Please be aware that this review is intended to be read by those that have finished watching the series and while care has been taken to minimise spoilers, they may still exist within character analysis. You have been warned.
Based on a popular manga of the same name To the Abandoned sacred beasts is a fantasy, action and drama genre anime that gives us the opportunity to see what will happen if you introduce the concept of genetically created monsters whose sheer strength, cunning and intimidation serve to allow them to act as potent force multipliers and pair them with a faction that’s not only outgunned but outnumbered by their opponents in a war that’s reminiscent of the American Civil war. On the surface To the Abandoned sacred beasts on first impression can be seen to be one that looks to focus on the usage of the series prominent cast who in this case are aptly named as the incarnates as they help the outnumbered North fight in the grueling civil war which serves as not just the series’ first main conflict but also unknowingly serve as the trigger point that would serve to as the fuel that would trigger the series main overall crisis but this can be said to be half right. While the incarnates introduction into the bloody and grueling battles that define the wars in which the cast fight in do well to showcase the potent power that the incarnates possess this at the same time also shows a myriad of feelings, hopes and desires that are hidden beneath the many soldiers that lay their lives on the line. While the incarnates that serve as the elite shock troops of the North are powerful beyond measure and have the support and admiration of the troops that they have fought alongside with it can be said that this is merely a surface impression for beneath their fake smiles the incarnates are merely seen as tools and are nothing more than weapons that are to be used to achieve victory and discarded when it is attained. However, this sense of hidden feelings, desires and hopes can also be seen within the incarnates themselves who despite understanding that they will never be treated as equals by their allies still wish to fight for their country and fight to create a world of peace like their compatriots. But alas things are not to be for the brave incarnates.
While the series premise of having super soldiers whose ability to assume many forms of mythical creatures fight in a war that’s reminiscent of the worst wars of the 18th century can be said to be one of the main points that drew me to this series it is far from the only one. For while seeing the incarnates wreak havoc on the frontlines to aid the north in the war was entertaining what served as the main element that drew me to the series was the kind of feelings, desires and hopes that I feel lay beneath their fierce beast forms. Even as they are sent to fight in battle after battle to help the war effort just what kind of hopes, desires and wishes did they have for the world in which they are fighting so hard to create. Even if peace comes just what kind of world would they find. And more importantly, would humanity accept them as equals and treat them as such. The first episode for the series I felt was an interesting one in that while it did well in establishing not just the brutal war that was being waged on the continent that warranted the creation and deployment of the incarnates but also show the kind of contrasting feelings that exist within both the hearts of the incarnates and the senior commanders who deploy them on dangerous missions. Perhaps more importantly the first ep also through the use of a well thought out twist force the lone sane member of the team to embark on a hard and brutal mission in which he must not only seek out his former comrades who have gone insane but also face them in a deadly battle that will only have one outcome. Duty, friendships and bonds have never been so hard to divide for a soldier but in order to give his former comrades the one last mercy that their former commander owes them Hank will fight with all his might and cunning to save his former charges. It is this combination of dark fantasy and a desire to understand the kind of hidden feelings that lay beneath the heart of each incarnate as they fight one last battle to bring resolution that can be said to draw me to this series and ensure that this series is one of the ones that I kept my eyes on.
The overall story for the series takes place on the continent of Patria within the realms of the Nation of Patria. For 100 years the country of Patria has prospered thanks to the hard work of its people and the vigilance of its military but alas this soon changed when a mysterious energy source was discovered that soon caused the nation to split into two opposing sides which were the Northern Union that had the might of industry on their side and the Southern confederation which had the mass numbers that are needed to keep their vast lands secure. Despite the bravery of its soldiers the North was forced to make use of new and experimental tech that can be used to turn the tide with the most well known being the incarnates genetically engineered super soldiers whose ability to make use of abilities tied to their beast forms made them potent shock troops. Leading them was their charismatic and popular commander Captain Hank Henriette. But despite leading his men successfully through many brutal battles with honor and valor as the war neared its final stages and peace was visible on the horizon what was supposed to be a call for a celebration at the end of the war soon become the beginning of a nightmare thanks to a sudden betrayal. 2 years after the war and after awakening from a long coma Hank finds that even though the peace that he and his comrades have been fighting so hard for has now been attained his former friends and once the nations elite forces are now enemies of the state and who openly see their former homeland as their enemies. Faced with this harsh reality and desperate to deal with his former allies and give them the mercy that he feels that they deserve Hank is forced to embark on a brutal and grim mission in which he must locate and hunt down his former teammates and give them the one mercy that they all deserve which is to be vanquished in a clean death as all humans deserve.
