Juuni Taisen

February 25, 2018

I knew one day this would come. You see for some odd reason that I couldn’t remember nor understand, when I was younger I had this dream of watching a series whereby the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac would be facing off each other in a battle royale style war. True that in my younger days I had a certain fascination with the Chinese zodiac and perhaps that wish was inspired by a very old retro Chinese movie that used the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. But that one was where a master looked and gathered all 12 of the animals in her journey to fight the evil dark monster king. Oh yeah. I still remember that one. But now this anime, Juuni Taisen where you have those ‘animals’ fighting against each other in a tournament in which the last one standing gets his/her single wish granted. Man, this is going to be interesting. What are the odds the rooster will win? Nah, I don’t even want to bet on it.

Episode 1
The entire city of half a million is cleared out. This is the power of the organization who has made preparations for the 12th Juuni Taisen, a deadly tournament held every 12 years. Haughty Inounoshishi (boar) makes her way up the building as she remembers the harsh training her father gave her. When she showed mercy ones instead of killing when she had the chance, she was beaten up mercilessly by him. His discipline reaching the line of abuse. After all, he is the reigning Juuni Taisen champion. Once Inounoshishi enters the room, she sees a few familiar and new faces. Oh, there is already one dead. Tatsumi (snake) got killed by crazy Usagi (rabbit). Yeah, Usagi says it wasn’t him who killed him. Really? Blood on his sword… However Tatsumi has got another twin brother (dragon) and will be taking his place. Duodecuple makes himself known. He will be the referee for this game. First he has everyone eat a black jewel. Once done, he tells them it is poison that will slowly kill them. The warrior who collects all 12 jewels will be the winner and be given the antidote as well as a special wish. I’m sure you can be creative in your own ways on how you want to retrieve those jewels. More flashbacks from Inounoshishi as she was distraught and angry when father chose her younger sister, Kiyoko to represent their house at the next Juuni Taisen. Inounoshishi hatched a plan to train her to kill mercilessly to break her mental state down. So much so it gotten to a point where she killed all her classmates and house servants. When in isolation, she started experiencing withdrawal symptoms as Inounoshishi put forth her final plan. Ultimately Kiyoko killed herself and guess who is there to represent the house? After Duodecuple signals the start of the game, Sharyuu (monkey) seems to have a plan that would allow none of them to die. Inounoshishi is sceptical but surprisingly many agree to side Sharyuu on this. Before she could start, the ground collapses. Everyone goes into hiding. The game has begun. Inounoshishi is confronted with Usagi. They begin to fight. Inounoshishi is confident as long as she can keep him at a distance with her machine guns, her tactic to kill him is guaranteed. But suddenly somebody holds her from the back as Usagi stabs her throat! The dead Tatsumi? It seems Usagi is a necromancer and can control those he killed. And soon Inounoshishi will be one of his ‘buddies’…

Episode 2
After the building collapsed and the warriors fled their own ways, Nezumi (rat) fled alongside Sharyuu. As they hide in the sewers, Nezumi knows it was Sharyuu who destroyed the floor. Though she did that, it was because she sensed something trying to make a first kill. Somebody who was against her idea and wanted to strike first. Hence she destroyed the floor to protect them all in a way. Dotsuku (dog) hides in the car park. As he is the master of poison (his bite has venom), he knows about the jewel and made an antidote for himself. His plan is to wait it out till only a few warriors are left before moving in to kill. He is alerted when Niwatori (chicken) comes to see him. This timid greenhorn wants to make an alliance with him. Dotsuku is sceptical at first but since it would be bad if he gets injured now, he plans to go along with her, use her and then betray her. She then tells him about Usagi being a necromancer. Niwatori has this ability to view through the eyes of all the birds. She saw Inounoshishi being killed. That’s how she found Dotsuku. They discuss about some of the warriors they know. Like Ushii (ox) who is most powerful of them and is favourites to win this game. Then there’s the dragon and snake twin team combo but they’re not so terrifying now that one of them is dead. Lastly Sharyuu is a pacifist and has been going around the world to stop wars. It won’t be surprising she is here to put a stop to this mad game once and for all. But the one that stood out the most is Nezumi. He doesn’t seem like a warrior and they have this feeling they met him somewhere before. Niwatori gets word that Usagi’s team has split up. They see Inounoshishi wandering about by herself. Could it be a decoy? Dotsuku thinks of beating Usagi at his own game by using Niwatori as a decoy too. First he bites her. This poison will temporarily boost her powers as she goes out to deal with the boar to lure out the rabbit and snake. After that he will finish off the chicken. Nice plan. Only, Niwatori gets too strong and crushes Dotsuku’s head! Uuma (horse) has the misfortune to stumble unto Ushii. The raging bull charges.

