Just another title being crossed off the list. It was recommend by a friend that I shared an interest with dark fantasy stories. To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts paints another symbolic picture of how society will treat those that came back from war. While the story’s main theme revolves around fulfilling a sworn oath, revenge, redemption, and quest for purpose, the show falls behind initial expectation in the middle of a 12 episode series.
The series written and illustrated by Maybe. The series is published by Kodansha in Japan and by Vertical in North America. An anime television series adaptation by MAPPA aired from 1 July to 16 September 2019. Wiki Source
It a battle between the North and the South competing for a resource called Somnium ore. The South having more manpower had tactical advantage enough to push the North to a brink of defeat. North wasn’t going to have it, so they made some human experiments and developed Incarnates. These are humans transforming into animals but more buff. These turned the tides of battle in the North’s favor drastically but at the expense of the Incarnate’s sanity decay.
The more they use their powers the more they regress into their primal urges. Regarded as gods of the battlefield, the Incarnate Squad was both praised and feared by enemies and allies. Why not? these people can just take down an entire fortified fortress with less than a dozen units. Incarnates that can no longer turn back into their human forms end up becoming insane and are put down if they aren’t killed by the enemy yet. Realizing the South’s inevitable defeat, a treaty was made prior to surrender but at this point most of the squad members are half way physically morphed into their beast forms without their conscious control.
Hank, the leader of the squad realized the fates that will leave them post war. An Incarnate’s fate is to lose their souls overtime, and faster if they keep using their abilities. So the oath was made to kill each other while they were sane to preserve whatever honor that was left. There was no room for Incarnates in beast form to blend with society in times of peace. Elaine, the researcher responsible for the project could not bear the guilt of being responsible for the fates of the monsters she created tried to enact a plan to terminate the entire squad the night prior to the last siege.
But wait, Cain, the second in command wasn’t going to have it, and betrayed Elaine by shooting her point blank in front of Hank’s eyes. Hank wakes up months after the war was over and discovers the Incarnates have escaped into the wild, Elaine being missing, and Cain’s betrayal. So Hank goes off on a journey to go murder, death, kill mercifully his old friends one by one as they slowly descend into their own madness. In comes Schaal Bancroft, the daughter of one of Hank’s squad members who witnesses Hank murder her father, the Nidhogg Incarnate that lost his sanity.
Schaal joins Hank into his quest to understand the reason why Hank must kill his old friends while being tsundere for murdering her father, perfectly understandable.
The first episode really got me hooked into the show as it sets the mood for the next 12 episodes. It foreshadows the journey of Hank that isn’t going to be bright. It’s going to be a trail of blood, vengeance and sorrow. The first few episodes got the mood right and it got me invested into the story as a whole. Hank and Schaal were relatable enough. Their motivations weren’t complicated but neither do their characters have a lot of depth to work with.
Hank is the suffering hero on a journey to fulfill an oath only he seems to get the value. It’s a heay responsibility and lonely as only he seems to carry the weight of the sin each time he puts a bullet on his friend’s head. Schaal being a bystander that serves as the audience’s lens to understanding the whole ordeal fulfilled the role well.
The episodes felt like monsters of the week where new friends are introduced and killed off with a short flash backs to make us sympathize with the villain. They did a good job of making me care about the Incarnates being killed off at least. Their motivations for doing evil, their twisted insanity and their own despair. Each episodes just adds more weight to Hank’s burden as he finishes each member. While we may not feel some emotional attachment to the characters that die off, a little empathy made me think that pulling the trigger each time makes the gun heavier. These were once his friends and are driven into a corner where they had no full control and one day Hank will end up like them. But will he finish them all off before he turns into the monster himself? That’s a heavy existential dread the show only hints.
The character developments done on the show are halfway good. Hank and Schaal grow each episode until it comes midway where the story is no longer confined to their business as the Incarnate problem becomes a national threat. Cain plans on creating a new nation following a generic villain route. But even his reasoning to continue living isn’t far off to understand. There was no room for Incarnates in the world of peace. They were gods descended into monsters as soon as the war is over. They were better off dead and forgotten and Cain’s assertion to rebel at this train of thought was understandable.
Animation and Music:
The animation was ok, just a few points below the average you would expect from a modern anime. For a dark fantasy anime, it uses a lot of bright colors and the gore isn’t really compelling. Maybe it’s just animators trying to tone down the violence to make it suitable for kid friendly rating, I don’t know. While the story is dark, the animation doesn’t seem to sync well with the mood. There’s plenty of blood and death but it just feels lacking.
The OST for the show never really stuck with me. It just didn’t appeal to me when I heard it the first time and multiple times. I get the lyrics but it just didn’t have the X-factor I was looking for.
If this show didn’t get a second season, I wouldn’t miss it. The whole season 1 is stage setter and cliff hanger for what’s coming on the next arc. I just lost interest after the story expanded way too fast midseries where a lot of characters are introduced and backstories that have yet to be reveal probably in the next season.
One thing they needed to improve on was making the audience care about the opposite camp more. We are flashed with memories that try to make us sympathize with the villains but due to time constraints we just can’t feel emotionally invested long enough to care about the monsters when they die.
As a show, it has it’s moments when it got to evoke something to make me care but overall nothing there’s little to be invested at. The last nail that sealed it was the Deus Ex Machina type of ending the finale had to go. The last episode had all the elements necessary to convince me I shouldn’t wait for season 2. Will I still watch it if it’s out? Yeah, but just for the sake of finishing something I started. It ain’t all bad but when it becomes bad it pours a lot of bad.