So far with its two episodes, the anime gives us two incomplete halves that don’t mesh all that well. I feel like I’m experiencing two incomplete stories. It’s bad enough that the animation quality is quite bland and uninspired for a series that is supposed to celebrate the original story’s 25th anniversary. Sadly, the all-important narrative leaves a lot to be desired. There’s not a whole lot of “show, not tell” here, but even what we are told doesn’t end up being all that informative anyways. Orphen wants to save Azalie even if it means going against the Tower of Fang, but we don’t know enough about their relationship to get truly invested in this personal quest of his. Likewise, I’m not really sure what to make of Orphen now. He’s a moneylender of some sort? Is he a rogue with a heart of gold now? Or just a selfish guy going from place to place in search of Azalie? Why should I root for this guy? Last but not least, we don’t know much about the Tower of Fang or what they do beyond the fact that it’s a magic academy of sorts. All we have are mere hints.
As someone who doesn’t like anime to get too bogged down by world-building, I could really use some of it here. Orphen paints the sorcerers and the Tower of Fang as bad guys, and I don’t necessarily think that he’s wrong. A bunch of grim-looking dudes walking around in black robes probably aren’t up to any good. They also seem to only recruit orphans. That’s definitely shady. It also sketchy that Childman, Azalie and Orphen’s former teacher, was conducting experiments with the girl all by their twosome. What exactly were their relationship? I’m sure this will all be revealed in due time, but for now, I just want a better grasp of why the bad guys are bad. Do they make the orphans do bad things after training them in the ways or sorcery? Or do they just flat-out do bad things to the orphans? We’re simply told that the Tower of Fang’s authority will be diminished if they don’t quickly do something about Azalie. They will look bad. But authority with regards to what? What does the Tower of Fang and its sorcerers do in this society? What do they represent?
Luckily, we don’t need a super terrible villain if the personal story holds up. I get the feeling that although Azalie treated Orphen much like a little brother, she was and probably still is his first love. In a flashback, she doesn’t think her hands are very dainty, but he quickly corrects her in a way that makes me think he has deeper feelings. Even though she gets into all sorts of trouble and foists her responsibilities onto him, Orphen doesn’t really seem to mind any of this at all. Over the course of the series, he’ll probably have to accept the painful truth that the old Azalie is gone — and perhaps fall in love with the main heroine Claiomh instead — but for now, it’s probably a safe bet that Orphen sees Azalie as more than just an older sister. But anime and manga in general are very coy when it comes to matters of the heart, so all I can really do is speculate. Certainly, our hero has a strong reason to try and save Azalie even without harboring romantic feelings for her. As orphans, she looked out for him and helped raise him into the man that he is today.
So even without all the details that I am asking for, at its core, this seems to be a story about eschewing the supposed greater good of society because the greater good is often heartless. As result, Orphen, the individual, follows his own moral code. Even though all of his former classmates are telling him otherwise, he will protect Azalie. Even though she’s a dangerous, rampaging dragon, he won’t let the sorcerers hurt her. We all love our mothers, and we all love our sisters. We wouldn’t abandon them even if society wants us to. This should come naturally to us, so it’s easy to take for granted Orphen’s decision to go against his peers. But within a certain context — perhaps the context of the time period and culture in which this story is written — it makes sense that Orphen might be considered an anti-hero of sorts. I just don’t think the story has done enough to paint this picture. Maybe it would have been better served to focus on what’s happening now, i.e. Orphen’s current characterization as well as his future sidekicks, and leave the flashbacks till later. I’d rather do one thing well — one at a time — than attempt to do two things not so well.
Ah well, maybe I shouldn’t really be watching this series, but there’s not a whole lot that I can do on Tuesdays. A friend has told me to catch up on Black Clover, but all I remember about that show is that the protagonist wouldn’t stop screaming. And also… a nun? It doesn’t matter.