A Swing And A Miss
- Episodes : 11
- Genre : Action, Super Power, Magic
- Airing Date : Oct 14, 2017 to Dec 23, 2017
- Studios : A.C.G.T.
Dies Irae Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
Dies Irae’s premise promises a thrilling ride filled with action, betrayal, and suspense. A.C.G.T’s best work has not happened in recent times, with their heyday coming over a decade ago with Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World and Initial D Fourth Stage, but maybe the studio can roll back the years to deliver a modern classic. An adaption of Kazuomi Minatogawa’s visual novel, Dies Irae: Amantes Amentes launched in 2016 to a genuinely positive reception. The game has a 9/10 on Steam and is ranked as the 93rd best visual novel on VNDB. While this means the studio is starting from a solid foundation, A.C.G.T will need to put their best foot forward to live up to the source material.
Here is the scene – May 1, 1945, in Berlin, the Red Army has successfully usurped Hitler’s forces and taken over the city. In a last-ditch effort for survival, a handful of Nazi soldiers use the blood spilled by the slaughter of thousands to perform a ritual summoning forth the Order of the 13 Lances. These supermen are extremely powerful and seek to bring the destruction of the world. As Earth remains intact, everyone assumes they failed in their endeavor. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
Flashforward to present day Japan, as the teenager Ren Fuji slowly recovers in the hospital after a nearly fatal fight with his best friend Shirou Yusa. Despite the efforts of his friend, Kasumi Ayase, to cheer him up; Ren cannot stop dreaming about a guillotine and a maiden named Marie who was sacrificed. As he tries to return to his normal life, Ren is attacked by a representative of the Order of the 13 Lances, who are searching for someone to battle. As the reincarnation of Karl Kraft – a godlike alchemist capable of matching the Order’s might – Ren is trained by his enemies, in order to serve as a worthy foe. Depending on how much people they kill, members of the order automatically get stronger. To assist in his challenging quest, Marie manifests herself and forms a contract with Ren, allowing his powers to manifest. Aided by Shirou, Ren sets out to stop the Order’s ritual from being completed.
What We Liked About Dies Irae
Dies Irae is ambitious. In the span of 11 episodes and a prequel, A.C.G.T set up an alternative reality and introduced an array of colorful characters, most with unique backgrounds that could easily be expanded into a mini-series. There is a lot of plot crammed into a few hours of television, so, there is always something happening on screen. While the budget is clearly on the modest side, the one-on-one fight scenes are visually engaging and dedicated enough to show the bloody money shot when it counts. A couple of death scenes are pretty darn gruesome and hard to watch.
Due to the massive cast, barely any of the characters are given enough screen time to really shine. Despite this limitation, the heroes and villains have enough personality to not come across as clones of each other. When it comes to the storyline, the World War II backstory has potential to be interesting and deserves to be explored in more detail. The season does not have an ending, but a further six episodes will be released during 2018’s Summer season.
For those yearning for a new waifu, Marie and Kasumi might be worth checking out. As the visual novel can also be classified as a harem, there is quite a bit of fan-service thrown in for good measure. While it is not always integrated seamlessly into the storyline, the panty shots are largely harmless. Surprisingly, Dies Irae can be a pretty funny show, although jokes tend to be in short supply.
As a harem, Dies Irae: Amantes Amentes has multiple routes, allowing the vast cast more than enough screen-time to develop. The visual novel exceeds the 50-hour mark, while the anime tries to cover everything in less than one tenth of the time. Dies Irae adapts only the final route, resulting in a story that is hard to follow and a bunch of stereotypical characters that merely show flashes of brilliance. A.C.G.T’s series might make sense for those who played the game, but this is a review of the anime. The adaptation needs to be capable of standing on its own without further research.
For an action series, Dies Irae would greatly benefit from a shot of adrenaline. There are multiple episodes that focus on two characters speaking to each other in a bland room, with barely any movement or excitement to be discovered. At times, it feels like A.C.G.T bit off more than they could chew; some of the larger-than-life sequences incorporate an overabundance of CGI that, frankly, looks terrible. With the last six episodes yet to be released, those who are interested should wait until the whole series is available. Otherwise, good luck remembering what happened in the first season.
