During a protracted civil war that pitted the North against the South, the outnumbered Northerners used dark magical arts to create monstrous super-soldiers—Incarnates. Now that the war has ended, those Sacred Beasts must learn how to make their way in a peaceful society, or face death at the hands of a Beast Hunter...
Nancy Schaal Bancroft, the daughter of an Incarnate soldier who met an untimely end at the hands of one such Beast Hunter, turns to hunting the hunter herself. But once she catches up with her quarry, she discovers hard truths about the lives of the Incarnates...
Something always bothered me about shows that mixes fantasy, drama, and tragedy. Most of them always seems to follow the path of a dark past or event that changes a protagonist’s view of the world forever. It’s some of the most cliché writing that easily gets milked into a storyline and the authors would expand on it seemingly forever. When watching this show called Katsute Kami Data Kemono-tachi e (To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts), I had a similarly eerie feeling. If you thought this Spring 2019's Fairy Gone was garbage, this isn't much better.
The practice of using a background story episode as its opener isn’t
too uncommon these days. It’s what we get from the very first episode as we meet the Incarnates, soldiers with the ability to transform into supernatural beasts. They are essentially living weapons of war. It didn’t long for the show to unravel the war drama that adapts the overall story tone into an unsettling conflict. To be frank though, I find the opening episode to be a clever way of hooking the audience. It managed to captivate me into the premise. After all, the idea of humans becoming Incarnates sparks curiosity on how much they can change. Soldiers who became these monsters also have to deal with the aftermath of this war and the way humanity judges them. This story follows the plot of a young girl named Nancy Schaal Bancroft who becomes a Incarnate hunter after a certain tragedy.
Before coming to understand the full concept of the show, you should realize the brainchild behind this franchise. Mangaka Maybe has been known to mix a variety of genres into their work. However, most often, he tends to add elements of fantasy or drama as in the case of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and Tales of the Wedding Rings. This show takes the tone into a more serious direction as you see the consequences of war and how it affects humanity. Everything so far seems like the anime has a degree of storytelling potential until you understand the main cast. Can we just talk about how unbalanced the characters are?
First, we got Hank, the Beast-Human hunter. Being a gloomy man with a vengeance, he has no time for foolishness and is hard to approach. The first episode establishes his hate for Cain, the main antagonist of the series. In fact, Cain is the catalyst of Hank’s character change and he seeks revenge as an avenger. The idea of revenge is a major source of motivation for at least two main characters. Schaal also holds a similar goal in her mind although the story makes her into a much weaker character compared to Hank. I can’t fandom how annoying she gets as the story progresses with each episode. The more I watch Schaal, the more I see her as a damsel in distress. She even has hard time making important choices in life and often seems to need someone to lend her a hand. The relationship dynamics between her and Hank is a strange one as even when they understand each other more, the two feels very distant between each other. With how their relationship develops, let’s just say that it’s hardly emotional. The ‘monster of the week’ format puts the duo into compromising positions but it’s usually Hank doing the dirty work. Even with an elephant gun in her hands, she seems very useless on the battlefield. For instance, she gets captured by an Incarnate and almost ends up being dead if it wasn’t for Hank. In later episodes, the show seeks to make us feel sympathetic for her because of the circumstances about her father. But honestly, I don’t buy it. In a time of despair and tragedy, she’s not the only one suffering inside. Unfortunately, you’ll hardly need a tissue when watching this anime because the storytelling’s emotional elements lacks impact. And at the end of the day, it's easy to point fingers at how weak Schaal is as a character.
That brings to another question, what about the rest of the cast? To be honest, most of them feels like filler characters with little to zero development. One of the more noticeable cast is Liza who serves as a sort of mentor and big sister to Schaal. The other noticeable character is Elaine Bluelake, who ends up being dead before the main story timeline begins. It’s what sets the main conflict between Hank and Cain. So if you’re actually expecting some sort of meaningful character study, prepare for disappointment. The reality is that a majority of Incarnates in the show suffer from psychological problems. They struggle between the balance of their humanity and monstrous side. Unfortunately, most of these Incarnates are used as plot devices and amplifying the themes of the show. It also tries to evoke a form of emotion but hardly succeed. Ask yourself how many of these Incarnates you can remember by heart when the show is over. For me, that’s almost zero. Oh for God's sake, why does Cain make me want to turn the TV off every time I see his face?