Episode 3
After taking Dotsuku’s jewel, Niwatori summons all the birds to peck Inounoshishi to, erm, death? Lots of dead birds when zombie boar tries to shoot back but eventually her bones were picked clean. Niwatori feels confident she can win this given that she has now powered up. Flashback reveals Niwatori was a child abuse victim. She ultimately killed her parents. As she has control of the avian species, the Niwa family took her in as an adopted daughter. Her amnesia makes her an easy tool to be sent to the battlefields to fight as a soldier. Because she killed so many, she cannot tell who is good or bad. This means she even double crosses and kills her own allies. While she is looking for food, she stumbles into Nezumi. He won’t fight her and instead brings her back to Sharyuu in the sewers. Niwatori knows this place is disadvantage to her because no birds can fly under here but plans to play along and then betray. Niwatori cannot believe Sharyuu really wanted a ceasefire. But after updating her how many have died so far, when Sharyuu has her back turned, Niwatori seems hesitant to kill her. Eventually she couldn’t. Niwatori apologizes she cannot go along with her proposal and leaves. Sharyuu hopes that if she changes her mind, she’ll be waiting here as always. Later Niwatori regrets her decision. It would have been easier to play along and kill them when their guard is down. She blames Dotsuku’s poison for heightening her mental state. To her dismay, she bumps into Ushii. It would be foolish to fight the Genius of Slaughter. Noticing he has blood all over him, when he asks if she has allies so she quickly changes the subject that he was one of those who agreed to Sharyuu’s proposal. He was for the idea to form a team but when the floor gave way, the proposal also fell through. Sharp Ushii notes that Sharyuu must be nearby since she brought this up. He then advises her not to fight for ideals of others but her own. Of course Niwatori knows this better than anyone. No choice, they begin to fight. But Ushii is so fast that she didn’t see his sword slicing through her forehead. Ushii takes her jewel (and Dotsuku’s) and leaves. Niwatori allows all the birds to eat her corpse.

Episode 4
Sharyuu was trained and watched over by monkey sages. No, this is not a joke. After she graduated, they let her go as she vowed to dedicate her life to eliminate the folly of killing from this world. Nezumi has a hunch that Niwatori is dead. If this is true, it will be Sharyuu’s fault. That’s because while she was talking to her, Niwatori became ‘weaker’ hearing her optimistic words. For a trickster like her, those words could be ‘poison’. Sharyuu says she has more than 1 plan to win. Sharyuu is perplexed by Nezumi’s philosophy that even if he is for peace, he hates peace. He noticed in his normal peaceful life there are lots of trashy people. Sharyuu might have saved many but this could also mean she saved many garbage people. This has Sharyuu remember one of her missions as a negotiators in a long standing war between 2 countries over a disputed area. Conveniently when both sides have soldiers deserting the frontlines and joining forces to renounce the war and call for another independent nation, it was all part of Sharyuu’s doing. While politicians obsessed over unproductive talks, they were ignorant of those facing life and death in the war zone. Although peace did come, it wasn’t the way Sharyuu had wanted. Another force subjugated the rebels and more deaths occurred before the fighting eventually stopped. Sharyuu was sad but the most she could do is respond with openness based on the things she have seen and experienced.

Nezumi argues if she had used her power to end the fighting in an instant instead of negotiating for peace, it could have saved more lives. Those participating in Juuni Taisen have their reasons and only they find meaning in this war. Others do not know about it and even if they do, they wouldn’t care. Saying that all life is precious and no one is truly evil is just naïve. Sharyuu counters that with the fact she might have saved a lot of lives but have also failed to save many. She has witnessed the crimes of humanity again and again. She decided to stop it all using the power of words and despite going through terrible things herself, she still wants everyone to get along. Another flashback her lover was worried she was going off to the battlefield again because he really wanted their current peaceful lifestyle to go on. To him, she is not a warrior but the one he loves. She felt the same way too but ultimately this too is a form of battlefield and left. As Sharyuu ponders the current situation, she felt something strange. A dead bird is watching her? Woah. Lots of dead birds now. Looks like the necromancer has found them. They have to run and make their way to the surface to avoid being pecked and infected by tetanus. Arriving out, Sharyuu almost get sliced by the snake. Mad rabbit is here too. She wants Nezumi to take care of snaky boy as she fights Usagi while trying to peacefully talk it out, which is much harder than just killing them right away. She might be a pacifist but that doesn’t mean she won’t resist.

