The "Sands of Destruction" Cover Little New Ground, But Still Entertain
Sands of Destruction provides an interesting counterpoint to the countless typical action/adventure series out there. This one isn’t about a bunch of altruistic characters trying to save the world; it’s about a group that is trying to destroy it.
It’s set in a world where beastmen and humans co-exist, but where the humans are effectively second-class citizens. One such human is master chef Kyrie Ilnis, a young man masquerading as a beastman so he can work in a lucrative beast cafe. Any plans Kyrie has of earning a pretty profit are quickly dashed, however, with the arrival at the café of Morte Urshela, a member (in fact, the only member) of the World Destruction Committee. In the resulting melee, Kyrie’s cover as a human is blown, and he and Morte both escape from the forces of the World Salvation Committee. Once safe, Morte confirms to Kyrie that she is indeed out to destroy the world with the aid of a device known as the Destruct Code. Morte has her own personal stake in this task beyond simply ridding the world of disparity between beastmen and humans, but this is not revealed until later in the series.
After subsequently getting entangled in a beastman plot to sacrifice an innocent girl to placate a monster, Kyrie and Morte encounter the heroic one-eyed dwarf bear Toppy Topran, who gallantly steps in to save the latest sacrificial offering, only to discover that it is Kyrie in drag, the girl having already escaped her fate. With Toppy forced through guilt by association into joining the unlikely group of would-be world destroyers, the World Destruction Committee makes their way across their world, ostensibly to enact Morte’s plans. However, thanks to Kyrie and Toppy’s influence, they end up actually aiding many of the individuals they come across on their apparently apocalyptic mission.
Even though Sands of Destruction starts off with a fairly familiar premise of a world where beastmen rule and humans are subjugated, there is more than enough here to keep one’s attention throughout the show. The most obvious aspect unique to the series is that Morte genuinely wishes to destroy the world, which makes for an interesting take on a main character. She is by turns impulsive and aggressive, yet she is also clearly not an inherently evil character, even though she truly feels that the only way to end her world’s inequality between beastmen and humans is by destroying it. What we have here is an attempt at making a fanatic into a relatable character, which did admittedly make me a little uncomfortable at first.
Fortunately, Morte’s doom-laden vision of the world is tempered once she gains two new companions, one of them more-or-less a physical coward, and the other essentially a heroic teddy bear. Kyrie is somewhat marginalized for the majority of the series, since he sees little direct action, but by the finale his importance to the series is clear. Toppy is probably the most engaging of the three main characters, in part due to his self-styled positioning as a great hero, but mostly because he’s a tough dwarf bear that looks just like a living teddy. If that can’t make a character automatically endearing then nothing can.
With Morte, Kyrie, and Toppy technically making up the World Destruction Committee, it naturally follows that there is a World Salvation Committee to counter their efforts. The World Salvation Committee’s main field agents are the cool and calculating Nadja Gurefu and the far rasher, half-dragon Gothic Lolita-styled Lia Dragonell. While these two are technically our main characters’ foes, that they are officially charged with saving the world means that there are basically two sets of (mostly) heroic protagonists, with the true villain of the series only revealed towards the end.
While hardly totally original Sands of Destruction, is essentially a fun and unpretentious fantasy with many enjoyable though fairly unsophisticated characters. Fortunately, they are never completely vacuous, and towards the end of the series we can see that the series’ cast has a deeper history than is readily apparent in the beginning, making for a slightly more satisfying final episode.
Content-wise, other than the occasional character death (more often than not bad guys), there’s nothing here that I can’t imagine anyone being even mildly offended by.
Audio-visual presentation is much the same as other recent releases from Funimation. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen, which shows off Production I.G.’s decent animation, and it also boasts clear English and Japanese audio tracks. Speaking of which, both sets of actors give good performances, particularly Robert McCollum and Tohru Furuya (Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Amuro Ray), who play Toppy on their respective tracks, and who both have to end most of their sentences with “Kuma” (Japanese word for “bear”). Also worth noting, since I don’t often pay too much attention to them on other series, are the opening credits, which couple an impressively energetic song along with some visuals which do a fairly good job at summarizing the series.
There are not only the usual creditless opening and ending sequences among the extras, but also some Japanese-only in-character interviews with some of the main characters, made under the pretext that they “filmed” the series as a fictional show. These segments are all composed of extremely limited animation, but are worth at least one look. While some of the humor here is admittedly a little lost in translation, most of these segments are mildly amusing and make for an interesting complement to the series.
As a straightforward action/adventure series, Sands delivers some nice varied scenery and endearing characters, and at a mere 13 episodes never outstands its welcome. Not entirely deep, not entirely shallow, Sands of Destruction is a pretty decent, if not necessarily outstanding, series to simply sit back, watch, and enjoy.