Studio MAPPA managed to animate the show to fit the time era of the mid-19th century. It’s actually refreshing to see an anime in this timeline for its aesthetics. Even character uniforms in the show is distinctive while the Incarnates are crafted with grotesque elements. It evokes a sense of fear once you realize the threat they pose to humanity. On the other hand, the character emotive performances is a letdown. Some character expressions often looks forced such as Schaal during her emotional outbursts. Hank always has a stoic face that borderlines on emotionless. It’s what drags down their character chemistry and ultimately makes the pair unremarkable. But if you’re in this show for its graphic violence, fan service, and dark fantasy action, that may leave some more favorable impressions. Maybe's cheeky humor writing is also noticable sometimes in the right and wrong ways.
With just 12 episodes, it won’t take long to get through the journey. However, this journey is not built on a masterful storytelling plot or creative cast. Instead, it ends up being a madhouse of generic clichés. I hate using that word but it’s how this anime played its cards. Should you watch this anime anyway? That’s up for you to decide in the end. I’m not your dad. But with everything this series showed us, this isn’t one to brag about to your friends.
Medieval fantasy anime are rare these days as compared to genres like rom-com and sci-fi. The good ones, even more so. As a fan of the genre, I’m always interested when I see a show set in the medieval age, hence To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts instantly caught my attention after I saw the PV. From the studio that had produced Zankyou no Terror, Zombieland Saga and Yuri!!! On Ice in recent years, there was cause for excitement, even though the PV had made it clear that this was a low-budget anime as compared to the other hits the studio has had.
From the beginning, To
the Abandoned Sacred beasts throws us into a war between the North and the South, with the South dominating the war for the most part until the North delved their hands into something they should never have: transforming humans into all-powerful beasts of destruction and war. The humans who’d been the victims of this were made to believe that they were special, revered by their army but on the inside, the entire populace was terrified of them. However, such beasts were only going to be useful until the end of the war. As soon as that ended, the army always wanted to get rid of these creatures who, in their view, threatened their existence. That’s pretty much the premise of the story. Not bad. Unoriginal, but the execution was fairly well handled at the start.
Now, that’s where the problems begin. There comes a time when you get bored of the same script every episode over and over again. Find an Incarnate, hear about how they’ve been ravaging stuff around the area, talk to them, and then at the end of the episode, eliminate them. That’s the formula that was followed throughout the season. The repetitive nature of the plot had me rolling my eyes from boredom at times.
We’ve got two main protagonists: Hank Henriette and Schaal Bancroft.
Hank Henriette, the charismatic leader of these Sacred beasts or incarnates, as they’ve been called, is a pretty straight-forward character to understand. Being betrayed by your best friend, who also kills your lover is an easy way to make yourself hate someone, isn’t it? He’s about the only incarnate who’s neither lost his humanity completely nor wants to eradicate humanity for what they’ve put all of the Incarnates through. The threat posed by these mindless beasts who were once his comrades in arms is understood by Hank, hence he takes the mantle of eliminating them before they cause any further damage to society upon himself. And we follow his encounters with his fellow incarnates. Hank rarely showed emotions, keeping himself focused on his goal for the most part.
The second protagonist is the daughter of one of the Incarnates. Loved by her adopted siblings, her father as well as the village, Schaal is an exuberant spirit full of positivity until he sees what’s happened to her father, who’s body had changed into a dragon permanently. Even so, she never hesitates to treat him as the same father she once knew. When one day Hank arrives and kills his father, she goes into rage and vows to track down his killer. As she meets and gets to know Hank though, she decides to accompany him and see for herself the reason for which her father had to be killed. As time passes, she begins to sympathize with Hank. Watching their interactions and relationship develop is one of the better points in the show.
Talking about the animation, I was extremely disappointed. I was expecting a lot better from MAPPA, who’d done such amazing work in the past. Far too many of the battle scenes, which are supposed to be the best animated panels, are crappily done for the most part. The character designs are better but nothing to write home about. The soundtrack is meh, the voice acting okay. I guess they really had a low budget because there was one soundtrack they kept repeating over and over again in tense situations.
The animation or the sound aren’t the factors that brought down the show for me though. The culmination of what Hank and Schaal did throughout the season didn’t have much of a payoff. The first few episodes were interesting, then the loop begins, ending on the same note. This may work for comedy, but doesn’t for action fantasy. The story had potential to develop into an intriguing story that shows the grey side of human nature. But alas, it never took off after the first episode.
