The general rule of thumb when watching a new anime season, I’ve learned, is that it usually takes about three episodes to know if the show it worth pursuing or not. And in a pretty jam packed schedule it’s not really possible for someone like me to keep up with everything coming out week to week.
In an attempt to continue broadening my consumption of anime, I decided to start watching as many new series as possible during this summer season. With the plan to use the first three episodes as a basis for whether or not I’m going to continue watching the shows or not to the bitter end.
Starting off with the action fantasy series: To the abandoned Sacred Beasts
The series follows Hank Henriette; the captain of a unit of super soldiers, humans infused with the powers of various mythical creatures that are called incarnates. The first episode is heavy in exposition. Introducing the war, Hank, his best friend Cain Madhouse and his love interest/the scientist who created the incarnates; Elaine.
As the war rages on, the hybrid soldiers start to lose themselves, unable to fully transform back into their human forms and eventually losing the ability to differentiate between friend and foe. The unit make a pact between themselves to take down any of their number who lose their heart to the beast as the war reaches its conclusion.
Finally realising that she is unable to reverse the process, Elaine and Cain betray Hank, realising that the only way to prevent another war between humanity and the incarnates is to execute them all at the end of the war. As Hank lies dying from his chest wound, his betrayer is betrayed herself by Cain, who leaves them both for dead and allows the unit to reintegrate into society after the war.
Cut to some time later, Hank has survived and the war is over. But nearly every member of his unit to tried to reintegrate into the now peaceful society have begun abusing their strength and power. Leaving Hank as the sole responsible soldier to execute them for good. Setting out a much more solemn man than he did before.
And that was all just the first episode. Sacred Beasts made an impact on me right off the bat, it front loads a lot of exposition into episode one, but the breaks it up with a lot of great little human moment, because despite the unit’s descent into lunacy, they are still human. The bulk of the series seem to follow Hank travelling from town to town, reluctantly executing his former unit while remembering them how they used to be. While also knowing that he is to share their fate when the job is done.
Tonally. The show flits between being very serious. Dealing with how far humanity will go during times of hardship and war, while being peppered with moments of goofy levity. In that regard it reminds me a lot of Full Metal Alchemist. Although thus far it leans a lot more in the serious direction than it does it’s goofiness. Hank starts the series as a good hearted lunkhead, acting as the doofy older brother to the rest of the unit., but after the time skip he seems resigned to his fate.
He becomes a hollow reaper, joylessly marching from location to location ending the lives of his former friends. Maybe, as the series goes on, he will he discover his own humanity thanks to Schaal; a young girl and daughter of one of the incarnates who Hank executes in the second episode. She begins to follow Hank for revenge and to try and understand why her giant dragon father had to die.
Ancient beasts is an action driven show, one that deals with the human cost of war and using the incarnates as metaphors for how war can change and break the people fighting in it. It’s also dealing with human connection and how those broken by war can be redeemed and restored by those we return to. All using the metaphor of a werewolf with an exploding harpoon.
Verdict: Continue Watching
Ancient Beasts piqued my interest right away and has a lot going forward it. While it certainly does step on the toes of shows like FMA and Attack on Titan in its setting, tone and approach, they always do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I like it’s style, it’s action and I hope that some of the humour comes back to it as Hank’s journey goes on. Episodes 2 and 3 are very grim in comparison to the first. I certainly recommend keeping this one going.