Nancy Schaal Bancroft portrayed by veteran seiyuu Ai Kakuma of Asterisk wars and Clockwork Planet fame is one of the main characters of the series and is the main heroine of the series. A teenage girl and the daughter of one of Hank’s fellow incarnates that served with him in the war Nancy who prefers to be called Schaal within the series on initial impressions was seen to be a kind, caring, gentle and innocent person by nature that lived a seemingly sheltered life with her father in a remote village far removed from the crisis that envelops other parts of the kingdom. As a result of this type of life Schaal was seen to be a polite person that always advocated for peaceful means to solve problems rather than use violence as others would have. However, while a kind and caring person Schaal was also someone that had a somewhat stubborn side to her which when combined with her determination made her a trusted ally to both her friends, charges and her father. Indeed, the relationship that Schaal had with her father can be said to be one that served as the very foundation of her life one that unfortunately came to a tragic end in front of her eyes one day.
In the aftermath of her fathers tragic demise and the beginning of her journey to find out the truth of the matter Schaal’s personality began to gradually change as a result of both her journey with Hank and the reality of not just how the incarnates have fallen but also as a result of seeing the pain and suffering that they were causing to innocents across the land. While still remaining kind and polite to all she meets Schaal as the series progresses gradually becomes braver and more assertive willing to stand and fight for what she believes in even if it meant facing the ire of powerful men/beasts. This is shown well in the ever-evolving roles that she has in the fights that she and Hank engage in on their travels. While gradually becoming stronger both mentally and in terms of fighting abilities Schaal was also shown to have developed her perception skills which when used in combination with her innate sense of kindness and understanding allowed her to peer into the hearts of others and see the truth that they want to keep away from others. This within the series is demonstrated well in her relationships with Hank, Claude, Liza, and the incarnate Beatrice the latter of which can be said to affected Schaal strongly. Due largely to the manner of how they met within the series Schaal’s relationship with Hank, in the beginning, was a tense one however as the series went on and Schaal got to see first hand the kind of brutality that surrounded the incarnates as well as the cold, brutal and tragic path that Hank has to follow this opinion of hers gradually began to change. While at first disagreeing with the fact that violence was the only method to be used against the incarnates and seemingly put off by the fact that Hank viewed his former comrades as targets this opinion of hers gradually began to shift as she came to realize just how much sadness lay within Hanks's heart as he prosecuted his mission while at the same time seeing the kind of efforts that Hank was putting in to ensure that his former comrades died a clean death as human beings.
As a result of seeing such a large sacrifice by Hank in his duties as well as seeing the kind of pain that exists in the world whether inside the incarnates, Hank and the soldiers and civilians that were caught up in the struggle Schaal gradually begins to realise that if she is unwilling to step forward and try to change the world with her actions that the darkness that had enveloped the world in the past would once again return a fact that is demonstrated well in her vow to Hank to serve as his foundation that would support him until the end a vow that shows well Schaal’s determination to support her partner while at the same time her desire to fight and create a world where humans and incarnates can stand on equal terms. The character of Schaal I felt was an interesting character that I felt was well designed and developed over the course of the series with her gradual evolution from a kind, innocent and caring person whose only worries was keeping the children that she manages safe to a girl who is not only brave and independent but also able to stand firm and fight against mythical monsters being especially well done.
While Schaal’s initial views and attitude towards the grim mission in which Hank Prosecutes may seem to indicate that she will be a poor fit for an ally it can be said that rather the opposite is true. While Schaal’s kind, caring and friendly personality may be seen as a weakness by some this instead within the series can be said to be one of her greatest strengths for this allows her to not only understand and perceive the kind of feelings that people are reluctant to reveal but also allow her to make use of these revelations to help them resolve the core problems that serve to worry them and in the process allowing her to gather useful intel that can aid both Hank and herself in their missions. Though the pairing of Schaal and Hank may have seemed like a mismatch at first I believe that Schaal’s core temperament as well as the endless amounts of hard-fought knowledge that she gained in her travels with Hank served to not only make her a better person that’s more aware of just how dark the world is and how much it needs to change qualities that served to allow her to be an effective emotional support for Hank.
