Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Anime Review: Seven Deadly Sins (2014)

 

The anime adaption of the manga series The Seven Deadly Sins is as engaging as it is bizarre.

Synopsis
The story takes place in a world which is declining into the dark age.  Our main characters pick up the task of figuring out why.  At the start, Princess Elizabeth is on the run.  The Holy Knights who were entrusted to protect the realm have turned on the royal family.  After escaping the attack, Elizabeth ends up exhausted on the doorstep of the Boar Hat Bar, where the barkeep, a boy with a broken sword, lays her down in a guest room and pokes her inappropriately,

 

all while being scolded by his only employee, Hawk, a talking pig.  (Yes. This is a running theme throughout the series.)

 

Elizabeth confides her desperate plan to the barkeep:  She wants to find the Seven Deadly Sins, a band of accused criminals who fought against the realm ten years ago.  Her assumption is that if the Holy Knights are actually the bad guys, then the 7DS might be the good ones.  The only problem is that nobody has heard more than whispers of the sins since they disappeared 

 

& Elizabeth is being pursued by the enemy.  As luck would have it, she has already succeeded far beyond her desperate hopes.  The barkeep, though appearing to be a child, is in fact Meliodas, one of the 7DS & his bar is fit for a journey.  They take off at once on a quest to find the rest of the sins and discover what is really rotten in Denmark.



My Thoughts
Parts of this story feel very familiar, even nostalgic.  The art style, characters, and the humor felt very much like coming home to anime of the late 90s / 2000s.  Of which, everyone has their favorite.  And yet, the pieces of this story have been fitted together in very unique ways.  What I found most interesting about the series was the way it played with the viewers expectations. 

One example of playing with viewer expectations is the setting.  While setting a story about a magical quest, in a seemingly northern European land, during a medieval time feels very familiar, 7DS fused the different cultural elements together in a very unique way.  Instead of there being a clear divide between "the good guys" & "the bad guys" they made the story as messy as the real world.  Each character has a different endgame in mind.  Each character's loyalty does not clearly fall into one of the categories.

At the center of this world there is a monarchy, and subtle or dying magic system that not everyone can use.  Clashing with the current rule is the Holy Knights who appear to mimic a Christian order with an eastern influence of demonology.  Then, on the fringe there is a sophisticated faerie and nature worship culture.  And then, near the end of the story, an Arthurian influence shows up.  Each of these influences are simultaneously warring, and combining with one another, depending on character choices.

This show also plays with viewer expectations by using contradiction.

The best example of contradiction in 7DS is within the characters themselves.  Each of the sins appear to be the opposite of the sin they personify.  Meliodas, sin of wrath, seems calm, cool, & calculated at first glance.  Ban, sin of greed, appears accommodating and selfless.  Once you pick up on this pattern, it feels like an inside joke.  Especially when Gowther, sin of lust, shows up and--well you'll just have to see.

But one question nags at me now:  Were the sins this way 10 years prior?  Or is this the result of whatever happened to them?

 

With such a sophisticated sounding setting and backdrop, surely, the story must be beautiful and prophetic, right?

Wrong.  This story is hilarious.  The dub in particular was great.  There are some heartwarming moments that will hit you with the feels,
 

but by and large it is a comedy/adventure tale.  And quite possibly, a satire of the shounen genre.  The story becomes more complicated near the end, and honestly, I did not keep track of every single detail.

 At the end I kinda felt like:
 

But maybe, that was done on purpose, and this ^ is how you are supposed to feel.