It all builds quite nicely to a confrontation at the midpoint of the show, where a stunning reveal about Hakaze’s exile to that desert island threatens to turns the whole thing on its head. I thought it was a brilliant twist, and one of the best, and most unexpected revelations I have seen in anime. That was episode 9. What followed was probably the worst handling of such a revelation that I have seen in anime. The show just stops for two episodes for characters to stand around and chop logic at each other. There’s this great battle going on, the conventional military are besieging a magical barrier, a talisman powered government agent is doing battle with a spear wielding magician, soldiers are being turned to metal, and in the middle of the barrier, Yoshino and Samon fire theory and speculation at each other in a battle for Mahiro’s loyalty. It’s convoluted and overcooked verbiage that I couldn’t pretend to follow, or worse, care about. In that respect it reminded me of another show that was all about choplogic, Spiral. And then episode 12 comes along, where two trees go to war.
Blast of Tempest starts as one of the best anime series to come from Japan in recent years, but at the drop of a hat plumbs the depths of mediocrity. Ironically, in an attempt to play it smart, it just appears to dumb it down. But my opinion is yet to be finalised about this show. Lots of series have weathered mid-season slumps worse than the one here, and if in its second part it can remember that the really interesting stuff revolves around Mahiro, Yoshino and Aika, then Blast of Tempest can still be salvaged.