Yotoden: Chronicle of the Warlord Period
Yotoden is an excellent example of how a legend should be told. The story uses both fantasy and historical elements, and merges the two surprisingly well.
While Yotoden may not be the most recent of anime, it still has very good artwork and music, which combine to immerse the viewer in an ancient land. I did detect a little bit of re-used animation, and some of the battles did use still-shots to convey the action. Still, the visuals were generally easy on the eyes.
Once I got past the beautiful exterior, I began to notice the excellent story. A powerful ruler with demonic influences, Lord Nobunaga, is attempting to conquer Japan. In his quest for domination, he annihilates all who oppose him including three ninja clans. However, each clan has a survivor, Ayame, Sakon and Ryoma, and the three of them soon band together to defeat Nobunaga at all costs. The balance between action and plot is quite good, with excellent explanations for the various battles that occur. At times, this series even had a very historical feel to it, capped with brief narratives that made me feel like I was watching a documentary. Of course, the fantasy elements kept things from being completely real. It was interesting, though, to watch the contrast between authentic-looking Asian warriors and weaponry, and the creepy demons and magical powers wielded by the main characters.
Unfortunately, the climax of the series is confused at best. The final explanation for the entire war seemed to come straight out of left field, and left me scratching my head with a stupefied look on my face.
Where Yotoden is mainly lacking, however, is the character department. While the ninja featured aren't entirely emotionless, they still aren't an overly cheerful group. This is probably best exemplified by Ayame. Would it kill her to smile at least once in awhile? Because of this, I never got attached to any of the characters, and wasn't drawn into their personal struggles and actions.
So while it does have some weaknesses, Yotoden is still a good ninja series, with a nice blend of fantasy and history. And if that's what you're looking for, then Yotoden is a good choice.
The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)
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