Fantasy anime seems to be a genre that doesn’t get enough love – this effort has more misses than hits sadly, and whilst entertaining in spots, really needed a few more episodes to make it a must recommend.
What They Say:
Cecily¹s a blushing knight in shining armor. Unfortunately, it seems most battles end with her as the damsel in distress. Her lack of skill and distaste for violence make her an unlikely heroine – until the brooding blacksmith Luke comes to her aid, using his powerful magic to forge blades of supernatural strength. Cecily wields this sacred steel and charges forth to face a dangerous new threat; a cloaked fiend is unleashing demons upon the land, and though he lurks in shadows, the villain is much closer than Cecily can imagine.
For this review, being a complete set I review the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese. With a setting such as Blacksmith felt being in English language was the better option overall, combined with the 5.1 Dolby Sound. To be honest, both tracks were very good but there wasn’t too much difference between them after checking in terms of pitch and just how loud they were. No notable problem between echo effects and distortion between subtitles so overall was a very solid audio package.
The video has a few issues I had – overall it was fine, there wasn’t any real problems regarding flow with the series and in both full and widescreen effect it was very colourful and easy to see and read the subtitles. The main problem I had was a couple of instances during pauses the show, the animation in freeze-frame would get very blurry which is something I’m picking up a lot more in general releases in the UK Market. This isn’t a huge issue fortunately as just to pick up and watch you won’t get these issues unless you’re really looking for them, however for perfectionists these releases may not be your cup of tea. Overall though, it’s a very colourful package which is great to watch, but sometimes felt a bit grainy at times(episode 7 has several issues of these above problems).
There was no packaging for this release.
The menu is quite standard – a picture of Cecily on the main screen, with selections for set up, (ENGLISH 5.1, JAPANESE 2.0 WITH SUBS) and the episode select which has pictures of the episodes. There is no scene select and you can simply pick ‘play all’ with disc two having the same except with the extras selection. There were no problems in selection and unlike with a few releases, when trying it with PC – it will recognize the choice you made on the select screen(like with languages) and not automatically switch to the default.
The only extras were on the second disc, which consisted of some episode previews, and the textless opening/ending songs.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Sacred Blacksmith was a series I knew about beforehand, and with reviewing the Slayers series recently, I seemed to need a shot when it came to fantasy anime. And whilst it doesn’t quite succeed, there is enough for fantasy fans to at least give it a whirl as there are enough things to just about keep you interested.
We start off with a flashback sequence, as we are introduced to our lead Cecily Campbell, a daughter of the illustrious Campbell family, who is a knight and proud of her heritage. However on a patrol, her ways of acting tough sadly appear to be simply an act, as she is overpowered by a rogue knight, breaking her sword in the process. Suddenly, a young man using a sword she has never seen, easily defeats the knight who appears to have been possessed by something. The young man named Luke, initially scoffs at Cecily’s attempts to prove her strength, but despite his attitude, Cecily sees the sword he uses, a katana, and wants him to forge one for him as he turns out to be a very talented blacksmith, along with a young girl named Lisa. The two are certainly rather night and day, which leads to a bit of tension as Luke is very reserved and mopey, whilst Cecily is very talkative and proud. However, the rogue knight from earlier isn’t the only one as someone out there in a cloak is apparently transforming humans into monsters via a demon contract to cause havoc. It leads to a return to the initial scene, where Cecily is clearly no match and Luke decides to help her out one more time. We are then showed precisely why the show is called The Sacred Blacksmith, as Luke actually creates a katana with Lisa’s help using magic of his own…
The majority of the first half of the anime is a combination of character development, fanservice and the plots of Cecily trying to get Luke to forge a katana with Luke refusing, and this incoming monster infection on the main town. It does get some insight to Cecily’s character because whilst she talks a good game, she is not particularly strong and also realizes when the monsters were former humans that she doesn’t have the heart to kill them, which is a cause for concern for the knights. This brings us the fourth major character, Aria – an actual demon sword who can transform into a beautiful female. This gives Cecily a much needed character boost because I will confess I’m not a fan of damsels in distress who basically think they are strong and are confident, but always need someone else to rely on them. When she suffers a breakdown when a higher up condemns her for not killing a demon because it was a human, it’s when Aria realizes she’s the master she wants – someone who will only draw the blade to protect those and care for those when needed. She is brought in for Cecily to basically use but also become friends, and the two along with Lisa start a real three gal friendship which is actually some of the best parts of the series, especially during the apparent ‘filler’ episode where Lisa actually goes out shopping, which is actually fun and when you realize what Lisa really brings to the plot, actually is relevant.