***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS; READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION***
To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts, which I will be calling ‘Sacred Beasts’ for the sake of brevity, is much like a young aspiring student, bursting with ideas yet lacking a proper way of expressing them. This student also suffers from the faults of poor time management and a shoddy work ethic, treading through obstacles that hinder the reach of his or her full potential. Sacred Beasts can be thought of as a big project of said student with such great ideas presented, but a far cry from a professional effort, and one that mainly exists as a
stepping stone for something greater in the future. If we put aside such a liberating outlook, this show is really an unfortunate result of what should have been much more. Enticing concepts are held within a product that lacks confidence in itself, with none of its concepts being properly fleshed out.
With its first episode, Sacred Beasts starts off with a bang, kicking off with the beloved Incarnates unleashing their might on their helpless adversaries, with a majestic and opulent soundtrack to applaud and accentuate their heroic endeavors. In terms of presentation, the first episode is a success in many ways. So much so, in fact, that you’ll likely manage to look past the numerous writing issues. Consistent storytelling is something that Sacred Beasts struggles with constantly, but it’s Mappa themselves who managed to compile so many of these problems into their own anime-exclusive introduction. The writing in this episode is so shot full of holes that it’s a shining example of why you should proofread your own draft well before your deadline.
It begins with a horde of soldiers, equipped with nothing more than a rifle, charging towards a gigantic stone wall that is the enemy base. Behind them is a squad of cannoneers firing at the wall seconds after. In real life, no squad in their right mind would even think of doing this, as it’s a fast ticket to a mass suicide of your pawns. If this episode cared at all about logical consistency, the least it would do is have the cannons fire first, and have the soldiers charge once a breach is made. Even then, breaching a major fortification in the Civil War would realistically take days with siege artillery and engineers, none of which are seen here. This scene was obviously a gateway to introducing the Incarnates, presenting the enemy base as a powerful force with normal soldiers being wiped away in its territory, contrast to the Incarnates who come to annihilate it like nothing. But there’s not much comparison to make with soldiers stupidly throwing their life away with no apparent plan.
The arrival of the Incarnates itself also begs the question of why they were never shot at despite being well into the territory of the base. This scene veers into the level of B-movie writing where any and all logic is disregarded to make something look cool. Plot armor this horribly blatant only degrades the weight that this sequence holds, and is not worth the epic arrival of these heroes trekking along the battlefield like it’s become a stage auditorium.
As if this isn’t enough, a third major issue presents itself in a scene where Abi, the Hydra Incarnate, talks to Elaine about his apprehension that he might be losing control of himself; foreshadowing his own role as the first apparent case of an Incarnate going berserk. So what lets this incident follow through? Abi says “just kidding” to Elaine, and thus this suspicion is left unattended. No researcher in her right mind would ignore a potential disaster like this, especially not the one and only researcher on these lethal experiments.
And this is within the first eight minutes, showing little or no concern with a logical setup and throwing us headfirst into the second act. This first episode excels in generating hype and selling the experience, but with the demand of a robust suspension of disbelief. These issues would be egregious in any story, and perhaps wouldn’t matter so much in a series with such an emphasis on spectacle. Yet it’s beyond this point where Sacred Beasts’ true ambitions are made clear.
Ostensibly, the story of Sacred Beasts mainly exists as a scaffolding for epic battles between the Incarnates. But Sacred Beasts wants to hold the honor of being more than this by posing as a character drama, enacting the monumental tragedy of bestial war heroes meeting their end at the hands of those who fear they have lost their humanity. This story-driven approach is something Sacred Beasts is confident in pushing mindless spectacle aside for, and to its credit, its narrative concepts could have really elevated the series to its aspired heights. For this reason it’s a shame to see these manifested in what’s ultimately a safe product; one that’s too simplistic and short-sighted with its storytelling to really leave an effect.
As we follow Hank Henriette and Nancy Schaal, their difference in characterization is clear: Schaal connects easily with others and surmises the supposedly soulless Incarnates to have some humanity. Hank on the other hand passively endures Schaal’s protests as he carries out what he believes to be the only solution with the Incarnates: death. This is the basis of their interplay, and Sacred Beasts sadly doesn’t make the most out of their chemistry. Most of their interactions are interchangeable from the outset to the turning point in episode 6. Hank and Liza locate their target, Schaal protests through conjecture, Liza intervenes in Hank’s defense, Hank reaches his destination, and the Incarnate is inevitably slain. A repetitive structure can work so long as the main leads are engaging enough to uphold it, and these characters sadly aren’t, as the story is far more focused on delivering that one emotional gut-punch with its Incarnate-of-the-week setup.
