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Netflix Anime Review - Sword Gai: the Animation

Netflix has become the anime-chicken poppin' out anime-eggs here and there. Some eggs are golden (see other reviews) but some eggs are rotten from the core. Unfortunately, Sword Gai: the Animation was lacking in cohesion of the storyline, art, and well basically everything for me. Spoilers ahead..

The Story: Repetitive and Inconsistent

The story is about weapons that are 'alive' with demonic powers which compel humans to become uncontrollably bloodthirsty when they touch it. Then it can go two ways, they become a Busoma, where the person is taken over by the weapon and has 'lost' itself with no humanity left in them and go on a killing spree. Or they become a Chrysalis, like a 'cocoon' where they can still be the human being but still use the weapons' powers. One catch: Chrysalis' final stage after the cocoon is not a butterfly, but Busoma, so eventually they will also lose themselves to the weapon. Therefore they are being put in a sort of cryogenic sleep where they can be awakened whenever they are needed by an organisation called Shoshidai. This organisation 'hunts' for these weapons to keep them safe and therefore also hunt for Busoma.

The Shoshidai is apparently run by these floating mask thingies

 In a certain facility (we don't really get to see much of) the Shoshidai puts the weapons away

.. and do some research on the Chrysalis and their weapons, which can apparently be seen on scans

The story is set in Japan in modern times, there are cities and modern technology exist which don't seem too advanced, so around this age seems about right. The Chrysalis' lives change drastically, as they are put in cryogenic sleep and awaken sometimes even 16 years later to a fully changed world. This leads to some interesting storylines. (Well, actually just one semi-interesting storyline.)

To the contrary of what the title would make you believe, we see not only swords, we also see spears, hammers, chakram (Xena anyone?) flying around on our screens. So the title would only refer to the main character named Gai. The first episode introduces the Shoshidai during a hunt for one of these weapons. They find the sword but the superior is drawn to the sword Zsoltgewinn and eventually taken over by it. 

The Busoma Zsoltegewinn in its final 'knight' in shining armor form

In another thread there is a different sword called Shiryuu that is being 'cleansed' which doesn't really work out and Shiryuu takes over people and goes on a rampage. Eventually we see a happy couple talking about their soon to be born child, and the man is killed. In a rage the woman touches the sword and kills the man's killer. She then goes to the woods, give birth and kills herself by hanging from a tree (I got flashbacks to Berserk). We don't know in what order because we see Amon, a sword-smith, whom finds the baby with Shiryuu clutched in his precious little hands.

This little boy turns out to be Gai, the main character in this story (well, the title of this anime would make you believe this, the rest of the episodes don't convince). Gai is saved and raised by Amon and lives together with this swordsmith and his daughter Sayaka, and some other disciples in the mountain forests somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Sayaka loves Gai, but Gai is a cold-hearted guy who doesn't want to get close to anyone. One night, while doing a ritual to cleanse the Shiryuu, one of the (jealous) guys whom resents Gai looks at the sword. Sayaka is taken over by the sword, and while trying to kill the guy, Gai saves him and loses his right arm. Amon replaces his arm with a (functional?) metal arm made from the sword that is Shiryuu. 

Instead of being thankful to Gai for saving his life by losing his arm, he becomes a Busoma 

Amon makes the Shiryuu into Gai's arm

But obviously not before Gai stabs his mother's grave (???) a bunch of times of course. Obviously.

So that's Gai's story. The sword becomes part of him as his arm. Shoshidai wants to get him to work for them and during all of this, nothing really interesting happens to Gai, as well as no real character development but a boy that wants to be alone and repels everyone that loves him like Sayaka. This does not get any better over 12 episodes, and makes one wonder why in the hell is this crappy little boy the main protagonist. The rest of the time we are thrown into an amalgam of different parties and characters dealing/being dealt with by these weapons, which have no coherent storyline and don't go anywhere.

Seriously though, who ARE these people??

We are introduced to two main organisations, the abovementioned Shoshidai that hunts down/experiments with the weapons to come up with cures or more weapons, and one that denies all weaponry and believes in the human body called Gabi to defeat the Busoma, which didn't really work out for one of the guys..

Auch, that must have hurt

Shoshidai seems to be the 'good guys', but throughout this series we see some questionable things happening. For example, one of the Chrysalis called Naoki gets a relationship with Mina, whom works at Shoshidai. Ahw, how cute, you'd think. After he is on the verge of turning into a Busoma, Mina tells him he's fine and when he is put to sleep he is instead destroyed (while being conscious of this). Cold hearted, you'd think? 
 Time to be put to 'sleep'

Mina basically killing her 'lover', or puppet I guess is more accurate to describe their relationship

Then one of the new members Naoki brought in called Marcus gets a new counsellor, which is Mina whom changed her 'mask' into Marcus' great love, and starts being 'very' nice to him. This all is making me question the ethics of this company. Also, they create artificial Busoma looking robot weapons, which make me think the research of a 'cure' they have mentioned to help the Chrysalis turn back into weapons might not even exist and it's all a ploy to make more weapons.

