What They Say:
Ever since she was a little girl, Escha Malier has held two dreams in her heart: to become an Alchemist like her late mother, and to one day explore the mysterious ruins that float in the sky above her home town. Now, after years of study, she’s ready to make the first dream come true, working in the R&D branch of her town’s Alchemy department. However, while she has all of the knowledge and skills required to meet the job head on, she’s not quite as ready for new coworker, Logix “Logy” Fiscario. They seem to be such total opposites, in everything from their attitudes on life to the tools they prefer. Not to mention that he’s from the well-populated central region, while she’s always lived out on the very edge of what’s left of civilization. But as contaminants and pollution threaten the farmlands that keep their people alive, they’ll have to work together to seek out the causes and protect their people from the blight and dust that has consumed most of the world. Because sometimes, when one person alone can’t save the world, two of them, working in harmony, can.
The anime Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists Of The Dusk Sky is based on the JRPG video game of the same name, and as such, a majority of the audio presentation for this series seems more suited to that specialised environment rather than a broadcast format. Although there have been other shows which have attempted this promotional technique, this version is presented almost like a direct play port from game to video; as such, there was no attempt translate the musical transitions for a wider audience.
While the opening and closing vocal themes may try to communicate feelings to the viewer, the prologue music in the first episode was more traditional for this genre and would have made a better opening. In fact, most of the background orchestral sounded more like character themes to accompany them when they first appear on screen. Those familiar with game soundtracks will recognise these as dramatic renditions from introductory themes to rousing boss battle compositions. Although the clashing weapons, sound effects and dialogue flow seamlessly into this melodious procession, you still will not forget that this is a video game anime.
While traditional animation techniques are used to communicate problems for the characters, the viewer cannot escape the idea that they are watching a video game; however, instead of participating through a first person persona, the show is presented via a third person point of view. This is frustrating since this is usually the method whereby gamers play, but this time, all you can do is watch the action. But to showcase that idea, we are introduced to the all familiar technique is used to introduce characters: each name and their profession is encased within a decorative text frame and flashed in front of the person. This method reinforces the role-playing genre and will be immediately known to those who play these types of simulations.
Even the intermissions between commercial breaks which are usually denoted by a comical freeze frame between some of the players have been transposed by a typical character dissolve to show us a portrait piece of one of the personalities with their age, height and blood type. It is a refreshing change to see this biography since none of this material is shared in the collection and are makes the cast more relatable to the viewer. This data would have been shown in the game manual, and as such, we are treated to it in this unusual manner.
Finally, instead of episodes, the series feels like each dilemma the protagonists face is a continuation of an ongoing quest in this epic role playing game. From the introduction of the main characters and their first mission, it leads into other events which expand the world and promptly brings us to the first Boss Fight. This is where any doubt where the subject matter for this show is gleaned is quickly dispersed: from the gargantuan stature of the creature rendered in the obligatory Final Fantasy CGI style to the frustrating ineffectiveness of the party’s attacks, this projects the overwhelming intensity of the battle and of course, the massive sigh of relief and satisfaction when the final blow is struck.
The atmosphere of the show is captured within these moments, but at the same time, we are reminded that since this series is based on a JRPG, it might have been better to play it instead of being held captive to watch someone else have all of the fun of being able to defeat such a terrifying foe.
Although Sentai Filmworks may have chosen to decorate the DVD case as a game case to carry over the RPG theme, for some reason, they neglected to add Logy, who is one of the main characters. While they did add him to the back of the box next to the series synopsis, this is a lapse in judgement since most buyers will assume that he is not as important as the assemblage included on the front. Perhaps they thought that he would detract from the cuteness of the female cast portrait decorating the background with the title or was there some other reasoning to this marketing ploy? Either way, the selection of this illustration will draw attention to the package, but the choice of a desert sand colour palette used to trim the artwork is a bit depressing; maybe this tone was selected to denote the Wasteland which make up most of the world? Whatever the justification, it casts a sombre overtone to the case and the disks – not the thing you want when you want to attract attention to your product.