That said, these characters aren’t completely static, as there’s a significant point where Hank and Schaal get somewhat more comfortable with each other. It’s comforting to see Schaal act kinder to Hank than before by sewing his clothes and making good company with him, and Hank being friendlier with her and opening his nearly impenetrable shell. After two episodes of working together, this is the kind of development they needed, and it’s a valuable moment for this reason. However, valuable as it is, it’s a shame that the dialogue is just as flat as ever, written more like a description of these characters and their histories than a genuine human exchange.
Bland dialogue is something that Sacred Beasts is plagued with. A majority of exchanges between characters are woefully lacking in personality and wit, divulging information in such an inorganic manner that makes the events all the more distant. With how much time is spent on military negotiations, plans of action, and other things in place of spectacle, the least they could do is provide some engaging dialogue to spice up the experience. Instead it’s just a case of enduring our way through tedium to the next predetermined outcome, hoping that something meaningful will come of it in the end.
That ‘something’ is obviously the emotional or cathartic finality of an Incarnate. We insert into this story as Hank, who already has a strong attachment to the comrades he dispatches, but as viewers we have little reason to care. While Hank’s company with these people during the war comes to a tragic close, we don’t experience that company ourselves outside of a brief flashback. This is a major factor in why Hank’s turmoil feels so distant, and is also perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in Mappa’s anime-exclusive introduction.
It’s made all the worse when Sacred Beasts tries to compensate by dramatizing the Incarnates’ plight to a groan-inducing level. For a show that wears moral ambiguity on its sleeve, it’s quite hellbent on telling us how to feel, with the worst offender being the death of Daniel Price. If this scene only relied on the Robin Hood-esque motive and the mourning of his loved ones, that would be enough to sell the ordeal as morally ambiguous and heartbreaking, especially to an outsider like Schaal. The melodrama and shoehorned flashback intended to tug harder at the viewers’ heartstrings is doomed to backfire with a character having less than 3 minutes of screentime before death.
However, I’d be lying if I said I felt no connection to these Incarnates, although it’s hardly an emotional one; it’s more of a fascination. For instance, Theodore’s fear of death had manifested into the making of an entire fortress, and what’s interesting is that this is what he was taught by Hank. There’s also the revelation where Theo’s incoming death happens to wash away his fear at last, something that’s true to the character and separates him from other Incarnates. Additionally, the Behemoth’s want to see the ocean with Hank trying to lead him there is a pretty great end twist, with a merciful lack of hamfisted drama. And thirdly, Trice’s belief that she’ll never be human again is one many of us can connect with. Sacred Beasts is at its best when it draws on this aspect rather than nearly drowning itself in its liking for melodramatic sob-story deaths. It’s fortunate that every once in a while it comes up for a breath, notably with Topher the Gargoyle in episode 5. Sacred Beasts is determined to make each major Incarnate engaging, and to an extent, it was successful. It’s just a shame that formulaic plots and flat dialogue weigh their respective episodes down. These resolutions certainly shine on their own, with Behemoth’s arc being my personal favorite, but that hardly salvages the episodes that hinge so much on those conclusions to be worthwhile.
Distant characters is hardly the only major problem with the story, however. There’s a frustrating pattern with the writing in which it neglects to found a logical setup for the events that follow, which makes it harder to take the the events seriously. Much of this is apparent in the first episode alone, but the problems only begin there. The Incarnates perhaps wouldn’t be running amok to begin with if the military thought for a minute about how lethal they are. A competent authority would have these living weapons confined or at least under strict supervision to ensure that what could go wrong doesn't go wrong. Additionally, it’s quite uncharacteristic of Hank to let someone as defenseless as Schaal to come with him into Theodore’s trap-filled fortress. Considering his goals and his position, you’d think the last thing Hank would be fine with is to put an innocent life at risk. Sure, he asks Schaal if she’s sure about coming with him, to which Schaal promises that she won’t cause him trouble. But that shouldn’t be enough to sway anyone with a sense of responsibility, let alone someone as sentimental as Hank.
