On May 1, 1945 in Berlin, as the Red Army raises the Soviet flag over the Reichskanzlei, a group of Nazi officers conduct a ritual. For them, the slaughter in the city is nothing but the perfect ritual sacrifice in order to bring back the Order of the 13 Lances, a group of supermen whose coming would bring the world's destruction. Years later, no one knows if this group of officers succeeded, or whether they lived or died. Few know of their existence, and even those who knew began to pass away as the decades passed.
Now in December in the present day in Suwahara City, Ren Fujii spends his days at the hospital. It has been two months since the incident that brought him to the hospital: a fight with his friend Shirou Yusa where they almost tried to kill each other. He tries to value what he has left to him, but every night he sees the same dream: a guillotine, murderers who hunt people, and the black clothed knights who pursue the murderers. He is desperate to return to his normal, everyday life, but even now he hears Shirou's words: "Everyone who remains in this city eventually loses their minds."
If I had to describe Dies Irae, it’s this: confusing and frustrating. Almost every episode left me saying, “what the fuck is going on” or “what is happening”. But, in most cases, I just sit there looking confused and dazed as I try to piece together the events that happened this episode with the previous ones. After awhile, I sort of understand what is happening, but not without a few lingering questions. Questions that I hoped would be answered in the next episode, except they weren’t, leaving me even more confused and frustrated.
as though the creators or producers were expecting the viewers to have played the visual novel and use that as a guide for this series. Considering that this anime was created through fundraising raised by fans of the visual novel, it’s no wonder. As someone who has never played the visual novel, I can only say that this show feels rushed, contains many unexplained and poorly connected plot points, and unlikable characters.
Dies Irae is a mess. Since, the beginning of Episode 0, this anime has been a disaster. The two episodes begins as a sort of harem opening, where many female characters are introduced (i.e. Kasumi, Rea, Kei Sakurai, Rusalka Schwägerin, and later Marie). Later in Episode 2, it jumps to a random action dream sequence, where the ’Nazis’ test Ren if he’s worth or not and ask to see his powers. Like what? A rushed conversation with Rusalka is held on the roof of the school, which barely explains anything, and Kasumi's reveal lacked impact and felt rushed. Again what? Then comes along Episode 4, where almost everything is explained. Basically, the show is too rushed, and too uneven.
It took four episodes, not including Episode 0, to explain the motives of the ‘Nazis’, the backstory for this show, and Ren’s purpose; all told in the form of Kei's exposition. If that is not bad writing, I don’t what is.
If I had to summarize this show, it’s this: this show is following the Marie Route; Ren is supposed to be powered up by the Nazis so that he can act as a strong opponent for Reinhard Heydrich.
There are many plot-lines and concepts thrown around without any sense of connection, and too many unanswered questions, such as how is Ren being a clone important, why is Valeria Trifa trying to find the lost bloodline and why are they important, who is the girl locked with the skulls and skeletons, who the person that was with Riza during the flashback sequence, which of the twin did Riza pick to survive and which to kill, and when Bey was beginning to die who was the silver girl shown on screen, etc.
Besides the awful writing, terrible pacing and the many unanswered questions, there are many additional problems with this anime, such as the lack of tension and direction of the show, boring but necessary expositions in Episode 4 and 7, no hints or foreshadowing of future events (i.e. kasumi being possessed), and finally lack of relatable characters. But, at least the action was good, so there’s that.
This should have been a longer show, too many ideas and concepts were condensed into 11 episodes. And worst of all, it has an inconclusive TV ending with the introduction of an evil Nazi eye-patched character, therefore you must see the ONA (12-17) to understand the rest of the story. That is just stupid.
To be honest, I found the characters to be unlikable and unremarkable, even though some of them have proper character development and motives for their goals/wishes. I mean, obviously, the main character will get some character development, along with their backstory and motives explained. But, other characters that have proper development include: Kei Sakurai, and Marie. Everyone else falls into a secondary role, acting as a “challenger” to the main character, as a supportive character, or act as completely irrelevant.
Main Characters in the Show:
Ren Fujii is the main character, who hates blades in general as said in Episode 1, however as series progresses he himself gets a arm blade and is completely fine with it. No traumatic flashback, and no disgust, I found that strange, but whatever. To be honest, he has a really dull personality, and is only important because all the ‘Nazis’ want him to be strong and a badass, so that he can fight Reinhard Heydrich properly. A sudden revelation in Episode 7 reveals that Ren was a clone created by Kasumi's father as “the bastard child of Karl Krafft,” and originally called Zarathustra. But, how is this relevant to the story, the anime fails to explain this.
