I have returned! Do expect a blog every day until the 23rd <3.
Tokyo Ravens is an animated series based on the light novels of the same name written by Kohei Azano. It’s easy to notice quickly that the show is coloured with modern fantasy themes such as the shrines and stylistic clothes that our characters wear. There’s also no doubt that the show has potential with its concepts. But what’s more important is the execution. After all, Harutora is labelled more as a babyface with little skill in onmyouji magic. He has potential and Tokyo Ravens explores it in various aspects. What Tokyo Ravens went wrong in this part is its execution that becomes blend and sometimes insufferable. But despite this, the show itself does handle its structural set up in a tolerable fashion with credibility.
Take the series’s story as a modern fantasy with the magic, curses, and spells in an all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s no special appetizer because everything is conventional and expected in terms of its general set up. The first few episodes establish the premise and deliver itself in its traditional fashion. We meet Harutora and his friends who don’t seem so different from folks you see from our society. However, realize there are abnormal beings that exist in their world. There’s a lot of information to absorb in the beginning, in ways that seem to cloud the story until we meet some antagonists.
It also becomes more and more clichéd with the characters involving a typical childhood friend named Natsume that comes to visit, the flashy fireworks in the sky with a misunderstanding, and mecha-like gadgets popping out as adversaries because they look flashy and demonstrates a lethal presentation of modern fantasy. While all is fine when presented in the right fashion, Tokyo Ravens introduces everything together all at once that feels rushed. More than that, there’s also predictable plot twists that at times becomes bizarre and lands nowhere with Harutora’s characterization.
Speaking of characters, there’s quite the diversity. Thankfully, none of them sits in the background but instead get their spotlights, some even more so than our main protagonist. Still, that isn’t exactly a gift to accept so easily because Tokyo Ravens only develops them on a substantial level. Natsume for instance never really changes with her time on the show. She is portrayed as an innocent girl who is willing to protect others. There are obvious affections coming from her towards Harutora despite the latter being oblivious to her some of her words and advances. To make matters worse, most of the school they attend are under the belief that she is a guy. This is where the silliness comes into play with their “yaoi relationship”. As quirky as it sounds, the series actually doesn’t hide this as they play on this trope many times with almost the entire female student body believing it as reality.
Other characters in the series serve as the support for Harutora’s development but most of them are more like friends to him rather than a coach. They offer him advice, training sessions, and details to unlock his potential. Unfortunately, Harutora is presented as an irrational man when it comes to textbooks and learning. He even earned the nickname ‘Bakatora’ which is a play as a joke as baka translates to ‘idiot’ by Japanese standards. At the same time, we do witness Harutora become stronger through experiences and determination to protect others. There’s a sense of hope when he really puts effort or when the people close to him are in danger. It’s there that we see Harutora shines by moments of his selflessness. Other times though, Harutora is hard to get attached to for his abilities and dull personality.
The series itself also follows sequential arc style in presenting stories and characters. Like I mentioned previously, almost every main character gets their spotlight whether you’re former delinquent (Tojo), the youngest of the Twelve Generals (Suzuka), a shikigami (Kon), or heir of a famous family (Kyoko). Speaking of the Twelve Generals, the series presents themselves as a testimony of strength. Each of them possesses their own unique abilities that make them both fear and respect. Unfortunately, because the show itself focuses on more of the main characters, they lose focus and only gets their chance to shine when the action calls for it. The action itself also can be a mixed bag. The usage of CGI and magic at the same time is certainly an odd mix.
It almost feels like the show is running on an engine with a different set of gears. However, the show does well with its mechanics in terms of explanation. Every episode contains a little bit of explaining whether it’s the backgrounds or just in general of what’s there. Various terminologies such as onmyouji, shikigami, as well as events are usually easily understandable with attention. Furthermore, the term raven is symbolic for death (foreshadowing in the beginning) and matches perfectly with its presentation of magic linked to Shamanism. It could also be something refreshing to watch as it sometimes brings that fantasy taste in a way you might not get used to.
What really makes Tokyo Ravens hard to get used though might be the asinine comedy that tends to be an overused way of delivery. This includes but not limited to Harutora being an accidental pervert, Suzuka’s fake relationship with Harutora, and Kon’s obsessiveness with her master. It also uses cheesy lines with little favour that often lacks sense. Natsume’s cross-dressing makes her a subject of attraction for girls at the academy they attend. It spells out laughter in the wrong way because the misunderstandings should be so obvious. Really, does Natsume look that much like a guy with her fragile face and long hair? Some of the characters’ personalities are also hard to figure out such as Suzuka and her manipulative actions. Kon’s personality changes almost every episode according to what circumstance she is and whom she is with. Tenma, a classmate of Harutora, also seems to be in the background most of the time and plays almost no significant role. While the show doesn’t explicitly present fan service or the typical beach episode, Tokyo Ravens still reveals more skin than it should thank to mostly Harutora’s stupidity.
Artwork remains standard on most parts for Tokyo Ravens. It is noticeable that 8bit is also in charge of producing both Infinite Stratos 2 and Walkure Romanze at the same while this show is also airing. But for judging its animation, Tokyo Ravens does it well only in terms of credibility. Supernatural familiars are believable with their designs while backgrounds reflect the modern fantasy style that it should be. Unfortunately, most of the characters stand out as a blend. Kon is perhaps the most noticeable character because of her animalistic features. Suzuka, on the other hand, has bits of fan service in her design while Natsume’s cross-dressing literally covers almost every inch of her body beside her face. The strange usage of CGI will take time to get accustomed to. At several times, I almost thought this had mecha-esque concepts.
Soundtrack wise, Tokyo Ravens surprisingly works out well. While Harutora’s voice is nothing special, there’s something noticeable about its OST with the way that fuses fantasy elements with reality. Not only that but the OP song “X-encounter” by Maon Kurosaki had an intense beat with bits of foreshadowing. Most of the characters’ voices also fit well that matches each scene. In later episodes, some of the characters’ voices also convey emotions well through their dialogues that almost seems realistic despite the show having fantasy elements.
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