Series: World Break
Original Release Date: January 2015 – March 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Harem, Comedy
Director: Takayuki Inagaki
Writer: Akamitsu Awamura (light novel) Hiroshi Yamaguchi (series composition and principal scriptwriting)
Number of Episodes: 12
The students of Akane Academy, who are referred to as “Saviors,” are reincarnations of past warriors/mages who can recall and wield the powers they held in their past lives. Monsters called “Metaphysicals” that often appear to wage war on humanity and the “Saviors” are the only thing that stands in their way and the only hope for humanity. New student Moroha Haimura discovers he’s an anomaly since he has two separate past lives that he can tap into; one past life as a knight and swordsman and the other as a wicked mage. With the power he possesses he just may be the most gifted Savior Akane Academy has ever had.
The simplest way I can put it is that World Break is the definitive epitome of mediocrity. Whenever shows like this come along fans and critics’ tend to moan and groan at how a lot of the time these shows reek of formulaic structure and storytelling. Everything from the way the premise of the story is utilized to how it affects the characters that populate the generic setting. It’s too often that such shows that are so generic are hammered out that it makes the genre look boring and uninspired.
This is particularly frustrating for a person like me since there are plenty of shows in the harem fantasy genre that I strongly feel that are great and stand out for the right reasons. They may use a lot of the same tropes becoming of the harem genre; however, they simply utilize and execute them better and in a more interesting and engaging fashion while still working within the confines of their genre.
Although I found World Break to be entertaining at times and it has a solid structure, it fails to hit enough high points of excitement for me. Yes, there are a couple really good inspired scenes and characters here, but the show’s inability to maintain this standard of across the entire series is where World Break suffers the most. It’s not necessarily a bad show since it has fewer low points and poor writing decisions than good ones. That’s the big issue I have with World Break right there; it maliciously follows a paint by numbers formula right down to the letter so much that it’s almost impossible for it to be all out bad, or good, or to stand out in any way.
It has characters that range from bland to decently interesting, the story/plot is okay and the overall aesthetic, artwork and animation while warm and inviting, is alright. It does have a cool premise; however, that doesn’t make a great show, it’s what’s done with that premise and how it’s executed that matters. It doesn’t take any risks; characterization with the exception of two characters is minimal, and the story is as straightforward as can be. It refuses to rock the boat in any way, even when there are high stakes for any conflict the suspense is simply not there.
It just might be worse for a series to be mediocre instead of infamously bad since at least the most horrible anime get remembered and brought up in discussions when people talk about anime that suck. There’s almost a sense of one-upsmanship in the anime community when people discuss the worst anime they’ve ever watched. It’s the same level of enthusiasm people have when talking about a great series although the reasoning for discussion differs. Aside from that, terrible anime can at least provide a good framework to illustrate what bad storytelling in anime looks like; they can be educational if a person chooses to examine such anime to understand why and how they’re bad. The problem with World Break is that it only does the bare minimum on a narrative level and because of this; it will fall into an abyss of obscurity.
I’m not in any way saying that a show has to have an overtly elaborate plot or loaded with symbolism and metaphor or saturated with characterisation to the point where you’d know each and every choice a character would make in a given situation. It doesn’t always have an overtly deeper thematic meaning or has to do something so different or conceptually elaborate all the time. Yes, all this stuff helps, and all of my personal top favourites contain all this to a strong degree, but only to the extent that the story demands in order for a show to be as close to the perfect version of itself as it can. This can’t be achieved by doing the bare minimum and avoiding any narrative risks.
There’s nothing wrong with the story, in fact, on World Break, it’s actually alright and even a little interesting, after all, I did manage to finish it. It introduces the concept, although through characters pretty much dialoguing to the audience rather than making use of the visual medium it is and showing it; which would’ve improved it much more, but nevertheless, the viewer knows what’s going on easily enough.
I also like the high fantasy elements in a modern time set up, other great shows to this, the Fate series, particularly Fate/Zero comes to mind. However, I strongly feel that World Break squanders a lot of great potential since the series doesn’t utilize or delve into this element thematically enough. Where the series shines is when it focuses on specific characters; which only happens twice. The actual plot does pick up and get interesting a few episodes in where there’s no shortage of action, adventure and even some good world building. However, many of these action sequences exist as a vehicle to show off how cool and powerful Moroha is.