Marie is a girl, who first appears at a sword exhibition and then in Ren’s dreams. Her origin story is explained in Episode 5, where it’s revealed that she is the soul within the guillotine and Ren forms a contract with her, thus enabling Ren to use the guillotine blade. Further on, there are many cheesy and cute moments, such as wanting to be the ‘fifth member’ of their group of friends in school, going clothe shopping with Ren and Kasumi, protecting Ren in Episode 10 when he unconscious, etc. And while, I though it was lame, it does show that Marie cares deeply about Ren and his friends.
Kei Sakurai is the youngest member of the Obsidian Round Table after Beatrice Kirchisen passed away eleven years ago. She acts as a teacher for Ren, offering advice on how to use his powers and improve his levels beyond activity and formation levels. Her wish is revealed in Episode 9 and 10, where it states that she killed thousands of people just to resurrect some family members and to put an end to the curse that plagues her family. I found her intentions terrible and unjust, but again whatever. Her transformation sequence is also terrible and disappointing as all she gains is flames around her.
“Challengers” in the Show:
There are quite a few characters in this section, but I will only talk about two of them. The remaining characters, such as Riza, Eleonore Von Wittenburg, Rote Spinne, and even Rusalka Schwägerin, despite providing crucial information in Episode 3, performing the massacre in Episode 8, and appearing in other moments, did not have much character development or background stories. This is especially true for Eleonore Von Wittenburg, who only fights Ren in Episode 10, and Rote Spinne, who fights and is killed by Ren in Episode 4. Riza has a special backstory told in Episode 9, however its connection to the overall story is very ambiguous.
Reinhard Heydrich (“Lord Heydrich”) is the main villain of the show, who makes an official introduction in Episode 6, where he appears from the Heavens and kicks the shit out of Ren. He is the leader of Longinus Dreizehn Orden and Obsidian Round Table, although it doesn’t matter as each organization is slowly decreasing in membership. Then, in Episode 7, we learn about his true wish, in which he wants to escape the perpetual sense of déjà vu that he's trapped in. To be honest, I found his wish, stupid and laughable.
Valeria Trifa, in the beginning appeared as a clueless, perverted priest, however as the series progresses we see that his true intention are elsewhere. The anime heavily suggests that he’s helping Ren, and Lord Heydrich and his associates, basically he plays for both sides. Furthermore, it seems like he’s trying to find the lost bloodline associated with the Round Table, however its connection to the show is also very ambiguous.
Supportive Characters in the Show:
Shirou Yusa is Ren's childhood best friend, who is a thrill seeker and the person who mysteriously disappeared in Episode 1. However, his sudden appearance in Episode 5 changes everything. He now act as the boss for an underground club, somehow gains lots of money from his rich girlfriend, and has this odd ability called, “déjà vu”, which allows him to dodge/react to any incoming attacks and thus prevent being killed. However, some questions came to mind: how did he get these abilities, and why did he take lots of damage in Episode 1, when he could have easily dodged Ren’s attacks? Sill, these are minor questions, and his role in the story was significant, from providing crucial information to assisting in the fights against the Nazis.
Kasumi Ayase is a loud-mouth, obnoxious neighbor and childhood friend. She acts very masculine, as evidenced by being a member of the kendo club, and has an unyielding personality. Her importances in the story are explained in Episode 3, however the way the material and information was presented felt extremely rushed and anticlimactic. And, from Episode 3 onwards, she is used more for comedy relief and as the damsel-in-distress, for multiple events.
Irrelevant Characters in the Show:
Rea “Theresia” Himuro’s character is strange, in that, while she occasionally appears in the anime, she doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall story. In fact, she acts more as the popular upperclassman and comedy relief, who eats weird spicy bread, keeps her distances from others, and has a monotone voice with a mostly flat expression. Her only contribution/relevance was to unlock the chains off of Ren in Episode 7, beyond that she was completely irrelevant. Still, the anime hints that there is a deeper backstory to her, unfortunately the anime fails to show it.
Another character, who makes one or two appearances in the anime, is a girl trapped with a bunch of skeletons and skulls. But, similar to Rea, the anime fails to answer who she is, what’s her backstory, and what’s her role in the overall story.
The art is mediocre at best. The character design is passable; they all have some freaky eye design with crosses and other strange objects reflected in it, and they somewhat have the same face design. The only differences between characters are their different color hairs and their hair styles, and certain distinctive neck scars, although this only applies to two characters. Most usage of CG was to render specific objects, such as red skulls, skeletal claws, transformations, blades, etc, and their usage were well intended and great, however the constant use of red skulls to remind viewers that he’s a ‘bad guy’ was overdone and repetitive. Some problems with the art includes, the unrealistic pool of blood and blood splatters, the hazy filters to indicate a dream-sequence was annoying and terrible looking, and the general lack of background details, making them look plain and cheap.
