Posted on 27 December 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews, Juuni Taisen, Reviews by SuperMario

With a battle royale concept about 12 Chinese Zodiac warriors fighting against each other for a grand wish and penned by Nisio Isin, Junni Taisen had a lot of high expectation from the anime fandom. We’re pretty much guaranteed to have colorful larger-than-life characters, creative killings, cool lines and exciting battle sequences. The involvement of Nisio suggested that the show might be a tad bit talkier, focus more on characters instead of the overall battle and it could be a deconstruction to the battle royale premise. Well, in the end, Juuni Taisen isn’t what you expect it would be, but not for good reasons. What we have instead is a half-baked story that never quite spend enough time for its cast, a plot that has too much flashback and too little present plot-progress and a production that falls apart like a mutilated zombie.

In order to understand how Juuni Taisen structured the way it was, it’s best to look into their own backstory. Juuni Taisen is an adaptation of a Light Novel that served as a prequel to an one-shot manga about granting one’s wish (my thanks to the commenter who pointed it out), as a result, with the winner pretty much known and the basic groundwork about the Zodiac Wars already established, Nisio decided to narrate the Zodiac War in the reserve-order of the Zodiac signs, as well as its death order. Which comes to straight to the first issue of Juuni Taisen, it becomes predictable that kill half the fun of the battle royale concept. “Predictable” isn’t the same as bad, I must add. But my issues lie in the fact that this tournament doesn’t need to be predictable. Unless you have a sound reason to kill the Zodiac Warriors in that order (which the show doesn’t), it makes no sense whatsoever to rely on such arrangement.

Which also comes to my second point, if viewers come to Juuni Taisen expect a spectacular, brainless action show, they will bound to be disappointed. The fight sequences are decided short and anticlimactic. The pacing doesn’t flow very well because sometimes it spends too much time on flashbacks. There is a significant chunk in the middle part where the present-day moves so little it adds nothing to advance the plot. The huge amount of flashback, its talky nature and the decision to focus on one character per episode mean that Juuni Taisen is more a character-driven piece than action-oriented.

In fact, memorable and colorful characters are Juuni Taisen’s greatest assets. They are not particular deep but they all stand out in their own ways and fit to the narrative of this show like a glove. At its best, Juuni Taisen can develop characters with heart and soul, characters who we can identify and root for. The female cast, in particular, all are developed just about enough for us to care and still want more from them. Chicken, Monkey and Tiger’s stories all have their tragic side that make them utterly relatable. At its worst, Juuni Taisen can ponder too long to the flashbacks that halt the story progression, and worse add next to nothing on what we already know about the characters (hello Snake and Dragon) or too short that we don’t have time to learn more about them (Horse’s flashback is entirely about him trying to enhance his physical body. Dog’s flashback, likewise, is all about his strategy). In the last episode when the show spends some more time to flesh out the entire cast by having Rat asked them about their wishes, it hits home again because those characters are vibrant enough to lighten up the show.

Judging Juuni Taisen in a story department, in the end I consider this story branch fairy weak and uninteresting. Since this is a story about Rat as a protagonist it comes as a given, but I would love to see the retake of other possibilities as I still believe many characters still aren’t developed to their full potential. Not only the characters, but the settings and the implication that powerful people use the Zodiac War as a real-world proxy war are under-explored. For example, the tournaments that occur every 12 years sound nice in concept but inadequate in practice, because it suggests that the tournaments only happen in one animal sign only. Running through the series I still don’t know for sure how popular the Zodiac War is to the common people. If this War is supposed to be a Warrior’s pride then the show fails to develop it properly too.

Aside from the plot progress of the current tournament, the Warriors’ flashbacks usually fall neatly into 2 extreme settings: their mundane normal lives (Monkey, Sheep, Tiger, Rat) as a way to show those Warriors as normal people, and the battlefield (Boar, Chicken, Sheep, Horse, the twins, Tiger, Bull) where it serves to underline our characters as Warriors. Juuni Taisen seems to have a cynical attitude towards the war. War does affect badly to some of our warriors, and the violence of war is sudden and cruel, but that’s the world they live in so they have to accept and make the most out of it. You see, its central message isn’t really profound, or plausible, but I suggest don’t delve too deep into that because Juuni Taisen doesn’t seriously care about it either. All the show cares is to displaying those characters with different viewpoints and attitudes about war and the violence it brings.

