Cheaper By The Dozen
- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Action
- Airing Date : Oct. 2017 - Dec. 2017
- Studios : Graphinica
Juuni Taisen Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
There’s something about battle royales that make for exciting anime setups. Shows like Fate Stay Night, Btoom!, Mirai Nikki, and Sekirei too (why not?) all have that one versus many vibe that gets the blood pumping. It’s all the more entertaining when you don’t know who will come out on top, and especially interesting when things don’t go as planned. Based on an original work by famed Monogatari Series author NisiOisiN, Juuni Taisen has a bit more behind it than your typical action anime.
In the anime, the Juuni Taisen is a death battle on an epic scale. Twelve warriors, each representing an animal of the Zodiac, are forced to battle each other every 12 years. The prize awaiting the sole winner is the right to make any wish they want come true. However, when your opponents are eleven of the deadliest warriors on the planet, survival is slim, and winning may not even be an option.
Juuni Taisen poses some deep philosophical questions while juxtaposed with some of the most unrealistic fighting scenes you’ll catch this season. It also exceeds in misdirection, setting up the show to go down one path, only to completely veer off in a new tangent. It will keep you guessing, scratching your head, but ultimately reaching its destination. In the Juuni Taisen, there can only be one. Now, everybody, clap your hands!
What We Liked About Juuni Taisen
For the most part, all of the twelve characters are entertaining. Several of them are very likeable, making it more meaningful when you see them cutting each other down to advance. For the most part, the show is very unpredictable. You will expect one turn of events to take place, only for the show to completely go in a different direction. With the unconventional action sequences thrown in, it becomes a very interesting show early on.
Each of the characters has their own history and conflict, and overall, the show deals with themes that you wouldn’t find in an action battle anime. This gives Juuni Taisen some refreshing poignance to what you might initially expect, and when it works, it works very well. You can definitely see the NisiOisiN influence in some scenes carried over from the adaptation. His characters are always introspective and, even when you can’t agree with them, you understand why they’ve made their choices and hold their beliefs.
Late in the series, the deaths become more anticlimactic and forced than exciting. By the end of the episode count, you’re seeing characters you expected to watch engage in an epic showdown cut down in an instant, killing any excitement the episode could have had.
The show takes place in the present during the Juuni Taisen, as well as showing flashbacks of the pasts of each episode’s focal character. These flashbacks take up the majority of the episode, and while every one of them adds to the characters, they completely overstay their welcome. They’re usually too long and feel more like filler. They tend to suck the wind out of the show’s sails, especially during a heated confrontation.
1. An Unusual Cast
Each of the characters is a representative warrior of the Zodiac. Initially the twelve cast members seem to be simply unrivaled warriors, but throughout the series you learn more about them and find they have very human traits. For example, there’s Sharyuu, the pacifist warrior of the Monkey. Instead of trying to win the Juuni Taisen like the other combatants, she instead is seeking a peaceful resolution. There’s also Usagi, the warrior of the Rabbit, who dresses as a playboy bunny despite having the physique of a bodybuilder. He converts all those he kills into his undead minions, becoming an evil presence in the series.
Each of these warriors have their own special ability that gives them an edge in combat, and seeing how they were before the Juuni Taisen is somewhat interesting. For instance, Hitsujii, warrior of the Sheep, was once a winner of a previous Juuni Taisen in his youth. He opted to return in order to spare his children from being forced into the tournament. His speciality is explosives and he has experience on his side from his past success.
The cast is diverse enough that you still feel compelled to watch even though your previous favorite might have just been killed. It’s a revolving door in a sense. Warriors you didn’t care much about grow into your new favorite as their background is fleshed out. Even though they feel simple, given the nature of the show, they’re interesting to watch.
2. Unpredictable Plot
From the opening episode, the death of Inounoshishi at the hands of Usagi set the tone for the series. She narrated her journey to the tournament, how she betrayed her younger sister who had been chosen instead and sent her family into ruin. It highlighted how crazy and powerful she was, and still, she was backstabbed by the body of Snake, the younger Tatsumi brother, having been the first corpse doll made by the necromancer Rabbit. If someone that powerful can be taken out so easily, what would the rest of the tournament have in store?
The killing continues and it never stops. A lot of the deaths come out of left field, and some of them feel shocking, fitting, or satisfying. Juuni Taisen tries to keep the audience guessing throughout the entire show, and it manages to do so up until the very end.
3. High Octane Action
It wouldn’t be a very good action battle anime without a high dose of fighting scenes. There are a few memorable fights to be seen in Juuni Taisen, taking place both during the event and prior to it through flashbacks. Ushii, warrior of the Ox, is the most feared competitor. He has walked through battlefields with only his wits and sword and come out unscathed. He defies just about every law of nature humans are supposed to be bound by. Every fight scene he’s in instantly shows why he’s the top dog. But even with all his skill, he may have met his match by the end of the tournament.
Sharyuu, Usagi, Tora, and Uuma all have a high degree of fighting prowess. Their fight scenes in particular were more memorable than the rest of the show. During each confrontation, the warriors state their name and zodiac before doing away with each other. Each new conflict has a sense of finality to it as well as a serious tone. It’s interesting to see some of the more unconventional abilities being used in combat, even though in the end, it boils down to a downright brawl.
1. Anticlimactic Resolutions
While there were some deaths that stood to really set the show apart from the typical action battle anime, some of them just hurt the show. While the more shocking deaths were unexpected, some just took out any potential for a satisfying fight the show had left. Towards the end, there’s far more talking than fighting going on, and the dead outnumber the living. For the most part, the dead become reanimated by Usagi to be used as his slaves,
The point that pretty much sucked all the energy from the show was the death of the elder Tatsumi brother. He had been biding his time to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of Usagi, but he was instantly cut down while flying above the clouds by a sneak attack by a flying Usagi. After his corpse is added to Usagi’s ranks, it’s just not quite as effective in combat as it would have been to see him fighting for his own self. Especially with his flight ability which gave him a clear advantage over the others, and was something to look forward to see being used.
Hitsujii’s death at the hands of a drunk Tora also seemed off. Given his experience, to just be destroyed in an instant having played his hand poorly was dull. For it to be the highlight of a dull episode was also disappointing. If the show had satisfying action for each episode then these deaths might not hurt it so much.
2. Supremely Disappointing Ending
A winner is finally crowned from the Juuni Taisen at the 11th episode. From there, the remaining 12th episode should have been a resolution. Perhaps the winner, would use his victory to abolish the Juuni Taisen forever? Would there be a final boss fight? Would a contender rise from the grave? Nope.
The winner had a deeply introspective episode as we knew nothing about him. While this episode was good for expanding on him and his ability to witness various outcomes, it ultimately ended flat. He used his wish to wish that he could forget the horrors of the Juuni Taisen. It was understandable given his personality, but still, it was an ultimately boring choice that did nothing to make up for the weaker aspects of the season.
Juuni Taisen needed more action to be a good action battle anime, and needed a more grounded setting to be a deep introspective type of show. It tried to explore the deeper aspects of human nature on the battlefield, but without enough compelling action or an episode count to flesh out the weaker characters, it felt like it was too little of everything. Definitely not what many would come to expect from a NisiOisiN based series, and while it tried to break the mold, it just ended up making a mess.
What did you think of Juuni Taisen and how it ranks among your favorite shows this season? Did you have favorite characters from it or any angry death scenes? Let us know in the comments!