Zetsuen no Tempest Ep. 1: Déjà vu

Wow, there are some heavy No.6 vibes going on here. This is potentially both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s hard to deny how similar Zetsuen no Tempest resembles that other BONES series from over a year ago. Something bad is happening to the world, and people are afflicted with some sort of syndrome that turns organic material to metal. Amidst all chaos, we have mysterious butterflies and characters throwing lines from Shakespeare at each other. Even a shady government is involved to some degree, though nowhere near as prominent as it was in No.6.

For all of No.6‘s faults, it started off really well. There was an elegance to its first episode, something that — I’m afraid — cannot be said about Zetsuen no Tempest. Right off the bat, we meet a slew of characters: Yoshino (the protagonist), Mahiro (the vengeful friend — somewhat similar to Nezumi), Aika (the dead sister), Hakaze (some powerful mage), Samon (apparently a cult leader), and Evangeline (a possible ally of the government?). That’s a lot of characters to introduce in a single episode, not to mention the fact that there’s magic, butterflies, and a mysterious eyeball that is a fruit of some Tree of Exodus. Lost in all this plot is apparently any discernible story.

Maybe it’s just me, but I liked what No.6 did. Using only three characters (four if you count the city as a persona), the show elegantly introduced its story themes meanwhile leaving just enough room to keep us interested. Sure, sure, in Zetsuen no Tempest, we know that the world is in danger, and Mahiro really wants to avenge his sister, but a sense of cohesiveness seems to be missing. I’m certain that later episodes will attempt to rectify this initial problem that I have with the show, but I think No.6 should be lauded for how its first episode managed to pull everything off successfully.

But hey, even if Zetsuen no Tempest doesn’t start off nearly as well as that other BONES series, it doesn’t have to do very much to end up in a better place. I’m still shaking my head over that goddamn finale…. In any case, I must admit that Zetsuen no Tempest is off to a decent start even if it could’ve been better.

For this show, I’ll probably open with a few paragraphs to address a major point I want to make about the episode I just saw, then I’ll follow up with the notes that I took as I was watching the episode. Hopefully, this format works out well.

Notes:

• There are some striking scenes in the anime. Here’s one:

And here’s another near the end of the episode.

• And yet the first Shakespearean quote is from Hamlet: “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.” Hamlet utters this line shortly after he learns of his father’s death. “The time is out of joint” because the rightful king has been usurped by another. Hamlet laments that he has to “set [the situation] right,” i.e. revenge. What does all of this mean within the context of the anime?

• A young girl finds herself marooned on an island by some guy named Samon. For those unfamiliar with The Tempest, it is a play about Prospero, a man who has been marooned on an island by his brother Antonio. Prospero was not alone, however, as he had his daughter Miranda with him. Anywho, the young girl in the anime claims to have magical powers. It just so happens that Prospero was also a magician. Whether or not there are any further parallels between the girl and Prospero remains to be seen. We do get a bit of irony, however, when the young girl cries, “At least he was nice enough to not leave me here in my underwear.” Sure, she has a dress and sandals on, but that dress may as well be negligee.

• We then see Samon sailing away from the island. He seems to intend for the red-headed girl — who we now learn is a princess of some sort — to die on the island, but if that’s the case, I don’t understand why he doesn’t just kill her in the first place. Marooning Jack Sparrow didn’t work, and I doubt it’ll work here!

• The princess, now self-identified as Kusaribe Hakaze, is in the middle of swearing her revenge when her stomach grumbles. I guess that was supposed to be funny. This scene feels silly and out of place, but maybe this is supposed to be a comedy… The Tempest was originally categorized as a comedy, but people have since considered it more of a romance or a tragicomedy.

• The last few BONES series have used war or the effects of war as a backdrop for the story. It should be interesting to see if and what the motif is supposed to convey here.

• Seems like a lot of the male characters already have girlfriends, including Yoshino, our protagonist. Let’s hope this means we can dispense with the classic anime tradition of boys being shy and blushing around girls. Speaking of Yoshino, what’s with the stuff in his hair?

• The flashbacks give us the impression that Yoshino and Mahiro were so close that they may as well have been blood brothers, but present day Yoshino seems to speak bitterly of his missing friend. I wonder if the latter had betrayed the former in some way. Maybe Yoshino is our Prospero. Or maybe nobody’s our Prospero, and I’m just going down a dead end.

• Too many dramatic hair tosses for my liking.

• We get some more irony in the scene where Evangeline introduces herself, but I don’t think the show is using irony correctly. It’s just all very as-a-matter-of-fact, and thus pointless.

• Having a gun in your face isn’t exactly surreal, sorry. By the way, more dramatic hair flowing wistfully in the wind. What is with this anime and hair?