There are better anime out there, but Dies Irae has a handful of positives. The sadistic villains are cheesy and underdeveloped, but they work as Saturday-morning caricatures. Over the course of 11 episodes, there are probably a dozen scenes that end with one of the Lances laughing maniacally. Sure, it is over-the-top, but these moments add a certain goofy charm to the anime.
For the most part, the animation is mediocre, but the one-on-one fight scenes are serviceable enough to distract someone for a few hours. Throw in a handful of effective slice-of-life comedy scenes, and you are left with an anime that works as a sample for the visual novel. While the source material is definitely the best place to experience this story, Dies Irae is an okay entry point into this universe.
1. Love At First Beheading
Ren Fuji and Marie's relationship is probably the highlight of the series. The latter only really comes into her own during the second half of the season, and she does come across as a plot device, but their romance is sweet and earnest. Marie's backstory is touching and memorable, as she was born right when a priest was executed, granting her the power to inadvertently kill anyone who touches her. Obviously, she is quickly ostracized and executed, but Karl Kraft shows up to save her. From that point on, she is considered a goddess.
2. A Rare Laugh
Dies Irae should have focused more on its slice-of-life and comedy elements, since those result in the best character moments. They are few and far between, but Ren's deadpan expression works well with Kasumi's manic personality and Marie's naivety. Due to how seriously A.C.G.T take the subject matter, these scenes can be rather jarring and out of place, but they provide a much needed break from the painfully serious tone present otherwise throughout the episodes. The visual novel has hours upon hours of this type of interactions, and they were well-adapted.
Right out of the gate, Dies Irae is a terrible adaptation of the visual novel. More disappointingly, A.C.G.T's series is a painfully underwhelming anime, one that is hard to recommend on its own merits. The plot is near impossible to follow, with characters dropping in and out without much rhyme or reason. The final two episodes introduce a handful of new villains who were barely mentioned prior to this point. They are not presented as some big cliffhanger, just another two members of the Order of the 13 Lances who were yet to be shown.
Dies Irae strives to be mediocre, and it struggles to reach such a lofty goal. As an action series, there are hundreds of superior anime available to watch. While the comedy elements are fine, they are in short supply and far from a good enough reason to justify sitting through the rest of the series. Since the studio is trying to cram a metric ton of content into a short time span, a fair few episodes are dedicated to delivering pages of exposition. There is a particularly hilarious and long scene, where Ren is being informed of the Order's plan by Shirou's female companion, that shows the latter from every angle imaginable just so the camera would have something to do.
In the best of cases, CGI manages to avoid looking completely out of place alongside the rest of the animation. Ufotable blended CGI effortlessly with 2D animation for Fate/Zero, while BBK/BRNK's CGI closely resembles traditional anime. Unfortunately, Dies Irae's CGI does not come close to matching the above series. The most powerful Lances can summon massive creatures which can level a city with one arm and these sequences should feel epic. Sadly, the CGI is painful to watch, and these monsters look like cut-scenes from a PlayStation 2 title. CGI has proven to be useful, but Dies Irae is not one of these instances.
2. Kasumi Ayase
Kasumi Ayase is not a character. No, she is a culmination of every cliché associated with female high schoolers in anime. While she obviously loves Ren, she has no problem beating him up whenever he does anything that does not seem appropriate. Despite being the loudest and most obnoxious character in the series, Kasumi is still shy, refusing to confess how she feels about the protagonist. While the actress gives it her all, Kasumi's overly cute voice quickly begins to grate on one's nerves.
3. All Over The Place
The story is a mess. Ren and Shirou's friendship is presented as an important factor in both of their personalities, but they end up only sharing three or four scenes throughout the entire season. The pacing is all over the place, and there are times when it seems like scenes have been removed. Characters would suddenly show up in a completely different place, with no proper transition from the previous plot point. The Lances each have their own motivation for why they seek power, but we barely get anything more than a five-second flashback just before they die. Fans of the visual novel deserve better.
Unfortunately, Dies Irae falls flat. The studio tried to accomplish a lot but barely anything works, with the anime getting worse as it goes along. By the 10th episode, it becomes obvious that there is no way they can wrap up the story, making the whole experiencing feel like a huge waste of time. Is it the worst anime of all time? No, but life is too short to recommend Dies Irae.
Did you agree with our review? Is Dies Irae worth a watch? Please let us know in the comments below!