JUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: The record of the bloody battle between the twelve proud warriors— The 12th Twelve Tournament that gets held every twelve years… Twelve brave warriors who bear the names of the signs of the zodiac fight each other for the lives and souls. The participants are twelve very strange warriors: “Rat,” “Ox,” “Tiger,” “Rabbit,” “Dragon,” “Snake,” “Horse,” “Goat,” Monkey,” “Rooster,” “Dog,” and “Pig.” The victor of this tournament gets to have one wish granted, whatever the wish may be. The one wish they want granted— Who will be the final survivor? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Juni Taisen’s first episode is ultimately a tad misleading. While focused on exploring Boar’s character, a dual-wielding machine gun carrying, vengeful woman, many took greater note of her sudden, and surprise, death at the end of the very first episode. This seemed to mark expectations for many people, that Juni Taisen would become a series that constantly subverted expectations. The truth is that character study like focus, is what Juni Taisen has so far been truly about. Every episode has been a laser focus on the deconstruction of each character, exploring how they came to be and why they fight in the Juni Taisen. In some ways Juni Taisen is a lot like Magical Girl Raising Project of last winter, exploring each of these characters right up to the moment they die in this brutal battle royale.
Linny: Juni Taisen continues to be ‘trashy’ fun, with characters behaving over the top with fighting styles to match. The drama in the personal stories can often be very cheesy and cliche too, more likely to make you roll your eyes than feel genuine emotion. Even the costumes for many of the characters are rather zany. For example, the old man who represents the Zodiac sign of the sheep has these large, ram like, horns on the side of his head and I cannot tell you with confidence if they are actually growing out of his head or if it’s just really fancy headgear. You shouldn’t go into Juni Taisen expecting some super tense and intriguing tale of suspense as the show plays out in a most predictable manner, giving away most upcoming developments from a mile away. Heck, even the episode titles often give away exactly what’s going to happen.
Tom: Juni Taisen’s biggest issue is that predictability. Much of the usual fun in entertainment comes from being surprised by twists and turns. But Juni Taisen plays out much as any experienced audience might expect. It’s not that twists don’t exist, Juni Taisen is rife with them, but they’re often the most obvious, predictable, or expected turn of events. As Linny said, you see them coming a mile away. The trouble is they’re often the most basic level of subversion. Taken as face value, and assuming this isn’t some elaborate set up by the author to lull knowledgeable audiences into a false set of expectations, that means Juni Taisen is much more so about that character study nature.
Linny: Juni Taisen is indeed best enjoyed as a character study. You watch it to learn about how these remarkably unusual characters came to not only be the people they are but how and why they joined the tournament in the first place or perhaps how they react to the strain this tournament of death puts upon them. If you’re satisfied by that description, and the thought of watching insanely dressed and powered individuals trying to take each other down, then you’re definitely in for a good time. Just don’t expect any deep messages or mysteries..at least not up until the midpoint.
Tom: The writer of Juni Taisen is the infamous Nisio Isin of the Monogatari series. It’s a series I’ve still not found the time to watch, but my understanding is that his work has formed an expectation of clever writing and intriguing twists. That means there’s an expectation here that at some point Juni Taisen will, in fact, surprise us all. Even if it never does, I still believe Juni Taisen is a fun watch if you’re more geared towards its character work, than the mystery of who will win this brutal and bloody battle royale.