Based on the manga by Okazaki Takeshi begun in 1990.
After a family tragedy, Kagura is left with only his beloved friend Asami for consolation. Meanwhile, there is a war beginning in the spiritual world. Beings known as "Elementalors" call upon power from spirits to maintain harmony in the world by balancing individual forces of nature. Lord Shiki, a water Elementalor, kidnaps Asami in order to use special powers she posesses to retrieve his daughter, who has been imprisioned for nearly destroying the Earth. Kagura discovers that he is also an Elementalor—a very powerful one. He must join forces with other Elementalors to save Asami and prevent Lord Shiki from causing a great imbalance by releasing his daughter.
Seirei Tsukai, or Elementalors, is much like if Hideaki Anno were to have tried out the "Fate/Stay Night" formula. The setup is extremely similar to the "Fate" series with chosen humans, "Devas", who can summon up spirit warriors, "Elementalors", to battle in a war that's part of their destiny. The relation to Hideki Anno can be first understood when looking at the staff relations, one of the art directors and animation directors (also the character designer) having worked on the Rebuild's of "Evangelion" and the "Evangelion" series. Right off the bat, the first few seconds will likely trigger some comparisons to some imagery one might
see in "End of Evangelion", being the usage of water and body transforming. Seirei Tsukai isn't "Evangelion" though and has virtually no similarities in what it has to offer in its story, being much more of a motivator to "Fate/Stay Night" (Lancer is basically in this). It sounds like an interesting mixture to make that could have some nice potential, but sadly that potential can also be seen thwarted right when it begins.
The art design is solid while there isn't really anything uniquely astounding. The setting is a metropolis city that will continually become more apparent as piles of rubble, and the surrounding landscape has some coastlines and green hills. The world isn't too imaginative, but "Fate/Stay Night" wasn't either right? The animation and art quality itself is great in many ways. The color-scheme is where things are reminiscent of "Evangelion", the morphing of bodies and destruction also. It's all done very nicely, and the character also look well-proportioned to top it all. This movie is old though, and the line-work seems to be of not too high quality even when looking at sub-HD footage (not to say that it can be found in HD). There barely felt like any gimping of any visual quality to save on budget which also gave it more pleasant feeling. The art direction was also masterful in the ways it could make somewhat generic fantasy visuals become more powerful and intriguing. The visuals as a whole were genuinely impressive.
The sound is also noteworthy. It has a few well-done orchestrations, electronic orchestrations, and some fine piano. It all does work and makes the movie more enjoyable. Some of the background music was actually very catchy and I'll likely look out for the soundtrack. The ending credits song was also great and I listened to it quite a few times. The sound work to the effects was also done properly and the atmosphere was handled well. The sound director has done a number of other notable works, like Baccano!, and I think it's finally time for more attention to be given to him. There was also no issues with the voices and they all turned out fine.
So the superficial aspects to Seirei Tsukai seem to be doing good, but the contents have yet to be covered. To be short, pacing is the issue here. Things rushed by so quickly it took another viewing to understand just what happened within the first dozen minutes. Leagues of characters are introduced, some exposition given, but too much content for such a short time. It seemed like an introduction to a broad, fantasy universe while also acting as the beginning, climax, and finale of the plot. This movie should have either shot for the goal of introducing some fundamentals of the fantasy elements, or to not be a movie and be a series instead. It's similar to how the “Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works” movie felt in that it gave enough information to somewhat grasp everything, but felt rushed with rare moments to settle things in. “Unlimited Blade Works” had a television show to work with though (even though it was in an alternate setting) which made it not as necessary to give a solid backing to the characters.
I've read up that this movie is supposed to be an adaptation of the manga "Shouryou Tsukai Elementalors" by, the apparently talented-artist, Takeshi Okazaki. At the moment there's no relations listed, but I've sent in that request so it might be there in the future when this is read. Also, the manga hasn't been translated into english as of the end of 2014. The manga has four volumes and it seems as though this movie could've been made as an advertisement to it. I'd assume that four volumes, while not knowing how lengthy they are, could cover the plot found in this movie at a much more reasonable pace, maybe even adding in more details along the way. The only issue with that possibility though is that the story in this movie ends, so there isn't any ending one would have to continue to the manga for to find.
While there's bad pacing for the amount of content that should be told in the story, the disappointment comes more with the lost potential this setting had. While the rushing was able to make the plot finish within the run-time, the main interest actually came from the setting and the back-story of the character's within it. Even “Fate/Stay Night” was at its best, sometimes, during the slow moments where only development and exposition were being given. While it isn't wrong to say pacing is the issue, the real issue is actually the priorities this movie has. It would've almost been better to not bother trying to tell the whole story and just fill in details and treat the movie almost as a teaser to a potential television series.
There will be light spoilers in this paragraph, so if you want to stay spoiler-free, either stop reading or skip to the next paragraph. To make what's missing more clear, the movie starts in a peaceful metropolis, and within a minute the “elementalors” make their presence and begin to destroy the “weak”. We then quickly move into a plot involving some danger that happened during the last elementalor war that happened long ago, but no back-story is given to those past wars and to the politics of the “clans” involved. All of the elementalors, besides two or three, are given literally no development and are only able to present themselves though situational dialogue. We then have a random human girl make her appearance, in the havoc going on in the city, and she actually summons an elementalor with a ritual circle. That immediately makes the viewer wonder how exactly these elementalors are being brought into the world, as some are appearing on their own while others are being summoned. These are examples used from the beginning to show how intrigue is built up and could potentially make for a more detailed version of “Fate/Stay Night”. However, what is carried out here lacks the depth necessary which makes it more similar to the “Fate” movie than the series.
