The Sacred Blacksmith (Seiken no Blacksmith)
A long time ago in a forum thread not so far away, I submitted a piece for the JustDubs Review of the Month contest, a competition whose winner was curiously never decided. Undeterred however, I felt my review was somewhat rushed anyway and there was definitely room for improvement and expansion. Thus, many months of procrastination later I finally mustered up the motivation to rewrite it... while on a road trip when I had nothing better to do and was cut off from all outside communication.
It's amazing what boredom can make you accomplish. So now after this needlessly long and rambling introduction, I present to you my revised and sexier Sacred Blacksmith Review.
The Sacred Blacksmith
Genres: Fantasy, Action, Comedy, Romance
4 out of 5
Guard, Save, Believe. These are the words etched into the stone of Chester Cambell's grave. After he passed away from a serious illness, his daughter and only child Cecily was left with the responsibility of becoming head of the Cambell House, which has long been a prestigious representative of the Independent Trade Cities of Housman. Having now succeeded her father, Cecily enlisted as a third generation knight to uphold the tradition and respect of the family name. However, she is inexperienced and clumsy, and often has to rely on intimidation using her title as a knight to hide her weaknesses. Eventually, this strategy ran out of luck, and when her combat skills finally had to be put to the test, Cecily was defeated and her family's precious sword shattered. Now she must seek out the blacksmith Luke Ainsworth to forge her a new sword, which consequently thrusts her into an unexpected chain of events that threatens her life and involves her in a dangerous plot. Between this and the fact that no one can take her seriously because of her huge breasts, it's needless to say that Cecily has plenty of stress on her hands.
Yes, you'll find that there's no shortage of fanservice here. In fact, it's pretty much the running gag of the entire series that everyone pokes fun at Cecily's chest. This is further explored by convenient costume malfunctions and shameless bathing scenes. Thankfully all the pandering is at least tasteful enough that it never interrupts the flow of the story. The writing carries enough wit to know when sexual humor is appropriate.
At a glance, much of Sacred Blacksmith's story is standard procedure for an average fantasy anime. It has all the elements one would expect; knights, magic, demon swords, and giant mythical creatures are abundant. It even comes complete with an angsty tsundere romance. Where the series falls short in originality, it makes up for this in its near-flawless execution. All of the main characters are rich with distinct personalities and deep backstories that are revealed steadily as the plot unfolds. The story progression also strikes a perfect balance between comedy, drama, and action; constantly keeping the viewer engaged with these three elements while the pacing never stutters or moves too quickly. Even episodes that could potentially be considered filler don't really feel like it, as they serve up plenty of character development to excuse them. Although at its core the plot is fairly familiar and straightforward, Sacred Blacksmith is not without some of its own twists on the genre either. It mixes a strangely light-hearted tone to the story with very dark and mature medieval themes, and while demon swords may sound conventional for the setting, their ability to transform into rather unassuming humans with more nuanced intentions is quite unconventional. Though it may seem like this odd mixture wouldn't blend well at first, the series somehow manages to make it all mesh together nicely.
It's worth noting that Sacred Blacksmith's narrative is heavily character-centric to such a degree that traditional fantasy tropes one would expect to see in its setting are often absent or take a back seat to character development. This may be off-putting for some coming into it expecting to see a Tolkien-esque expansive epic, which is unfortunate because the series does otherwise tell a very good story for what it is, but it often gets a bad wrap from critics who may be judging it based on something that it is not. Sacred Blacksmith takes its time to flesh out its characters and doesn't invest much in the adventurous side of fantasy or exploring its world. Although it's clear that there is still a rich history behind it from the brief glimpses we are occasionally given, but nonetheless this is not the story's focus.
The series' character-driven plot does often work to its advantage though, because where Sacred Blacksmith truly shines is in its ability to masterfully craft a cast of characters whose interactions make them instantly likable and constantly engrossing; never leaving the audience with a dull moment. Cecily's unwavering dedication to helping others is interesting to see being put to the test as her inability to defend others frequently conflicts with her convictions. Aria's mysterious past as the demon sword of wind hides behind the veil of her lovable friendliness, making you eager to find out more about her history and motivations. Even the most seemingly loathsome characters can become hard not to sympathize with as more of their histories and backgrounds are uncovered. It is commonplace that conflicts arise between them purely because of of how sharply contrasting and vibrant their personalities are. Luke's cold and dismissive attitude perpetually clashes with Cecily's stubborn determination, which makes for some particularly entertaining dialogue. The script is often written rather heavy-handed, but it helps establish the strong characterizations of the protagonists. Still, Cecily's melodramatic monologues can occasionally overstay their welcome.
The production values of Sacred Blacksmith's art and animation are nothing short of superb as well. Character designs are thoroughly detailed depicting even the subtleties of Luke's fake eye, and animation is consistently smooth and fluid. Couple this with its epic orchestral soundtrack and solid voice acting that fits the characters and effectively brings them to life, Sacred Blacksmith satisfies in nearly every aspect of its design. All of this is accompanied with quality intro and ending segments set to some J-pop tunes. The ending in particular has a rather catchy and cute arrangement, which is further enhanced by the associated artwork with it that really shows off the impressive designs of the characters. In fact, it's possibly my personal favorite ending piece just because it's so adorable and the music and visuals play off each other so well. The intro on the other hand has a decidedly more standard song choice that isn't quite as interesting, but it more than makes up for this with a good mixture of action scenes and beautiful perspective shots of the characters. Sufficed to say, this is one of those rare cases where I found myself watching both the intro and ending for every episode because they were simply that enjoyable.
With everything right that Sacred Blacksmith has going for it however, it's difficult to take notice of any of its major flaws--until it ends. Just as soon as it feels like the journey is only beginning, it is abruptly cut off. This unfortunately is Sacred Blacksmith's greatest shortcoming. By the time the series come to its conclusion, many major plotlines and ambiguities in the story have yet to be fully fleshed out. It's clear judging by the finale that there was still much more of the story to tell, but for one reason or another there appears to be no sequel coming in the foreseeable future. As of the writing of this review, you will need to consult the manga that the series is based on if you wish to delve deeper into its story. Despite this, it's not enough to break Sacred Blacksmith's strong momentum from start to finish. Even with these problems, the anime still manages to deliver as satisfying a resolution as can be reasonably expected while leaving the plot open for continuation. With its colorful cast of characters, high production values, and engaging narrative that has its own twists on the genre, Sacred Blacksmith is sure to entertain many fans of fantasy anime.
+ High production values
+ Lots of character development
+ Good pacing
+ Awesome orchestral soundtrack
+ Quality voice acting
- Abrupt and incomplete ending
- Hamfisted dialogue