Anime Observations: Chain Chronicle Thoughts

This article's kinda petty, but I couldn't get this out of my head so...enjoy.

Six episodes into Chain Chronicle and I can’t actually decide whether I like this anime or not.  The animation is gorgeous—already responsible for some of the coolest looking action sequences this year that aren’t apart of Tales of Zestiria the X season two.   The art direction and style is boss too—the series isn’t afraid of using deep, vibrant colors and contrasting them with dark blacks and faded colors to show the difference between the heroes who are full of hope and defiance, and the villains who have given themselves up to the Black King.   Similarly for the most part I’m loving the eclectic designs of the different characters—the ornate armor of the knights and the way different races seem to be drawing from a variety of sources for their looks.  The humans take on a distinctly European look, while the ogre race have a Japanese appearance—but we still get plenty of pure fantasy with the mages and sprites.

On a purely aesthetic level this is as beautiful of a high fantasy world as anime has ever produced and fairly close to my dream for a fantasy anime.   The basic idea of the series isn’t too bad either—the first episode starts with a ragtag group of people from various nations locked in battle with the evil king’s army…only to be defeated and be forced to retreat, as the Black King continues to conquer the land, covering everything in darkness and making people serve him or die.   The series resembles Lord of the Rings if Frodo had failed to toss the Ring into Mount Doom and Sauron returned, which is a unique enough idea, only…

Man, I hate seeing the bad guys win.From a pure storytelling angle it’s necessary sometimes, but I feel like Chain Chronicle already starts off in a world where the bad guys got a pretty strong victory.  The main characters failed to defeat the Black King the first time, and now he has half of the MacGuffin which will help him destroy the world, and just the usage of his powers to spread his influence over the world is adversely affecting the other half of said MacGuffin.   The bad guys have basically beaten the good guys already, now it’s just a matter of them achieving the goal the good guys were standing in the way of.  

And that’s okay too, but there’s honestly not that much of a back and forth for the show to keep it's hooks in me.  The series started off with the good guys in a hole, so you’d expect there to be some pretty big victories in the next few episodes in order to make things seem a little even and keep you wondering which side is going to come out on top.  But nope—for every small victory the good guys manage, they suffer an even greater defeat.  By episode two the demoralized heroes have rallied themselves together, gotten a new comrade and are heading back out to try fighting the Black King again?  Cool, episode three has one of their strongest members give in to his “poisoning” and join the Black King.  Episodes four and five see the mages and the sprites lend their hand to the Black King Suppression Army?  Cool, episode six has the war-loving (seemingly) ogres reveal their king has surrendered to his own poisoning and he takes the Chain Chronicle.  And the Army is technically at war with them too, now.  Oh, and the leader of the Suppression Army cracks too, joins the bad guys and kills his best friend.

There are situations in which something like this would have been okay—if Yuri had given in to the Black King near the end of the series, I might have found that perfectly acceptable.  You could’ve said he fought the poisoning off for as long as he could, but now that we’ve reached the end he can’t fight it off anymore, and he loses out.   More importantly, it would have given the series time to develop what they’re clearly setting up to be a secondary protagonist in the kid that gave Yuri a brief glimmer of hope, Aram.  But without the proper development the show feels like its focal point, and whatever coolness Aram had in episode one has long vanished after five episodes of him being treated like an untrained brat that’s more of a nuisance than a proper threat to anyone.  

Ultimately episode six leaves things at a point where I’m uncomfortable.  Not necessarily because I need to see the hero win all the time, but because I prefer my heroic wins to be either believable/plausible, or so absurdly bad-ass that it doesn’t matter that it’s completely unrealistic, like a Sentai/Kamen Rider cross-over film.   What I don’t like is when a hero that wasn’t impressively competent at all wins due to a deus ex machina.  What that tells me is you kept piling the odds on until you wrote yourself into a corner, and had to blatantly bullshit your way out.   With six episodes to go (and a possible, though doubtful, second season), there’s still time to avoid that fate. But right now it just feels like...I dunno, the bad guys should just win?  

*I mean, doesn't it happen enough in real life?  See: November's Presidential Elections.


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