Posted by psgels on 25 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Strange Dawn



There are some anime out there awesome… and then there are the series that go one step beyond. These are the series that just somehow go against all boundaries and expectations I could have had for it, and have something nearly impossible to describe. When I take a look at the series that I managed to rate at 95/100 and 94/100 through the nearly four years that I’ve been blogging, I keep getting surprised at how little of them look like the masterpieces that they are from the outside. I guess that such a list of personal favourites is incredibly personal, and different for everyone, but every time one of these appears, they truly remind me why I’m still blogging.

As for Strange Dawn, it too doesn’t look like anything special from the outside, however, I was completely proven wrong when I started watching it, about two years ago. Unfortunately, it was nearly unfindable for neither subs nor raws, but I finally managed to find a bunch of French subs for the entire series. It completely blew me away; Junichi Sato (who directed also Kaleido Star, Aria, Magic Users Club and Umi Monogatari) has done an absolutely fantastic job on this series.

Anyway, about Strange Dawn. Its basic premise has been done many times before: high-schoolers end up in some kind of parallel dimension and have some adventures. What sets itself apart from the others is a terrific execution. For starters, it breaks tons of stereotypes that these series have. Usually when a lead character crosses into a new world, he turns out to conveniently acquire some new superpower or something: either he becomes incredibly good at swordfighting, or has the magical Deus ex Machina beam, turns out to be royalty or gets saved by some sort of royalty. Yuko and Eri instead stay exactly the same. Instead, their importance to the story comes from the fact that they ended up in a country full of midgets, hence their natural strength when compared to all of these small people, and that becomes the major driving force of the story.

And there are more of these things: the creators take nothing for granted here, they explain the problems the two girls face when they have to deal with the strange world they ended up in; from eating and taking care of their clothes to sleeping and going to the bathroom (especially the latter is a running plot thread). In fact, the entire series has an incredible sense of detail: during the quiet parts in the series, whenever characters aren’t fighting or in the midst of dramatic climaxes, you can see them taking care of their own food, sharpening their weapons, caring for their horses (okay, flying snails), and doing all sorts of things that most anime nowadays take for granted or only show one or two scenes of.

The same amount of detail you can see in the animation: characters move realistically and relatively few corners are cut in comparison to your average anime. When characters move, they hardly ever look out of place and they’re always doing something meaningful that might not impact the story, but brings SO MUCH life to the setting and the world that the story plays in. For the past few years I’ve been a real advocate of series that manage to make the setting that they’re played in come alive, and this series really is the school example of how to do this right.

And as for the plot, we’ve got ourselves another case of wrong advertising here. The promo art might make you suspect that this is a fun and light-hearted fantasy adventure, mainly aimed at kids. It is not. In fact, don’t even dare to try and watch this series for the lighter parts, because Strange Dawn is dark. It’s not just dark in its atmosphere, but also in its themes. When people get cut up, blood appears without any hints of censorship; themes of war and death play a HUGE role in this series and heck, a certain episode even what can be qualified as an attempted rape in it. The amount of drama throughout the entire series is immense, but at the same time it consistently stays away from emo and melodrama, and stays genuine and never drags on.

Then there is the amazing voice acting cast. Especially the two lead characters are magnificently voiced, but the rest of the cast also shines throughout the series. They perfectly manage to capture the emotions of their characters, making the entire series an emotional roller-coaster along the way. And speaking of the audio, I also have to mention the amazing soundtrack that was compiled for this series. The tracks fit the atmosphere perfectly, and are a joy to listen to throughout the series.

Overall, there wasn’t one episode that didn’t have me clutched to the screen in near-tears, but the thing that blew me away the most was the ending. For the sake of spoilers I won’t say anything more, but the final episode was the single most emotional episode I have watched this year. Do not get fooled by the childish exterior, because inside Strange Dawn is a mature and intense roller-coaster ride. There are probably a lot of people who disagree with me on this, considering the abysmally low ratings on sites as Anidb, but I loved every minute of it.

Storytelling: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10

52 Responses

  1. Avatar Dave Baranyi says:

    Folks – as an alternative view – let’s just say that there are very good reasons why the ratings for “Strange Yawn” are low. I watched it when it was first broadcast in Japan years ago, and it isn’t the sort of anime to improve with age. Beware, unless you have a very high tolerance for melodrama, plot holes and overacting.