To be fair, there are moments where Sacred Beasts avoids these drawbacks. Episode 2 for example handles the villagers’ suspicions of William Bancroft rather competently. William is suspected to have killed livestock, yet the villagers acknowledge that they don’t have tangible evidence. Because of this, they take the safe measures of putting a cowbell on William and taking the children to a distant location. On one hand I applaud this scene for having characters behave realistically in this situation, yet on the other I lament that villagers are sadly more sensible than those in the military.
In fact, plenty of these other moments show how just a simple fix could make all the difference. Certain plot points disregard how stringent the military should be with their assets, and once you bring those moments to light, it can bring forth many ideas that probably seem obvious in retrospect. In episode 4, for example, Schaal makes her way to a confined Behemoth to converse with him, but we never see her actually getting permission to do so, when logically those in charge would be selective in who is allowed to get in close proximity to a large untamed beast. We don’t see the military having any issue whatsoever with letting Schaal, a civilian, walk up to a monster that the people were fearful of to the point of strapping down in place. For all we know she could’ve gotten permission off-camera, but it’s not a good practice of any writer to have viewers assume something improbable to fill plot holes themselves.
This particular oversight would have an easy fix. Just show a scene of Schaal getting permission to come close to the beast with a solid reason for them to let her in, and suspension of disbelief would largely remain in tact. A good step further would be having someone assist Schaal during her visit and perhaps even a prolonged exchange of the guards being convinced by Schaal or each other to let her pass.
Better yet, instead of seeing her get permission, we could have a scene where Schaal sneaks out at night, stealthily making her way past guards to get to her business with Behemoth. This would not only be a simple fix, but also one that could provide a tense and engaging situation where Schaal steps out from the back seat and acts without the help of Hank or Liza. It’s the perfect scenario where someone as inexperienced as Schaal could take action. There are plenty of ways to iron out these kinds of issues in your draft. You just have to get a little creative.
For some people, this sort of creativity would have really uplifted the 7th episode with the zombified William Bancroft, or Nidhogg. It’s a common opinion that simply bringing him back to life is an incredibly cheap way to develop Schaal. To an extent I agree with this, but it’s not something I’m personally bothered with. An “asspull” it might be, but we’re given an explanation on why this particular Incarnate has revived. Honestly, in a world where myths are made real through science, I’m willing to accept much of anything related to it, however outlandish as it may be. There are very few rules shared by each and every Incarnate, as they’re all unique in some way. So learning that William has some sort of regenerative ability isn’t going to weigh down the experience for me. Perhaps from a writing standpoint, it can be seen as lazy, and there are likely much better ways to enact Schaal’s change of heart in a similar manner, but it serves its purpose well enough to where I can let it slide.
However, in that same episode is something much, much harder for me to let slide, and that is Liza casually handing to Schaal the Godkiller bullets, ammunition that is very rare and isn’t supplied to the regular soldiers battling Nidhogg. This is something that myths-made-real cannot excuse. It’s clearly done by the writer to give Schaal the chance to face her father, yet Liza has no reason to value Schaal’s growth over her own duties as a lieutenant, and the preservation of these bullets. It’s yet another case of the writer’s hand being all too visible, taking contrived or illogical routes to construct a scaffolding of plot points rather than a fully realized narrative.
The resolution of this episode leads into one of the smallest yet significant changes I would make to Sacred Beasts that takes place right after Schaal kills her resurrected father for good. We’re to believe that this event will go on to affect Schaal’s character in the future, but as it is, she acts too similarly to her previous self to truly signify a change. She behaves as merrily as ever and shows practically no signs of distress after seeing her father die by her own hands. There’s more to character development than just the events they go through; a change in personality should be there to show that Schaal is not the same person she was two episodes ago. She can act perpetually glum over past events while still upholding her proactive attitude. This emotional state could be temporarily alleviated with her meeting Trice, making this anime-exclusive subplot all the more impactful, where she befriends the type of monster she had pledged to exterminate. These are elements that go a long way to improve viewer investment; depicting these characters as living, evolving people rather than vessels made to spout themes and exposition. It’s sad to see such potential in characters who, while not dimensionless, don’t have much more humanity to them than the brainless beasts the Incarnates are feared to have become.
