Yuko and Eri are two normal girls who are sucked into the alternate world filled with tiny people. The people of this mysterious world sees them as their "Great Protectors" who can protect their land in a time of strife. The two girls set out on a mission with a group of warriors from the village to find out how they were brought here and how might they return home. However, there is a war brewing and these two Great Protectors are the political tool that every faction lusts for to rally the people to their side.
If you quickly pass by Strange Dawn thinking that it’s just a happy little kid’s adventure, then I’m afraid that you’re missing out on some interesting drama and political, bloody battles that are packaged in a simple, yet very unique design. If you’ve ever seen Kaiba or Shadow Star Narutaru, you’d know not to judge an anime by its cover. Strange Dawn is one of those anime—it’s warm and childish on the outside, but thoughtful and serious on the inside.
At first glance, the story of Strange Dawn doesn’t sound very unique at all. Two high-school girls get sent to another world and are expected to
save it; we’ve seen this concept before in popular shows like Fushigi Yugi, Inuyasha, Escaflowne, Magical Girl Rayearth, and so on. However, there is something special about Strange Dawn that really sets itself apart from the others, and that is its setting. Fantasy settings typically possess dragons, demons, magic, and elaborate kingdoms, but not this one. The two girls simply enter the land of the ‘little people,’ which are creatures that closely resemble human dolls.
Right from the very beginning, the girls are caught in a war between two countries, Griania and Baljidan, as they try to gain control over Belzeagle, the place that they end up protecting. Everyone calls them the “Grand Saviors,” but they are merely seen as giants who can be manipulated for power. The girls can hardly believe that these little people are capable of so much chaos and destruction, and it takes a long time for them to grasp the seriousness of the situation. The little people really stab each other, bleed, and die. It’s no children’s game.
The pacing is really slow in the first half, which turns a lot of people off. Most of the time, the characters are just hangin’ around and talking, but I think that this is important for establishing the characters and setting. In the second half, the story takes a giant leap into all the exciting drama and action. There is something horrible happening all of the time, and even the characters that are on the same side are constantly bumping heads.
My only gripe on the story is how it begins and ends. One word: Abrupt.
Ah, the charm of the series. The little people are packed with so much energy, personality, and drama that you can’t help but love them. We have the quiet and serious leader named Shall who strongly believes in the Grand Saviors, the chief’s daughter named Reca who has strong feelings for Shall, her best friend Mani, Princess Alia, and many more. It’s so much fun to watch them interact, and they have the most adorable character designs ever.
The two human girls, Yuko Miyabe and Eri Natsuno, are complete opposites. Yuko is loud and rude, and she takes no interest in the little people at all. On the flip side, Eri is soft and sympathetic, and she wishes to help them more often. Throughout the series, they angst, complain, and simply wish to return home. They also choose not to participate in most of the little people’s affairs; they just sit by and let bad things happen to them. These things can get annoying sometimes, but it all comes down to the idea that nothing ever feels quite real around them.
I really like how this series portrays their inconveniences, such as having no toilet, no change of underwear, no technology, etc. Anime tend to neglect these kinds of things, so I appreciate that they’re being treated as little important issues here. It makes you wonder how you would also fare in such a place where you don’t have the luxuries of a bathroom, a clothes store, or a McDonalds.
Yuko and Eri aren’t particularly special characters, meaning that they’re ordinary in every sense of the word. That might be boring to you, but I think they’re a nice break from other heroines who typically possess a special power that saves everybody in the end. Yuko and Eri just rely on their normal human strength to pull through hardships.
The OP song “Sora E” by Eri Kawai is beautiful, and it adds a wonderful atmosphere to the series. It is actually very addicting to listen to, but if that’s not enough, the instrumental version of the same song is played in the middle of every single episode. It’s a great tune, and hopefully you won’t get too tired of hearing it. The rest of the soundtrack is also very good, and it has a warm spot in my little OST collection, but the main theme song clearly stands out above the rest.
Despite that Strange Dawn looks so cute and fluffy, it actually has a pretty serious tone. The series throws away certain clichés that are typically found in ‘girl gets sent to new world’ premises, and the characters are incredibly charming and memorable. I’ll never forget the ‘little people.’ It’s just unfortunate that the series begins and ends so abruptly. Some interesting things that are mentioned are never fully explored, which is why I had to knock off a few points. But despite that, this is a good show. At the very least, listen to the gorgeous OP song.
Very obscure anime that I saw all of one time as a kid Arabic dubbed on TV and finally found again after years of wondering if I'd imagined it. And it is beautiful. Children's rating though? That's a lie - the only reason anyone would have to believe that this is a children's anime is the fact that the characters look like little Teletubbies. But it's an anime with lots of blood and violence, themes of war, love triangles and melodrama - heck, there's even (somewhat...) an attempted rape scene! If there's one major problem it's the very abrupt ending, as if the show had
been cancelled or something - but given that the beginning was just as out-of-nowhere and abrupt, it seemed kind of fitting.
The story talks about two high school girls, Natsuno Eri and Miyabe Yuko, who find themselves lost in a world inhabited by 'humans' that are barely 2 or 3 feet tall and have the body shapes of marshmallows. The anime literally just starts with them walking around in this world wondering where they are and how they got there, which I think is great; no time is wasted seeing what they were doing before they got there, or how they got there, or anything of the sort. The importance of the story happens in this fantasy world, and ends as soon as they leave.
The same could be said for the two main leads themselves actually, as while you're watching, you don't get the feeling the story is really about them either - they're just sort of there. There's nothing special about them other than the fact that they are three times the size of every other character, and the fact that their personalities are completely polar opposites. Insofar as the anime focuses on their struggles, it's mostly in the daily necessities that the fantasy world is sorely lacking in - bathrooms, sanitary napkins, a change of clothes - you know, the things that are never really addressed all that much in other anime, or any story really, that involves a character being transported to a past-times fantasy setting.
The real importance lies in the inhabitants of the fantasy world, the little people of Belzerg, who are trying to protect their village that's being caught in the middle of a war between two neighboring countries. These are the characters you'll find yourself caring about or hating, and these are the characters that go through trials and epiphanies and realizations by the end through their interactions with each other and the two main leads.
While I was watching the anime, I found myself able to enjoy it that much more after I decided to distance myself a bit from Miyabe and Natsuno and view them the way the little people did - as otherworldy beings with unimaginable powers, unable to empathize with human emotion. That way it made a bit more sense for their personalities to be so extreme, with Natsuno being quiet, uncertain, but trying to be helpful and Miyabe being loud, contrary, and completely uninterested. Even if you do try to put yourself in the girls' shoes though, when you think about it, their actions do still make sense - they don't really get full grasp of how serious these little people are taking their personal dramas and their war, and that their fights aren't just little squabbles but dangerous brawls with real weapons where people do die or get hurt, because the whole situation doesn't feel real to them, especially given the fact that, again, the little people look like baby Teletubbies.
Not to dump on the character designs though; they do look cute, and more importantly individualized, and the art and animation is actually more solid and fluid than you'd expect. I love the bright colors in the anime, and the music is simply breathtaking. The one that stands out the most would be the opening song. It was actually the opening theme I was looking for when I found this anime, as it was what I had remembered most from the Arabic dubbed version I'd seen before. It sounds just as gorgeous in its original Japanese as it did in Arabic, and I advise you to give both a listen even if you don't want to watch the rest of the anime. I actually hadn't planned to either, at the start, but after sampling the first few and continuing to end on a cliff hanger with each episode, I ended up watching the whole thing in two days (when I should have been studying for a midterm too...)