Episode 5
Duodecuple hosts a group of VIPs watching this game. Juuni Taisen is supposed to be a proxy war that will also decide the territorial struggles of the countries. Once the participants are down to half, the official betting will begin. Everyone starts discussing about who is the strongest and it seems it all boils down to the ox, rabbit or monkey. Some find this option boring and point out Hitsujii (sheep) as he was the winner of the 9th edition. Too bad some view him as old and weak but if he is joining this one, he must have some sort of a plan. Indeed as we see Hitsujii analysing each of the warriors as he ranks them by their overall strength. He finds the toughest are the ox, rabbit and monkey and it would be wise if he avoids them. However if he could turn them on each other, it would be a different story. Meanwhile Sharyuu must not only fend off Usagi’s attacks but chop lots of zombie birds. Her negotiations are falling on deaf ears. Nezumi is on the run from the snake and despite being headless, can he see or hear? Well, looks like he feel ground movements. Uuma barely escaped with his life. He wanted to form an alliance with Ushii but he wasn’t interested. If not for his ironclad defence, he could have been dead by now. A flashback on Hitsujii’s past. In his younger days, he was not only an arms dealer but a mercenary in the battlefield.

He married into the Tsujiie family who was one of his clients and participated in a Juuni Taisen and won. He had a wish granted and that was a happy life with his grandson. But as his grandson grew up, this prompted him to think. Hence he decided to enter this edition to avoid his grandson from participating. He won’t let those who brought happiness to him bear this burden and will bear this to hell while bringing along some of the other warriors. Hitsujii has a trick no one knows. He didn’t swallow the jewel and hid it in his beard. He wants to use this to deceive one of the warriors. Preferably those in the middle rank. He will lie about his ability to pass through solid objects and hence took out this jewel. Of course they will not let him go through their body and take it out as it would be much safer carrying it inside. They will also think this old goat won’t last long and hence will jump to his offer to form an alliance as Hitsujii’s role is to convince them he will take out the jewels from other participants. It is revealed Hitsujii is the one who planted bombs all over the floor at the start and could have finished everyone had he not been interrupted. Hitsujii almost got smoked out by Ushii but manages to get away with a small explosive diversion. He goes on a hunt to find a suitable participant for his plan. He then sees Tora (tiger). Noting she is the weakest of the lot because she is drinking and getting drunk instead of hunting others down. However she calls him out from his hiding.

Episode 6
Hitsujii goes out to face her and he just can’t seem to take her seriously because she is all drunk. He thinks of ending this quickly since Ushii will soon realize the fake trail he set. However Hitsujii couldn’t see Tora and in a flash he got his stomach ripped out! Oh well, didn’t you hear? Tora’s fighting style is drunken fist. As Sharyuu deduces Usagi’s inefficient fighting style (after all, a necromancer doesn’t need to practice swords or kung fu), she thinks of rendering him powerless from the back and then restart negotiations. But suddenly she gets stabbed! It seems the head of snake boy was watching and keeping Usagi’s back covered. With the field halved, the bets are starting to flow in. In descending order from strongest to weakest: Ox, rabbit, tiger, horse, snake and rat. While most bets are on the ox, some cannot help comment on the horse who is in the middle ground. Because speaking of him, he has lost his will to fight and holing himself inside some vault. Flashback shows Uuma as a soldier taking out his enemies swiftly. But when faced with a stronger enemy, a split second of wrong decision almost killed him. He survived and underwent all sorts of training and experiment to make his muscles strong as iron. Now he is thinking even if he doesn’t die, perhaps his evolution cells might just negate the jewel’s poison. In a way, he could win it still. He is shocked when Nezumi is seen hanging out next to him. A rat can sneak into all sorts of places, right? Uuma thought he was in alliance with the monkey but Nezumi says she got killed and hence her peace proposal is useless. Heck nobody knows its plan either. Sure you can be a pacifist but that won’t do you any good if you’re dead. Nezumi believes the real peace talks are the real heroes. Because in a world where everything stands still, it is as good as dead. Like you, Uuma. Even the snake’s corpse seems livelier. Nezumi then leaves and warns him that the snake might try to come after him here so it’s best for him to also leave. But Uuma is still reeling from fear and thinks he is better off holing up. But wait. What’s that smell? He can’t breathe. Oh sh*t! The place is on fire! The snake is burning down the entire building! Well, Uuma might have the strength but without oxygen to breathe… Who is up for some horse meat?

