Posted 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
Posted on 4 March 2007 with categories: Strange Dawn

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Short Synopsis: Now that the enemy has fled, Darl tries to make the villagers get rid of Shall. Especially now that the two great protectors have announced to leave. He still believes in them, though.
Good: How! Incredibly! Refreshing!!!
Bad: It’s annoying! This series is sparking so much thoughts into me, but I just can’t get them into words.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8.5/10

Oh my god. I’ve fallen in love with another anime. I don’t care if this anime turns out to be disappointing for the rest of its episodes. The past two episodes were SO worth watching, as they easily breached more than a dozen clichés. I can’t believe how realistic this anime portrays the actions of our heroes, and I can’t believe how incredibly NEGLECTED this anime has become!

Like I mentioned above, this episode felt SO refreshing, I want to say so much about it, but I feel that I just can’t put all of my feelings to words and do this series justice. I’ll try, though. For starters, usually in battle, when people die you see a few shots of them in the midst of dying, usually with lots of blood, and that’s the rest you’ll see of them. In Strange Dawn, however, this guy really mattered in the aftermath. His death was seen as a real loss, and we even see his family in pain, even though that’s the first time we see him. If an anime really wants to try, it gives a bit of background about the guy before he dies, but never have I seen that background is given after the guy died, like in Strange Dawn. This emphasizes the fact that he’s just a random victim even more. His son, coming to Eri, asking her to bring his father back was heart-wrenching.

Also, how many times have we seen characters who get thrown into unexpected situations, and suddenly know exactly how to behave? Or they take one episode, in which they yell at the one responsible about how they never asked about their “duties”, and then suddenly everything’s fine and they’re ready to save the world? Probably too many to count. The combination of Eri and Yuki greatly breaks this stereotype. Eri likes to dream and keep everyone pleased. She’s afraid to go against people, and she likes the idea of keeping everyone happy. Because of that, she tries a few things here and there, but you can see that she doesn’t even try.

Yuki, meanwhile, cares far less about what other people think of her. She hates being in the centre of attention, and with people referring to her as the “great protector”, just because she’s large greatly annoys her. All she cares about is getting home. To make things even better, we don’t have that melodramatic crap where a character like that sees the light in the end, and cooperates with the main character like nothing happened. She indeed helped during the last episode, but that was probably more out of a reflex than wanting to help out at all costs.

I also love the village chief. He’s the perfect example of how easily people are influenced. Also, notice the vultures which have been circling around the town. Eri also was cute when she tried to find a toilet. It’s definitely something you’d expect of her. She just keeps worrying too much over things, and while Yuki started the toilet-thing, the probably forgot it not long after she said it.

When I first saw Shall, I feared that he’d be your standard strong hero. Even with that, I’m proven wrong. He isn’t impulsive at all, heck, he has lots of doubts about himself. For some reason, though, he keeps clinging to the thought that Eri and Yuki are the great protectors. It seems that he went to “the city” for a while, which seems to suggest that he went to the main capital, and that the village is just an outpost. Something probably happened during his stay in the city, which influenced him greatly.

I probably missed a lot of things in this short review, but there’s one final thing I’d like to say, if you skimmed through this article: do NOT get fooled by the character designs! The story in fact is quite dark and serious!

Posted on 6 February 2007 with categories: Strange Dawn

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Short Synopsis: Two normal schoolgirls find themselves in a strange fantasy world. The twist: they don’t get any new powers to fight with.
Good: Extremely likable characters; A great twist to a concept which has been used in many, many anime.
Bad: Even though it’s not a real bad point, the chibi-characters may be a turn-off for most people.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10

Okay, I’ve fallen in love with another concept. Now that Ayatsuri Sakon’s novelty is wearing off, and the subs for Popolocrois have been stalled for ages I’ve been looking for another old anime to blog about. I’m really hoping that the subbers continue releasing this project till the end, as I’ve been searching for this series for ages, and it deserves to be watched. That’s another reason I decided to blog this: the hope that more people will try to give this wonderful concept a chance.

The concept behind this anime is simple, but brilliant. Two schoolgirls are transported to another world for reason X. In normal situations, they’d meet up, act a bit bewildered, get in danger, and get ahold of some strange amounts of powers with which they save the world. Not this time, though. They ended up in a world full of small people, who are just as scared of them, as they are scared. Finally, two people are labelled as the “great protectors” for a good reason. After all, if you’d saw two giants in the middle of a war, you’d see them as special, wouldn’t you? ^^

The two main characters are also extremely interesting. One of them is just lazy and easily annoyed. The other is a goodie-two-shoe. She always abides by the rules, tries to please everyone, but in the end, she’s extremely annoying. Together, they form a great team. Eri obviously wants to help, since she doesn’t understand anything, though Yuki has no intention to help. This holds Eri back as well, as she doesn’t want to upset Yuki. When the enemy-soldiers attack in the end, however, and the two princesses of the tribe which took them in are in danger, Eri manages to scare them away by yelling, screaming and running to their place, Yuki follows her in this. I loved how Eri laughed when everything was over. You don’t expect that from a shy and reserved person at all.

Despite the chibi-characters, this is one serious show. It’s got comedy, but that takes a step back for what’s really important in this anime: the tribe’s struggles with their enemies, and the relationship with Eri and Yuki. The fights actually involve strategy, and this isn’t such a kiddie-show in which nobody gets hurt either. In fact, Yuki already got hit by an arrow in the first episode. She managed to use the element of surprise this time to scare the enemy away, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the enemy coming up with strategies to defeat the two of them. It shouldn’t be too hard, as they can be easily defeated if you send enough men at them, and keep hitting them. I wonder what the two of them will do against it.

For more information about this series and its subbers, you can go here (it also offers direct downloads, if you can’t use bittorrent for some reason):

http://z10.invisionfree.com/Church_of_Berserk/index.php?showforum=49

One final note: the background music has a great feel to this. It makes use of highly atmospheric tunes, which fit the style and story perfectly.

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