Friday, January 16, 2009

First Impression: Kemono no Souja Erin

Yeah, so not too long ago, I made a preview post on the Winter 2009 season. Two of the titles included in the list, namely, Kemono no Souja Erin and Viper's Creed are yet to be picked up by a fansub group. I'm still hoping for someone (*hint* *nudge*) to sub the two series, but in the meantime I'll watch them raw (even if I don't understand the language).
EPISODE 01: Midori no Meno Erin
OP: Shizuku (Sukima Switch) [YouTube]
ED: after the rain (cossami) [YouTube]

Two kingdoms are at war. Not far away from the battlefield, in the small village of Akemura lives Erin, the precocious daughter of Soyon. Soyon has the ability to control the Touda, powerful dragon-like beasts used as war weapons, and because of this she is tasked to care for them and keep them in rein. So when one day, a man from another town brought in a young Touda, it falls upon Soyon to take care of it. Trouble ensues when the young Touda disappears and Erin goes looking for it, without telling anyone, only to encounter an angry mother Touda.
Kemono no Souja Erin (lit. "Beast Player Erin") is created by Uehashi Nahoko of Seirei no Moribito fame and produced by the same animation studio (Production I.G.). For those alone, I'm willing to put up with the length of the series (50 episodes) and the lack of fansubs. Then I saw Episode 01 and I must say, while it's far from Seirei no Moribito quality, it does look really good, style-wise.

First, let's deal with the OP and ED themes. The opening song is called "Shizuku" by Sukima Switch. It's a nice enough song but fairly forgettable. What blew my mind was the accompanying OP clip -- highly stylized visuals like exploding rainbows in your screen. This style is also used in the video clip for the ED theme and in a few scenes during the episode proper. The ending song is "after the rain" by cossami, a sweet, piano-flavored song with partly Engrish lyrics.

Now for the rest. The first thing I noticed, apart from the bizarre opening clip, is the fuzzy-lined, texturized but sparsely detailed background art. The whole thing almost looks like illustrations for a children's book. I like it actually. It's different. The character design seem even generic by contrast although by no means bad. Then there are the weird color sketches of the Touda devouring an entire army. I must admit, even now, I still don't know what to make of it. Yes, it's strange. Yes, it's style. Yes, I'm a little overwhelmed. But does it work? It's too early and the scene's too brief to judge.

My one regret is that I really don't know what the characters are saying. One can only guess so much from one's actions but if the episode, like this one, is heavy on the dialogue (as it should be as it has a lot to explain to get audiences settled with the story), one is completely at a loss. One can only hope that someone please sub this episode and soon.
OVERALL -- Looks good for a first episode. And this being from Uehashi, you can expect a solid storyline.

Kemono no Souja Erin @ ANN
WATCH OP Clip "Shizuka" by Sukima Switch
WATCH ED Clip "after the rain" by cossami