Graphinica studio is mostly known as a CG anime studio, and with Juuni Taisen as their first full hand drawn project, it does hint us something about the production values of this show. For the first few episodes, the production was solid with some dynamic fight sequences, but as the show goes on it starts to fall apart with off-model characters, clunky animation and overall unattractive aesthetic. The character designs, on the other spectrum, is so outrageously ridiculous and over the top they stand out as one of the most memorable feature in the series. I would never forget a character with stripper suit, a bunny tail and a high heel. As a whole, Juuni Taisen is decidedly not an action campy show it allures people to be, and that’s not often for its benefits. But still, I would recommend Juuni Taisen to other viewers, since it can provide many deliciously striking sequences, memorable dialogues with its memorable cast. You will have a delicious – if a bit uneven – time, just don’t expect a full-blown action show or a solid show with deep message.

Posted on 21 December 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

This last episode of Juuni Taisen centres on Rat pondering around, deciding on his ultimate wish after winning the Zodiac War. In a way, Rat is the perfect protagonist to explore the nature of wish-fulfilling, because unlike other warriors who have strong personality and have their wishes fixed in mind, all Rat wanted was to survive the Zodiac War. To add more trouble to that mix, he’s totally pessimistic and has little interest in what he really wants. So all Rat does is to weight all the options, and ask his past companions about their own wishes. The results are vastly different from one character to another, because simply they have different sets of value so the “wish” only works for them. To a certain extent, wish is a form of self-fulfilment, as you only wish for something that you don’t or can’t have, as a result what the characters wish for bring out their own insecurities. While I didn’t and still don’t care much for Rat character and his wish, this finale manages to flesh out the cast who have depth in various unexpected ways. As a consequence, although I don’t buy at all Rat’s ultimate wish (for me it’s anticlimax and nonsense as fuck), I still think we have a solid last episode that present well the nature of wish and give the big cast the last victory lap before the show itself fades out.

As we see the various deleted branches in Rat’s hundred possibilities, it’s worth noting that right at the beginning of this series, even before Boar steps into the building, we’re already on Rat’s winning route. The reason why? In other possibilities, Snake was still pretty much healthy and alive; and in one of the route especially, Snake was chopped down by Bull so that he can use the flamethrower to destroy Rabbit’s maniac Necromantist ability and in another reality, Rat is killed even before he entered the elevator. Sheep and Boar don’t give us much of what we already know about them (except for the mannerisms, Boy do I love Boar’s joy and pride when she says her wish). Chicken and Horse give us exactly what they fear, their own weaknesses. But it’s Dog and Rabbit who completely caught me off guard by breaking a bit of their characters, giving them a bit of soft side that we now know maybe just little more about them. Dog rescues a girl and becomes a guardian of that girl and the girl gives him a purpose in life (I know it sounds cliché but frankly, I can live with that). Rabbit, with his obsessions of making everyone his friends, and he’s truly committed to do that. It’s the one wish I’m glad didn’t happen because if it was, the world will become a freaking zombieland.

For all the strengths of his ability, it appears that the ability is more like a curse to Rat because he’s the only one who remembered all the deleted routes, meaning he experienced and remembered vividly all the other 99 occasions in which he had been killed. Again and again. Having option for all the possibilities also means that when it comes to making a proper decision choice, he’s slow and undecided and on the verge of nervous breakdown. Wanting to forget all that happened makes sense to Rat, since he won’t be bothered to remember all the possible paths and thus, becomes a bliss of ignorance – what you don’t know cannot hurt you no more ‘yeah yeah’.

Overall, I consider Juuni Taisen a missed opportunity. When Juuni Taisen remembers to flesh out the characters, it shines on. The Zodiac War, on the other hand, is poorly constructed. I still don’t get what the hell is up with all the “people” behind the big screen? Or I wonder do normal citizens know about the game at all? If they do, why no one recognize Rat? If they don’t, why the Zodiac war important at all? The plot progress didn’t manage enough twist and turn, with many unnecessary extended flashback and what’s up with Rat who disappeared 80% during the game? The production fall apart like Rabbit’s zombie patched body as the show went on. This might be my second least favorite show of this Fall season but I don’t regret the time spending watching and blogging it, because Juuni Taisen is still a fun and perfectly functional mindless trip. Just don’t look too critical on it.

