What’s it about ?
War epic set in medieval China.
The first episode is double-sized, which I didn’t initially notice until the second commercial break.
Xin, an 10-year-old war orphan who’s housed by the village’s mayor. They don’t treat him well, but then again he’s an annoying little jerk with anger issues. (I’m not sure that scene when he demolishes a wall out of frustration is intentionally funny.)
Piao, his BFF who’s in the same situation but gets better treatment because he’s, you know, not an jerk. The guy has some genuine charisma, so of course he can’t survive the first episode’s halfway point.
The plot here is that a random noble dude shows up one day to pick Piao to serve at the Court. Months later, Piao comes back heavily wounded to the village and dies without having had time to explain what the heck is happening. Xin obviously declares vengeance and starts following the map Piao gave him.
The baddies are headed by the King’s younger brother, a classist asshole who has a total innocent executed just to make a point. He’s making a power play, and somehow this led to Piao’s demise. (The first episode doesn’t explain how or why, although the ending cliffhanger gives a good hint.)
This seems to be fully CG-animated, with copious amounts of cell-shading to give it a more traditional anime look. The big problem is that the body language very often lurches into uncanny valley territory, as the characters are animated to move in really unnatural ways.
It doesn’t help that the direction is mind-bogglingly incompetent. Remember when I reviewed 2001’s Run=Dim last year ? Well, this falls into the same trap : yes, CG graphics allow the camera to pan over or around the action without losing quality ; but this isn’t a good reason to show it off at every opportunity, especially when this effect actually often hinders the storytelling of the shot.
And then there’s the continuity issues. It’s most hilarious in the early duel scene between the two kids, where the grass grows from merely a texture laid on flat terrain to knee-deep over a few shots.
Okay, let’s leave aside for a moment the terrible graphics and the laughably inept direction. There’s no helping that the story just isn’t very good by itself, with an annoying brainless protagonist, EEEEVIL villains who can’t even chew the scenery properly, and a general level of unpleasantness that’s just tiring to watch. (Did that guy really need to sword that kid through the balls ?)
Even for the trainwreck factor this isn’t worth 45 minutes of your time.