Most of the animations in this show was done pretty well, such as the good action scenes and sequences in the park, the bridge, and in the school, and general character movements. Still, there were some questionable animations, for example: the awkward dancing sequences/movements in Episodes 7 and 8 where the characters either stood there or appeared to be rocking back-and-forth, the many still shots of our main characters doing mundane activities, and the limited fight choreographies. Overall, both the art and animations were satisfactory, providing just enough details and movement to entertain the viewers.
The voice acting is pretty good as every voice actor or actresses fulfills their roles, whether they are the villain, or secondary or main characters. Still there was a moment, where I laughed as I realized almost every character talks in a deep, sinister, and threatening voice like they are the most badass person on the planet.
The opening song is sung by Yui Sakakibara and accompanied with electric guitars, drums, a mixed choir, and organ music, while the background display shocking images, such as skulls and bones, guillotines, Nazis, religious crosses, monsters and mechs, a red moon, and closeup shots of eyes and what they see. The ending song is sung by Phero☆Men (i.e. Suwabe Junichi and Jinguuji Ren) and accompanied with drums, guitars, and keyboard, set to ending credits. The opening song, in my opinion, was okay, and not as impactful as compared to the ending song. The ending song, on the other hand, created an ominous feeling of ‘something bad’ was going to happen, which was perfect for this show. And the use of choir and organ sounds, in the opening intro, also added layers of ominous feelings, despite the decent vocals and lyrics.
Now, the use of background music was hit-or-miss. There were moments where it worked and moments where it fell flat. For moments where it worked, here are some examples: the use of heavy rock music during fight scenes adding more intensity to the fights, the use of Messa da Requiem - dies irae as the character musical introduction for Lord Heydrich creating the impression that a badass was appearing, and finally the use of organ music and dramatic vocals for when a villains shows up brought dread and despair. For moments where it didn’t worked, here are some example: the use of organ music during important conversations to create a moody and intense atmosphere, and the priest’s ‘drama-filled’ conversation with Riza in the school.
What enjoyment? I had more moments of confusion than enjoyment. Enjoyment is the last word I would use for this series. In fact, I felt more relief towards the end of every 23 minute episode, knowing that it’s done; never to be watched again.
This show is a disaster. This isn't something I say lightly. On a basic level Dies Irae is a complete and utter failure on almost every possible level. And knowing that (at the time of this review) there are still web exclusive episodes left is a harrowing thought.
I have not read the visual novel, in fact I was dared to watch this show, having not read it. As somebody who hasn't read the VN Dies Irae is baffling. Characters teleport around, change powers and appearances, and have momentary appearances in the show for seconds before randomly becoming important later. Of course, this is because much
of the VN content has been cut out, this is an adaptation of the final route. (Although strangely there is anime original content too.)
Even still, Dies Irae's "plot" manages to be simultaneously simple and overly complex, with lots of extra, needless characters with unknown motivations. Even a cursory flashback isn't afforded to those who aren't already intimately familiar. And with good VN adaptations out there, it isn't good enough these days.
But even looking beyond my own ignorance of the source material, this anime is a mess. The animation quality ranges from mid-budget 2005 harem show to local YouTube animator getting his hands on a CGI program. Characters are consistent in them being completely off model, the CGI is laughable and jarring, and the show can't even afford some frames for the fight scenes. For an action show there is a severe lack of action.
The characters are very rarely explained, the vast majority of the important backstory for them being cut from the show in favour of more CGI skeletons. The main character is incredibly boring, and his friends and allies even more so. The enemy side shows a little more personality, but there's so many of them that you'll quickly forget names and faces. They rotate out every other episode meaning none of them have much impact and even fewer do anything of significance to the narrative.
Any momentary enjoyment that you might feel from the over dramatic presentation and bad German will quickly be removed as the show bores you to death with long episodes consisting entirely of exposition, that fail to actually explain anything. Be warned, the chuuni appeal does not last for long.
The sound sucks, with some really phoned in voice performances from everybody involved.
A wise man once said: "There is no Tsukihime anime."
His august thought, pregnant with knowledge and brightness can fit any visual novel adaptation perfectly. To ruin a magnificent novel by an unspeakable, abominable, despicable, damned monstrosity of an adaptation is a grave sin one could say.
Great books don't make great movies, or series in this instance.
So I say: "There is no Dies Irae anime."
Really just read the VN, it's available on Steam, you won't regret spending those sixty hours reading it. It is a magnificent story filled with so much thought you won't be able to remove it from your thoughts (unless you don't
like reading then I guess nothing can help at this point).
