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The Sacred Blacksmith Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Can a show that combines shameless fanservice and heavy fantasy action drama not manage to seem unbalanced? This one tries its best to walk that fine line.

What They Say:
Cecily’s 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.

Contains all 12 episodes on 2 discs.

The Review:
Audio:
For this viewing, I listened to the 48 kHz 448 kbps 5.1 Dolby Digital English track. In general the mixture does a fine job with having the rear speakers bring out the sound effects, though all of the dialogue seems like it is coming out of the center speaker throughout the show. That’s not strange or unexpected as this show seems only to have characters directly in the center of the screen talk. Sound levels are well balanced and there were no noticeable distortions or drop outs.

Video:
Originally airing in 2009, the show is presented in its original aspect ration of 16:9. In general the video is fine, though at times in panning shots and when characters are engaged in lots of movement, the level of definition seems to become slightly fuzzy at times. The colors are generally rich. It is pretty clear, however, that one is watching video that is being upscaled for playback on a high definition display from a standard definition recording, as some scenes feel as if they lack a certain level of definition, but overall the picture quality is quite good. 



Packaging: This new re-release comes in a standard-sized keepcase that holds 2 discs (flipper insert style). The keepcase further is encased in a slipcover which repeats the same artwork as on the keepcase cover art. The keepcase artwork is reversible, though the other side is rather plain, just featuring silhouettes of the main cast in different colors. The cover art, which is different from the first release, features the two main characters, Luke Ainsworth and Cecily Campbell, in action poses.

Menu:
The menus have static images of the main characters with segments of background music playing on a loop. Load times are quick and the menus are serve their purpose well enough.

Extras:
The only extras are the textless versions of the opening and the ending, along with the extended episode previews and the usual run of trailers, all of this located on the second disc. The episode previews are also dubbed in addition to the original versions.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In a pseudo-medieval world filled with rival states, the independent trade city of Housman is a peaceful town mainly concerned with trade. Here, Cecily Campbell, the rather buxom (the show itself calls attention to this just about every episode) head of the noble house of Campbell is a member of the Knight Guard, the body of knights who protect the city from all manner of threats. While dealing with a seemingly deranged warrior running amok in a market area, Cecily loses the fight as the warrior breaks her sword. Before being killed, however, Luke Ainsworth, a talented blacksmith and fighter, appears and saves her, wielding an unusual blade: a katana (yeah, it seems that even though we are in a pseudo-European West, with Western names and culture, there are still katana). Thus begins the hot and cold relationship between Cecily and Luke. Luke is constantly accompanied by his cute young assistant Lisa, about whom something seems off (the pointed elf-like ears are the dead giveaway). Further, Lisa has the ability to create a magical forge, which Luke can use anywhere to forge a sword with almost magical properties, suited for the enemy that is right in front of him.

Cecily and Luke get caught up in larger events. The various countries of this world are still unsettled from a vicious war over forty years before the present, the Valbanill War. Back during that war, the nations used soldiers who made Demon Contracts, which turned the men into demons. While the practice had been forbidden after the war ended, suddenly a mysterious man in black has appeared, and so have demons. The nations gather to debate how to respond to the problematic legacy of the Valbanill War. The town of Housman, led by its same-named leader, turns to the use of a Demon Sword, specifically Aria, the Demon Sword of Wind. This one is very special, however, as it has achieved sentience and can transform into a human, taking the appearance of a beautiful woman. The town leadership decides to place Aria in the care of Cecily, and Cecily and Aria become friends. Luke is also interested in Demon Swords, though his interest is in one that is more powerful: he wishes to find a sword that will kill Valbanill, the evil god who apparently was behind the Valbanill War.

So, how does it all fit together? Things begin to get a little more clear after what appears to be a sidetrack, the appearance of Charlotte E. Frobisher, who claims to be a princess of the Empire, one of the powerful states of the world. She comes with three female bodyguards, and four Demon Swords. The guards attack Cecily, trying to claim Aria from her, but Cecily refuses. As usual, Luke has to come and save her. The upshot is that Charlotte and her retinue stay with Cecily while the leader of Housman contacts the Empire to discuss the situation with Charlotte. The connection? Something is up with the Demon Swords, especially Evadne, which is a very rare one: like Aria, she (yes, she) can take human form. This can’t be some odd coincidence. Something must be up.

After a brief period of comic relief (maid outfits!) things take a turn for the serious: the Emperor tells Housman that the Demon Swords were stolen and that the girl, Charlotte, is a fake princess. The Empire demands the return of the swords and the arrest of the girls. Of course, Housman and Hannibal, his commander of the Knight Guard, are not entirely trusting of the Empire, but feel compelled to return the swords and the girls, unless they are willing to make a deal with another, stronger country, the Garrison State, who have no love for the Empire, and thus will gladly take in Charlotte and her guards in exchange for all of the information they can share about the Empire. After some useless fighting against fate, Charlotte eventually accepts the deal. What does this have to do with anything? Before she leaves, Charlotte confides in Cecily about why she turned up in Housman in the first place: they were given the Demon Swords and told to go after Aria by a man named Siegfried, who is also said to be able to control demons. It takes little intelligence to figure out that Siegfried is likely the same as the “man in black” that the Housman authorities have been searching for after the earlier demon incidents.