Episode 7
Flashback shows Tatsumi Aniki (dragon) and Tatsumi Otoutou (snake) had some sort of weird ‘friendly competition’ to see who could steal and escape better than the other. From jewel heist to contraband smuggling ambush, I’m not sure what the score is but they always help each other out. Because of that, the Tatsu house of both dragon and snake decided to choose them both as Juuni Taisen representatives for their exceptional teamwork. Too bad that only one of them can win. Even if this sucks, they’re like don’t really care about it. So before the game started, the twins thought they were the first to arrive at the tower but Usagi was already there (dressed in proper waiter suit). He is interested in their flame and ice tanks. The twins keep on their guard but are distracted when they heard something beneath the floor (Sharyuu checking the building’s integrity?). At that point, Usagi decapitated Otoutou. He could have gone on to kill Aniki too but Ushii arrived. Sharyuu is now part of Usagi’s merry zombies as she barges into the vault to take Uuma’s jewel. Zombies don’t need to breathe, right? Tora is confronted by Otoutou who starts shooting her with his flame thrower. She thinks his tank contains alcohol and cuts off his arm to take it. Wow, indeed it has alcohol? I thought it was gasoline since she’s enjoying it. After leaving, Ushii arrives and cuts off Otoutou’s other arm. At this point, Tora senses Ushii’s presence and returns. She is ready to fight him like though she has a grudge. In a surprise move, Otoutou’s arms have a life of their own as they grab and strangle Ushii and Tora each. In a dire need to get out of this, Ushii pleads for Tora’s help and will challenge her to a one on one fight in any way she wants. Sounds like a good deal. Now, Tora doesn’t have to do anything but keep foaming in her mouth like she does. Ushii throws his sword in which sparks become flames and starts burning her entirety.

Episode 8
Aniki is in a courtroom hearing. Since Otoutou skipped out, Aniki gets permission to be his proxy. The twins are accused of siding with different factions and killing all on both sides. Aniki was hired by a pharmaceutical company that behind the scenes tests drugs with side effects. On the other hand, Otoutou is hired by an organization that on the front looks like a children shelter but runs a human and organ trafficking ring. It seems the company wants to sever ties with the organization but the latter will not allow it since you know, hush money. The twins plan is to steal the money in the hospital’s safe but it is secured via biometric security. When both sides meet for the final exchange and disagree on the terms, that is when both the twins show up and each side is shocked to know this. They start freezing and burning everything. I don’t know why the director is so dumb to run back to his safe because he literally opened it for the twins. Scared, he wants to bribe them. No thanks. They kill him and take everything. But there are records the twins are righteous thieves. The money they steal are distributed to the poor. But what is unrecorded is that later those poor people fought among themselves of it, the higher up absconded with it all or everyone just got killed. The twins are then paid to destroy all evidence of this testing and burnt down the entire hospital! A young patient survived as he pays a visit to his dead brother on site. The twins show up to mock about his prayers as well as tell him the truth about the harsh reality. Even more insulting, they pay him as ‘apology’ for killing his brother. After all, the good deeds he believed in from those righteous thieves are not even worth a single cent. With the prosecution accusing Aniki all this, he counters and silences it all by saying he is from one of the zodiac houses. The jobs they take on implicate them in wars and criminal acts. So are they going to judge him by their standard of goodness because what world do they apply in. Back to the game, the fire burns off the arm as Tora throws away her jacket. Ushii takes it and burns off the menace too. This confirms his theory that fire permanently kills the mind controlled part because otherwise, why doesn’t Uuma become Usagi’s zombie? Ushii and Tora will have to put aside their fight for now to take down Otoutou’s remaining corpse and burning it will not be easy.

