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Juni Taisen: Episodes 1-5 (Review)

By: Mithrandiel

WARNING – SPOILERS BELOW

In a world ravaged by constant conflict, 12 powerful families participate in a brutal battle-royale known as the “Juni Taisen”. Based off the Chinese zodiac, the warriors that represent these influential families bear various animal inspired codenames, such as “Monkey”, “Boar”, “Sheep”, etc.

The time has come once again for the battle to take place, with mysterious benefactors providing the necessary fighting stage: a vast city of 500,000 which they are seemingly able to empty overnight. With such power, it’s no surprise that the prize for winning the Juni Taisen is a “Wish” – any wish that the warrior desires, and those responsible for the Juni Taisen can make it come true.

While the grand picture hasn’t been revealed in terms of who is orchestrating the battle, or for what purpose, suffice it to say that the fate of millions hang in the balance depending upon who walks away the victor.

The Story So Far

Episodes 1-3 follow an interesting structure in that it introduces a Juni Taisen warrior, explaining their background and ability to some depth, and then promptly concludes the episode with that warriors unceremonious death.

Boar being the first to fall…

At first I was a bit put off, especially when I noticed the theme continuing for a solid 3 episodes, but given the nature of the battle and the need to whittle down the competition, I actually came to appreciate the speed with which they were building up, fleshing out, then eliminating characters one at a time. It’s a fascinating look into their lives as warriors leading up to this broader stage, and given that it takes place in a more “modern” setting than the very familiar Fate series, you may feel a better connection to these warriors than the fantastical warriors of old being reincarnated as Servants.

The real fight seems to be heating up as of episode 4: the three warriors at the forefront – Ox, Rabbit and Monkey, are set upon a collision course with one another as the remaining warriors scheme to try and emerge victorious.

Monkey, who was extensively trained in hand-to-hand combat, and has control over the three states of matter as her special ability, is a strong-willed pacifist. Rather than using death and destruction as her claim to fame, her notoriety comes from the fact that she’s brokered peace agreements and ceasefires to over 500 conflicts. She seeks to bring a similar conclusion to the Juni Taisen, hoping to negotiate with whomever she has the chance to encounter.

Of course, the other warriors hoping to win and use the all encompassing “Wish” hardly see a benefit to talking things out, and so Monkey certainly has a bit of an uphill climb – particularly when she runs into Rabbit.

The Warrior of the Rabbit has a fearsome power – being able to command and control the bodies of the dead. As a “necromantist”, he uses this to his advantage early on by quickly felling two foes, Snake and Boar, and enlisting them to join his “team”. While Monkey does her best to negotiate with him, he’s intent on killing her, and the two are continuing their battle through the current episode.

The final warrior of note, Ox, is fearfully known as the “Genius of Slaughter”. Leaving hundreds of dead soldiers in his wake, his skill with a blade is legendary, and almost all of the other participants are avoiding direct conflict with him if at all possible. He continues to scout out any nearby enemies and destroy them. So far, he has killed Chicken with relative ease, and nearly discovered Sheep.

Horse appears to be the next warrior who will be given a spotlight, so we’ll see what sort of backstory he has to offer – and if he makes it to the ending credits!

Review

I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised with Juni Taisen this season. It’s shaping up to be a reliable source of action and drama each week, and the characters are vivid and engaging. While the battle royale trope has been ground into the dirt, the players certainly can make all the difference – which is certainly the case here.

The backgrounds for the various warriors so far have been powerful in their own ways. So far, I’ve particularly enjoyed Monkey and Sheep’s history, and look forward to learning more of the other warriors.

As for the fight scenes, I have to say – when the going gets tough, the animation gets good! I’ve enjoyed the brief conflicts I’ve seen so far, including Monkey’s martial arts, and Ox’s fast and frenzied swordplay.

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of battle royale series like the Fate franchise, you’ll really enjoy Juni Taisen. New episodes air Tuesdays on Crunchyroll.

Juni Taisen (Episodes 1-5)

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Juni Taisen (Episodes 1-5)
86.25

Mithical Rating

9/10

    Story

    8/10

      Characters

      9/10

        Animation

        9/10

          What Works

          • While the premise is as old as the hills, the characters make it interesting
          • Impactful storytelling: a wide sampling of different types of fighters and people
          • Solid animation and fight scenes

          What Hurts

          • The early episodes may feel a bit frustrating due to drawn-out character profiles followed by their instant death
          • The premise is as old as the hills

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