One of the most noticeable things about this series for me occurs on the first episode where it’s as plain as day to see the lack of confidence World Break has. It does the whole thing where it shows the ending of the series at the start in order to create intrigue, which is fine and can work; however, from there it only continues to get desperate. It feels like the show is begging the audience to stick around; “Hey you like dragons, take a look; pretty cool huh? Wait, wait don’t go, I have other cool stuff; look how cool this guy is, and the school, check out the weapons; hey hot girls. Wait, wait, don’t go; you like fan service right? I can do that, look, a partial boob shot and a joke for good measure. Panties? That’s cool right? Oh, look, cold emo girl versus energetic goody girl; they’re both so cute right? Please like me.”
Like everything else in World Break, it does the bare minimum and the characters are no exception. The lead male character Moroha is not only a self-insert male protagonist; he’s an all-out self-insert power fantasy. I will give props that the series is able to use the premise to rationalise his convenient power ups and how he’s able to progress so fast skill wise as a character; he has two past lives. This is also used as a plot device when a lot of the times when he’s getting his ass kicked, he conveniently recalls his past abilities and he’s able to turn the tables and obtain victory.
I will at least admit that his interaction with the female cast members isn’t one of him running around terrified of them or being a perverted creep; he’s actually pretty normal and pleasant there. There are parts where he jokes with the other characters, but as I mentioned, he’s not creepy about it; so I’ll have the show props for that much at least.
Unfortunately with the exception of two other characters, there is little to no fleshing out or development for the rest of the cast in this series. Focusing on World Break from this perspective as a series is pretty discouraging since it’s able to do a great job with two of its cast members efficiently so it begs the question; why aren’t the other main characters given the same treatment?
World Break proved that it has the capacity to develop its main characters and give them thematic purpose only to betray its audience and fail to deliver on its potential. What really sucks here is that there’s a great cast of characters here with a lot of good potential that ends up getting squandered in order to be used as comedic devices for many of the show's mediocre jokes or as plot devices to move Moroha from one action sequence to another.
As an example, there's even one female character that is there for one creepy joke that involves her shoving objects, including a cob of corn, up the main male character's ass. Throughout the series she refers to him as "Butt Boy" and while the joke managed a few chuckles out of me at first; it got old real fast.
This is an issue in and of itself because I’ve seen plenty of harem series that do a great job with characterization of its cast. In a way, for the narrative ambitions and priorities of harem anime, it’s pretty intrinsic to them to have good characters which is also why I enjoy a good harem anime sometimes and why I don’t jump on the “let’s hate on Harem Anime” bandwagon. I like material with good characters and like any other genre in the anime medium, contrary to what many think, there are some good harem anime that exist just as there are bad ones; just like any other genre.
"Why am I here?I know I can do so much better"
Positively speaking, the two characters I brought up earlier; Shizuno and Elena both have definitive story arcs that do a great job of fleshing out and developing their characters, so it’s no surprise that they’re my favourite characters in this show. It’s their storylines that have the most narrative weight on this series because the situations they’re in are put to good use by fleshing them out and creating a strong dynamic character change. It’s also obvious in their dynamic with Moroha where there’s just better chemistry overall; the humour and drama with these two characters just comes off more organic and natural.
"I feel your pain."
One other character that’s a lot of fun, although he undergoes little development, is Executive Knight Sir Edward Lampard of the United Kingdom. He has a great personality and wit that makes him forge a strong dynamic with the other characters and it makes him a lot of fun to watch.
While Shizuno and Elena are both generally well written characters, this brings me to perhaps the biggest misstep World Break makes with its characterization; one of the secondary main characters Satsuki. The problem here is that she and Shizuno are linked to Moroha in that they are the lover’s for each of his past lives. While she's given a small arc later in the series, it does very little to develop her as a character and lacks any kind of thematic relevance.