Episode 9
Sharyuu spots Aniki in the air and throws Otoutou’s head at him. This makes him get distracted as Usagi cuts him in half! Oh well. So much about joining in the fight. This makes it harder for Ushii and Tora as now they have to fight against Otoutou’s head, Otoutou’s limbless body, Aniki’s upper half and Aniki’s lower half. That’s 4 enemies to face for you. But we take a detour to look into Tora’s past. She inherited her family’s dojo through preservation and was greatly respected. Then she got a taste of killing in the battlefield. Like any amateur, she was scared and questioned why humans kill each other. She survives her battles and finds solace in alcohol. It is then she realizes fighting in a drunken state enhances her speed and killing techniques. She likes it. She soon starts spiralling down this path. Although the military praises her, her dojo didn’t like how she has degenerated and expelled her. So more drinking and killing, I guess. Gradually Tora starts regressing to a state where she cannot remember the basics or tell the difference. She continues killing as long as nothing could stop her. Ushii and Tora fight off the corpses of the twins as Ushii hints about Aniki’s liquid nitrogen tank. It took a while for Tora to understand as she grabs and smashes it over the corpses and let them break apart. Then coming out of the hiding is Usagi. For once, he is outnumbered but jumps in to attack. Ushii and Tora do the same and in a single strike, Usagi is cut to pieces. Hey. That’s it?! Too easy?! Ushii and Tora’s alliance ends as they prepare to face off each other.

Episode 10
More flashback on Tora’s past. Walking in her usual drunken state in the midst of the battlefield, soldiers were preparing to ambush her. Suddenly Ushii appears and kills all of them. It seems he has mistaken her for a civilian and the bad people may have purposely intoxicated her with alcohol. Tora then asks how to do the right thing. Ushii obliges to reply her. Long story short, one must have the intent and then do it. In that order. Because if you are still in the former but thinking about the latter, it is the height of foolishness. It made Tora wonder if she has been suffering all this time and alcohol did not take away her pain. Ushii leaves her at the refugee camp. Tora starts thinking how different they are even though they are warriors. However it did not frustrate her. Her meeting with Ushii made her realize she had a goal in life. So she tries to find herself again by retraining and having more discipline. As the world is vast out there and with so many wars going on, she hopes to meet him again in the battlefield if she keeps fighting. Sadly, she did not and when she was about to give up, she heard from her old dojo friend about Juuni Taisen. Believing Ushii would be there, she apologized and begged her master to take her back. He did. When Tora arrived at the tower, she was happy to see Ushii. However he ignored her. So the reason Tora is mad the whole time at him is because he couldn’t remember her?! As they are about to fight, Tora sees Usagi’s arms lunging straight from behind Ushii. Promptly she shoves it away and gets stabbed! Well, time to ponder if she did the right thing. Ushii cuts other Usagi parts to bits (even his intestines are attacking!) but to no avail. Ushii takes Tora and run. He believes Usagi must have killed himself like biting off his own tongue so he could gain control of himself as a zombie. Otherwise, why would he just simply pop up before them without a plan? As Tora’s bleeding gets worse, she has him put her down (after a safe distance). Even she gets the required medical attention, that will take time and she will not be able to fight like before. Hence she is calling off their duel and wants him to do a last favour: Kill her. Bleeding to death means being killed by Usagi and she doesn’t want to be his zombie. Ushii agrees but she will die as a warrior. Ushii still can’t remember her but she isn’t mad anymore and says this is the first time they’re meeting.

Episode 11
Ushii remembers a girl he met on the battlefield but fails to connect her as Tora. He pays his last respects. Ushii then thinks about death as a warrior’s last salvation. Usagi is a necromancer so he cannot understand how he thinks as he goes so far as to kill himself just to win. After all, what good is a wish if you are dead. He thinks of finding some flammable items but looks like Usagi is here. He is a big mash up of other parts. Man, he is now a monster! As they fight and Ushii slashing his body to pieces, suddenly Sharyuu bursts out from inside to pin him down. Ushii laments he didn’t know she had died and had not taken account her. He knows Sharyuu could have killed him but is only holding him down because Usagi has to kill him to make him his zombie army. The only thing left to do is to kill himself but Sharyuu won’t even allow him to do that. Thinking of how many participants left, speaking of Nezumi, now he pops up. It seems he has been searching for Hitsujii’s body to find his bomb. As Usagi’s body needs to regenerate and can’t do anything else, this is the only perfect time. Nezumi credits Tora for killing Hitsujii and thus was able to find his bomb and thus it is not for Ushii’s to claim credit. Ushii agrees to die in the explosion together with Usagi as it would be better than leaving Usagi walking around freely. The explosion goes off after Nezumi goes back into his hiding.