I am still hoping it will be remade, like what happened with DEEN's Fate.
I can get why people have a problem with this show. The pace is quite uneven, the story isn´t that coherent, much is not explained, and the clear haram vibe can be a turn off. I haven´t read/played the popular visual novel that the anime adaption is built on, so I can´t say if it´s a good adaption or not. However, I actually quite liked the show, its just demand that you are focused on the bits and pieces of information you get, and that you puzzle them together yourself. But before we dig into the actual review, some background information can be good.
understand the title “Dies Irae”, the show actually makes more sense when you know the meaning of it.
“Dies Irae” is contrary to what many believe (me at the beginning as well), is not German, it´s Latin. Directly translated it means “Day of wrath”, and I found out when googling some, that it is a real psalm text about the absolute dooms day, which has an old catholic origin, and were translated to German in the 1700th. Dies Irae, is the day the world will be dissolved in ashes, much like the Vikings “Ragnarök”. Which basically telling you which direction this show will take.
Now when we cleared that out, let´s take a look at how “Dies Irae” were as a show.
The fractions of the show that let you in on the plot, weren´t that bad at all. An old society of super powerful mages, with some dark plans and a big end game, the origin of the main character Ren and his friends Kasumi and Shirou, the connection with the mages powers and human souls, and the techniques and incantations they use to preform magic, are all some interesting parts. But it´s just that, it´s just fractions of those bits throughout the show, which never were explored or explained to an extent that would have taking the show from “this is kind of cool” to “kind of really damn good” level.
As for the 0 episode, if you didn´t get it the first time, re-watch it after the 7th episode, it fits pretty good there, and the episode will make since.
The show has some of its focus on other parts, such as the harem part (yes, it´s very harem influenced, hence the several routes), surprisingly much slice of life, and some fights that felt kind of pointless in the beginning, besides present many of the villains as psycho sadistic assholes (with a few exceptions). Personal opinions aside, many of the characters are stereotypes with a twist, and used as such. For example, the childhood friend that wishes she now would be teenager MC´s girlfriend, MC´s rival male childhood friend, and a loli-looking tsundere senpai. But at the same time, I weren´t bored with them, they had enough importance in what´s was unfolding, and interesting enough personalities.
Some explanations of the circumstances and certain characters place in the story are provided during the watch, but they could´ve have focused much more on those parts to really make it interesting.
Besides that, I actually looked forward to watching a new episode each week. “Dies Irae” grow steadily on me, and had something that made me not only keep watching it, but looking forward to it. And that may been partly because of the plot development, it takes a little bit of a lift in the 7th episode, and partly because of the soundtrack. Some of the soundtrack is some real high-class pieces; German classic-music-orchestras, sometimes with some good opera. Which fitted the atmosphere of “Dies Irae” really well, with the German inspired uniforms, plot-base, and names. And after googling some more, I found out that the incantations the mages preform is individual, and are based on famous German literature and operas like Wagner and Goethe (the quote which is seen in every episode, just after the opening, is from Goethe´s two pieced tragedy). The rest isn´t too bad either, with some nice rock pieces fitting the darker theme. The opening "Kadenz" by Yui Sakakibara, is engaging and presents the mode and spirit of the show well. It´s a lot of characters and connections, which the visuals do a good job of displaying. With the highlight being the ending song, "Opera” by Phero☆Men. If not watch the show, just look that one up, it’s pretty great, it was the best part of the show according to me. The VA´s were well matched, with a nice sounding Japanese accent.
I liked the art and animation. The character design seemed to be somewhat similar to Kouta Hirano´s works (the man behind Hellsing), with their specific hair styles, eye and face shapes, long limbs and bodies, gloves and uniforms with Nazi-Germen design. Which is in my opinion isn´t a bad thing, I´m a big fan of his work. To see the similar style in another show, was just a plus. The animation, by studio A.C.G.T, is absolutely decent, it often looks pretty good. Nice colours, backgrounds, effects for the super natural/magic parts, and the fight scenes were fluid and interesting enough.
So, to round things up, I actually did enjoy most of my time with “Dies Irae”.
Especially after I looked up some information, that gave the show the platform it needed. Some will be explained throughout this first 11 episodes, and since the show is scheduled for at least 6 more episodes (ONA), it has the opportunity to grow in that department, and give the show a solid feeling. The soundtrack, opening, and ending were worth the time on its own, I´m still a bit surprised about how good they were. And the Kouta Hirano inspired art were a clear plus as well. I will definitively check out the visual novel it based on, I haven´t had the craving for a game in a while, but Dies definitively awoke up that feeling a bit.