Jyu-Oh-Sei

Jyu-Oh-Sei

JYU-OH-SEI

Watched via fansubs/Funimation

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: I first watched Jyu-Oh-Sei when it first aired in Japan back in 2006. At the time I really really hated it. Looking back on MyAnimeList, I gave it a 5 (average). Luckily for you guys, I went back and re-watched it again, just to see if some of my youthful biases may have been a tad unfair. This review is being written just seconds after finishing the series for a second time.

When I first watched this series, seven years ago, I didn’t much care for the genre. I saw it as being too sci-fi, too action-y, and too “shounen.” Upon new inspection the series is more than what it seemed at first glance. The manga it is based off of actually ran in a shoujo magazine, and after re-visiting the plot I can see a lot of typical josei elements in it as far as character types and existential themes. In fact I’d say that Bones did a wonderful job on adapting a shojo series into one which can appeal to the male audience just as well, if not better than the original one. While the series looks sci-fi, the underlying current of the story is all to do with subterfuge and mystery.

Through a series of unfortunate events twins Thor and Rai end up on a planet inhabited by criminals and colossal man-killing planets. Within hours, the weaker twin, Rai, ends up being killed by a plant, just moments after Thor discovers he’d be willing to sacrifice even his brother’s life in order to live. He is then wracked with survivor guilt on top of the anger he already feels at the murder of his parents, prior to their landing on the planet. The first couple of episodes are devoted to introducing the setting and characters as well as establishing what Thor’s new niche on the planet is going to be. We then see an awkwardly-placed time skip of five or so years. The rest of the show is mostly devoted to uncovering the various mysteries of the Beast King and the planet Chimaera.

What I really appreciated about the plot was its many layers. Each episode seemed to unravel a whole new truth that could be explored much more in depth. I think one of the weaker points of the series was that it tried to shove everything into just eleven episodes. As much as it was difficult for me to initially get into this “sci-fi” show, I actually found myself really wanting to get a thorough look at all the inter-workings of the whole planet and its inhabitants. Many series like this seem to have a weak conclusion to wrap ends up. Jyu-Oh-Sei, on the other hand, suffered from too much plot. The last couple of episodes seemed very jarring with plot points jumping from one to the next to cover material faster.

The biggest problem with shows that air on Noitamina seems to be that they’re mostly forced to be eleven episodes long. This works great for some shows, like Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but other shows need more time to let things develop properly.

PLOT: It is 350 years since humans have settled the Balkan star system via terraforming. One day, two children with silver hair who live on a space station come home to discover that their parents have been murdered. Immediately after, the children are kidnapped and left on the secret planet Chimaera, which is a penal colony. Plants rule the planet, and they even act as its carnivores, which the twins discover when a plant attacks and kills the weaker twin, Rai. This leaves Thor, the stronger twin, to make his own way on Chimaera.

A time skip later, Thor’s gone through adolescence and has done very well for himself on Chimaera. The humans on the planet are primarily divided by race, and Thor has become the ruler of the Ochre Ring due to his amazing natural abilities. His goal is to beat all of the other Rings’ leaders and become the Beast King (the “Jyu Oh” from Jyu-Oh-Sei), who has his crimes pardoned and is allowed to leave Chimaera. Thor, of course, becomes the Beast King, and once he has he discovers the sinister secrets to his past and why he and Rai were dropped on Chimaera.

After the time skip, most the series focuses on Thor becoming the Beast King, though the show notably takes the time to emphasize how desirable Thor is to all of the ladies. His second-in-command, Tiz, constantly wants to have his babies, and Thor also has dealings with Karim, who’s as boring of a love interest as I’ve ever seen. Even with how annoying Tiz can be, I was frustrated on her behalf that Thor so easily fell in love with a Mary Sue.

This series has a lot of plot to handle, and only eleven episodes in which to do it, meaning the pacing can be a little wonky and the characters suffer from a lack of development. I was definitely caught up in the experience of watching it and marathoned my way through it, but afterwards I felt kind of empty inside. This show does a great job of hooking you with political intrigue and beautiful battles, but the characters and plot resolution are lacking.

True story. I feel like a lot was left unresolved. Since I just finished it again I do get the sense of emptiness and wanting to know more.

SETTING: I really enjoyed the world building within this series. Thor and Rai live on a space colony, Juno, which is 150 light years away from Earth. Most humans inhabit terraformed planets, but suffer from issues of infertility, and must undergo a surgery in order to survive past puberty. Hidden from public knowledge, Chimaera exists as a planet for criminals to be deported to. This is where Thor ends up finding himself after his parents are murdered and him and his brother are kidnapped.

