Sakugan

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    Episodes: 12 Original airing dates: 7th October 2021 – 23th December 2021
    Studio: Satelight Genre: Sci-fi/adventure
    Recommended audience: People who like adventure stories and like strong headed lolis
    Trailer: https://youtu.be/YBZCuDWjA9A​

    Background/synopsis:

    Sakugan sometimes known as Sacks&Guns is a sci-fi/adventure Anime that was released in the autumn 2021 season. The story of Sakugan takes place in a world where everyone lives in an underground labyrinth which holds various colonies. In one of these colonies lies a girl named Memempu who yearns to leave her colony after dreaming of a fantastic land that was not bound by bedrock. Knowing the dangers that await people leaving the colony her father; Gagumber goes against his better judgement to join Memempu in her adventures in order to protect her from the various perils that surround this world.

    Story/characters:

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    The opening for this series throws quite a lot at the viewer as it sets its stall in establishing its premise not to mention showcasing action and some dramatic moments right at the end. It is solid but there are some concerns as some of the CGI used is of questionable quality. The second episode also follows with more action set-pieces but again the weak CGI is there for all to see. It actually made me a little apprehensive going further but if you have fears of this CGI animation stifling your enjoyment, I can gladly say that this fear is largely unfounded as the computerised imagery is toned way more after the first two episodes.

    The next segment after these episodes is what I consider the weakest part of the Anime as while the show wants to highlight the sense of adventure that this world offers, the lack of an overall narrative really does hurt the enjoyability of this show. It can be a slog especially if you are not keen on the character of Memempu but if you persist then you will be rewarded.

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    This is because Sakugan is largely an Anime of two halves as the first half is largely episodic with no real discernible plotline. It is the main weakness of the show and will likely cause a lot of viewers to check out which is unfortunate considering the second half was far better when the story finally gets going. For example, we get some further character Drama with the often-turbulent relationship between Gagumber and Memempu. It is not just Drama though as scattered across all these episodes are plenty of decent battle sequences.

    For all the strength these arcs possess there is one issue and this comes from how the proceeding arc begins. The transitions between arcs are clumsy as the shift is both jarring and the reactions from the characters misplaced. It is not a showstopper but it is enough that it can draw you out of your immersion. Still due to the quality of what happens next it is a flaw that was easy to overlook due to the strength of the escalating tensions both in the Drama and story narrative.

    Naturally this Drama and action all reach a climax in the season finale were many of the earlier plot points are pieced together and we get the most emotionally charged scenes of the series. It was a good send off for Sakugan although I will say it still left a lot of things hanging by opening itself up for a sequel. That could be a reason to drop for some but there was enough closure in this one that it left me both satisfied and added to my overall enjoyment. Like most things in Sakugan it is a good point but with a caveat attached.

    Speaking of caveats one of the potential pitfalls I see will come from the characterisation of the main characters particularly Memempu. The girl, while intelligent is very headstrong, stubborn and is prone to rage and impulsive actions. Like a lot of kids, she is slow on the uptake on interpersonal issues and she will have you wincing with the stuff she says to her father. Not everyone is going to like it especially when you consider her reactions after some major arcs. To me, I felt it was decent way of conveying the difficulties of a child particularly a teenager but it is a point worth mentioning. People can find her irritating if you are inclined that way.

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    Gagumber is not without his problem either as there were moments of frustration I had with him who seemed, at times to be prone for moments of madness not to mention being given the idiot ball for no good reason but to add Drama. In fairness several characters do pick up on these traits but still, it makes for difficult viewing. As for the secondary cast, they are all pretty decent and they do their jobs well enough but are not particularly noteworthy save for one who does play a major part in one plot point.

    Animation/music:

    The standard of animation in Sakugan is decent but there are several scenes littered throughout when the quality does take a noticeable dip. Moreover, the CGI sequences are glaring and poorly integrated to the main animation making it a bit of an eyesore. Things do improve in this front as the CGI is deployed less frequently after the second episode and what CGI we do get is integrated in a more effective manner.

    The biggest strength Sakugan has though is the animation sequences with both the opening AND ending sequences which I felt was fantastic. Often, I skip over these scenes after watching them a couple of times but because of its quality I couldn’t get enough of it! It’s not just the great animation but also the accompanying music which was both catchy and enjoyable. These OP/ED could perhaps be the best this season has to offer! The opening song is "Koukotsu Labyrinth" by Masaaki Endoh while the ending track is "Shine " by MindaRyn.

    Sakugan Opening - Koukotsu Labyrinth by Masaaki Endoh

    Sakugan Ending - Shine by MindaRyn

    Summary:

    The big problem plaguing Sakugan is that of pacing. It takes quite some time for this show to get going but once you get to the half way point Sakugan really ups its Game. If there is one main weakness in this second half it would be the transitions between the arcs which was executed in a rather clumsy fashion on account of the character reactions. Still the amount of character Drama, action and good storytelling with good use of foreshadowing means this weakness is easy to overlook.

    The other point of contention will come from the character of Memempu who does have an abrasive/arrogant personality that can rub people the wrong way. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but she is not a simple tsundere archetype meaning she is a somewhat original personality and is therefore more engaging. A degree of patience is needed but she does grow and has a greater understanding over her feelings that she has trouble containing/expressing.

    If you like shows with character Drama then Sakugan will be for you as there is plenty of that going around. The fact this Drama centres on a father and daughter combination means the character dynamic is somewhat unique especially if you consider the world background. Outside of the mains there is joy to be had with the environments as each colony is different and has its own character keeping things fresh. In the end this a good series that was hampered with a few flaws; if it was not for those shortcomings this would be a series I would recommend.

    Story 7 – Chief problems are the pacing issues and the way this series moves from one arc to the next. On the positive side the opener is a banger of an episode and if you can manage to reach the second half of Sakugan then things really do pick up. The ending is also good and emotionally charged but caution should be exercised on account the ending begs a sequel. Despite this opening ending you are left satisfied and not frustrated.

    Characters 7 – Memempu could be a little too hot to handle! She is a handful and can turn off viewers. However, the character dynamic between Memempu and her father is novel enough to keep people interested. There are ups and downs with this tumultuous relationship so prepare to be given the run around! It doesn’t end there as a secondary character also steps in to create further Drama. If you like character Drama then Sakugan has it in spades!

    Animation/music 7.5 – The standard for the series on a whole is probably closer to a six with numerous scenes suffering from a deterioration in quality. It is the great opening and ending sequences that elevates this score as not only is the animation great but the music was also stellar as the tracks are worth listening to repeatedly!

    Overall 7 – A potential recommendation that fell short because of flaws in its storytelling. Outside the opener the first half of Sakugan is a bit of a slog but things do improve noticeably after that point. If you like adventure series sprinkled with a heavy dose of character Drama then this is one to recommend. This counts double if you like Memempu due to her spirited nature which could be a potential pain point for some.

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    Want to do a bit of digging? Then you can dig pretty deep on the Sakugan gallery as there are numerous layers to this world!
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