Wistoria: Wand and Sword Episode 1: Like a Lone Sword

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The top comment-slash-review on Crunchyroll refers to Wistoria: Wand and Sword episode 1 as “If Black Clover, Danmachi, and Mashle had a child”- and they’re not far off. Taking a magic-less main character, and throwing them into a dungeon with levels in a school setting is pretty well a solid combination of all three of those aspects. Even still, though, Wistoria: Wand and Sword episode 1 proves itself as more than the sum of its parts, because of one person: Tatsuya Yoshihara. Poised to deliver their most distilled performance as ridiculous action talent, Wistoria seems ready to be an amply fun and action-packed ride.

So, before we get to the good stuff, why don’t we talk about the “less good” content of this episode? It’s no secret that many weren’t expecting Wistoria: Wand and Sword to deliver some revolutionary story, or an impressive meaning, or anything of the sort. Extrapolating from the contents of this first episode, I would likely categorize it as a little aimless outside of its main goal. The setup is very convenient wherein it follows Murphy’s law, and it even has some professors in the dark as to the true ability of our main character Will. Looking back to those three series it resembles, it’s possible to argue that in some cases it can surpass them in narrative quality, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to assume that it can beat them out on their home turf, if that makes sense.

In reality, about the only area I’m comfortable with saying it exceeds all those other series is its world. Simply put, it’s cool- even without Yoshihara’s intervention. It’s got some great naming sense. I mean, it borrowed the name Baskerville from a Sherlock Holmes novel, so it certainly has my seal of approval. Simplicity aside, though, the intensity of the world at large is very appealing. The idea of mages “holding up the sky”, and creating an eternal sunshine after perpetual darkness is very creative, and the duality of mages reaching to the heavens while Will explores the depths of the underworld is certainly interesting. It’s the kind of work that makes me wish we could explore the world more than this series will allow us to, so I’ll just have to settle for what we have.

Though, who are we kidding by making any real pass with interest in the story? The majority are here for Yoshihara’s work, and it is out in full force, permeating every little corner of the episode. I mean, just look at how many smears there are in a single episode, it’s almost ridiculous. On top of that, Actas and Bandai Namco Pictures aren’t exactly known for their outstanding animation, but with Yoshihara in the picture Wistoria: Wand and Sword episode 1 obviously had nothing to worry about (even though Yoshihara didn’t animate anything). Though don’t get it twisted- this isn’t about Yoshihara’s connections, oh no. No, The key animators for this first episode are very much a strong Actas contingency, with a high percentage having appearing on the most recent Princess Principal movie.

Even still, though, they’ve captured Yoshihara’s stylistic vision exceedingly well, bringing sharp and fast action that acts opposite the more fluid character acting that Yoshihara demands of them. It’s quite impressive work when you examine the histories of the animators, and goes to show just how much the right environment can do for the output of any animator out there. Regardless, Wistoria: Wand and Sword episode 1 does a great job of showing off both ends of the animation, ensuring that viewers understand they’re in for something that’s gonna move a lot regardless of circumstance.

We’ve made it this far without really talking about the lynchpin of the series directly, but I really do want to go over Yoshihara’s boarding in this episode- even if it is a little straightforward to explain. There’s two very noticeable aspects here, and funny enough they’re both imperative to the style and appeal Yoshihara’s after with Wistoria. The first of the two is the dynamism of their layouts. Yoshihara moves the camera a lot– all for the sake of selling the movement of the characters. You can move the camera all you want, there’s no rule saying you can’t, after all. It’s just that in a lot of cases, it’s used to replace animation rather than compliment it. Here though, Yoshihara uses it to further extend on all the animation present in Wistoria: Wand and Sword episode 1. Personally speaking, I think it does an excellent job of selling the animation of characters in the episode while sort of “upping the intensity” with how you experience it.

The second piece of their boarding that really stands out is how much they focus on the extremes of distance. There’s plenty of cuts where we get very up close and personal with the characters, but then equally so where Yoshihara really stresses the distance and space that’s present in the episode. It’s solid work, and really a necessity to sell some of the greatest aspects of this first episode. Without the intense closeups we wouldn’t get a lot of the great character acting we see, and without the wider shots it can be harder to contextualize a lot of the information within this debut.

Putting it all together, Wistoria seems like the kind of anime that the average seasonal watcher will love, but won’t be likely to follow up on. It’s got a lot going for it: it’s well animated, Sayaka Ono’s character designs are solid and work wonderfully with Naomi Nakano’s color design and Ayako Ootsuki’s composition, it moves wonderfully, and it’ll have plenty of fights. It’s biggest shortcoming is that it lacks longevity. There is nothing that calls to the viewer to explore past what’s presented to them, what Yoshihara delivers in a nicely bundled gift. But I don’t mind, really. Having a “damn good” action series to fall back on in a season like this is more than enough for me- and someone has to do it anyways, right? It won’t win out for “best of the season” or anything of the sort, but as for a series to watch on a Sunday morning like cartoons? Well, I might just say that it was born for that role.


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