The Sacred Blacksmith is a twelve episode anime release from Manga Entertainment. I have to say that I cannot resist snapping up these two disc DVD sets as in one foul swoop you get an entire series without having to fork out a fortune for multiple volumes. Gone are the days when I would happily pay full price for a DVD containing a mere three episodes, as I have been spoiled by these value for money collections. I also approve of the packaging used which is no thicker than a regular DVD case. Sure a chunky box may look good on your shelf, but in my household space is at a premium so I am all for the compact approach to housing DVDs.
Cecily Cambell (I guess the Japanese don’t know how to spell Campbell properly) is the star of the show. She has recently joined the order of knights protecting the city of Housman just like her father and grandfather had done before her. I approve with women venturing out of the kitchen (just teasing ladies), but I am not sure that work as an armoured guard is a good choice. Sure she has a strong sense of justice, but her clumsiness and reluctance to harm people aren’t exactly useful traits to have in the middle of a battle. Thankfully for our heroine Luke Ainsworth, the Sacred Blacksmith the show is named after, is watching her back. Not only is Luke great at forging swords, but he has a knack for wielding them masterfully to save the day (anyone named Luke is bound to kick arse with sword like weapons… just ask Darth Vader.)
So if Luke is such a badass why isn’t he the protagonist? Well let’s just say that he has people skills that rival my own. He’s a private loner who keeps to himself and comes across as rude when dealing with others. He doesn’t even warm up to the likeable Cecily when she asks him to fashion her a new sword (to replace the family heirloom that gets destroyed in episode one.) No matter how much she asks Luke to make her a katana he refuses. Over the course of the series we do however learn that he isn’t the big jerk he first appears to be and why he is so cold toward her. Although he is initially reluctant to help Cecily in her adventures, he often gets dragged along for the ride by his cute Elven assistant Lisa, who has the power to summon a magical forge used for creating temporary weapons.
Two attractive young characters who don’t get along? It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that some kind of romantic relationship will blossom between them before the final episode concludes. However close they get Luke never does give into Cecil’s demands for a Japanese sword, but in the end she doesn’t need one as she teams up with the gorgeous Aria. The brunette, who dresses in a green belly dancer like outfit, is in fact a demon sword. Although she can take humanoid form, in times of danger, she can change into a magical blade imbued with wind powers (that’s tornado like spells not the result of consuming too many beans.) Together they protect the city from villains who can turn into monsters via the use of forbidden demon contracts.
I have to say that I was impressed with the amount of story they managed to squeeze in despite the low episode count. The first half of the series follows an episodic format with one off stories introducing the characters. In the second half however we get a couple of story arcs which cover Cecily’s dealings with an exiled princess who is trying to kidnap Aria along with a tale featuring a crazed war veteran who wants to assassinate Lisa for some reason. It all wraps up with our heroes taking on a mysterious hooded man in black who is orchestrating the demon contractors we see early in the series. Why does the bad guy always have to dress in black? For once I wouldn’t mind feasting my eyes on a nemesis wearing an all pink garb.
PICTURE & SOUND
The series’ presentation gets a thumbs up from me. I wouldn’t class the artwork or animation as out of this world, but the visuals are polished for what is a lesser known series. The character designs are well put together with the trio of ladies mentioned above putting flesh and blood gals to shame. Aria is attractive, Cecily fills her armour/erm breast plate well and the cutesy Lisa is adorable especially during the end credits were she continuously trips over pebbles on the road. Luke’s fashion sense resembles that of a Samurai warrior, which fits his fighting style well. Even though the setting of the world is a fantasy/medieval hybrid he doesn’t look out of place (unlike me in a gym.)
Everything else looks the part from the backgrounds to sinister monsters our heroes have to face. Sound wise I have yet to sample the original Japanese track, but I have to say that I liked the English dub. The performances may not be Oscar worthy, but unless you are a hardcore purist who only watches anime with subtitles, I cannot imagine that you would have any complaints. As for music, as a lover of J-pop, I liked both the opening and ending theme. Yeah I like J-pop. Who cares if I don’t understand the lyrics… it’s no less nonsensical than the manufactured stuff that frequents the charts these days (I’m looking at you Shakira with your “my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains.”)
If I was judging this anime as a stuffy critic I would give this three stars, as at the end of the day there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. I did however have fun watching the series so I am bumping it up to four stars. My only real complaint was that a few plot threads (such as the origin of demon swords) never gets addressed, although I suppose that may be covered in the light novel the cartoon is based off. The main bad guy’s motivation doesn’t get explained either. In passing he mentions something about destroying the world that is beyond salvation, but that is it. I would have left more satisfied if his evil deeds were part of a plan to take over the world however cliché that is.
A few more episodes or a second season would have helped to flesh things out because at times the pace of the plot felt rushed. I can however forgive it in that regard as, for the most part, this is a light hearted romp more interested in entertainment than detailed story. If you have seen Slayers and seek another funny fantasy themed anime The Sacred Blacksmith isn’t a bad choice (I would also recommend Louie the Rune Solider and Those Who Hunt Elves.) The humour is guilty of relying a little too much on boob jokes (at Cecily’s expense) but the gags never get annoying. If this sort of thing appeals to you feel free to give it a go. Unlike a demon contract, twelve episodes for eighteen quid isn’t too much of a risk.