• My bad: Aika was — ‘was’ because she’s now dead — Mahiro’s sister, not his girlfriend. But hey, it’s anime~… a girlfriend and a sister could be one and the same for all we know.

• I’m going to have to get used to the young characters uttering lines like “Isn’t the absurdity of life the human condition?” Yeah, okay Camus-san, go back to class now.

• Just when Yoshino seems to be out of options, he sees a flock of butterflies in the dead of winter. Butterflies often symbolize change or metamorphosis. Maybe change is afoot. Maybe this is the turning point where Yoshino stops moping and becomes the hero of the story. Who knows? We do know that magic exists, so it could all just be supernatural.

• “Black iron syndrome?” Innocent civilians are “beginning to metallicize?” Mahiro tells his friend that the city is done for, we have another insect metaphor with butterflies as opposed to bees, two male best friends… hints of No.6 all over again? Also, does it mean anything that people are being trapped in their metal “cocoons” while the butterflies are flying about?

• Lots of shounen-y action moves being pulled off by Mahiro, but hey, it’s still better choreography than Sword Art Online.

• To me, it would seem impossibly hard for any government — much less the Japanese government — to cover up the fact that swaths and swaths of people are just turning into metal statues. But I guess random quarantines will handle the problem!

• The soundtrack has been very bombastic to start.

• How did the princess’s dress disintegrate in such a fashion as to conveniently bare only her midriff?

• Out of a tempest emerges a giant eyeball encrusted in dirt and chains. Oookay. At the very least, the show is off to an interesting start. Perhaps it’s the translation at work, but I’m a little unclear who Samon is addressing in his prophetic speech: “Return, divided fruit! Greatest of all trees, which raises itself above all others… Return to your beautiful tree of Exodus!” My guess is that the first and third lines refer to the giant eyeball, and the second refers to the holographic tree in front of him.

Speaking of which, I’ve never heard of a Tree of Exodus. The Book of Exodus is about how the children of Israel escapee Egypt, right? So maybe the burning bush? Or something else entirely? Ah, it’s anime so they probably just made this shit up.

• “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.” So do we know now what this quote means within the context of the anime? Is it that the world is in danger? Or is it that Aika died too soon, and Mahiro has a desperate need to make some sense of it all.

• There are some hints that Aika might’ve meant more to Yoshino than the two were willing to let on. Hm.

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23 thoughts on “Zetsuen no Tempest Ep. 1: Déjà vu

  1. appropriant

    Michiru Oshima is the one who’s in charge of the music, and she does tend to add that grandiose mood to whatever anime she’s involved with. I recognized the composer instantly because of how similar it sounded to Xam’d: Lost Memories, where I believe her music fits better because of its fantasy setting, but that’s just me. If the story fails, I’ll stay for the score.

    Unfortunately, thats all I can add to the discussion. The only works of Shakespeare I’m familiar with are Romeo and Juliet (obviously), Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear. There’s also the fact that I have absolutely no clue what to make of the first episode other than the pretty pictures and that Evangeline’s skirt really doesn’t have to be that short and the camera really doesn’t have to keep coming back to her hips of all places and other nitpicky things. Maybe all this does is let you know that I’m also watching this anime.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Unfortunately, thats all I can add to the discussion. The only works of Shakespeare I’m familiar with are Romeo and Juliet (obviously), Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear.

      How have you not read Hamlet?!

      Reply
      1. appropriant

        I think my high school only used it for the non-AP classes. For my AP Literature class, it was substituted for King Lear because of something along the lines of “Every school uses Hamlet when it comes to the AP exam.” I think the teachers were secretly hipster.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          I read it before the AP English courses. Hell, our teacher was so obsessed with it, she showed us two film versions of the play: the one with Mel Gibson and the one with Kenneth Branagh.

        2. Naota

          I wish this had happened to me. Hamlet was my least favourite Shakespeare work (I know – my literary snobbery credentials should be revoked) and King Lear got only the barest mention.

          Now if only somebody would adapt Macbeth as the plot anime series!

        3. E Minor Post author

          I dunno, I don’t think a true literary snob would brag about loving Hamlet, one of the most well-known plays in the history of the English language. A literary snob would triumph Waiting for Godot or something along those lines.

          Now if only somebody would adapt Macbeth as the plot anime series!

          A quick Google search got me this… so enjoy?

        4. Isambard

          …but I like Waiting for Godot…

          Anyway, if you’re actually interested in seeing a Japanese version of Macbeth, Akira Kurosawa directed a few adaptations of Shakespeare as samurai films. One of those, 1957’s Throne of Blood, is his version of Macbeth starring Toshiro Mifune in the lead role.

    2. 72

      Actually the hair pins in Yoshino’s hair have a slight significance :P its a small spoiler from the manga i guess? so be warned :P

      SPOILER

      Aika put the hairpins like that in his hair when they went on a date. so he like keeps his hair that way as a remembrance of sorts…you know in her memory kinda thing.