The main plot is finding the guy who is creating the monsters with these demon contracts, which is sadly a bit of a letdown because the villain in question Siegfried is only really relevant in the last three episodes, with very few mentions beforehand. Considering this is the main factor of the plot aside from Cecily wanting Luke to forge a katana, it’s almost hand washed away, although the little moments mentioned by other characters do add to a little development. For example, in episodes 6 to 8, we get a mini-arc (in a 12 episode series mind you) where a supposed princess named Charlotte along with her three friends and bodyguards are after Aria. They want the sword because they believe it will get her back within her family as it’s revealed she seems to have been disowned. Throughout these three arcs we gets at first Cecily being defeated by the three girls, then a comedy moment or two when the proper ladies and Cecily are basically working as maids thanks to Cecily’s hilarious head made Fio, to Cecily being able to adapt and defeat the three girls when they try to steal the sword again after a rather saddening betrayal. There are hints of the bad boss near the end of the arc, but it’s so fleeting that you would wonder why this was part of the story. On the other hand, the characters are so fun and it does wonders for Cecily’s character that on the overall scheme of things, it does fit.
Also on a plus note are the characters of Lisa and Aria. I will confess the two leads did grate on me quite a bit, as Luke is very dull to be honest, and has very few moments of development himself aside from when we get to his past involving Lisa (which was a very good twist I must admit) whilst Cecily, whilst she does improve, is still quite annoying particularly at first. Lisa and Aria however really help them along in more ways in one. Lisa in particular, episode 5 is almost dedicated to her, again it seems like filler in a one-tier series, but when you watch it again, you realize how important it was considering who Lisa really is. Is she Luke’s sister? Girlfriend? Adopted? It’s never specifically mentioned so when it hits you with the big reveal, it is one of the crowning moments of the series as you never expect it, and I just wish it had been a few more episodes longer so it could have been established much better. Aria herself is quite a funny, charming woman who plays big sister to the girls, and is also like Lisa, a big fan of getting Luke and Cecily together. A lot of the humour is played by the sexual tension between the two (Cecily’s boobs being a running gag) and the two girls always play it to the hilt. It’s a surprisingly decent comedy at some places, but also does bring in the drama quite well.
Overall though, it just falls short of being a really good series. The fact it’s only 12 episodes does hurt it, as they do their best to get some good development of the characters, and whilst it does succeed to a bit, I felt a few more episodes would have helped a lot. The villain is very poorly developed and almost an afterthought near the end, as contracts with demon swords, forging katanas, betrayals in knighthood, they are all discussed in the episodes he starts to frequent, and it does feel extremely rushed. At first glance, you’d think the episode like the Lisa focus one and the episodes with Charlotte could have been removed, but at the same time, they add to the plot and/or character development so you feel that whether it should have been a two cour series may have been better. That said, this is still a decent fantasy series with some good action scenes, comedy, development as good as they tried, Lisa and Aria are both fun and tragic in their own ways, very colourful and bright animation, and at least something to give a good if you’re in a fantasy mood, there are worse on the market for definite.
The Sacred Blacksmith is an experiment into living up the fantasy genre, and does work in small doses. The characters can be very entertaining, it manages to do quite well in bringing up action, comedy and drama in a short series, as well as character development for two leads that weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Sadly, it falls short of a must recommend to Slayers fans because the end is very anti-climatic, the characters weren’t developed fully enough and despite a neat twist, it doesn’t make me enjoy Luke’s and to a lesser extent Cecily’s characters enough, but they are helped by Lisa and Aria, two very good characters, and whilst it doesn’t hit the mark completely for fantasy fans, if you’re into this genre, it’s at the very least worth a rent. You’re at least going to smile if nothing else.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode previews, Textless opening song: Justice Of Light, Textless ending: Miracle Happy Days.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 19th, 2011
Running Time: 273 minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.