Frequently with the anime industry we see shows based on games, whether they be console or PC titles. Unfortunately being a fan in America means chances are very good that we've never heard of, or seen, these original games. That doesn't make the shows any less enjoyable, but it does leave one feeling as though they've missed something. FUNimation's latest release, Sands of Destruction, is indeed a show based on a video game, however, this one was actually released in the States.
Just last month SEGA brought Sands of Destruction for the Nintendo DS to our shores. The game is a role-playing title and while I haven't played it, a quick bit of research shows that the game received moderately positive reviews. How does the anime stack up in comparison?
Sands of Destruction takes place in a fantasy world where the landscape is essentially nothing but sand as far as the eye can see. The oceans are sand, towns are dusty, and all around there's quite the desert theme being used here. Adding to the mystique of the world is the fact that two races; humans and beastmen, live in constant conflict. Basically the beastly beings are far superior to humans in almost every way and as such humanity often finds themselves beneath the paw/hoof/claw of their oppressors.
Standing at the center of the story is a girl named Morte, who is out to destroy the world as it currently is. Her brother was killed in a battle between humans and beasts and with something known as the Destruction Code she intends to turn all living beings into sand. Joining her is a wandering cook, Kyrie, who also possesses some destructive abilities and a little pirate-like-bear-hero-thing named Taupy. Together they form the World Destruction Committee and serve as the protagonists of the series.
To say that rooting for folks out to destroy the world is odd would be an understatement. Morte is driven by rage and Kyrie and Taupy are more or less along for the ride, but they also take it upon themselves to convince Morte that she's wrong. With the protagonists out to destroy the world, the antagonists are out to save it. The World Salvation Committee is made up of some interesting characters who attempt to stand in Morte's way. They receive some nice development along the way and strike a fine balance with the main cast.
The setting in this anime is a bit stranger than most and you definitely get the impression that it originated from a video game. There's more of a focus on the action than story development and some of the things handled by the title either aren't explained well enough, or just aren't given the time to develop properly in the thirteen episodes. If this series had more time to delve into the history of the world of beasts and men then the dramatic moments would have carried much more weight. As it stands this wasn't the case and apart from a few laughs and loads of solid action the show feels kind of flat.
One thing that will undoubtedly draw otaku to this show is the fact that Sands of Destruction was produced by Production I.G. They are no slouch in the quality department and though this isn't their best effort, the show truly stands out from a visual standpoint. The characters are richly designed, the animation is fluid, and there's a fine contrast that packs a punch with vibrant colors.
Overall Sands of Destruction is an entertaining series, but it could have been done a little better. The goal of Morte is explained well enough, the main characters are interesting, and the conflict between the Destruction and Salvation committees is handled quite nicely. The problems with this show stem from everything else. The climaxes are few and far between, there are random pieces thrown in without explanation, and all around it feels rather unassuming. Those who enjoyed the DS title will appreciate this the most, but fans of fantasy anime will want to consider it lightly recommended. It's worth watching, but not something to rave about.
Sands of Destruction is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show embodies the aforementioned standards of Production I.G. in terms of design and animation. As far as this transfer is concerned it's mostly free and clear of debris and flaw, though some grain does find its way into the picture. Granted this may be due to all the sand, but there are times where the backgrounds are quite distracting because of it. Otherwise the show looks great with some nice resolution.
Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround are included here for audio options. Both tracks handle the material well enough, though in fairness each is kind of flat in comparison. The 5.1 just doesn't pack the punch it should and the 2.0 just feels the limitations of channel usage. As far as the dubbing quality is concerned, both tracks do a decent enough job and there really isn't one that's better than the other.
Some trailers and clean animations make their way onto this set as well as a selection of interviews. These interviews are a tad different than one might expect since they are character-based. There are four in total and the each last a few minute apiece, but you're not going to get much out of them that you don't already know. The originality of this inclusion makes them far more interesting than the content.
Sands of Destruction is a solid enough fantasy-game-to-anime production that presents a unique theme, interesting characters, and an intriguing world. It hits plenty of high notes and offers enough action to be entertaining throughout, but it just feels like it misses the mark on more than one occasion. There series just feels like it rushes and doesn't have enough time to develop key elements to flesh everything out. More episodes may have helped the series, but as it stands 13 just doesn't feel like enough. In the end I'd Sands of Destruction is recommended, but it all depends what you're looking for and whether or not you've played the game.
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