After catching up on some series that I wanted to watch, I wanted to try and watch something that I knew absolutely nothing about, so I started smashing that random anime button on a lazy evening, until this one showed up. I got intrigued by the main image for the series, read the title, and then had a look at when it ended (because I didn’t want to start a series where I couldn’t watch all episodes within few days). I didn’t read the summary or anything, and had never heard about it although it aired last season, so I decided this should be the one to watch.
It all starts pretty normally, with a woman showing up to what is presented to be a battle tournament with 12 fighters of the Chinese zodiac, that were either chosen because of their bloodline, their capabilities, or because no one else was fit enough to take their place. Each zodiac represents an organization with power, and they all want to win. Why exactly they are sent to fight each other is not revealed until the end, but we quickly get to know why the individuals themselves fight, even if they don’t want to.
They are all forced to swallow a gem filled with poison that will cause them to die when their stomach fluids corrode the surface. In order to get the antidote, they need to collect all 12 gems, which means they will have to kill the other 11 contestants in order to survive. The winner also gets a wish granted, any wish!
During the first episode, we get to know the woman who entered the tournament, who is Boar, and the daughter of the last winner of Juuni Taisen which took place 12 years ago. During a look into her backstory, we learn that she is eager to please her father with her skills, so when he chose her little sister to enter the tournament instead of her, she decides to drive her sister into suicide to take her place. We also quickly learn, that one warrior has already been eliminated, so the Snake is out of the game before it starts, and his twin brother the Dragon starts off with 2 gems, although he was not the one who killed him.
This concludes the review of the story that starts it all. If you haven’t yet watched it, but want to, then go do so before reading the rest, because I want to write down some thoughts now, and they are filled with spoilers. You have been warned!
So, the first few episodes are a blast, and really beautiful to watch. But then I noticed that the characters die in the same order as the zodiacs themselves, which is also shown in the ED once you know what to look for. This made the show quite predictable in terms as to who is the next one to die (and who will win), but the questions of who would kill them and how were still interesting.
I also liked how Sheep didn’t swallow the gem, but hid it in his beard instead, wanting to use it as leverage to save his own skin, while thinking about how to win by letting the best of the others fight each other. He thinks nothing of Tiger, and deems her to be the weakest fighter, but shortly after, she is the one taking him down, not knowing that she didn’t even have to. His death also leads to the Rat winning in the end, which I saw as the red thread in this series.
A thing that annoyed me was the power Dog had. It would have made more sense for Snake to be poisonous, but since he died before the show began, we wouldn’t have seen Chicken become powerful enough to kill Dog, so yeah… It wouldn’t have played out well, but it still irks me that Dog was poisonous instead of Snake. Also, I wanted to know Rabbit’s backstory, and of course Ox’ wish, that would have been nice. Aaand the animation quality took a dive after the first few episodes, which was a bit sad, as it was so beautiful to begin with.
Before I end this, I just want to mention, that both the opening and ending animations were beyond gorgeous though! I really enjoyed watching them before and after every episode, and didn’t skip them at any time. The music was also very nice, and both opening and ending became stuck in my head pretty quick.
I enjoyed the show, it was a nice surprise 🙂