“There is more shounen ai in this anime, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy” - Definitely not Shakespeare
A light hearted review of Blast of Tempest (my first, so suggestions welcome)
Blast of Tempest (Tempest for short) is, for some inexplicable reason, a love letter to two of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays: The Tempest and Hamlet. A strange concept it is indeed, and this anime is, without a doubt, one of the most pretentious I have seen as a result. I admire the writer for being self-absorbed enough to take two classic pieces of literature, and squeeze them into the context of a high-schooler mystery action anime. Surprisingly though, it is exactly this confidence that the show exudes that makes the mixture click beautifully.
Our main characters, Fuwa Mahiro and Takigawa Yoshino, are thrust almost immediately into a world where everyone is turning into stone, Mahiro’s found a doll allowing him to speak to Kusaribe Hakaze (a half-naked magician/tsundere stuck on an island) with Yoshino just following along looking generally photogenic. Standard fare then, for a shounen series. The real standout feature for the series presents itself rather abruptly with the fixation on referencing Shakespeare, particularly when Fuwa Aika (Mahiro’s recently murdered sister) enters the stage. The story and characters aren’t just inspired by Shakespeare, they’re going to make sure you know the sole reason they have for their existence is to be going around quoting Shakespeare.
So it is unsurprising, given the plays this anime is inspired by, that this is a tale of revenge primarily for both the main characters. For Mahiro, it is a chance to use his newfound magic capabilities thanks to Hakaze in order to track down his sister’s killer (for whom he has a very obvious, entirely unrequited, love). Yoshino meanwhile is determined to gain peace of mind for the death of Aika, who until her death was secretly dating Yoshino under her brother’s nose. Yoshino tries to make it seem that he tags along however so as not to see the killer punished by Mahiro, to uphold his position as our inevitable token idealistic anime character (in the very best of ways though).
Anyone familiar with the stories of The Tempest or Hamlet will quickly notice the similarities between Blast of Tempest’s two main characters and the protagonists of The Tempest and Hamlet. Mahiro in his hell-bent devotion to revenge, calls Hamlet to mind, whereas in his more optimistic but rational moments, Yoshino is a transparent reference to The Tempest’s Prospero. While not necessary, as the anime does a reasonable job of explaining to the audience the overall themes behind The Tempest and Hamlet, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the stories and in particular the characters of both these Shakespeare plays will no doubt leaving the anime more satisfied. The ties to Shakespeare the story and characters the anime holds become more and more elegant as it progresses, and are certainly one of the most enjoyable features of the anime. That is, if you can handle the sacrilege that is an anime so arrogantly ripping of the works of the one true playwright (note: sarcasm)
Secondary characters in the show are largely passable, especially after the change in personality much of the characters have in the second half of the anime, which adopts a far more shounen tone than its first half. What you make of this is very much dependent on your overall opinion of typical shounen anime. If anyone had to animate this show though, I am glad it was studio Bones; the light-dark tones of the second half of Tempest are reminiscent of the comedy tones Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood had going for it when it wasn’t being a horribly dark I see you’ve just turned that poor girl into a monster you heartless bastards sort of show.
Blast of Tempest’s animation is what I would expect coming from Bones, not up there but definitely pleasant to the eye. I think Bones knew however that they wouldn’t need exquisitely animated backgrounds, because it surely isn’t just me who can’t get over those character designs? The power of photogenicity is definitely strong in these ones. And respect to Bones for making a show where some of the characters do occasionally find themselves wearing different clothing. If you’re not a fan of shounen ai, stay very much clear – this show is like the gateway drug to watching Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club.
In conclusion, Zetsuen No Tempest is like a sports car you haven't used in a long time: it takes some time to get to its best, but when it does, you won't look back. It's a gem of a series which deserves a lot of recognition, and I can safely say it is one of the finest anime I've seen in my life. I hope this gets a second season, badly!