The same Wasteland decorating scheme used on the case is also carried over to the menus with an earthy background supporting Escha or Marion displaying the selection of the episodes in a relaxed idyllic pose. While you choose your selection with an apple cursor, the first minute of the opening theme Asuiro is played in preparation for the upcoming exploration into the unknown world; this upbeat music gets the viewer properly motivated for the excitement of the show, but it does get tiresome when it restarts at the end of the sequence. Perhaps they could have made a better selection by cycling the entire song or allow the watcher to switch the music off, but then they probably not expected too much time spent to make a selection.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Escha has always wanted to be an alchemist due to the influence of her mother, who passed away when she was a young child. But as of today, she can now officially join the Research and Development team of her isolated hometown; with the aid of her new job, Escha can aid those who have looked after her and repay the citizens whom she has grown to think of family. However, she cannot do it alone and with the arrival of the blimp from Central, another young enchanter named Logy has come to start his apprenticeship in this frontier village. But will these two differing methods of transformation science be able to cope with their contrasting ways of viewing the world? Escha with her cauldron and Logy and his alchemic forge … they both seek to assist man with their abilities, however, which is the better technique of the two?
Whichever the process, they both must cope with the problems of Corseit. This Wasteland hamlet was created with the sole purpose of establishing a plan to search the Unexplored Ruin – a strange floating castle in the sky. Many have attempted to reach this mysterious place, but none have succeeded due to the lack of technology which can reach that forbidden land. Modern balloon travel by blimp cannot navigate the harsh winds and graveyard of debris which litter the area surrounding the structure and current programmes of airship design have all failed. This is one of the few areas of lost science which man has yet to examine and it is the true reason why Escha has joined the team. It has been her dream to climb the clouds to reach that fortress and she will not rest until she has made her fantasy come true.
Thus, Escha and Logy must work to reclaim that lost technology, but it will not be an easy task. They are only novices who do not know how to use their talents to make ideas take shape. It is their job to complete tasks submitted to the R&D bureau and therefore allow their skills to blossom to new heights. Perhaps someday they will be able to ascend to the sky, but for now, they must follow the orders given and hope that it will lead them to a bright new day.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is an original idea, but the method of execution is clumsy to say the least. Since it is based on a pre-released role-playing game, the framework for the anime has been established, and as such, director Yoshiaki Iwasaki did not wander far from the concept; it is as if he recorded a play through of the game, established set plot events then animated the series around those set parameters. However, this genre has been done before successfully (Blade & Soul, Blue Dragon, Devil May Cry, Pokémon) using the characters and atmosphere to create a show based around the franchise. It does not have to exactly follow the game verbatim, but just use it as a basis to spin it into a new direction.
The other major obstacle which hobbled the show was the necessity of the viewer needing knowledge of the previous game in order to make sense of the characters’ motivations and the narrative. This stumbling block could have been overtaken via use of a flashback or written so that an explanation was included within the show. However, in lieu of that, the easy way was accepted by having the watcher either having played the source in question or necessitating the opportunity to stop the show, look up the person or event in question, then restart. This thinking process interrupts the enjoyment of the series and brings it down to the preposterous notion that it is up to the viewer to explain these concepts; if you don’t want to clarify the information, then why bring it up? Why is this an acceptable solution for the animators of this series? As I have said before, previous video game animes have been produced and this handicap was overcome quite easily. So why did Iwasaki-sensei think that this was an exception to the norm?
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky could have been an interesting anime if production company Studio Gokumi and director Iwasaki-sensei didn’t make all of the assumptions they did in its creation. If they took the time to explain and show us why or who they excluded from the show, then it could have been a great anime. Instead concepts were skipped and this left holes in the story which could have been easily filled. If a sequel of a future release is planned, perhaps they will be able to address those mistakes, but for now, this show not as fulfilling as it could have been.
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player