A second glance at an epic warrior’s tale
proves to have merit.
Sooo, remember how I watched one episode of Guin Saga and declared that it sucked? Then, if you’ll recall, I was bored one night so I went ahead and watched episode two. Well as of today I have officially finished the entire series (which is labeled as “season one,” but I haven’t seen anything about a season two yet, so, yeah). I will say that I was a bit hasty. There’s a lot of good stuff to be found in Guin Saga.
As I mentioned in my earlier review, the story revolves around Guin, a warrior with a leopard head who has no memory of who he is or how he got that kitty noggin’ affixed to his skull. However, he does have immense strength and some pretty rad fighting skills, so that’s working in his favor. Guin has the (mis)fortune of running into the recently orphaned twins of Parros who are fleeing the Mongaul army, and he has to spend the entire twenty-six episodes of this series defending them, protecting them, advising them, and basically wiping their baby bottoms at every turn. Rinda, the half of the twins without a Y chromosome, has psychic powers, so even though she’s innocent to the point of being nauseating by halfway through the series, she does prove useful once in a while. Remus is just a whiney kid who tries to be less of a whine-bag but likes to dip a toe into douchebag territory here and there.
In the second episode the merry trio joins up with Han Solo, er, I mean Istavan, a roguish fellow with a sword who believes that one day he will be a king. They also gain a cute furry friend named Suni, because for some reason every epic fantasy needs a cute furry critter who only speaks a few words and looks around with big eyes. I don’t know why, but it’s the law of fantasy, so there you go. Also of note are the elegant Duke Norisse, a bishōnen from Parros with mysterious intentions, and the Lady Amnelis, who is the first lady of Mongaul and the commander of their army.
Those are pretty much the main characters, but there are ten tons of new faces and places in every episode. It got a bit confusing at times, but by the end I finally had a grasp on most of the various countries and people who populate this very expansive epic fantasy. At the outset the basic premise is a war between Parros and Mongaul with neighboring countries helping or hindering as they see fit, but each character has their own agenda to fulfill. I’ll give this show credit for exploring so many different aspects of storytelling. There’s romance, battles, exploration, scary creatures, spiritual quests, court intrigues, the works. Basically any aspect of fantasy literature that one might be looking for can be found in Guin Saga. I grew to appreciate the colourful art more and more, which straddled the line between Saturday morning cartoons and animated epic films from the Eighties, as well as the music, which was repetitive but effective. While I never got solidly behind any one character because they all thoroughly stuck to their stereotypes, I did grow quite fond of a few here and there, most of all Guin, who does indeed kick ass.
My number one complaint with this anime was the terrible English voice work. Many of the characters’ voices didn’t seem to fit well with the way they were drawn, and the dialogue varied between cheesy to downright awful. I would guess that it was a poorly translated script since the story was good but the dialogue wasn’t. There were several instances where a character would make a joke that didn’t fit the mood of the scene at all and it stuck out like a sore thumb (Amnelis’s handmaiden was especially guilty of this). Then there was the traveling minstrel, whose singing was SO BAD that I assumed it was supposed to be a joke. But then all the characters around him would say, “That was so beautiful! Sing again!” Are you kidding me?!? My ears were nearly bleeding! Here’s a tip for producers of anime: if you have a character who is a minstrel, and it is in the script that he sings, maybe you should hire a voice actor who can actually sing. Just a thought (one that I would think was obvious). I would love to watch Guin Saga again to pick up on the details that I missed with the initial viewing, but in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Guin himself was great, and a few others were decent, but on the whole it was a big “What were you thinking, Sentai/Aniplex?!?”
As a former RPGer and a lifelong fantasy fan, I’m glad that I gave Guin and his pals another chance. This was no perfect anime by any means, but I really did enjoy watching the episodes weave an epic tale such as this one. The ending was perhaps one of the most unsatisfying anime endings that I’ve seen to date, but it does make me even more interested in reading up on Guin and his adventures. If you love high fantasy, this is one not to be missed. Just make sure to keep the volume low whenever a guy with a musical instrument under his arm walks into the room.
Rating: ★★★✰ I might own this one day, despite the abrupt ending and dubious voice work. Guin himself is all kinds of awesome.