Some might think these complaints to be petty, but Sacred Beasts’ emphasis on story is what makes these flaws so damaging. If Sacred Beasts was primarily about spectacle like that of Attack on Titan, Pacific Rim, or John Wick, I’d be more lenient on these sorts of drawbacks. But considering what Sacred Beasts chose to uphold itself as, it should be held at a higher standard in regards to its plot, and especially its characters.
It’s all the more unfortunate when even the spectacle loses its value as the animation quality drops considerably with each episode, to a level that’s pathetic even for what’s expected of a usual 12-episode anime at its midway point. In-between frames are seemingly forgotten about and inconsistent models are shockingly abundant. After the glamorous first episode, this is a huge slap in the face, and hardly excusable with 11 animation directors.
Apart from the awe-inspiring presentation from the first episode, the cinematography of Sacred Beasts is also quite lacking overall. There’s nothing truly unappealing or jarring, but nothing that really shows a passion beyond just pasting the content onto the big screen and calling it a day.
Liza herself is a sore spot on the tone with her character design alone, made worse with frequent jokes about her sex appeal, even in mildly tense situations. When a negotiation occurs between characters focused on warfare, tactics, or emotional hangovers, chances are that Liza will be there to shatter the tone with her massive knockers, doing things like teasing Schaal or flirting with Claude. It’s moments like these where the hand of Sacred Beasts’ male illustrator really shows, and invites wonder of how the Sacred Beasts’ female writer could ever be content with scenes like these muddling the tone.
Thankfully the visual quality gains better footing right around Hank’s confrontation with Roy, taking place at an arc that I consider one of the more fulfilling parts of the narrative. The showcase of Hank becoming softer and more sentimental while Schaal has grown tougher is a satisfying progression, bringing them on closer terms. This is certainly a highlight, but it’s a shame yet again that the show hasn’t done much to bring us close to their struggles.
Throughout all its attempts to make me weep for the fallen Incarnates, To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts made me feel most sorrowful for its wasted opportunities. With every chance to do something great, it instead takes the easy way out. As the novelty wears off, the numerous flaws make themselves more and more clear. With all this considered, it certainly serves as a passable viewing experience, but it's a tragedy all the same.
So in the spring season this year, Fairy Gone was a thing and it kind of sucked. So much so that I decided to drop it halfway through. Its story was not gripping enough and its characters were so bland and stuck in mud in terms of their growth. It was not really a good show. So I bring Fairy Gone up because this show this season is rather similar in terms of its setting and certain plot elements (kind of) on paper. But MAAPA has been on a good roll in terms of quality anime they are animating lately so how does this entry
in their catalogue hold up?
Sit back, relax and make sure that the inner beast inside you screams out as I present to you the anime review for To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts. Lets begin.
“WAR...is hell” - Ace Ventura, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I will just leave that quote there. So the story begins with a civil war between the North and the South (they never say the country’s name so lets leave it at that). But the war swiftly favours the Northerners as they unleash a special unit of super soldiers called incarnates to fight on the battlefield. But there problems being developed as the incarnates start to lose their minds and become the savage beasts they are transforming in to. With the war over. Hank, the leader of the incarnates, must now hunt the other members of the incarnate squad and put them down before they cause any more harm. But when the daughter of one of the incarnates, Schaal Nancy Bancroft tags along with Hank, it may not be as clear cut as it seems.
I will say that the first episode of the show feels rather rushed. I think if the first episode was expanded to two episodes, or the episode was twice the length, then the narratives developed here would make me more emotionally invested into the story and our characters. But the way they did it, it made me struggle to get really invested into this show. Thankfully, the show’s story structure and pacing does get better as the show goes on as it follows a monster of the week type setup that helps establish that not everything is clearly black and white and there is some grey area in the middle of it all as some incarnates still have some humanity left in them. But the problem is that the majority of the members of the incarnates don’t get much development (except for a couple scattered here and there). We get one or two flashbacks as to what they were like but that is about it. Which is a shame because the ones that do get more development, especially the incarnate in episode eight, are well done and made me invested. So it is inconsistent in that regard.
Another thing this show likes to portray is that...well…war is hell. Not only for the citizens, but also for the incarnates themselves as they were tools for war and now have no purpose since the war is now over. It is shown here and there and expanded upon by the main antagonist of the series, Cain and gives context as to why he is doing the things he is doing. It is a subject that we have seen plenty of times and here, it is no different. It does though strike a balance between showing us and telling us which I think it did well so that it doesn’t bore the viewer. It is where the story is at its best as it explains to us why these incarnates should be put down to make sure that remnants from the war are removed and we can start moving forward. Because if these incarnates are still running around and are killing people, innocent or not, then is the war truly over?