  2. Avatar ancalyme says:

    I was searching for this about half a year ago, but I only ever found the first three episodes (subbed OR raw). Wow, your google-fu must be amazing :0

  3. Avatar Tracer says:

    Psgels, how is the Japanese in this anime like? Is it mostly simple phrases and words or does it have slightly more complicated phrases?

    For example, something like Aoi Hana or Darker than Black?

  4. Avatar Howling-kun says:

    So I guess you’re enjoying a lot Junichi Sato’s works…

    Watch Aria. Under your standards I’d rate it 100/100, the final season at least, that got me in tears and is my favorite anime ever (as of this post, having watched about 200 titles).

    I’m quite interested in watching this RAW or in french (that I know as much as of japanese lol), so I second Tracer’s question.

    • Avatar cobra34 says:

      >Under your standards I’d rate it 100/100

      Under his standards, 100/100 is absolute perfection so it doesn’t exist in this world, nor it ever will.
      I REALLY hate this rating system since you are practically rating series against a highly idealistic abstract concept that doesn’t exist, which makes the whole thing worthless. How do you know what’s bad if you don’t know what’s good?

  5. Avatar Senna says:

    Interesting. Apparently there was a U.S. release by Urban Vision, but I can’t find records of whether or not it was released in full (only the first two DVDs show up in my searches). Actually, my college library had the first DVD of this series in their collection, but I never bothered to watch it since it looked like a kiddie show. But, now you have me curious.

  6. Avatar DmonHiro says:

    Dude, I’m sorry, but it’s your own fault for reading ratings on AniDB. That rating system is about as accurate as an AK-47 used for sniping.

  7. Avatar senerikfred says:

    DAMMIT

    I LOVE JUNICHI SATO

    I’VE BEEN TRYING TO FIND THIS SINCE FOREVER

    WHY COULDN’T THERE AT LEAST BE A SPANISH VERSION?

    In other news, go watch Princess Tutu already. I doubt it’ll be nearly as dark/detailed as Strange Dawn, but it’s no kiddy series and happens to be my favorite anime, ever.

  8. Avatar Kim says:

    I second the Princess Tutu recommendation. It’s an amazing series.

  9. Avatar c160 says:

    There should be an English ver somewhere cause I clearly remember this being one of my first anime ever(after Dragonball and Doraemon) along with AlHazard,Gatekeepers and Niea7(all shown on AXN channel when they still have anime).But damn,I can’t remember the ending!What happened in the end,psgels?

  10. Avatar Machi says:

    Princess Tutu :wub: I think the biggest shock of Princess Tutu was the villain. Seriously I don’t think ANYONE would ever think of a certain character as the villain, which did bump the show up for me for creativity. While I don’t think it would be a masterpiece it definitely ranks high as one of the better series I’ve watched, thanks mostly to its originality.

  11. psgels psgels says:

    For those who are interested in the subs I found:

    http://www.power-anime.fr/download/fiche/2092-strange_dawn_vf_vostfr.html

    There is a lot of dialogue, but I guess that it’s of the same level as Aoi Hana.

  12. Avatar Machi says:

    I watched this when I was a kid… To be exact a few months or so after it was finished I think, not sure, the anime station of my country showed this. I would take a daresay here but there is a chance that those that watched this show as well were kids as well that time, after all back then there wasn’t much places to watch anime and this one is definitely an oddity. So my guess for the low ratings on ANN could be due to vague recollections of old viewers, I recall not being all too impressed watching this as a kid but from the looks of it this does deserve a second look with age now. Seeing you do some of the so called retro stuff of the 1997’s and above makes me feel old XD I can’t believe how long it has been.

    • Avatar cobra34 says:

      No, it just that ANN is complete and utter garbage. Seriously, the reviewers and regular users of that site are worst than 4chan.

  13. Avatar Solaris says:

    This anime is licensed in Italy.
    It may look cartoonish with those toyish weird characters, but it’s not a kid’s anime at all. The story is a kind of dark fantasy.
    So maybe it’s why who watched it as a kid wasn’t that impressed at that time.

    • Avatar cobra34 says:

      This series IT’S A KIDS ANIME. It was made, aired and promoted as such. The thing is that what’s considered for children in Japan is completely different than the rest of the world. As simple as that.

  14. Avatar Autonomous Monster says:

    Dammit, psgels. My worst subject in school was French. >:|

  15. Avatar Solaris says:

    And what about Italian? :P

  16. Avatar specracer says:

    I hope I can engrish my way through the show =\

  17. Avatar Gustavo says:

    Machi, you son of a bi***!!! WTH putting those fuc**** spoilers without even warning, you piece of sh***!!!!