Posted on 14 December 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

To the surprise of no one, Rat wins the race by breaking in the right place at the right time with the right weapon. This is by no mean a coincidence, because later on we learn about Rat’s real power: “Hundred Paths of Nezumi-chan”, in which he can see 100 various outcomes and thus picking out the route where he can survive (the only route out of 100 scenarios). To save a certain plot progress, he “locks in”, just like in a game. Admittedly, his ability does make a good twist, but I can’t help but feel it’s way too overpowering. Your chance isn’t 1% anymore when you know exactly the route to the top of the mountain, right? With his win, in retrospective, I certainly appreciate Juuni Taisen more on their decision to kill off Monkey earlier. It was the move that turns the table to the entire race and flips the route expected from this kind of battle story. In other routes, Monkey might be our true protagonist and she might survive till the end, but this story is all about the Rat, so Monkey unfortunately draws a short straw here. Even Bull in the first half admits the same thing, that the moment Monkey turns into Rabbit’s zombie henchwoman, Rabbit becomes the force to be reckoned with.

Juuni Taisen also delivers one of its most twisted and awesome moment – almost at the same time, which I can argue that this single moment sums up pretty well the brilliance of Juuni Taisen: Monkey jumps out from the inside Rabbit’s freaking body and successfully catches Bull off-guarded. What the fuck? But then again, why don’t they kill Bull immediately? Doesn’t the Zombie who kill off the opponents can still bring them back to life? That explains the zombie birds, right? That explains why Rabbit was so furious when he couldn’t turn Horse into his zombie friend, right? Then, supposed that only Rabbit can do the trick, why doesn’t he shoot his blade like what he did last week? Again, this story isn’t given much thought into it, which is extremely frustrating. Juuni Taisen might have some interesting ideas, but not enough love or skill to carry out such intriguing premise.

Even Rat’s ability doesn’t execute well enough. We have a first-handed experience on how his power works: a game-inspired loop of whenever Rat fails to achieve the mission, he starts back and tries again. Except in this case he loses all the time. Imagine if the winner is either Bull or Monkey they would have left the place unscratched. So what Rat does instead is to explain his ability in an over-explanatory fashion. I’m vaguely interested in the deleted routes, however; like how he and Tiger form a grudging alliance in one path, or he and Rabbit unexpectedly hit it off in another. In any cases, it STILL doesn’t explain the decision to kill warriors in a reverse Zodiac mode, which eventually made the race boring, predictable and pointless. Alas, there is one wish that will be granted, and I bet it will have to do with the peace treaty Monkey has been prepared all along. Rat is the most unexciting character in this Zodiac Wars, so it’s hard for me to even care what he will wish for. Let’s just give him a good night’s sleep, I say. He earns it at least.

Posted on 6 December 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

Juuni Taisen again expands a huge flashback in the middle of the current story, but this one hits all the right notes because naturally its heart is in the right place. It’s episode like this that I am glad I’m still sticking with Juuni Taisen and regain my faith to the overall quality of this show. Forget my slam on the representative of women warriors in Juuni Taisen few weeks ago, because with this episode, Tiger becomes one of my favorite character and the whole female cast is up there as the show’s best written characters (3 out of 4 if you ask me with Monkey, Tiger and Chicken are all spectacular, only Boar isn’t that developed but since she was out after the first episode, I can get behind that). Continued right the last episode left off, the long-awaited duel between Bull and Tiger is permanently interrupted by the Zombie Rabbit – a typical move from Nisio’s writing. Despite the fact that I can forgive the carelessness of both warriors, given they didn’t know that Rabbit was a necromantis (something we learned right at the first episode), hence aren’t prepared for his sneaky, underhanded attack; I still don’t get why Rabbit bites his tongue could activate his self-control zombie mode ability. Self-sacrifice by biting off his tongue? Listen, the main reason you die from biting your own tongue is due to the amount of blood loss (bleeding to death), so it doesn’t make any goddamn sense here, technically. Only reason I can come up is that Rabbit was a zombie from the very beginning (look at his red eyes and his unpredictably moves), but then why does he think it’s a good idea to get his body chopped off like this? He can’t regenerate his body, can he?