Back in the office, Duodecuple congratulates Nezumi for winning Juuni Taisen. He would like to hold a brief interview but Nezumi refuses and leaves. He is then killed when the elevator drops! But wait. He is still alive back in the office. A premonition? Could he reverse time? It seems Nezumi has died so many times, during the course of the battle and as well as refusing the interview. Out 100 routes, there is only 1 route that allows him to live this far and he has to take the interview. So he tells Duodecuple about his simultaneous 100 strategies and he was lucky that 1 of them allowed him to survive. Doing that ability is exhausting, that’s why he is always tired. This route in which he won was thanks to Sharyuu’s strategy in fact. Before her untimely death, she requested him to kill her if Usagi controlled her. He refused so she told him to get Hitsujii’s bomb as it would be effective against corpses. In the end, he never knew what her ultimate peace plan was. Or it could be just a bluff. This route allows Nezumi to know about the countries betting behind the scenes. As for the other 99 routes he had not won, he wouldn’t know the winner since he died halfway but deduces Usagi would have won most of them. With the interview over, Nezumi is allowed to leave. Once he has thought of his wish, feel free to contact Duodecuple. Nezumi will come up with 100 wishes and then ask him to grant just one.

Episode 12
We see Nezumi leading his boring high school life as he tries to think of that single wish. From as simple as killing all his classmates (don’t worry, they’ll die in 100 years’ time) and flipping up girls’ skirt, he even asks a classmate for advice. She wants everyone to happy with their wish granted. However this means people whom Nezumi hates will also be revived. That would be hell. He thinks back on Sharyuu’s words. Should he revive righteous people? What if they don’t want to come back alive? Is it okay for self-satisfaction since it is his wish? He remembers asking the Juuni Taisen participants of their wish and unlike him, all of them naturally and almost instantly have their answer. Like Hitsujii’s youth and immortality, Niwatori’s self-confidence, Uuma’s talent and Inounoshishi’s harem. Nezumi wonders if he would increase his 100 routes ability to 1000. However this would mean he would experience pain and death 999 times. Each of those felt so real and he wouldn’t want to go through them. Of course others don’t remember of it and only do so in the sense of déjà vu. That’s why sometimes they feel he is so familiar. Nezumi further notes that there are things that cannot be done no matter what. An example he cited a girl he liked at school. No matter what he did to ask her out, she never returned the favour. It stemmed from the fact she liked another guy. Hence it is hellish to go through 1000 options and have all of them fail.

Nezumi further remembers talking to other participants in which they seem different up close than you think they are. Like Dotsuku despite being an assassin works in a preschool. He has an adopted daughter whom he saved from some pervert. He earns money for her and life may not be the best but it’s less crappy than before. Even the twins wanted money but away from each other they believe the other said so only because it’s a game. Heck, even there was a route Nezumi became friends with Usagi whose wish is to have friends all over the world! Then there is Tora whose wish to be reunited with Ushii. She is the only one who got her wish granted. Finally, he remembers asking Ushii for his wish but was asked back about his own wish and purpose of fighting in this competition. Now Nezumi is stressed out thinking the remainders of his 100 wishes. No matter what, it will lead to some ruin. Even Duodecuple suggests a 100 wishes but as you know, no number of wishes will ever satisfy a man. Nezumi has finally decided on a wish. He wants to forget. He doesn’t have any wish he wants granted. Seeing his desperate plea from the bottom of his heart, Duodecuple grants it. Next day as Nezumi goes to school, everyone notices how he doesn’t have a care in the world as usual. But they also notice his satisfied looks like as though he doesn’t need anything. Just his sleep.

Zodiac Killer
Wow. So that is how it ends? Everybody clap your hands! Well, if there are anybody left in the end. Despite the lukewarm ending, I must say that I am still very impressed of the overall series. I was thinking there would be some sort of twist at the end. You know, Duodecuple being the traitor and killing Nezumi! Oh well, if Nezumi is able to see into the future, I am sure he would avoid that path. Heh. A route he might not even see it coming. So a happy ending considered? I suppose. Now, everybody clap your hands again!

Strangely enough, if you know your zodiac order well enough, this show is actually very ‘predictable’. After a while you will notice a pattern. From then on, you can guess whose story will be in focus. Heck, they even die in that same order! Okay, so the snake was the combo breaker but still, everyone perishes according to that order. Some might argue about Usagi but he has already turned into a corpse before his bout with Ushii and Tora. If you count that as alive, then I suppose Sharyuu is also considered ‘alive’ as a zombie, right? Therefore I still consider Usagi as dead in that particular zodiac order. Some episodes might troll you on this in the sense that there are no deaths. But a few episodes later, multiple deaths! In that order too.

What I find more fascinating than the fights is the background stories of the characters. The way they weave each of the participants’ stories into the story makes it an engrossing and interesting watch. Though those expecting an all-out violent affair from start to finish or some sort of super exaggerated drag-out fight like in the Dragonball universe would be sorely disappointed. Thinking about it, had the series been made that way, I don’t think it would have been as interesting as this story driven style. Therefore with the story played out in this fashion, we get to see insights and the past and history of the characters involved. Why they are participating in this edition of the tournament and how that came to be.