So I question why the series decided to reduce Satsuki to a mere personality type with no developmental arc who gets reduced to comic relief most of the time. This is one of the poor writing decisions that inhibit World Break’s ability to stand out above a lot of its contemporaries and deliver something worthwhile.
"My dreams have been crushed in a trash compactor of despair."
Thematic Analysis: What’s it all mean?
Thematically, World Break has some great ideas with massive potential, unfortunately it fails to develop and resolve some of these ideas. This is one of the main reasons that World Break suffers its mediocrity. It isn't because the ideas are bad; it's because of how they're utilized, implemented and executed that causes its problems.
Some of them are merely surface level lip service, while others are used in a way to rationalize a plot point. To me, this is poor decision making that causes a show with potential to become an unmemorable piece of disposable entertainment. I'm not saying that everything has to be as deep and intricate as Revolutionary Girl Utena, Death Parade or Fate/Zero in terms of thematic development, but at the very least it would be nice to see ideas developed and resolved.
The main thematic idea explored through Moroha is a perfect example of these poor writing decisions. Aside from the fact that it's the main thematic concept of the story, the way it's used impairs the show's ability to develop Moroha's character beyond a power fantasy Gary Stu. The main thematic idea is the exploration of embracing one’s past in order to cease their destiny while living in the present and being aware of the future. Sounds pretty cool right? Unfortunately, World Break chooses to utilize it as a means to move the plot along and to further rationalize Moroha’s super power ups. This is a symptom of Moroha being a self insert, power fantasy character instead of being a compelling, fully realized character.
Positively speaking, there are some well executed thematic ideas that have depth and nuance making the scenes they're a part of the best of the series. These thematic ideas are localized to Shizuno and Elena, which explore the concept of self-actualization with how their story arcs explore similar personal struggles and external influences. It’s during their character arcs that there’s some great imagery, symbolism and framing used to illustrate their situations and lead to some great thematic resolutions.
Looking at how these concepts are developed, executed and resolved for these characters makes me question the overall thematic inconsistency that occurs in World Break. Why couldn't the other themes, specifically the main theme have this level of depth?
World Break is very well produced giving it a strong visual personality with its animation and art style by providing a pleasing and inviting aesthetic. The animation is fluid and the character designs are a happy medium of generic and unique. I feel that the character designs are one of the stronger elements of this series, from the use of colours, to eye shape, to the outfits they wear making them visually pleasing in every way.
Action scenes make good use of busier animation and key frame animation by knowing when to implement them. The characters stay on model and there are no jerks or inconsistencies in the animation, and colour is well utilized to establish tone and mood. While World Break may not have much substance to make a lasting narrative impression, the overall polished aesthetic and character designs certainly do.
The music of World Break works nicely with its lovely classically based string arrangements and like the animation and framing is put to good use to establish the tone of any given scene. If I were to criticise the music, I find a lot of it lacks a catchy melody and so it isn’t memorable the way the music I recall music on a lot of my anime favourites.
There’s absolutely nothing I can really knock about the English dub; everyone does a good job, but if I were to choose the performances that stand out, I’d have to give it to Jad Saxton who plays Shizuno, Mikaela Krantz as Elena and Seth Magill as Sir Edward Lampard. Understand though, this is my bias talking since these are my favourite characters that just had more going on overall in the show. I feel like the actors who play these characters simply had more to work with. I also have to acknowledge the well-executed accents the actors pulled off; that’s the Russian accent of Elena and the British accent of Sir Edward Lampard.
"Set me down or I'll break your face."
Conclusion and Recommendation
I can’t really recommend World Break. While it is plenty of fun and even entertaining and it’s certainly pretty to look at, it lacks any big creative or inspirational impact because of some of the writing blunders it suffers and that it plays things safe. In fact, some of the writing issues are a direct result of World Break playing things too safe and not taking any risks. The fact is that there are numerous anime that exist in the same genre that do something similar but just doing it much better with more creativity, characterisation, thematic ideas and just overall better implementation and execution. There are shows that are simply far more memorable and worthwhile for recommendation. World Break isn’t one of those.
Anime Review: World Break
A review of the 2015 anime produced by studio Diomedea and based on the light novel series by Akamitsu Awamura.
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