I must admit I wasn’t ready for another flashback of Tiger, and I certainly didn’t anticipate that flashback to be this poignant and bittersweet. Snake and Dragon’s 2 part-er, take note. This flashback not only builds from the previous one about Tiger who eventually lost herself to drinking and killing because of the mad world, but also adds another dimension to her character development, with charming dynamic between Bull and Tiger to boost. Like I mentioned last week, in many ways, Bull and Tiger share the same fighting styles, but not necessary the same mentality. Tiger kills enemy recklessly because she’s lost and suffering, so to see Bull killing them with a calm demeanour, she can’t help but think Bull knows exactly what he’s doing – a warrior who always does the right thing. When confront with that question himself, Bull comes up with an answer: first, you choose to do it, then do it (the way he demonstrates the idea is priceless by the way). The moral here is the intention. That encounter eventually leaves a big impact to Tiger that she finally has a goal in her life: to meet him again and get him to acknowledge her.

Life is always a little bit more beautiful when you have something to look forward to, so naturally seeing Tiger having her personal goal is already a joy to watch. And I won’t lie when I say I’m eager for her sobering up and doing everything in her power to get into the Zodiac Wars just to meet the person who changed her path of life. She saves Bull without even thinking – her very act of doing the right thing. This episode also sells me on the warm chemistry between Bull and Tiger as we can see the spark of their relationship not only from Tiger’s, but from Bull’s perspective as well. Bull is the man of action, which is to say he doesn’t talk much or think much because his resolve is always clear as the sky. Yet within his time spent with Tiger he talks the most, he isn’t willing to let her die because he has never been saved by anyone before, not knowing that it was the debt she’s repaying him. In addition, Bull never has any intention to kill Tiger as far as I concern, and that makes their final conclusion: he has to finish her off (as Tiger requested) before she turns into a zombie, the more bittersweet and heartbreaking. Bull finally acknowledges Tiger as a warrior just as she wished, and I as well acknowledge her for having such a compelling and moving character arc. The race is now a three-way battle between Bull, Bunny and Rat, and with Rat’s nowhere to be found it’s not a good sign. With only two episodes left, I expect Rat teaming up with Bull to kill an annoying zombie plague and maybe put my beloved Monkey into an eternal rest. At the same time, I am content with Juuni Taisen for now because we’ll always have Paris this episode to linger on.

Posted on 29 November 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

Oh fuck… Turns out Dragon’s plan all along was to chime in, just so that he is immediately taken down by the flying Rabbit. Lame. What a load of crap. I mean, Dragon has been contributing absolutely zero significance to the plot so far. The reason he wasn’t the first one to have his head chopped off? Because he was standing behind Snake. The reason he survived within the top 5? Because he’s freaking flying and hiding. And just when he makes a speech last week and decides to fight, bam, his body gets cut in half. Duh. I don’t feel like I care anymore.

Maybe Dragon’s very purpose in the story comes afterward, when the now Zombie-Dragon again combines Zombie-Snake as an invincible team to battle Bull and Tiger. I honestly don’t get Bull’s plan part that suggest Tiger taking the ice tank because Bull could have done it himself without relying on the not-to-good-with-thinking Tiger. Anyways, I kinda enjoy the dynamic between Bull and Tiger. Believe it or not they’re quite similar when it comes to fighting style: all aggressive, lone-wolf, no strategy style (simply because they’re too strong and quick to even need a strategy). That is exactly why their style doesn’t work well against zombies, whose body parts keep risen again after getting chopped up. Fortunately, Tiger finally caught on with the plan and uses the ice tank from Dragon to finish those annoying zombies off.

I was curious to see how Juuni Taisen tackles this Rabbit episode, arguably the most mysterious, maddening character of this series. He is the only one who doesn’t have a prolife page in the Light Novel, implying that his backstory is a mysterious one. As it reveals, this week we have… Tiger’s extended backstory instead on how she was a spirited fighter and then broken down due to the ugliness of war and thus turns her into the bloodthirsty beast who drunk on blood and booze and stop worrying about anything else. If there is a central message in Juuni Taisen: their world is harsh, grey-morally and mad and those who still keeps a bright, hopeful sentiment (like Monkey and in an extend, Chicken) will be the first to die. What I find amused about this particular backstory is how Tiger was raised in such a traditional dojo, something that when we saw her fighting stance in few previous back we wouldn’t have guessed correctly. Drinking away, stop thinking and worrying too much in a way free herself to all the commitments and her moral dilemma about the pointlessness of it all. She starts to lose sense of time, of the faces around her and her life seems to be an extended, endless day with more soldiers to kill and booze to drink.