  18. Avatar Patrick says:

    I found the episodes subbed on emule about 1 year ago (with 2 or 3 seeds). They were in french too. Good series but I didn’t find it nearly as amazing as psgels.

  19. Avatar Wyrdwad says:

    Another one I’m really glad to see you review! I’ve only seen the first half of this series, since that’s all that was ever released on DVD in the U.S. (Senna: I can confirm there were only ever two volumes, after which point Urban Vision dropped it), and have been looking for the latter half for quite a while now. As I recall, it was actually broadcast on TV in England, in full, but the English dub is *awful*. Still makes me wonder if there might be a PAL DVD version of it floating about somewhere, though…

    Anyway, I really, really loved this show when I first saw it, and got totally obsessed with it for a while. It’s intense, well-written, and just shockingly high-quality, with a lot more depth than you almost ever see from something like this. Gonna have to track down the end sometime, if it’s as good as you say.

    -Tom

  20. Avatar AKI says:

    Oh! I’m glad to see you enjoyed this one. I watched this show English dubbed way back 2001 (cable: AXN). It may turn off conventional anime watchers due to the cartoonish and kiddielike art but the story itself was dark and thought provoking. It was shown alongside with Now and Then, Here and There, thus it was thoroughly overshadowed by the former.

  21. Avatar Taxy says:

    psgels, isn’t that link only to subs/dubs in french? Since it looks like the series was licenced in US, but never was completely released there, is there a way to watch this series without french or japanese language skills?

    You made me very curious about this series, but I can give up looking for subs or something anymore, if it had to be french or japanese…

  22. Avatar Machi says:

    @Gustavo: I’d appreciate you to think before you type. What spoilers did I give away I’m pretty sure I worded it so vaguely that you wouldn’t be able to guess it lest you already know it before hand. And in this case I don’t think the wording unexpected villain spoils anything, because the key word is UNEXPECTED (so unless you’re some type of genius or have spoiled yourself) I doubt you’d figure it out.

    So I call you out right now in HOW in the world can you figure out a key event with the post

    Princess Tutu :wub: I think the biggest shock of Princess Tutu was the villain. Seriously I don’t think ANYONE would ever think of a certain character as the villain, which did bump the show up for me for creativity.

  23. Avatar dm says:

    I offer another echo on the Princess Tutu recommendations.

    I saw the early episodes of Strange Dawn when it was released here. It was, indeed, a wonderful series. I believe the entire series may have been released, with the second volume titled Strange … something other than dawn, but I never tracked it down.

    Many in the Touka Gettan thread are recommending that series’ soundtrack, Strange Dawn is another series with a very nice soundtrack.

  24. Avatar TAKO says:

    I found the raw, but there’s no subs to it..
    which is a bit of disappointing.
    However, see to it as the raw is ridiculously hard to find, I guess this is an accomplishment! :D
    Is there anyone who’s willing to sub it??
    xoxo

  25. Avatar Firechick says:

    I might plan on watching this in the future based on your review, but I have other anime I need to finish up before school starts.

    By the way, I also found another case of false advertising. There’s an old anime movie from the 70’s called Ringing Bell (aka Chirin no Suzu) which starts off lightly, but gets extremely dark after the first 10-15 minutes. There is a Japanese version, but it’s EXTREMELY hard to find (I managed to get myself a bootleg DVD with a Japanese option! Yes!), but the English dub is available on YouTube. I personally recommend it.

  26. Avatar webphi says:

    *Might be spoiler*

    Ok I just watched this anime after reading the review (I am French so could find subs). I understand the theme of the anime, speaking of war, religion, stupidity of men and all that but…. I am not sure I really understood the end.
    Is it only a depressing “we give up without even trying and to hell with everybody” or I missed something? They came without wanting it, and left without doing anything (not that there is any hope for 2 young girls to change anything in a fucked up setting like that even if they were willing:p)?
    Why were they summoned to begin with, and what were these “ghosts”? their unconscious?
    If someone more analytic than me could give some answers… =)

  27. Avatar Firechick says:

    Yeah, psgels! I also echo the Princess Tutu recommendation! I’m on episode 17 (that princeling narcissist guy in that episode annoys the spit out of me!…along with pint-sized Edel) so far! I love it to bits! It’s beautiful! I commandeth you to watch it…if the upcoming summer season isn’t exactly good. Hehehehe!

  28. Avatar Onibaba says:

    Appreciate the links, but password doesn’t work. Help please?