But not all of the characters get this sort of treatment. Because certainly we didn’t have any background story on Usagi. I was wondering why they showed Tora’s back story an episode early when it was supposed to be meant for Usagi. It would have been really interesting to see what sort of twisted history Usagi and his family house has. How the heck did someone like him get to participate in this edition of Juuni Taisen. Did he kill off everyone in his house? As creepy as it may sound, it would also have been interesting to have seen a bit of this rabbit’s past. Ushii also felt like he didn’t get this sort of in depth character treatment as his past is mainly tied to Tora’s. It would have also been interesting to note the kind of wars he has fought, the battlefields he has been through in order to earn the Genius of Slaughter nickname.

As for Nezumi, now that he has won the tournament and his wish is to forget, I keep wondering which house he was representing. Because it is said those shadowy figures use this game as a betting system to see who controls the world next. So do peace reign now that Nezumi has won, assuming he doesn’t come from any house? I’m sure this isn’t the only proxy war to decide on everything because you know men, they’ll have other sneakier ways to go about. The weirdest part was Nezumi having no wish at all. So how did he get to participate and represent the house of rat (whoever they are) in this edition? It makes you wonder what he was actually fighting for. Why did he get involved in Juuni Taisen in the first place if he has none. With so many wishes and the thoughts of having endless dream is wonderful and yet frightening. Sometimes the wish that we want most is just the simplest and right before our eyes, under our very nose. So sleep on, Nezumi. At least he can sleep easy nights from now on. He is after all the winner of the tournament and gets to live.

I need to mention about the ‘disappointment’ of some of the fights. Although as I have said that they are not the main focus of this series, this little bit also helps in making the series more interesting. After all, this is partly why we are watching this show, right? Even though I do not expect the fights to drag out very long, I can’t help feel that some of them were just too short. The case of Usagi’s fight with Ushii and Tora. I believe that is the most anticipated fight of the series. The best killers among the participants going all out against each other. And that didn’t even last a second! I was really shocked when it ended so fast. Of course I didn’t expect it to last for half an episode. Maybe like 20 seconds the least. You know, how Sharyuu fought with Usagi. About that length. Well, in place of that, it did give Tora more story time.

Other disappointing ones including Uuma. We only get to see snippets of his clash with Ushii. By the time it is his turn to take centre stage, he had already turned into a coward and died without fighting! Also, Aniki didn’t even get to join in the fight as I anticipated because he got instantly killed the moment he thinks of descending into battle! Many of the others too felt this short (Niwatori crushing Dotsuku, Ushii slicing Niwatori, Tora slashing Hitsujii) but it didn’t feel as disappointing as the anticipated ones. Maybe it is just me. Also, sometimes I feel that with Otoutou already dead in the beginning, I sometimes felt that we have been ‘short-changed’. I mean, there is one less warrior on the battlefield already before the start. Of course it is part of the story but I guess personally the charm of a battle royale is that the more participants there are, the more potentials there are for killings. With a limited participation field of 12 warriors and narrowed down by 1 before the tournament’s commencement, this should be an indication that this series is going to be more story driven than action to account for its 24 minutes running time per episode. Heck, even if they triple the amount of participants and guarantee a few deaths per episode, I think it would have just diluted the worthiness of the series. Just take a look at Ousama Game The Animation… Despite the lacklustre fights, I just cannot bring myself to feel let down for the overall series.

Let me comment on the character designs. Based on my stereotypes of the animals, some of them come as a surprise. Like Inounoshishi whom I was expecting to be a fat ugly male. Well, a brutally cold hearted woman isn’t all too bad either. I also thought Tora would be some ferocious male but looks like we need some sort of fanservice in the form of tiger girl. I was hoping the dragon would be looking like something majestic and one of the powerful favourites. Instead, Aniki looks like some wuss pussy just like his younger twin. Oddly for Uuma, his muscular body size would have been very much suitable for the ox because if you compare him with Ushii who is quite slender, you would think in a physical match of raw and brute strength, Uuma would have easily won. The most WTF look is Niwatori. Her outfit is just outrageous. She looks like a lost samba party queen. And what the heck is with her holding a pitchfork as a weapon?! Was she part of some angry mob somewhere?