Bull and Tiger meet the formidable Rabbit and to our surprise, they kill Rabbit at a single whoop. But consider Rabbit has fair amount of dirty tactics, I come to suspect that this is all his plan along. Anyone noticed he bites his tongue before getting chopped off? After all he’s a necromantic so it only makes sense that he could raise himself back from the death. In addition, he still has Monkey lurking around somewhere and her ability is simply too powerful. The production this week fares a bit better than the poor execution last week, although the obvious CG still stands out too much in a bad way. A lot of fight scenes this week, however, will somewhat compensate for the lack of any fighting in previous few weeks. So I expect next week will be a fair fight between the best-dynamic fighters to date, and then we will see how Rabbit comes back from the death to haunt those two. In a meantime, Rat just waits out for everyone killing themselves and then claim a victory lap by doing absolutely nothing.

Posted on 22 November 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

Can’t say I am fond of a huge flashback where they advance almost nothing to the plot, let alone an extended flashback-within-a-flashback. It hurts as well as the production takes quite a disastrous turn this week, with many off-model and inconsistent animation. Haizz, I’d love to be proven wrong but so far Juuni Taisen has done nothing to impress me at all. The entirety of this episode focuses on the twin’s motive through a case, where each of them assigned to two opposing parties and in the end, they are the ones who take the whole cake. If there is one positive note I’d give about the flashback (there isn’t many), it’s that Juuni Taisen keeps twisting the notion of what kind of warriors/ heroes Snake and Dragon are. First, they implied that the twins doing all the killing for money, which at first sight seems kinda appropriate with their mottos, well… “Killing for Money”. But later on, the show hints that they share their stolen money for the poor, Robin Hood style, most notably through the story of two little brothers. In the end though, it’s clear that they’re doing the way the do is simply because it’s fun and excitement

The twins rather work as one unity team this week so it’s hard to look further on their bond except that now we know why Dragon shares no remorse towards the death of his twin brother, because they don’t see the value in the concept of mourning. Heck, it’s hard for me to even pinpoint if they truly love someone beyond their own because they seriously lack empathy. Dragon points out during the court that their moral sense is vastly different from normal people, thus applying normal people’s judgement into their case isn’t really appropriate. I am honestly not sure how he can get away with that argument, although it’s clear that he did and in the end, every bad deed they had done is nothing more than amusing themselves and makes their lives more fun.

Back to the main event, Bull and Tiger narrowly escape death. Like what I guessed last week it’s the burning that kill those zombies for good (or if you have crows by your side), and both Bull and Tiger are determining to finish Zombie Snake once and for all before having their own match, but Dragon has different plan. At this point, I feel the plot has padded out too thin, both doesn’t do much to advance the plot, and the backstory doesn’t catch much of my interest either. Add that to the poor quality of production that feel like they could break apart at any moment, and we have Juuni Taisen at its lowest point. Still think they have something up their sleeves for the final round but I won’t hold my breath after disappointment after disappointment.

Posted on 17 November 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

For a character who officially dead before Juuni Taisen started (and thus, render him “useless” to win the tournament), Snake is surprisingly one of the most fearsome warrior of the race so far. He assisted Rabbit to kill Boar in the first episode, he cornered Rat to every holes Rat could hide, he KILLED Horse, his head helped Rabbit to finish Monkey and now his limbs alone are strangling both Bull and Tiger into their suffocation. Like how Rat mentioned last week, he feels more alive and battle-ready than many of other warriors in the race, especially his brother Dragon who still does nothing except flying and observing the race from the sky. We also have a glimpse of the dynamic between Snake and Dragon and I like that their relationship is still pretty vague, a combination of both partner in crime, sibling rivalry, familial bond but at the same time not really either of these. For those who wonder about the weird sibling bond between Snake and Dragon, especially in Western culture where dragon is a fire-breathing creature with aggressive connotations, dragons in Asian culture are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. Moreover, their close relationship with snake dates back to ancient times so there’s some truth behind the Tsumita clan who claim that the Warriors of Dragon and Snake have always been pair for generations (but if they put it that way, both Dragon and Snake have to know they will have to kill off each other beforehand, right?)

