Bungo and Alchemist -Gears of Judgement- – 1st Episode Review
For More Spring Anime Reviews check out our Spring 2020 Coverage Guide!
Synopsis: From studio OLM, known for the Pokémon series, the original Berserk anime, and Ni no Kuni, comes a brand-new show based on the popular mobile game of the same name. Bungo and Alchemist -Gears of Judgement- is set in a fantasy world with famous and handsome historical figures from the field of literature, who must call upon their magical abilities to save books that have been tainted by evil forces. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: As the official summary lets on, much of the first episode of Bungo and Alchemist takes place within the plot of a Japanese work of literature called Run, Melos and it seems likely that the rest of the series will follow a similar pattern, tackling a new book each episode. This becomes an immediate challenge for anyone not that familiar with Japanese literature..which is likely most of the non Japanese audience. The show assumes that the viewer has some knowledge of the literature in question as it doesn’t provide the most through explanations nor the most linear narration needed to make the plot easy to follow for a newcomer.
Tom: It definitely makes for a confusing first episode. We’re dropped into the Run, Melos narrative without much context, although this is actually the easiest part of the episode to follow. Eventually we veer deep into the concept of the series, our authors battling it out with the Taints; the villainous force seeking to undo literature as we know it, before finally dumping a boat load of exposition on the audience. The transitions between each ‘segment’ don’t hold your hand at all, making them sometimes difficult to follow and more confusing than intriguing. By episode’s end it all made sense, but left me feeling thoroughly disengaged.
Linny: Bungo and Alchemist features one of its two protagonists this episode, Osamu Dazai, constantly jumping between quippy one liners and more serious, emotional outbursts. When done in moderation, this can make the character charming and ease tension. However, when every other line is a goofy, fourth wall breaking overreaction, it becomes hard to take the story seriously. The show ends up undermining itself in this way, presenting a whiplash in tone that makes it impossible to give a fig about Dazai and the evil Taints attempting to ruin his highly lauded work of fiction.
Tom: In other ways Bungo and Alchemist is one of the better mobile phone/web-browser game adaptations I’ve seen. Outside of a confusing narrative flow, and uneven tone, we keep the number of characters we’re exposed to quite low, only asking us to get to know Dazai and Ryuunosuke, rather than the entire pantheon of Writers who will end up included as characters later on. It makes it so that we come away with a passable understanding of what our leads are like, and what to expect from them, even if we’re not totally enthused with the types of characters they are.
Linny: Based off a mobile game, Bungo and Alchemist is very well aware that its strength is the physical attractiveness of its characters and wastes no effort in employing high quality animation and stylish art to sell them to the audience. I have to admit that for a mobile game, it does feel a bit more meaty than others thanks to its employment of lauded works of literature. But it still doesn’t feel like a solid show on its own and it’s hard to completely ignore that this is most likely mere promotional material meant to attract more fans and more spending on the Gacha mechanics. Yes, all anime are technically promotional material but in this case, its more overtly so and since the source material is so thin, there is only so much one can expect from the anime. If you enjoy watching anime with pretty male characters without a harem angle, you might love Bungo and Alchemist thanks to its solidly visually portrayed pretty boy cast. If you’re hoping for something more than that though, this isn’t for you.
Tom: I have to agree with Linny, an affinity for pretty boys goes a long way to boosting interest. If that’s not your kinda thing you’re likely to find both Dazai and Ryunnosuke to be tropey, one-note stock character types. It’s not an awful start, but it’s only a bit more intriguing than the bog-standard mobile game adaptation and that really isn’t saying much. Another angle that could help is a love of Japanese literature, as well as a few famous Western authors, making the dives into these stories more familiar and thus more engaging. Otherwise there’s already more interesting offerings this Spring.
Bungo and Alchemist is available for streaming via Funimation.com