The rest are quite fitting to what they are like Ushii’s matador style outfit and Hitsujii being an old goat is being beardy and all. The creepiest goes to Usagi who looks like your worst sweet dream nightmare that you wake up from. I think he is inspired by Playboy. His outfit is ‘sexy’ enough for some girls to sexually fantasize over and would want to call to their birthday parties as a male stripper. If you can live with staring at his creepy eyes and risk not becoming part of his zombie party in the end.

If you think about it, many of the characters’ personalities and traits do take after the animal they represent. For example if you keep thinking how strange it is for a rabbit to be a necromancer and resurrect the dead, it is actually more to the fact that rabbits multiply in numbers easily. Hence with Usagi racking up his undead army is somewhat a reference to this. Nezumi’s ability to simultaneously see himself in every possible futures, hence he is here, there and everywhere could very well mean the ubiquity of rats to be everywhere. You kill one, there are still more of them somewhere. And is a monkey supposed to be wise? Well, I am thinking more on the lines of foolishness. Sharyuu believes her universal peace plan would work out but in the end, look what good it did to her. Even her ‘proven’ track record of solving conflicts had some sort of foolishness in it or in the aftermath.

If you are confused why chickens are psychotically scary and not cowards, those who have never tried to catch a chicken before will not know how scary it is!!! True, I have not tried catching a chicken myself but watching some videos online and hearing old people from backwater villages, chickens are one of those animals to be feared! Speaking of cowards, are horses cowards? Well, it isn’t the fact that Uuma as a horse is a scaredy-cat (scaredy-horse?), but taking literally a horse’s ability to ‘run’. Oh… See how ‘fast’ Uuma has ‘run’ from the tournament. Do dogs have poisonous bites? If they are infected by rabies. Do snakes and dragons breathe fire and ice respectively? Maybe a snake’s venom feels like you are burning on fire. And maybe this is an ice dragon… Pigs are known symbolically as greed. Inounoshishi perfectly represents that in her character.

Before every warrior faces off with each other, they will state their way of killing as their warrior code and etiquette. For instance’s, Niwatori’s killing by pecking, Dotsuku’s killing by biting and the twins’ killing for money. Some of them are really just WTF. Especially Sharyuu’s killing peacefully. WTF?! How the hell can you kill peacefully???!!! Some monkey’s logic. Another one is Uuma’s killing silently. Huh?! Is he supposed to be some sort of stealthy ninja? Not that I can see from his body size. Usagi’s killing psychotically and Hitsujii’s killing deceptively are very much staying true to their characters’ personality. Ushii’s killing systematically may sound ridiculous too but if you think about it, bulls and oxen plough the fields systematically so in this sense it sounds less silly but still bizarre in a general sense (though, literally speaking Ushii’s tagline only means ‘just killing’). Nezumi’s killing all is fitting if you consider rats are responsible for that bubonic plague AKA The Black Death.

A few recognizable seiyuus lending their voice here include Saori Hayami as Sharyuu, Cho as Hitsujii, Youko Hikasa as Inounoshishi, Ayane Sakura as Niwatori, Hiroki Yasumoto as Duodecuple and Nobuhiko Okamoto as Usagi which almost reminds me as that psychotic Accelerator in To Aru Majutsu No Index. The other casts are Shun Horie as Nezumi (Koshiyama in Nana Maru San Batsu), Yuichiro Umehara as Ushii (En in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love), Hiromi Igarashi as Tora (Symonne in Tales Of Zestiria The X), Takuya Eguchi as Aniki (Kon in Ixion Saga DT), Kousuke Toriumi as Otoutou (Chopin in ClassicaLoid), Hikaru Midorikawa as Uuma (Rukawa in Slam Dunk) and Tomohiro Nishimura as Dotsuku (Amano Jaku in Urotsukidouji series). Rapture by Panorama Panama Town is a fitting opening theme to the series with its slow rock style while Keshin No Kemono by Do As Infinity has a faster rock beat serves as the ending theme.

Overall, this is one of the better and interesting series of the season. Despite the short and uninspiring fights as well as its ‘predictability’, it makes up for it with its interesting character backgrounds and stories. It is well delivered that it overrides the action scenes and you would rather give thought to the stories instead of the fights. I’m never a person to read on horoscopes and this series didn’t even make me want to find out about my yearly luck. I do read, but just for fun and forgotten as soon as I finished. Maybe that’s why my life is generally a streak of bad luck… Now that we already have a death match for eastern zodiacs, when are the western zodiacs going to have their turn at each other? If that really happens, then I’ll prepare to clap my hands.