Original Run: April 8, 2019 - June 24, 2019 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Action, Fantasy, Slice of Life Based on the Video Game: Namu Amida Butsu! Utena
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Namu Amida Butsu! Rendai Utena. Reader discretion is advised.***
All beings, whether they are animal, human, or deity, carry within their hearts earthly vices. Stress, jealousy, desire, resentment, they all exist in each of us. One could almost say vices are necessary for life to be.
However, should a being lose themselves to their vices, they can become a destructive monster.
Fighting to keep the mortal realm free of such dangers are the divine warriors Taishakuten and Bonten (voiced respectively by Masaaki Mizunaka and Tomoaki Maeno). Recently, the pair was summoned down from heaven to join forces with the legendary Thirteen Buddhas.
But as it turns out, sometimes great myths can be a lot more laidback than expected.
Despite possessing the very powers of existence, the Buddhas have rather normal lives. Sure, the fate of the world may be in the balance, but that is no reason to lose one’s head in a rush.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record when it comes to the spring 2019 season.
It’s interesting. In a season that has given us shows like Dororo, One Punch Man 2nd Season, and the absolutely spectacular Attack on Titan Season 3 – Part 2, there have also just been the dullest of stories. Now adding its name to that poor list is Namu Amida Butsu! Rendai Utena (NABRU). But before things get out of hand, we need to acknowledge a few points.
First, no, I did not care for this series.
Second, out of the three anime I grouped together – Fairy Gone, Shoumetsu Toshi, and NABRU – NABRU was the most interesting of the lot, and I think that’s significant.
Although NABRU wasn’t great, I can’t pretend I hated it. In fact, on more than one occasion, this series was pretty neat. That is more than I can say about either Fairy Gone or Shoumetsu Toshi.
But enough comparisons between NABRU and other shows. Let’s focus on this one’s own merits. For instance, this series was extremely well-animated. From the character designs to the locations and settings to the fight scenes, everything looked fantastic. That was why it was a shame these outstanding visuals were often wasted on substance-less nonsense.
Fortunately, that wasn’t a one-hundred-percent constant.
We can break NABRU into two categories – a light-hearted slice-of-life narrative and a fate-of-the-world-on-the-line action show. Of those categories, the action side of this series was its stronger part. Albeit, there was one complication.
NABRU, from what I can tell, based its characters on specific teachings of Buddhism. Our two leads – Taishakuten and Bonten – were assisting the Thirteen Buddhas to protect humans from succumbing to their most basic vices. That’s about as far as I’m willing to explain because providing any more details with my severe lack of knowledge on the subject will only increase the chances of me saying something ignorant.
But in terms of NABRU’s story, there were a bunch of good looking guys with god-like powers trying to stop an evil deity from bringing about the end times. Simple enough, I can get behind that. When the series decided to feature this aspect of its narrative, we had the basis for a serviceable (but not necessarily memorable) action anime. The problem was, this plotline wasn’t, or at least, didn’t feel like it was the primary goal of the show.
NABRU had other things on its mind.
First and foremost, NABRU was a slice-of-life anime. Nevermind the fact it was centered around Buddhist deities. This was, without a doubt, a pure as can be, slice-of-life story.
As such, what do all slice-of-life stories need to have to succeed? They need to have good characters, and that was where this series stumbled.
The problem was two-fold:
- There were too many people.
- The people NABRU took the time to focus on weren’t particularly interesting.
There were fifteen characters at the main temple alone. Given the amount of time this show had and the sheer number of individuals there were to get through, NABRU simply had to rely on one-note personalities.
Of the Buddhas, there was:
- The pun master
- The hot head
- The flamboyant one
- The feminine one
- The person who couldn’t be bothered to do anything
- The clingy younger brother
- The clingy older brother
- The one that looked like a kid
- The one with the glasses
- The sleepyhead
- A bird
- Number twelve
Also, pardon the lack of a better term, the thirteenth Buddha was basically God.
I will say this, NABRU did try to have everyone play some role somewhere during its limited run. However, there’s only so much a show can do to ensure everyone has sufficient screentime, as well as still tell a story about good fighting evil. And that was another issue.
The slice-of-life side and the action side of this series did not mix well. Mainly because there was never much of a threat.
For example, the ending was utterly tensionless.
Now, out of fairness, this is a SPOILER WARNING. If you really – and I mean, if you really – care about NABRU spoilers, please stop reading here.
For the 99.9% of you who decided to keep reading: Shaka Noyorai (voiced by Shoutarou Morikubo), the one I referred to as God, was “captured” by the main villain. The word “captured” was put in quotes because it was pretty damn obvious Shaka Noyorai wasn’t even trying to fight back. After all, he was capable of turning on actual God-mode, and that was precisely what happened.
Besides, the other Buddhas weren’t pushovers either. For instance, one of them was the embodiment of the entire cosmos. I imagine that person could take care of themselves in a fight.
So, although the action side of NABRU was the more interesting side, what was the point of it exactly?
In conclusion, what we had here was a series with way too much going on. With so many ropes pulling in multiple directions, NABRU was never able to make any forward progress.
Yes, I was bored with this show. However, I wasn’t bored throughout.
While that doesn’t automatically make this a good series, it does highlight something crucial. Things could have been a lot worse.
What trapped this show was everything it wanted to do. There were too many characters to keep track of. The darker side of this story was never much of a threat. The sillier side was littered with lackluster narrative tropes. It was hard to find any real interest.
But it all looked very nice.
In the end, Namu Amida Butsu! Rendai Utena was the best of the dullest, so far. Nevertheless, it is still completely skippable.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise Namu Amida Butsu! Rendai Utena? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.