Hank Henriette portrayed by veteran voice actor Katsuyuki Konishi of Kakuriyo fame is one of the main characters of the series and is the main protagonist of the series. A member of the once renowned incarnates unit where he served as their leader and captain Hank on initial impression was seen to be a calm, composed and confident person by nature that fitted well the professional image of what a soldier should look like. Despite holding the senior rank of captain Hank was shown to be someone that had few signs of ego and indeed he was someone that was friendly, considerate and understanding of the men that served under him and was shown to be perceptive to their fears and needs. This is perhaps best shown in the speeches that he gives to his soldiers in that rather than try and rouse his men with the standard propaganda BS that will be the standard for the military Hank instead makes use of his own heartfelt words and his desire to see them all work together to make it through the battles and step into the future that they created to motivate them. While showing well the desire by Hank to ensure that every one of his men makes it through the war unharmed this also shows Hank’s innate sense of being an honest and fair person that prefers to state the truth in all things. Despite this noble attempt however a tragic act of betrayal soon ensured that not only did Hank end up losing two years of his life but also make his life a nightmare as his valued friends and comrades are now nothing more than dangerous enemies of the state that were harming the very innocents that they were supposed to be protecting.
In the aftermath of such dark revelations that shook Hank to the core, Hank was forced to embark on a new cruel and brutal mission that would later serve as both his primary quest and his core purpose in life in this new dark world that the sacrifices of his men had created. In his new role as the hunter of incarnates Hank while retaining his calm and composed manner largely loses much of his positive nature instead replacing it with a sense of grim determination and a desire to perform his solemn duty by taking on and extinguishing his former friends. Despite his duty and the reality of the situation that’s facing him Hank was someone that can be said to still have hope that despite the madness that was affecting them that some part of their human self-remain inside his targets which is shown well in the initial fights that he has but unfortunately this was a fools hope. However despite this it can be seen that to Hank even if his former charges had become nothing more than mindless monsters who were harming the very people that they were supposed to be protecting that he still sees them as his comrades and as such feels that he owes them one last fight that should be fought with all their might. While one might argue that doing this will entail putting himself at too much risk it can be said that this desire to fight his former comrades at full strength one last time is an indication of Hank’s core desire to not only defeat them but also give them the one mercy that he as the hunter can give them which is to die as a human being and not a mindless monster.
Due largely to both his duty as a hunter and the grim mission that Hank has been assigned too Hank in his new role was seen to be someone that preferred to keep a low profile and avoid forming any emotional bonds with others preferring to seemingly harden his heart and set about his grim task alone. However despite this loner like attitude of his Hank was shown to retain his innate sense of kindness and care towards others that he is willing to show to those people that have proven both their worth and trust in him which is shown in the developing relationship that he establishes with Schaal and Liza a bond that would eventually bloom into the very thing that Hank needed the most in his grim and brutal mission that he’s embarked on which was someone that both understands the kind of pain that he’s going through but at the same time willing to fight alongside with and shoulder that pain alongside him as his foundation and emotional support. The character of Hank I felt was an interesting character that was well designed and developed over the course of the series with his gradual evolution from a calm, confident and professional soldier who while fighting hard on the front did his very best to lead and protect his friends and charges on the field to someone who thanks to a harsh twist of fate was forced to hunt down his former comrades being especially well done.
While seeing Hank transform from a confident and charismatic leader into a lone hunter was interesting what served to make Hank’s development as a character stand out was his developing relations with his allies as though his new duty and mission was a tragic one just like in his previous war Hank was not fighting alone and in a way the ever-developing relationship that he forges with both Schaal and Liza is one that’s reminiscent of how he fought in the previous war where he’s fighting hard to once more protect the country and its people from harm.
