Original Run: April 4, 2020 - August 8, 2020 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Action, Fantasy Based on the Video Game: Bungo and Alchemist
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Bungo and Alchemist Gears of Judgment. Reader discretion is advised.***
Literature is a gate for people to find themselves. The same piece of work can have two vastly different meanings to two individuals, and both would be right in their interpretations. Protecting these gems of artistic achievement is a sacred job.
In a mysterious library, some of Japan’s most famous authors are summoned to protect the stories that have the power to sway hearts.
Writers such as Ryuunosuke Akutagawa and Dazai Osamu (voiced respectively by Junichi Suwabe and Yuuichi Nakamura) gather allies and guard the narratives they have given to the world.
This has been a bit of a one-two punch. By coincidence, I have showcased two mobile-game anime adaptations back to back. The first was Shironeko Project Zero Chronicle. The second is this post’s highlight, Bungo and Alchemist Gears of Judgment (Bungo and Alchemist).
I do not believe a mobile-game anime is doomed to fail. Spring 2020’s own Princess Connect! Re:Dive, proved that. Although I was unable to get into the show, I have no issue admitting Princess Connect! Re:Dive was well-made. Having now sat through Shironeko Project Zero Chronicle and Bungo and Alchemist, I realize how good I once had it.
Bungo and Alchemist was dull, uninteresting, and an incredible waste of my time. To its credit, this series didn’t drain me of energy to the degree Shironeko Project Zero Chronicle did. So, there was that, at least.
Also, Shironeko Project Zero Chronicle was a start-to-finish disappointment. Bungo and Alchemist was only at its lowest at its beginning. This series had a strong endgame. Granted, I am using the word “strong” in comparison to the stale piece of white bread the show had initially been.
Bungo and Alchemist finally picked up some semblance of interest when it focused its attention on Ryuunosuke Akutagawa’s backstory. It was here where this series’s primary hook took hold. From my understanding, a dark force was infecting works of literature, and it was up to an elite group of authors turned warriors to cleanse the stories. Often, the invading blight would attach its malice onto the personal torment of the writer who crafted the narrative.
In the case of Ryuunosuke Akutagawa, according to this show, later in his life, he had a dramatic change in his writing style that seemed to reject his earlier works. There were two sides to this great author, and both were born from a life of depression and suffering. Bungo and Alchemist portrayed this inner struggle as an actual battle of high magic and swordsmanship.
This worked for Ryuunosuke Akutagawa because he had been a consistent presence throughout this series. In earlier episodes with other authors, most everyone else appeared at random and were then immediately sidelined. There was no attempt made to get to know any of them. Therefore, there was no incentive to invest any emotion in their stories.
With hindsight being 20/20, had Bungo and Alchemist reduced its cast to a handful of key players, it might have been far more balanced, instead of being as overcrowded as it was. Had that been the case, then I think this show could have been something worth watching.
After all, Bungo and Alchemist’s animation was spectacular. Fights scenes were bright, swift, and energetic. If the people fighting had been even remotely interesting, then these moments would have been all kinds of fun.
Additionally, Bungo and Alchemist’s voice cast did as good a job as you could hope for considering what they had to work with. Plus, it was neat that rival frenemy characters Dazai Osamu and Chuuya Nakahara were voiced respectively by Mr. Yuuichi Nakamura and Mr. Tetsuya Kakihara. For those wondering, Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Kakihara were the voices of rivals Gray Fullbuster and Natsu Dragneel from Fairy Tail. It was good to hear their banter again.
Assuming you’ve read my Shironeko Project Zero Chronicle review, you can see I have many more positive things to say about Bungo and Alchemist. This series eventually did manage to reach something that imitated entertaining. The problem was, it took nine episodes to get there.
I am open to the idea that I may have found Bungo and Alchemist more enjoyable had I been more familiar with classic Japanese writers. But to be honest, never before had such a niche discipline been a concern of mine.
I can’t tell you how many series I’ve seen that have involved Japanese historical figures. My Japanese history isn’t great, but I have enjoyed many of these shows nonetheless. In Bungo and Alchemist’s case, though, this was asking a lot.
Nevertheless, this could have worked had this series, again, focused on a core group of authors. Instead, this show tried to shove in as many names as possible and at seemingly random intervals. It didn’t help that Bungo and Alchemist would go on utterly irrelevant tangent side stories. For instance, I think it was episode four that took us to contemporary Japan because of reasons. Why did we go there? What happened when we were there? Was this ever referenced again?
To answer those questions in order:
- I don’t know.
- I don’t know.
- Oddly enough, yes, but the reference was in a weird flashback that focused more on the meaning literature has for different people.
This series did that a lot, actually. Many of the later episodes comprised of full retellings of previous events. Keep in mind, these earlier scenes weren’t great the first time they played out, and they sure as hell didn’t get any better during the second.
Bungo and Alchemist was painfully repetitive. You got a sense of this series’s bag of tricks within the first two episodes. Everything that came afterward never had any weight and was distinctly hollow. Only on occasion did something break the mold. It was during these instances that I noticed what it was this show was trying to do.
What made these moments stand out was a combination of the specific work of fiction being infected, and the author who was at its center. As I said earlier, Bungo and Alchemist’s most prominent success with this was Ryuunosuke Akutagawa. However, Dazai Osamu’s No Longer Human segment was also noteworthy.
But do you see the problem? When a series introduces no fewer than ten characters, and only two of their stories are worth anything, that is a resounding failure. And believe me, that failure can be felt throughout this series.
I think it is pretty clear where I am going to land on this one.
Although this show had stellar animation and a strong voice cast, those advantages were squandered. For a series that props up some of Japan’s most influential storytellers, this was amazingly dull. There were too many people to keep track of, and only a few had any real importance. Therefore, what good might have otherwise stood out was surrounded by a vast sea of nothingness.
Bungo and Alchemist Gears of Judgment can be skipped.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Bungo and Alchemist Gears of Judgment? 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.