We have some fragment flashbacks about the twins, mostly about their heists and their nomination ceremony for the Zodiac Wars. Between those two, Dragon is a calmer, more collected and Snake is the more aggressive warrior. Dragon owns the sky as he flies through the field, whereas Snake has a special ability to feel and connect the Earth. Dragon uses what I assumed an ice thrower, whereas Snake used flamethrower. Putting together, they make quite a dangerous pair precisely because they are two-headed monster whose abilities complement one another. But like I said, I like how their relationship is neither of these expected tropes. At first, they show no remorse when they heard the news that one of them will have to die in the Zodiac War, for them it’s more like a part of a deal they all have to follow. They do compete with one another, but they question it immediately “Since when it becomes a competition?”. They tell each other “a fool”, but they clearly enjoy their times together. They can survive on their owns, but always enjoy the company of the other and watch each other’s back. Their ability is “killing for money” but from what I see money isn’t really all they look for. I enjoy it when the siblings keep redefining who they are and aren’t, but there certainly is a big risk that Dragon especially can come off as bland with no real personality. Hopefully the next episode Juuni Taisen will do a justice to his arc because so far he contributes absolutely nothing to the race.

Elsewhere, Rabbit is disappointed because he can’t resurrect Horse, for whatever reason. I suspect it has to do with the heat/burn because it’s the very same method that Bull decided to use against Snake’s arms. As expected, Tiger has a real grudge against Bull and they agree to settle for a battle once they getting out of the current mess they are in now. Which of course will come after Dragon and Rabbit’s episodes, and by then we will learn why Tiger hold such hatred towards poor Bull (love quarrel? I’d love that). Even more so with the Dragon character, I have a feeling Juuni Taisen knows where it’s heading and still have enough tactful tricks to surprise us, but it’s better be rewarding because the ride so far has been slow, and surprisingly safe and uninspiring. Knowing Nisio I believe he can come up with a solid ending, but it won’t be an excuse to make the middle section this mild and boring.

Posted on 8 November 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

Like what I predicted last week, halfway point and we have multiple deaths this week and the betting is officially kicking into gear. Unlike what I predicted last week, it’s not two but three players are leaving the game. One of them completely takes me out by surprise, not in a good way. For the main reason is that the three death warriors are respectively: Monkey – Goat and Horse; and that falls neatly to the reverse Zodiac order AGAIN. As for now, I pretty much think the death order is intentional, but I can’t see the reasons behind that. Why follow the same pattern? Why make it predictable? Why those who have a brief background end up taking the short straws? Honestly, I am disappointed, and a little pissed since Juuni Taisen killed off my favorite character, Monkey. Granted, Monkey might not be gone yet (again with rule number 1: nothing is certain unless you see the dead body), but I’m still a bit curious to see Monkey in her zombie form and what her role remains in later events, because I still see her pacifist attitude can still be relevant as the show reaches the climax. One thing I come to certain now: Rat is likely to win after all, both because he’s the least favorite to win (everyone loves an underdog), and because his role is getting more and more significant now. A modern Death Reaper, perhaps? Comes to signal the death of fellow warrior and then vanishes into thin air?

It’s Horse episode this week so naturally we learn a bit about him. All the flashbacks pointed to him training his body to become a human armor, with the current situation serves to explore his psychology. That bit is still one of the factor that I’m digging in Juuni Taisen: various warriors have different personalities, fight styles, and their game philosophy towards the Zodiac War. For Horse, it’s all about defence. He’s great of defending himself; his main ability, likewise, is “stirrup”, the ability to allow him to increase the toughness of his body beyond that of normal human limits. After losing confidence over the one-sided fight with Bull earlier, he holes himself up into well-guarded bank vault, and that ultimately is how he loses his life. Rat criticizes Horse method of “doing nothing but surviving” is no better than death itself, since the world that everything stands still is basically a dead world. He might not be the great warrior or has high chance to win the race, but Horse’s role and his philosophy still adds up considerably in Juuni Taisen.