In terms of animation, I felt that the series made excellent use of both the setting and the premise in creating the many fights that take place within the series. These fights while being well designed and developed also featured an interesting variety of scenarios and locations that resonated well with the former specialities of Hank’s former allies. Character designs wise I felt that both the human element and the incarnates were both well designed with the latter featuring a great variety of forms that serve to show not just how powerful the incarnates had been when they were allies as well as the kind of temperament in which they had that granted them that form. Combat animations wise I felt that the fights within the series while relatively simple ones too great advantage of both the incarnate’s beast forms as well as the skills and temperaments that they had in life to create many smooth but brutal fights that didn’t lack in variety in terms of tactics being used. Notable examples include the battle within the fortress and the fight against the gargoyle. Music-wise the series made use of one opening and ending theme respectively which was sacrifice by Mafumafu and HhOOWWLL by GeroxARAKI. While both of these songs I felt were excellent ones as well as being haunting ones I felt that the former invoked within me a sense of both despair to an unjust situation and a determination to overcome it while the latter invoked a sense of childhood memories and a strong bond that had existed between them through war and thunder only to be broken. In terms of OST, I felt that it featured an excellent variety that allowed it to provide excellent situational music being able to provide both dramatic, calm and sombre tones when needed.
In terms of voice acting, I felt that the series voice cast all did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters whether main or support ones. In particular, I feel that Katsuyuki Konishi, Ai Kakuma, Yoko Hikasa, and Yuuichi Nakamura all did an excellent job at portraying the characters of Hank, Schaal, Liza, and Cain respectively. Additionally, while their characters were only featured in standalone episodes, I also felt that Mamiko Noto and Saori Hayami also did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters with Saori’s portrayal of the tragic Beatrice being especially impressive.
In Overall To the Abandoned sacred beasts was an excellent anime that I really enjoyed seeing with its main strong points in my opinion being its unique premise, strong story, well designed and developed characters and its pairing of a standard war theme with some rather interesting themes that are as relevant to the soldiers fighting in the war as it is to the civilians that are caught up in it.
Standard war based anime tends to focus on the soldiers and the civilians that fight within it and the consequences of the very actions that their deeds on the field cause to the overall war and while To the Abandoned sacred beasts does show this to a degree the great majority of the series takes a look at the many lingering questions that can result from any war. This within the series is shown in the guise of the incarnates and of the journey that Hank was forced to embark on. The incarnates within the series while formerly one of the north’s most elite military units on account of their unique strengths and abilities was as the war progressed were forced to realise that no matter how much they contributed to the overall war effort and no matter how much allies they save they will never get a genuine word of approval from the brass who sadly see them as nothing more than weapons that once no longer useful is to be disposed off. Faced with the grim reality that for all the great sacrifices that they had made both as warriors and the sacrifices that they made in deciding to abandon their past civilian life and serve their country on the field is for naught its perhaps not surprising that such strong feelings would cause a poisoned dagger to form within their hearts. A dagger that would later explode with vengeance when their country seemingly turns on them.
This tragic turn of events I felt made great use of the themes of war and peace as the incarnates while suffering as much pain as their fellow countrymen also had the misfortune of never being able to return to the life that they once had in their past lives thanks to their new forms and the scars that they gained from the war scars that will make them vulnerable to agitators like Cain whose innate cunning and past knowledge allowed him to easily see the turmoil that lay beneath the incarnates. This insight into the incarnates as people via the chance to look into their past civilian identities, the role that they played in the war and the fate that had befallen them at its end as well as the kind of scars that they gained from the war I felt was used to great effect to expand upon each of the incarnates that were featured within the series and preventing them from being simply one dimensional villains and instead show that they are as much victims as their opponents were. When combined with the grim mission that Hank and Schaal are forced to embark on I felt that the incarnates desire to be recognised and remembered for the sacrifices that they made in the war by siding with Cain and Hank and Schaal’s desire to stop them served to make the story that much more compelling as to both sides both have an equally valid reason for fighting.
As a final score, I would say that To the Abandoned sacred beasts deserves a final score of 8/10 on account of its unique premise, compelling story that skilfully weaved several difficult themes together, an excellent cast of characters that were voiced by excellent seiyuu’s and interesting battle scenarios that took great advantage of both the different terrain types that can exist in the setting as well as the nature of the beast types that the incarnates made use off.