My favourite character of this show is Seiya, he gets a bit more character development and we delve deeper into his story. He is put to sleep on and off, seeing his loved one grow old in an emotional episode (well for him at least). Seiya is the one that is ordered to pick up Gai for the Shoshidai, and when he meets Gai he is at a temple with a priest. Gai is in a childlike state at this point, which made absolutely zero sense. We get some very welcome comic relief with the random old priest that somehow knows about everything, and Seiya.

 I can't really blame the priest though..

And then there are characters that didn't get enough screen time like a lady that sharpens weapons apparently, and goes crazy (horny?) for them.

She isn't even possessed by one of the swords at this point..

So, random characters aside, I would love to delve into a deeper plot now. I would, but there is none. And random characters and stories is what this anime is about. So therefore my review doesn't really make much sense and is incoherent as well. Sorry about this, I blame this anime!

 Just keep on eating that treasure you found honey

Juuuust keep on eating it.

So in my attempt to still review this, I would say the faults in this anime lie in the fact that during one episode there can be too many storylines going on without actually doing anything with them. So we have a lot of characters, something happens to them usually with the sword --> misfortune --> kill kill --> Busoma --> kill more or fight with other Busoma/Chrysalis. This is the basic circle this anime is stuck in. Sure, there are a few interesting characters thrown in there like a lady that has multiple weapons inside so she casually hands one to a barber whose sister she had killed before. Nothing happens with these characters. They get a few scenes but we mostly don't know what happens with them after or before these scenes. And then we get a casual mention of the Gabi that uses the body instead of weapons to take down Busoma, and a certain Lady Himiko, whom we only see a few minutes. I assume she is the head or strongest one in the Gabi, but I have no idea to be honest. However there is a lot of potential there, still. Trying to be positive here people!

 Seriously, introducing them in the last episode?


Another thing that is a missed opportunity in my mind, is that they should have brought more variety in the Busoma. All they want is to kill and fight. Instead of hearing "kill, kill, kill, kill" over and over in their minds, what happened to weapons used only as an ornament or in religious practices. Or just to build something, like hammers. One of the hammers was a sword-smiths' hammer and it became a weapon. So why not a fruitknife? It would have had a nice comedic factor. The old man that humped Seiya combined with a Busoma that thinks "fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit" instead of "kill kill kill" the whole time could have had me more interested in this show (personal preference heh heh). The slapstick humor aside, it could have been interesting to see Busoma totally devoted to religion because of their initial usage, or a very vain Busoma that only cares about its looks stemming from a weapon that was an ornament.

Ya ya ya we get it, weapon wants kill, weapon wants blood. Hulk smash, Hulk bash.

Throw in a random Grim Reaper, believed to be the first Busoma, and this comedy is complete. No explanation at all and he shows up shortly throughout the show, finally appearing in front of our protagonists at the end of the show. Sorry I didn't have a better recap of the story! It's all just random and not making any sense. If I had to say, I would think that nope I have no idea what they wanted to do with this anime.

During this final battle, this grim reaper does look awesome though, but WHAT HOW WHY WHERE? I got lost.

Zsoltgewinn and the legendary (?) first Busoma

Art & Animation: Passable, not impressive

The art was alright to me, I really liked how they did the different styles of art and animation when they delved into the backgrounds of the swords, explaining the legend and history of it. This is what intrigued me about the show and made me finish it and not walk away from it halfway through.

 Story about a hammer weapon in ancient Greece and gladiator fights

Story about two men in love with a fairy but one kills her eventually. Why so much misogyny though

During the battles the fighters sometimes changed into an armor, which was CGI, and had particular features so you could tell them apart. I liked Zsoltgewinn (did I spell it right?) and the Grim Reapers armors, they looked impressive. But other than that, I can't really tell them apart. It was a good thing some of the weapons had a specific feature, like 'fire' or a shape.

I liked the style of this anime overall, but I missed a bit of the landscape and background aside from some buildings or the same piece of forest. I like getting an overall picture of backgrounds, settings and landscapes, something like B: The Beginning does extremely well. In this anime it is very forgettable, and too focused on all the different (random) characters, which are to be honest also quite forgettable.

Final Score

If this show were a bit more cohesive and actually gave us a real plot, it could have been nice. The only thing I liked about this show was Seiya, who as a typical macho fighter is surprisingly tender as he cried during a sad backstory of the Shiryuu. Also, the little backstories of the weapons were really interesting and reminded me of Fate Stay Night, as it is the history of the weapons and in Fate Stay Night it's the history of the heroes whom are being used as weapons. But the battles could have learned a bit from Fate Stay Zero, we needed more dynamic and interesting battles instead of the same things over and over. The idea of these possessed/possessing weapons is not really a novel concept. Eventually it doesn't even matter, as long as they carry out the story well and give us compelling characters. However, it fails in every aspect for me and these 12 episodes feel more like a prelude to an anime that could span over 50 episodes. I am not sure if it will get the chance to build upon a faulty base with a flimsy main character. If it shifts the focus to Seiya (and didn't kill off Naoki) as well as delve deeper into the different organisations and characters, it might have a chance. There is a lot of potential here, hopefully they will tap into that IF there will be a following season. If they do, I will surely tune in.

Story & characters: 2/10 (1 point just for Seiya)
Art & Animation: 6/10

~Written by Devi~

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