Chimaera spends half of its year in a heat cycle, and the rest in the cold. It’s extremely unrealistic that a planet rotating so slowly would be able to have life growing on it, but it’s still interesting to see how the inhabitants of the planet do their best to survive among the blizzards and jungle conditions. There are several colonies of people that are broken down by color of skin, Ochre, Sun, Blanc, and Noire. The series never explains why they even bother subcategorizing like that. With the colonies, comes the myth of the Beast King. If a person is able to conquer over all four leaders of the colonies, they are appointed Beast King, and allowed to escape the planet. Thor uses this goal as a means of motivation to survive.

SETTING: Chimaera is an intriguing planet, with killer plant life and an interesting system of human organization. I can’t say organizing the humans by race is surprising or original, but the Rings and the concept of the Beast King do provide for an exciting plot, especially when inter- and intra-Ring politics come into play. Furthermore, women are scarce on the planet, so they’re allowed a great deal of power and can choose their own mate for the Mating Month. Thor does reject Tiz because he’s a jerk like that, but otherwise the women are shown to be powerful and a precious resource.

I love the idea of a killer planet as a penal colony. Since only very bad criminals end up on the planet, it allows the worst elements of humanity to rise to the surface, and the plants heighten our awareness of the primal danger. The anime does an excellent job of emphasizing the various elements of the setting and realizing the different factions who inhabit it. Between the setting and the essential plot, Jyu-Oh-Sei has a lot of potential as a sci-fi story with an interesting story to tell.

I wish I could have seen more sociological world building. We get to really know one or two of the colonies, but the rest get ignored for the most part. I’d have liked to see how more of them interact, and how they’ve individually adapted to fit into their environments.

CHARACTERS: I didn’t pay much attention when I first watched this series, but the overall theme of the series seems to be “what is man?” Thor is the main protagonist, and as shoujo would dictate, he’s beautiful, strong, and good at everything. However, with all those talents he still remains rather passive personality-wise, and kills only when it’s a necessity. Thor undergoes many essential evolutions in order to become Beast King. Initially I felt that the extremely small love arc with Karin was totally unnecessary, but it stands as a key point for Thor to re-connect with his human self, as well as his familial self, that he lost when his last family member died in front of him.

I have love/hate feelings for “Third”. He immediately serves as a protector and advisor to Thor. Rather than go after the title of Beast King himself, he mysteriously backs up Thor and seems to get him into sticky situations. It’s obvious at every moment he’s up to something else, but Jyu-Oh-Sei is pretty good about keeping it all a secret until the end. Aside from that Karin thing, but whatever. I really liked that the series threw in his backstory, but they could have elaborated on it more than they did.

The secondary characters were pretty interesting. I liked Tiz’s character. She is a great support for Thor and helps him along the way to becoming the Beast King. Karin is the other female character, who is thrown in very randomly towards the end. She starts off cold, mysterious, and calculated, and then turns into a giant whiney pants. Seriously, she totally falls flat as a character.

Zagi is Thor’s foil. Thor tries to retain his human identity, while Zagi fully embraces the “animal” inside of himself. He brings up the question of whether humanity is really that different from animals after all.

CHARACTERS: Unfortunately, the characters bring Jyu-Oh-Sei down, since they’re just not that likable. Thor’s the first and worst offender as the twin who’s naturally good at everything, to the point of being really irritating. On a planet of toughened convicts, you’d think he’d have a hard time, but he becomes the leader of the Ochre Ring at eleven and becomes the Beast King at fifteen. This is all a tough pill to swallow, just like how attractive Thor is to the ladies.


Thor Dazzling

“There couldn’t possibly be anyone more beautiful than you.” – Karin, instantly being won over by how super-duper good looking Thor is.

Maybe women on Chimaera are drawn to the strongest man, which is why they all seem to fall over themselves to get at Thor. Regardless, he’s surrounded by underdeveloped women who seem to exist just to show how great he is. Tiz has it toughest as the childhood friend-type character who’s always supported him and therefore gets rejected by him. I felt bad for her, but I also wish she got over Thor and had more to her character than just loving him. Can’t women be defined by more than the men they’re attracted to?

Karin, as I mentioned above, is the Mary Sue who Thor immediately falls in love with after he saves her life. That plot device is also pretty tired, as is the rest of what happens to her, and it all feels a bit like she was shoved into the plot so it could move forward. She sees very little development, and there’s nothing to explain the relationship between her and Thor. As someone who likes both character development and solid romances, she’s the kind of character I hate the most.

Really, none of the characters in this show see the kind of development that would help the audience identify with them. They fight in battles and give speeches, but the audience doesn’t spend enough time with them to really get where they’re coming from or to care what happens to them.