The main protagonist role is split between Hank and Schaal. We will start with Hank first. Being the former squad leader of the incarnates, it would make sense that he is not happy of putting down his former squad members. We see this in his expressions and tone of voice that he is not comfortable doing this and helps remind the viewer that, while he is an incarnate, he still has plenty of humanity left in him. His motivations though are not well developed. He fights because he swore an oath and as squad leader, he feels that this is his responsibility. That’s fine, but is other reason is that he wants to get revenge on Cain for betraying him and shooting someone Hank cared about. The main problem is here is that we don’t really see much of their relationship bloom enough to act as a good motivator. A told, not shown kind of situation that is rather lacklustre when you think about it.
Schaal acts as the reminder that killing the incarnates is not all black and white. Being the daughter of one of the incarnates. We see her full of rage and spite towards Hank for killing her father but eventually starts to understand why they need to be put down. Her growth and understanding of Hank’s circumstances is one of the best things about this show. She acts as the voice of reason at times but is not always stupid enough to get in the way; only doing it when needed. She is plenty capable with her rifle but also knows her limits as to what she can do. She is easily my favourite character in this show and adds complexity to the situation since it can easily be just him Hank going around the country, killing the incarnates and moving on to the next.
Cain though, the main antagonist in this series, could have been a lot better in my opinion. I understand his reasoning as he something more than human and doesn’t want to be cast aside now that the war is over. But the way he sees it is rather comical. He sees himself as a god and wants to rule the country because of his power. I think him rebelling because he doesn’t want to be a tool for war along with the rest of the incarnates. He does see that, don’t get me wrong, but the way he goes about doing it is rather stereotypically evil. I feel like he could have been a moral check and that would make him a more interesting antagonist. But he is just simply evil and that’s just it really.
The rest of the cast are pretty much just there to act as supporting characters and not much else. Whether it is just to fight alongside Hank and Schaal or provide them with information. Claude Withers, the brother to Cain, felt like he had his own arc but he is rather uninteresting and his arc as well is rather uninteresting. So when the second half of the show comes and more spotlight is on him, he just comes of as a rather boring character.
The animation is fine but could have been better in my opinion. The fights are serviceable and the art style and character designs are alright, but I feel like they could have been better. Which is a shame. MAPPA have been on a great roll lately with producing quality animation. Starting from Banana Fish from the summer season of 2018, they have produced Zombieland Saga, Dororo, Kakegurui xx and Sarazanmai. So following on after those shows, Sacred Beasts’ animation quality is rather lacklustre. It’s not bad and the fact the show doesn’t resort to CGI is impressive. But I feel like it could have been better at displaying these monster on monster fight scenes and if more effort was put into it, it would have been rather cool.
The soundtrack does its job of help setting an atmosphere or matching the tone of the scene. Whether it would be a more somber scene or a fight scene, there always seems to be a ost that matches it. My favourite is played when Hank transforms into his incarnate form for the first time. The use of the orchestral and the increased paced of the music did feel like s**t was going to go down. It was definitely my favourite from this show.
The opening “Sacrifice” by Mafumafu is paced good due to how it portrays both Hank and Schaal’s emotions through rather aggressive vocals and instruments, especially for Hank and his hatred towards Cain. It is also very well choreographed as well and the visuals manage to keep up with the pace of the song well. So I would say that this is a good opening when all things considered.
The ending sequence “HHOOWWLL” by Gere x ARAKI shows off the incarnates displayed tapestry kind of way to let us see these powerful soldiers. They are also displayed in order of appearance in the show so we get to see what incarnates Hank is going have to hunt down. It’s a nice sequence to get you to relaxed after you finished an episode.
Well its certainly better than Fairy Gone which isn’t saying much. But there are problems in this show that does prevent this anime down from being a really great show. What’s annoying about that is that they are simple problems that I think, if addressed, could have turned this show into a great show. If it added more context, expanded on the first episode and improved its animation quality that MAAPA has shown from their previous shows, then this would be a great show. There are still some parts of this show that I like and kept me watching like the main leads and how it portrays that “WAR...is hell.” But it is also a show that could have easily been better and that’s what stings me the most about it.