Directed by Atsushi Wakabayshi
Featuring Voices by David Wald, Emily Neves and Blake Shepard
A leopard-headed warrior with amnesia joins two orphaned royal children as they try and fight a tyrannical empire and find a decent pair of pants.
Guin Saga is originally a 130-volume fantasy-adventure series of light novel that follows the leopard-headed Guin and the deposed royal twins Rinda and Remus try to reclaim their lost lives and evade the tyrannical Mongaul Empire. The entire anime series – 26 episodes long – is supposedly a truncated retelling of the first 16 books. This first collection in particular covers the meeting of Guin, the twins and others, as well as their first major encounters with the Mongaul Empire. Having never read any or the original material, I can’t comment on if the series does it justice, but here’s what I do have.
The first episode is fairly action-packed, from a military conquest to Guin busting heads in a loincloth. While it takes a few episodes for leopard man to find a decent pair of pants, Guin maintains the excitement, from one-on-one fights, taking on demonic possessions and even orchestrating large-scale battles.
The air around the setting is rife with upcoming structure changes and political struggles in the air, and that’s what I find interesting. Too bad this collection only manages to scratch the surface of it, but I guess that’s what collection 2 is for.
Unfortunately, before we get there, the series doesn’t spend enough time fleshing out the world and the power structure for most viewers to grasp why any of this series even matters within its own world. We get a little exposition to try and explain away the antagonistic empire conquering neighboring kingdoms, but it lacks any real reason as to why the powers that be acts and operate the way they do.
The sense of scale is also thrown off. Battles or thousands feel shrunken down to under a hundred, and distance covered doesn’t really seem very distant.
The show is also a bit talky, but that comes with the genre. I suspect that these issues mostly stem from the adaptation process. Adapting 16 books into 26 episodes would necessitate some jumping around, cutting out material and plenty of expository dialog.
Still, as a start to a fantasy series, it’s not bad. The thing that bugs me the most though is there won’t be any closure at the end of the anime in the next collection. There are still over 100 books left in the original story. You mean I actually have to read?
The video comes in typical 16:9 widescreen. The animation isn’t quite as fluid or detailed. The show has more than its fair share of budget-saving static shots with little actual animation going on while dialog and background noise continues.
This release features English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 audio. The English dub is a bit bland and unexciting, but it’s passable.
The music is by acclaimed Final Fantasy music composer Nobou Uematsu, so you can expect it to be well-suited for a fantasy sound. You can also expect what you’re in for if you’re a regular Final Fantasy player. The soundtrack features a more orchestral sound with plenty of instrumentals and few real vocals outside of a chorus and the ending theme.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This is one of Sentai Filmworks best featured releases. The third disc in this three-disc collection is dedicated just to bonus features. The weight is given to interviews with the Japanese voice cast and with the husband/editor of the original book’s author Kaoru Kurimoto, as well as a short showcasing a premier showing of episode one with Kurimoto in attendance months before her passing. It really gives a sense of cultural importance that this material has. If the novel series has any kind of following state-side, featuring that would have been a great extra. However, I don’t think it’s made much of a splash here in the US.
In addition to those bells and whistles, the typical clean opening/ending and other trailers are of course present, as well as trailers for the actual series itself. The original concept trailer before the show’s production unfortunately has better character designs with sleeker, hair detail, facial expressions.
The case itself feels particularly sturdy thanks to the inserted disc page to accommodate all three discs. The jacket front – with Guin brandishing a sword in the glow of a sunset – is intriguing enough to check the case out. The discs themselves have superbly detailed and artistic character art that kind of put to shame the actual art of the series.
It’s a fine fantasy series, inside or outside the anime medium. With better animation and possibly the crazy attempt to carry on, it might become something more epic. For now though, it’s a decent watch.
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10
The Series 7.5/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10