All that remains is to bring the whole story together. To do that, we first have to learn the mysterious origin of Lisa and her relationship to Luke, since it seems to be tied to Valbanill and the demons. We get the story from Luke as he visits the grave of Lisa Oakwood, a dear friend of his from childhood, with Cecily in tow. Of course, the name is very suggestive, though he claims the Lisa we know having the same name is just a coincidence (of course, sure, right). The connection? Lisa Oakwood was killed by Valbanill 3 years ago. While everyone now thinks that Valbanill is just a legend, Luke, unfortunately, knows better. He and Lisa Oakwood wandered onto the spooky mountain near the town, where apparently Valbanill has his lair (the leaders of the various nations already knew this and thus the meetings they have had have been concerning his inevitable return). Lisa Oakwood died, as did Luke’s father, while Luke himself ran away.

How does all of this fit together? Valbanill is apparently kept on the mountain thanks to a sacred sword that binds him there. The sword, however, is almost at its breaking point, so a new sacred sword must be fashioned. Who is fashioning the new one? You guessed it, Luke Ainsworth. So, he makes the sword and everything will be fine, right? Unfortunately, at the same time we learn about the sacred sword, we also learn who Siegfried is. He’s a senior military officer for the Empire. And of all things, he seems to have some strange agenda related to Valbanill. The greater shock comes when Siegfried makes use of a revenge-crazed old knight to attack Luke and Lisa, the knight being convinced that Lisa is Valbanill. While we might think it some strange delusion, there is an element of truth in it, as Lisa is, in fact, a demon, and has the blood of Valbanill within her.

In the final episode, we have the climactic conclusion as Siegfried unleashes an army of demons upon Housman, claiming that “the world needs to be cleansed.” Yes, he’s one of those deranged nihilistic lunatics who thinks that destroying the world is the best thing. Luke goes after him, of course, but he won’t defeat him by himself. After being wounded, Cecily comes and Luke forges a special katana for her to defeat Siegfried. While the villain is not killed, he is wounded, but escapes before he can be finished off.

The final end credits show the town being rebuilt and the characters going on with their lives. It is clear that the source material for this show continues onward, though a second season of The Sacred Blacksmith has yet to appear. Overall, the show has a sometimes strained balance between dramatic swords and magic fantasy action going up against much lighter comedic moments that also include generous helpings of fanservice. When it comes to Cecily, the main female character, it almost seems like she was created first as a fanservice character, considering how often her breasts are openly talked about by just about everyone (including her own mother!) in the show, and on rare occasions shown in full. Her role as a knight seems almost secondary, and mainly as a means of distinguishing her from so many other anime heroines. This one gets to wear a breastplate! (Cue lame jokes and canned laughter).

At times, I found it slightly odd how scenes would start by focusing on Cecily’s chest, and then panning up to her face. I’m not against fanservice, but it just felt kind of strange how this show could be so focused on Cecily’s chest for an entire episode, and then follow that with an episode of heavily dramatic action dealing with the larger story line involving demons and the mysterious “man in black” who is manipulating them. It is as if they wanted to have it both ways, to be both a fanservice-filled comedy and also a swords and magic drama. That’s not a very easy thing to do without it seeming unbalanced, and this show did at times feel slightly as if it had an attention span problem, as it couldn’t quite focus on what it wanted to be.

On the positive side, however, the character are fun to watch as they go through their various trials. Cecily is stubbornly pig-headed and recklessly foolish at times, but she is so sincerely dedicated to truth, justice and all that crap that it’s hard to dislike her. Luke is the brooding outsider, hiding pain and remorse deep within him, but his aloofness and mopey nature covers for much softer and more gentler good nature that lies at his core. Lisa, of course, is a bundle of cuteness, with her sad story only increasing her appeal. Despite the flaws, it is an entertaining show and a continuation would be welcome to see where the characters and story go from here.

In Summary:
Cecily Campbell is a female knight sworn to protect the city of Housman. Luke Ainsworth is a blacksmith who may hold the key to keeping that city safe. Threats abound as demons and humans wielding demon swords threaten the existence of the world. Cecily and Luke, along with his cute little assistant Lisa, who has a surprising secret, will have to join together if the world is going to be saved from being overrun by monsters. It’s not all heavy action and swords and magic drama. There is also a large helping of fanservice and lighter comedy to leaven the mood. While the balance doesn’t quite sit entirely well at times, overall, it’s an entertaining show that works best because of the interplay of the characters.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Closing, Japanese Episode Previews

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 31st, 2012
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG 2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.

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