Every twelve years, a terrible battle between twelve zodiac warriors is held, and the winner of the battle will have any wish they have granted. The participants are chosen by a zodiac house who are just as idiosyncratic as the warriors they pick. The show showcases each warrior and their downfall as only one winner emerges at the end of the game.
Juni Taisen really excited me at the beginning of the show with it’s beautiful art and violent nature, but as it progressed, I found the plot itself lacking and the ending battles far too drawn out to be worth their payoff. Fortunately, Juni Taisen is fast paced despite the lingering battles, and the show never felt like a slog to the finish line.
Plus, it’s really pretty to look at.
Instead of following one particular hero, namely the winner, through the entire story (like most anime would do), Juni Taisen prefers to highlight a character an episode(ish) who will be the next to die. This format is shocking the first time, and though the shock value is immediately lost in the second episode, I actually looked forward to learned about each person and seeing how they died. Unfortunately, at around episode two, you can easily guess the winner of the gauntlet which causes the faking out of potential winners along the way is just a little pandering. Seeing the anime work out in this manner makes me want to see how the novels performed- did the author mean for Nezumi’s victory to be so terribly obvious?
The zodiac war or zodiac-based characters in general, are quite common in storytelling all around the world. It’s a fun concept, that isn’t overdone just yet. I even remember having my own story when I was much younger that was basically an action version of Fruits Basket… anyway-
I believe Juni Taisen did a great job integrating the Chinese zodiac into their world, and I thought it was quite cool that families could choose people outside their bloodline to compete in the competition. However, I was left with more questions than answers at the end of the show, and though these are likely discussed in the novel, I really think the anime could have fleshed these concepts out more.
In particular, I would like to learn more about the warring factions and the gambling that goes on. The fact that there is gambling leads to me to believe that the war isn’t truly to test control of the world, but instead it’s a form of entertainment for the zodiac elite. Furthermore, I want to know if the whole world understands that this zodiac war exists, or if it’s an isolated NWO-type situation.
Because some sections of fighting are drawn out in the end of the show, I think the more world-wide concepts could have been easily discussed with some shifting. Specifically, shortening Tiger, Dragon, and Snake’s sections of the show. We are given an extensive look at these characters’ past over a few episodes each, whereas the rest of the cast are given only one episode or less of a identification. Though interesting, and though I loved Tiger’s growth, I did find the sections abnormally long. In comparison, Nezumi a.k.a Rat, finds himself winning the war almost instantly after Rabbit and Ox’s death, and we are awarded very little in the way of a full introduction to Nezumi compared to his counterparts. It just felt off-balanced.
As for Nezumi’s wish?
The poor kid struggles with the best solution for an entire episode before finally coming to an interested conclusion that leads you wonder if he’s ever won or will win the Juni Taisen again. We also come to understand why everyone in the war seemed to remember the Rat having never him before.
As for animation, Juni Taisen makes rounds with solid work and CG battles. The CG doesn’t integrate as well with the standard animation as I would like, but the trade off is that Juni Taisen is able to accomplish some really cool “camera angles” through the use of CG in fights. The enjoyment and quickness far outweighs my heart’s distaste of the too rounded CG models.
I never noticed anything too off about hand animation, and if the quality dropped toward the end- I honestly didn’t notice. That being said, the last couple episodes don’t use much (if any) CG, so there was more room for a noticeable quality drop-off that I didn’t see, which leads to be believe they kept up their work.
Juni Taisen offers pretty art and a cohesive story, even if parts tend to run a little long. There are a few dropped plot lines that could have added more depth and intrigue, but not including them didn’t hurt the story for what it is. Juni Taisen ended up being the most predictable anime of the season- which isn’t a bad thing since the predictability doesn’t negate the pure enjoyment of the show. I believe Juni Taisen is a fun show, but not a standout addition to the season and will likely be a forgotten piece of history if no additional story is ever explored.