      Reply
  2. Where is my squirrel master ?

    I’m having fun watching this … the animation is of high quality and the story telling is better than it was on the manga format … except it’s only 12 eps and the manga is still ongoing means it doesn’t have much potential if they decided not to give this a second season

    (Offending comment removed.)

    Reply
  3. Andmeuths

    12 Episodes an ongoing Manga?

    Two possible ends:

    Cliffhanger Ending, or Open Ending, leaving open the possibility of S2 if this sells well.

    Anime Original Ending, with pacing trainwreck in the last 3 episodes.

    Reply
  4. wanderer

    This was about what I would’ve expected for a first episode here. At this pace it might take two or three episodes to finish setting everything up, including — as you pointed out! — the shape of an actual plot. I don’t know that there’s much the writing staff could do to set everything up in a single episode without getting pretty far away from the original manga sequence, either, although from what I saw they did a decent job of moving forward those things they could move earlier. It’s a bit disappointing you never see double-length premiere episodes for anime the way you tend to for live-action western tv, but it is what it is.

    As this is based on a manga I’ve read it’s hard to comment too much on what has happened so far without spoiling things, but looking at your notes I’d say most of the stuff you’ve picked up on or want answered will either be addressed eventually. I’m not sure what overall tone this adaption is going to settle into, and even the manga is hard to parse that way. It’s mostly “very serious” interspersed with a lot of attempts at humor, with the humor seemingly tossed in to get you to accept the premise more easily by acknowledging when absurd things are happening. Not a bad strategy, but at least to my taste the author has a strange sense of humor, and imho most of the good laughs come from everything other than the actual (attempts at) jokes. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how this adaption compresses the story to fit its 12 episodes.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It’s a bit disappointing you never see double-length premiere episodes for anime the way you tend to for live-action western tv, but it is what it is.

      I wonder if the story could’ve been delivered in a different fashion, but I guess I can’t really say until everything’s fleshed out. I’m just sort of bothered, I guess, by how the first episode felt like a mishmash of events without any sort of central theme.

      Not a bad strategy, but at least to my taste the author has a strange sense of humor,

      You’re probably referring to jokes to be seen later in the story, but the grumbling stomach to me doesn’t seem strange, just very rudimentary and tonally jarring. I just don’t know what it adds. I’m not sure how it would convince me to buy into the show’s premise.

      Reply
      1. wanderer

        On the humor, some of what I remember being humorous is already on display but being played straight, so it’s hard to say how the adaption will handle it. I remember a lot of quasi-lampshading lines getting tossed out whenever something ridiculous happens (which is often), which seemed intended to make the ridiculous events easier to take, seemingly on the theory it’s easier to take seriously if the characters realize things are ridiculous. I agree the stomach growl was just a strange non-sequitur.

        In terms of reordering the presentation it’s hard to say much about until later, but I think it’d be difficult to change up the beginning much more than they did, at least if they wanted to roughly follow the manga story presentation. Should get more interesting from episode 2.

        Reply
  5. Naota

    “The time is out of joint” because the rightful king has been usurped by another. Hamlet laments that he has to “set [the situation] right,” i.e. revenge. What does all of this mean within the context of the anime?

    I don’t want to be a jerk and spoil it for you, but I found the eventual connotations depressingly literal. Of course, it could always have a deeper meaning that I didn’t pick up on reading the manga, but a lot of my first impressions were that the quotes from Shakespeare weren’t put to the best use (ie. sparingly, not used literally, only spoken by characters pretentious enough to unironically quote Shakespeare to other people out of nowhere).

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Well, as I always say, let’s see how the adaptation handles it. It’s why I don’t read manga, because I find it will necessarily color my impression of the adaptations.

      Reply
  6. 72

    ohh and your point about the irony being used very matter of factly is actually very true! Its just what Yoshino’s character is like. if you read the mange or even in later episodes you’ll see how complex he is :/ its like what Aika said in the beginning ‘he’s a con artist who poses as an average guy’ or something along those lines. He’s just pretending to be your average high schooler, i mean that line about her being shady is what you’d expect the typical person to say right? with some exaggerations of expressions and background? well the whole matter of factness was deliberate.

    also the hairpins in Yoshino’s hair are slightly significant :P he’s not being effeminate with that hair style. Its a small spioler form the manga i guess….

    SPOILER

    Aika put those pins there when they were on a date together. so he like keeps that style in remembrance….you know in her memory and stuff he doesnt change the style.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      also the hairpins in Yoshino’s hair are slightly significant :P he’s not being effeminate with that hair style. Its a small spioler form the manga i guess….

      Was just making sure those were hairpins and not strange scars or something.

      Reply

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