A war between the North and the South had stalled until the North created soldiers with the strengths of mythical creatures. With the war over, the soldiers returned home, but not to the reception they expected.
What did you watch?
To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts was one of the shows I had decided to watch but not review on an episodic basis. As a result, it got pushed aside as I got busier. That meant, however, that I was able to binge the last six episodes and still be able to review the season in good time. I hadn’t heard anything about this show going into it and the obvious comparisons to the American Civil War are pretty clear even from the offset. So, with that image in your head, let’s dive in. As normal, there will be spoilers.
The continent of Patria was divided between the North and South. The North had the resources but the South had the numbers. It looked like it would be resolved quickly, but then the North was able to turn certain soldiers into powerful weapons, resembling mythical creatures. The Incarnates turned the tide and drove the South back. As they prepared for the final battle and the culmination of their existence, a ceasefire was agreed and the Incarnates disbanded.
It was discovered that the Incarnates, having undergone massive changes to their bodies, were slowly losing control of their minds. One by one, they would slowly but surely become uncontrollable. Hank, the captain of the Incarnates has taken it upon himself to stop his friends from bringing the fragile peace to ruin. One of his targets is the Incarnate Nidhogg, or John William Bancroft as he was known before the war, who returned home unable to change out of his dragon form. When he loses control and Hank puts him down, John’s daughter Schaal sees him and swears to get revenge for her father.
What did you think?
Not only, is there the similarity with the American Civil War here, but there are elements that remind me of Fairy Gone. Overpowered soldiers that put their bodies on the line for the populace only to become illegal and distrusted once they returned home. Is this really that different from the veterans that return from wars now and how they are often forgotten about? Well, unlike Fairy Gone, To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts does a really good job of exploring that dynamic and even looks into the horrors of war and the reasons that people fight. This series was great and I loved the way that nothing was black and white.
Even with the series villain, Cain Madhouse (obviously a villain with a name like that) you could see his side of the argument and while his methods are somewhat questionable, he manages to show that the humans that believe them to be monsters are capable of evils to the same degree. There is far more to this than cool monsters and strong heroines. It’s also worth making a huge point that the monsters were not 3D CGI and they looked far better than the recent efforts of Fairy Gone and Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest. I would pick a show that looked like this every time over that style of animation.
What was your favourite moment?
All of the Incarnates had backstories and lives before they became the monsters that they are today, but I think the one that really hit me hardest was that of the Centaur, Miles. He used to be a surgeon and would look after soldiers, patching them up so that they could return to service. Time after time, he would fix them up and then see their corpses brought back. You could see the demoralizing effects of this on him, so when he was chosen to become an Incarnate he realized that he was able to save more people by killing the enemy.
It’s a brutal realisation and it’s not hard to see that logical step, even if Miles’ mind had been broken by the war at that point already. This series did not glamourize war and I think it did an amazing job of looking into various aspects of it.
What was your least favourite moment?
Towards the end of the season, Cain had attacked Hank and Schaal and by all accounts was easily winning. It looked like he was toying with them and still trying to open Hank’s mind to his point of view. Then, Hank got mad and performed the shounen power-up yell and was able to hit Cain, knocking him to the ground. Other than this moment the series had maintained a pretty reasonable sense of power levels and abilities and used strategies to overcome them. So, throwing in this felt out of place and didn’t do anything for the series. If anything it lowered the tone of the ending. Cain admittedly laughed it off afterwards, but it still felt off.
Who was your favourite character?
Don’t say Liza. Don’t say Liza. Oops, that was supposed to be in my head… No, in actual fact, I thought that Schaal was a great character and I loved that most of the story was from her point of view. It would have been easy to follow Hank around and watch cool fights with Incarnates, but making Schaal the lead character gave us the chance to see all the sides of the arguments, especially as her first interaction with Hank was to shoot him. Watching her development and the way she changed Hank was fascinating. She was a very well developed character who grew into the role, unlike Liza who started out “fully developed”… sorry, I couldn’t help myself!
Who was your least favourite character?
So, Cain Madhouse, the obvious villain was a little bit of a disappointment. He was so powerful and had managed to gather a number of the Incarnates to his side, but rather than just marching in an obliterating all in his path, he seemed to want to play games. There was no need for him to be creating diversions and beating the South into submission. He was strong enough to take out the North alone. Maybe part of it was seeing what the humans would do and Centaur bore the brunt of that experiment. It could have been that he wanted to bring Hank to his side, but then he didn’t seem to like that Hank got Elaine’s attention in the beginning. For the most part, I thought it was a good villain with believable motives, but he seemed to any urgency.
Would you like some more?
The series left us at an obvious point to continue things and considering the Fairy Gone and Arifureta have been given second seasons, I would be really disappointed if this series doesn’t continue. It has action and monsters. It looks into conflict and the effects on the people who take part in it and then it has Liza… It would be criminal to end things here. I really enjoyed this series and wish I had been covering it at an episode level because I think there was something worth talking about with each episode.
What have you learnt?
I think I may have discussed this recently, but the advantages of grounding fantastical fiction in reality is worth talking about again. This series takes place in a fantasy world but deals with very real situations. War has sadly been a pretty continuous part of human life and the effects of it are well documented. Taking something like that and changing some of the details slightly to incorporate the more fantastical elements gives them credence. No one is going to suddenly believe in these monsters, but if you can understand their motivations and feelings it goes a long way to pull the readers in. Basically, always try to ground it in reality, even if it’s something small and seemingly insignificant.
Other Posts in the Series
As I said earlier in this post, I didn’t write episode reviews, but Crow from Crow’s World of Anime did follow it with his Best In Show series. So, if you want more to chew on, this is a great place to start.
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 01 – Best In Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 02 – Best In Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 03 – Best In Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 04 – Best In Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 05 – Best In Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 06 – Best In Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 07 – Best in Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 08 – Best in Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 09 – Best in Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 10 – Best in Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 11 – Best in Show
- Review: To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts Episode 12 – Best in Show