  29. psgels psgels says:

    Argh, dammit. How about these? You’ll need to register to their forum first, though.

    http://forum.downparadise.ws/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=92692

  30. Avatar hejay says:

    The password works for the megaupload files. You just have to change the quotation marks to the default straight quotes. So copy and paste this: “Hideki-is-Strange”

  31. Avatar hejay says:

    Er, I guess there some kind of parsing thing going on. Just change the quotes manually.

  32. Avatar darkerthanblackswordsman says:

    Please, lovers of anime, help me! GotWoot might be interested in translating STRANGE DAWN into English, but for that they need the raws. If anyone knows where to find them, tell me, or better still, tell them:
    http://www.gotwoot.net/2010/09/24/some-updates/#comments

    Come on now, someone MUST have them. Otherwise, how did the French translations come into being…

  33. Avatar Maceart says:

    Don’t worry, Doremi-fansubs picked up Strange Dawn. Expect all 13 episodes to be subbed within the next couple months.

  34. Avatar Ladholyman says:

    More like in one month.

  35. Avatar Ladholyman says:

    More like in one month.

  36. Avatar Mappy says:

    Always confounded me why this series was ignored by english subbers for so long. Glad to see Doremi working on it. A lot.

  37. Avatar Maceart says:

    And that’s it! Strange Dawn completed by Doremi-fansubs.

    The conclusion was kind of a let down though… was expecting something more solid. All in all, a decent hero’s journey/advenbure anime.

  38. Avatar blah says:

    Finally finished the series and I have to say it was really good.

    I thought the ending was great, the rock scene specifically. How often in anime do you get a scene where all your characters develop at one time and it’s earned! I loved Beret.

    On a side note, I HATED NATSUNO’S VOICE ACTOR….so much. I don’t think i’ve ever been annoyed by a character’s voice as much as with hers. Did nobody else have a problem with it?

  39. Avatar zork says:

    Saw the first episode quite many years ago and it left quite impression then and I ave always wanted to seethe entire series. Now when Doremi finally did the subbing I had the chance to see all of it at last. But it was somewhat disappointment. Like there wasn’t any plot at all. Just couple girls in parallel universe, some power struggle between local which I quite didn’t get, some emotions/drama between Shall and Reka and then the girls left. And I was left wondering, what the series was all about…

  40. Avatar PlywoodStick says:

    I enjoyed watching this one the whole way through! The ending was so abrupt, though… I left feeling like I didn’t fully understand the clashing cultures. Perhaps the viewer is supposed to feel that way… a sense of emptiness, as the two visitors also exhibited.

  41. Avatar Taxy says:

    Thanks to this review, there’s a german fansub available from today on! Thanks, psgels, for this great recommendation! :)

    Go to http://www.subs4u.de for more details about the german fansub. ^^

  42. [Currently thedoctorismysanta @ tumblr]

    just started watching this… For some reason this reminds me of Munto [Both the anime/movies/ovas] just more bloodier.

    • Avatar cobra34 says:

      The only thing this and Munto have in common is the parallel world thingy. NOTHING else is similar, for Goddamned sake.

  43. Avatar Perrin4869 says:

    Just finished watching this, and I got the same impression as webphi. I must add that I watched it raw, and so I missed most of the dynamics between the different factions here, I’d need a second watch to get that… But really, what was so moving about the ending? The whole meaning of the Majin and the two ghosts wasn’t explained… I ended up feeling quite empty… And it was headed in a very good direction to…
    If someone can shed light upon this, I’d be grateful!

  44. Avatar David says:

    hmm too high i would say , it’s only rated 6/10 …

  45. Avatar VyseLegendaire says:

    I finally got around to watching this show, and I thought it was pretty good, but could have been better. The show felt abruptly started and finished, many background details about world are glossed over or barely explained, the lives of the main characters at home skipped over, and I was at a loss about what the ‘theme’ might have been intended as. I feel like this series could have been an epic 100 ep Legend of Galactic Heroes type epic, considering how interesting the characters and plot really were. I guess everybody did sort of evolve a bit at the ending, however I couldn’t help but feel that much of the plot was contrived if the ending was just going to be so inconclusive.

  46. Avatar cobra34 says:

    >The promo art might make you suspect that this is a fun and light-hearted fantasy adventure, mainly aimed at kids.

    This anime is indeed AIMED at KIDS in Japan. It’s called cultural differences. Didn’t you bother to research even a little before making such ignorant statements?

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