In another battle, Tiger proves herself to be a badass with her drunken fist style… boy, I love how messy and ridiculous she often behaves, but when it comes to action she does a quick and clean job. Bull basically just walks around, looking goofy. And like how Rat describes the Zombie headless Snake, he comes as more alive and threatening than most the players out there, especially his twin-brother counterpart, Dragon, who still nowhere to be seen at this moment and still managed to be in the top 6. Geez, I don’t like that kind of one character per episode focus. We will have a two-part episode next week, which is rather appropriate since the next episode will focus on the Snake – Dragon dynamic, and I’m 80% sure now that after it ends, Dragon will be the next to die. As of now, I still enjoy the Juuni Taisen’s solid set of characters, but in the grander scheme my interest has waned quite a bit. Don’t even care who will win the race for one thing (but let’s hope it won’t be Zombie Snake, or better yet, Zombie Monkey).

As of now,

Deaths: Snake, Boar, Dog, Chicken, Monkey, Goat, Horse

Favorites to win: Rat, Bull, Rabbit

Posted on 3 November 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

Sorry for a slight delay of this post, as for the last few days I took a little break from anime to catch up with other stuffs. Turned out that instead of catching up, I ended up surfing the webs meaninglessly, shopping unnecessary stuffs online, sleeping way too early and still manage to feel tired and wrecked the next day. Very counterproductive I must admit. At this rate, I might get back to the project sooner than I think. Now back to Juuni Taisen, this week Juuni Taisen has one of its worst showing, with the pacing drags big time here. The plot progression is just an extension of what we already know or what we could have guessed. Monkey can’t seem to get through her peace message to Rabbit’s head (Surprise! Surpise!). Horse didn’t die the last time, but that raise a big head-scratching issue for me: Bull isn’t a guy to let his opponent escape that easily – I hope there is something else beneath it, otherwise it’s a very weak development for me. Rat’s experiencing a hard time escaping Zombie-headless Snake (why Zombie Boar can barely move, but Zombie Snake can run, sense the opponent’s movement, and approach Rat with a sound tactical attack?). In fact, this episode keeps stalling on forwarding the plot that the only plot progression we gain towards the end is that Sheep might team up with the Tiger (Tigress?)

But we do learn some context about the Zodiac War. The big battle is watched by a group of faceless rich and powerful people, in a War-room inspired meeting room, to gamble and might possibly change the world based on who will win the battle. A proxy war so to speak, but the one that I don’t particular care for (come on. They’re faceless people here). But this reveal does sign us the direction Juuni Taisen might go in the future. Maybe this is what Chicken means by persuaying the warriors not to kill each other. Could it be that she wanted the Zodiac warriors to team up and destroy the Zodiac War system, once and for all? Anyways, it doesn’t make a dash of sense for me that they have to wait for 6 remaining warriors to bet. Isn’t it, like, defeat the whole purpose of horse betting? Apparently, Nisio wrote a spin-off story about this tournament from the point of view of one of these faceless people. Wonder who might it be? The… yellow faceless figure there? The figure… with woman voice? My guess is as good as anyone here.

As this is a Sheep’s episode, we have an extended flashback about him and we learn a bit of everything about his life. A weapon specialist, an experienced warrior, a former Zodiac War winner (which happened in a SPACE!!! Damn, I want one of those stories) and ultimately his happy life spent taking care of his grandson. Basically a skilled soldier who married into a family with great Zodiac tradition, it’s his normal family time spent that make him one of the most humane character of the cast right now. One other factor that makes his story stands out is that he has fulfilled a happy life, and now the only reason to join the battle is to protect his grandson. A solid reason, but unfortunately, not a refreshing one. If there is one warrior of this tournament is ready to die without any regrets left, it’s Sheep.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t put up a fight to survive. He was the one who ready to blow up everyone before Monkey intervened by breaking the floor. He was one of the few who didn’t swallow the poison. Now, he works his way through, chess-style, to figure out the favorites and the ones that he should team up. It’s fun to see the wise man reasoning and mapping out his plan, but when we have more information than him regarding who’d still on the battlefield, I can’t help but feel that the time spent for him serves very little purpose. And for a wise man who knows everyone’s, including his own, position, he makes a grave mistake of underestimating someone else. Rat and Tiger are considered the weakest warriors by Sheep, and as I considered Rat an underdog, with this episode I can confirm that Tiger will have something up her sleeves as well (and the fact that she’s the last third of the reverse Zodiac order helps significantly too. She can’t die before her arc comes, right?).

