Title: The Epic of Zektbach aka The Epic Of ZektBach: Daiisshou: Shamshir no Mai aka The Epic Of ZektBach: Chapter 1: Shamshir Dance
Format: 1 OVA
Dates: 21 Mar 2011
Synopsis: A 40,000 strong invasion from the Holy Kingdom of Noigllado threatens the country of Azuelgatt. A battle brews at Doroah Fortress, within Azuelgatt’s borders, but they only have 4000 soldiers to defend themselves with. Fortunately, one of these warriors is the all powerful general Shamshir, armed with the mystical sword, the Colado.
Aesthetics: Good music and reasonable animation, particularly during action scenes.
Battles: Nice to look at, but difficult to take seriously.
Plot: Horrendously paced and almost completely pointless.
Characters: Stoic to the point of being bland; unsympathetic.
Ending: A horrible deus ex machina, which obliterates any credibility the story had.
The OVA seems to be the format of choice for more experimental anime these days, but not all those experiments end in success. The Epic of Zektbach is an adaptation from AIC based on original plotlines and characters created to accompany the music of video game composer Zektbach (aka Funaki Tomosuke). I can’t say I know much about Zektbach’s music, but what little I’ve heard is reasonable, some of it being used for this OVA’s soundtrack. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about this anime: it’s terrible. Sure, the music is good and the animation is reasonable, even if it lacks a little polish, but the script and characters, however… “Needs more work” is an understatement.
The story begins at the onset of a grand battle. Who’s fighting, and why, who knows? The fight between Arbitrary Army A (the good guys) and Arbitrary Army B (the bad guys) is split open by the general’s daughter, Shamshir, whose distinguishing skills are that she can consistently execute ridiculous shots with a bow, and dance elegantly through her opponents when swordfighting in close quarters. There are some little things in this battle that are wily and believable, such as when oil is poured on soldiers trying to batter their way into the fortress, who are then lit afire, but most of the action sequences involving Shamshir are ridiculous and unbelievable. Fortunately they’re compensated slightly by looking so good, being among the best animated scenes in this OVA.
A single OVA is such a limiting format for storytelling, and it’s very rare to get truly moving stories and developed characters of the calibre of something like Pale Cocoon(1,2), let alone the minor miracle that is Voices of a Distant Star. With that said, there aren’t any excuses for the rubbish plot and bland characters in this outing. The plot basically goes through the motions, following a standard pattern of fight scenes, followed by mysterious murders, followed by more fight scenes, with sparse crumbs of ham-fisted character exposition tacked on here and there. If you strain really hard, you can almost extract some deeper messages about the aftereffects of war on soldiers, and the burden of heroism from the story, but any statement this show was trying to make was instantly ruined by an utterly horrendous deus ex machine ending that made no sense and was devoid of meaning.
Ultimately, I couldn’t find a single reason to care about Shamshir or any other character, because they were so emotionally vacant. Where’s a display of humanity, contemplation or just straight up feeling? Something… anything, that I could grab on to and say “yes, this is a character I can sympathize with”. A scene towards the end actually reminded me of Braveheart for a fleeting moment, but the events that followed did nothing to flatter The Epic of Zektbach. Whereas Braveheart finished with an iconic and glorious moment of defiance, The Epic of Zektbach instead just made another excuse for more pointless violence.
The Rating: 3
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun