Shurato: Heaven War
Ready for a rich fantasy set in an exotic world based on buddhist and other mystical traditions from asia? Well, don't worry about it, while this does draw from these sources the result is typical `magical warrior' stuff.
We begin the story with two friends fighting it out in the finals of a martial arts competition. They're both good friends, training partners and ridiculously talented martial artists. They're fairly different people though. One is straightforward and pretty unsubtle by nature with his style being based on aggressively attacking. The other is more complex, thoughtful and perceptive, with a defensive style. They're about to end the fight, both convinced they're about to win, when a goddess figure appears and whisks them away in a column of light.
The scene then moves to `Tenketsu' (or something like that) which is a magical shadow of our world. It's fairly obviously magical, as it's got wonderfully improbable terrain, including such things as floating islands. The aggressive male finds himself in new (and strange) clothes, a magical lion figurine in his hands, and a young girl testing if her kiss will wake the prince. I guess things could be worse, and indeed they rapidly become so. It seems that he's a `holy warrior' of this land, which is getting ready for it's regular 10,000 year invasion by the forces of evil. Even worse it seems that some of the powers of this land, and his best friend, have switched sides to follow their own agenda's. And when they not only get the upper hand, but pin the blame on him, it looks like the future is going to be challenging and potentially short.
It doesn't really take long before the reality sets in. Despite the fantasy background, and lots of mystical imagery, this is pure `magic warrior' material. Effectively the two friends now champion the good and evil sides. The vast majority of the warriors being duped into following the orders of evil, while a handful of hero's resist their attacks and try to put things right. It feels very familiar.
And being in a fantasy world is sufficient excuse for the `magic' part of the magic warrior to come to the fore. To start with this world has lots of nice monsters and magical foes to fight. Even better there's magical figurines, like the one he wakes up with, called shakti. They can effectively transform into huge rocket powered skateboards (i'm not making this up) or into powered armor and martial arts weapons. Naturally they enhance the power and toughness of the wearer, allowing impressive martial arts attacks and survival from the same. In addition in this land people can use their spiritual energy to attack, yep...attack sequences followed by huge energy blasts.
While it's very formula, excepting the `flavor', this isn't too bad a thing. The interesting environment, the classic plot and a bit of action should have provided a fairly watchable experience. However here comes the last problem. The leading couple, consisting of the aggressive guy and the `princess', complete with cute flying animal, are perhaps the least interesting characters i've ever met. He's stubborn, stupid and self-indulgent and she's ditzy. He's also really slow on the uptake, three episodes of his best friend trying to kill him an he's still got nothing better to do than yell at him to `snap out of it'. Here's an idea, why not disarm him and tie him up while you attempt to reason with him? The rest of the cast are not much better, minimal personality and little sign of brains. The `conspiracy' plot works only because hero's are obviously incredibly gullible.
For all these reasons i'd put this at the low end of fighting anime. It's alright but i've seen much better. The production itself is solid, with the characters looking good and the action not too bad. There's a couple too many still frames, pose shots and energy blasts but that's expected. And while the `fantasy' and `mystical' elements are fairly superficial they're still a nice addition to the show. The plot is classical, and the writing fairly simplistic, but it is sufficient. The voices are not too great, either flat or irritating, and the music is fairly simple.
None of my sources has a review (yet) for this title.
Want to know more about this title? Well, a reasonable place to start looks like Arcadia's Shulato Shrine which has a fairly complete commentary on many elements of the show. Of course he's a true fan, so he's probably going to hate my review