In the end, episode 5 of Juuni Taisen is the show’s weakest episode so far. The plot’s stalling at times, Sheep’s backstory isn’t that special, the battles feel unnecessary long and no one dies this week. Consider that the faceless VIP waits for half of the field is gone in order to bet, and the fact that the next episode will be half of the show’s run, I expect a multiple, (and hopefully brutal) deaths next week.

As of now,

Deaths: Snake, Boar, Dog, Chicken

Favorites to win: Monkey, Rabbit, Bull, Rat

Might remain within top 6: Tiger, Dragon, which means Horse and Sheep might leave the field next.

Posted on 25 October 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Juuni Taisen

If you had any doubt before that Juuni Taisen is written by Nisio Isin, this episode should clear that out front. It’s talking and talking through and through this week, but this episode also restores my faith that the reversed Zodiac order only serves as a narrative one, and not for the death order. It’s Monkey and Rat who have the most screen time this week and I certainly enjoy the various themes these two explore, be it their own approach on war, the act of saving lives, and the Zodiac War itself. Monkey, as the Rat (and everyone points out), is a pacific, but what sells her ideal is that she isn’t simply an optimistic, idealistic naive person. She has experienced through all the crimes, the hardships, the brutality of war and still, she tries to make peace with her best efforts. Monkey might save more lives than any warrior in the game, but it also means that she has failed more lives than she ever wanted to. The flashback about her trying to ceasefire in a long-winded border conflict between two nations clearly points out that although her intervention comes from a good intent, the effort could end up backfire and might lead to more severe conflicts.

Although Rat didn’t mind following on her peace agreement, he has lots of criticisms regarding her method. First, he points out that with her current skills (which, by the way, is awesome. She can transmute any substance between physical states, being teach by the Three Wise Monkeys no less), it’s much quicker (and more effective) to achieve her goal by killing/ destroying bad weeds rather than negotiating and hoping she can change their minds. It’s just her way of using her weapons though, and I greatly appreciate her for that. Second, Rat laments that saving all the people also means that they have to save rubbish people who don’t deserve to be saved, and by protecting them, they would assume that protecting/saving is someone else’s job. Although he has his point here, I have a feeling his argument mostly comes from his own frustration rather than pointing directly at Monkey’s method. We have his way of thinking here, but without the context it’s hard to know what Rat’s personality is at this moment. Finally, he argues that the Zodiac warriors, more than any other people, are a dangerous bunch who can only find meaning in fighting each other. Are they worth saving at all? Whatever the case, Monkey more than holds her own in this episode. She might be a pacific, yes, but her method never feels unrealistic and I don’t think she’ll be sent off any time soon.

The action does pick up at the end when Bunny team ambushes Rat and Monkey using zombie birds (the ones that Boar killed last week) and now it’s 2-and-2 battle. Now, pure speculation. Toward the end, one line from Rat actually throws me off guard: He remarks at Monkey’s decision to restrain the Mad Rabbit peacefully as “you’re always like this – as “all the time”. Now I have two theories behind his statement. 1) Rat is specifically assigned to join this Zodiac battle to tag along and control/support Monkey. This theory fits with the fact that the warriors in this edition of Zodiac War are more aggressive than usual and they might seek a bigger goal beside gaining one’s wish. Whatever that goal is still in the dark right now, but it does seem that Rat knows pretty well about Monkey’s ability and method. Or 2) Rat has time-rewinding ability. It might sound crazy but consider that he always knows what going on next, and the fact that almost every other warrior has that déjà vu sense when they meet him, which might indicate that they in fact face him all over and over again. That also explains his bored attitude since the guy might have repeated the cycle endless time (let’s say it’s 15,521st time), and if that’s the case, what makes this loop any different than the others? Anyways, I suspect the talky nature (and the lack of body count) might turn some viewers off, but for me we still have a pretty solid episode at hand. Next week will be the old wise Sheep’s turn and I expect we get a good one-off story out of this old man before he’s killed by whoever it is (Frankly, I see him has no chance to win this tournament). Doesn’t matter, I’ve fully embraced Juuni Taisen by now.

As of now,

Deaths: Snake, Boar, Dog, Horse (maybe), Chicken

Favorites to win: Bull, Rat, Monkey, Rabbit, no-one

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