I didn’t care for Karin’s inconsistency as a character. She starts off completely devoted to Zagi and very hard to talk to. Then Thor saves her and she turns into a huge pile of whine. She returns to Zagi, still whiney as can be, and then causes the whole climax of the show to start, just because of a love triangle, that I still refuse to accept because it was so badly introduced.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Unlike Crystal I can’t really tell art studios apart. Okay, I can start to tell what a “Bones show” is, or a “Kyo-Ani show,” but really that never has had too much impact on if I like a show or not. The character designs for Jyu-Oh-Sei have a nice old time-y feel to them, and by that I mean they remind me of the ‘90s with the noses, and sometimes double noses. Really those shadows are quite strange at times, when they’re not shaded in.

What I found really interesting about the character designs was that they originally came from a VERY shoujo look.

manga

I think Bones did a great job of adapting the manga style into one that a broader audience could enjoy. Sure we still get guys with long flowing hair, and at times they seem a bit androgynous, but above all they just seem badass. Really, I think it helps the series come off as much more serious, rather than being driven by emotion and drama.

The animation and action scenes look amazing. The first episode for sure is a total hook. Watching Thor and Rai run and fly through the air to avoid brutal death immediately draws the viewer in, after that you can’t help but watch more. Towards the end the budget seems to fall a bit flat, but the settings are always well thought out, and the ending episodes do a lot to make up for the bit of slack that occurs during the middle blizzard arc episodes.

I love how shoujo those original designs are! Bones should get props for making the show appeal to a wider audience with the character designs upgrades, but it doesn’t save bad character writing. Just because this started out as shoujo doesn’t mean the girls all have to be bland!

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Let’s be honest: I watched this show because it’s animated by Bones, and I’m a Bones fangirl. The art and animation largely kept me interested in watching the show, as it’s always colorful and fluid. For animation fans, this series is a delight to watch, though it might not stand out much anymore, with series like Guilty Crown around. Even if I didn’t care terribly much about the fights or the main characters, the animation and beautiful art style kept me coming back.

Furthermore, its slightly-retro character designs make me feel nostalgic for old sci-fi anime, even though I have little experience with any of it. The characters all stand out from the norm with their large noses, and I can tell at a glance that the show’s aesthetic is influenced by the Escaflowne movie and Wolf’s Rain. The series displays one of my favorite types of character designs, which I dearly wish got more play in anime today. Perhaps once Japan gets over the small noses and rounded aesthetic of so many moe shows it’ll return to the bold angles and lines of this art style.

OVERALL: This series has transformed from being just “average” to “good” in my mind. Which is saying a lot because I still very much do not like sci-fi. I think the largest drawbacks are that the plot was too short and undeveloped, and that some of the secondary characters ended up being cheap fodder. *cough*Karin*cough*

The series explores questions of humanity, individuality, identity, and responsibility. I only wish I could have seen more of these themes in a longer twenty-six episode series.

I’d recommend this series to just about anyone. I think it makes a good series that can be approachable to both men and women of varying tastes. There were enough josei elements in the series to get me through it. The added mysteries and existentialism really drew me into the show. I’m very glad I gave it a second shot. Can’t say that I’d buy it, but if you know someone with a copy, borrow it and have a fun time making it through the series. It goes pretty quickly, which will probably be its biggest downfall.

OVERALL: This show is made by Bones and aired during the Noitamina block, which was created to appeal to the josei demographic. Given those credentials, I’d hoped to love it, but what I found was a good-looking show that doesn’t do much more me as a viewer. The fights and art are pretty, but the characters are cliché and underdeveloped, not to mention the sexism that permeates the show. I’m not sure how this series was supposed to be josei, since it fails to provide many elements that I, as a part of that demographic, want in a show.

Really, I think this show is meant for men to watch so they can identify with Thor and be excited over the many women he has a chance with. If you’d like a sci-fi series with potential, check this out, but be warned that its execution and ending fall flat. With a little more time and attention, this series could’ve been a lot more, but right now it’s just another sci-fi series that looks great and has little else going for it.

If you watched this again, knowing where the manga stands, you may start to notice just how many bishounen there actually are. The style throws you off at first, but really there is a lot more girl eye candy than you might think. Even as far as personalities go, they men act out both negatively and positively in a much more shoujo way than would be typical for a seinen series.

FINAL SCORE: (7/10) FINAL SCORE: (7/10)
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2 thoughts on “Jyu-Oh-Sei

  1. You two should really disagree more, if I didn’t know better I would say you were twins or something…
    (Disagree meaning your score)

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