Again, the characters presented here are interesting and can be potentially good. What's lacking to make these characters good isn't that they are unreasonably nonsensical or annoying, but that they've been skimped of their details and development. They lack a solid purpose to their actions and cause, which goes right along with not delving too much into the explanations of the setting. I don't see the lack of explanations as a lack of being able to though, as it wouldn't be difficult at all to come up with something for this particular setting. What makes more sense is, again, the priorities. Things move too fast which allows for so little time for the setting to bake, which makes everything feel like a chain of events ran by random individuals. This lacking aspect also makes each character feel a bit more cliche as they have to get to the point quicker to make amends with the movie's run-time. In that process, some common anime antics are carried out, but even so I couldn't say these characters are all plain average. The main character could be related to how other weakling characters develop in anime, but somethng still feels like it's done in a way that's a tad more interesting. The main character's opposer also has some interesting outward character that could eb a nice fit with some personality, but he still isn't given enough to make him particularly good (even though he arguably has the most development behind him). Potential is really just spilling all over the floor with Seirei Tsukai. On a side note, Sephiroth is not in this. Again, neither is Sai *cough* I mean Lancer (this came out before “Fate”, by the way).
Seirei Tsukai is a more stylish and destructive take on the original "Fate/Stay Night" (can't relate to “Zero”, or the remake, as I haven't seen them yet). This spiritual war doesn't take place at night, but it isn't too hard to see the relations between the two. Seirei Tsukai feels more chaotic than "Fate/Stay Night" and feels like it could carry more depth than a simple yearly war of survival. There's a manga this is based on, and the story intrigued me enough to be willing to give it a shot once it is translated (likely by way of fansubs). I also noticed some curious similarities to a more recent series called, "Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance", which even carries the interchangeable title, "Blade Dance of the Elementalers" (Seirei Tsukai also having the title "Elementalors", but with an "O"). It could be that "Blade Dance" is a remake of the same story in a television format, and if that's so it'll be just what I'd like. However, seeing the far different art style immediately makes me know that the style that came with this movie won't be present there. The visuals and sound of this movie are really the better parts of it and brings a somewhat unique atmosphere. The atmosphere feels like a mixture of "End of Evangelion" and of the first moments in the television series "Neon Genesis Evangelion". It's craziness that goes on in broad daylight on a wonderful day. The characters act in a moderately cliche manner, but feel as though more explanations could make them more likable. Seirei Tsukai is a mess of unreached potential, yet good funding to make the superficial elements properly done. The priorities are an issue, but since the movie is rushed it would be hard to say there were too many dull moments because of it. Seirei Tsukai is recommended to those who don't require good characters and story to enjoy something, and those who can also find enjoyment in direction of visuals and sound. Reading the manga, or watching "Blade Dance of the Elementalers", may add to the experience - which I will update in this review after I've completed either one.
Seirei Tsukai leads us to a nostalgia trip to the 1990's and its typical battle shounen series: corny, cheesy and flashy, but ultimately engaging, with charismatic characters and awesome battles. Unfortunately, Seirei Tsukai takes only the lame elements from the shounen formula and slams them all into a 48 minutes mess.
The plot is very standard, as you can read in the synopsis: normal guy receives the "call to adventure" after his friend has been captured, and it turns out he is some kind of "chosen one". Thus, he needs to defeat the bad guy. The problem is not the lack of originality, specially since there
are some pretty interesting ideas, but the lazy storytelling. There's not enough time to actually care about what's going on, yet the movie insists on throwing plot element after plot element, until it simply ends, without even having a proper sense of closure. It's not an open ending, just a sub-par ending.
The animation itself is not bad, though obviously dated, and the battle sequences have some nice fluidity. However, none of this helps a lot when everything seems so bland. Have you ever seen the stereotypical shounen heroes that teen boys create when they are learning how to draw inspired by manga/anime? That's Seirei Tsukai's character designs for you. Odds are, you'll forget the characters' faces within 48 hours after watching it. As for the soundtrack, it's nothing spectacular, but decent enough.
It's possible that the lack of engagement is not because of the plot, but rather the characters. There are lots of examples of characters who are capable of stealing the spotlights and carrying the plot all by themselves due to their charisma, while some works choose to develop the main cast as a whole and offer meaningful relationships which the reader/viewer cares about. Similarly, poor characters can ruin the entire experience.
You'll probably not hate the characters, but you won't like them either. They are just actors fulfilling their roles on the stage, bi-dimensional figures moving around. This is supposed to be a sort of coming of age for Kagura, who sees himself completely alone in the world now that his sole emotional support has been gone and must awaken his inner powers to get the girl back, as a man. It could be charming, if it wasn't so literal. Kagura has no visible signs of actually maturing or coming to terms with his problems, he just pulls a magical power out of his ass and saves the day.
Yet, after all of this, Seirei Tsukai manages not keeping the viewer entirely bored. But don't give it much credit, as most of it derives from a feeling of nostalgia which summons the "inner kid" inside of people. It is, after all, an adventure filled with dangers, abilities and battles, such as Dragon Ball, Hokuto no Ken, Yu Yu Hakusho and other classics.
But the ultimate question for a battle shounen is: are the battles interesting? Well... they are nice to see, but hardly memorable or unique. And that's a shame, because the characters have such huge and almost unlimited abilities due to being able to manipulate elements. Compare this to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, which can consistently deliver exciting battles with simple abilities used in extremely clever ways, and you'll see that there's no real competition. Still, you shouldn't be very disappointed if you want to see some powerful warriors kicking each others' butts.
So, who is Seirei Tsukai recommendable to? Mostly nostalgia fans from the 1990's, and even so with some caution. Ultimately, however, it's just a superficial journey to the past, without anything remarkable on its own.
(Reviewed for the club "Reviews for the unreviewed")