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"The Sacred Blacksmith": Forging a Sharp Series

by on March 11, 2011

In an age of swords and sorcery, a young girl has taken up her father’s blade to defend the town that she loves. When that blade is shattered, she must forge a team with a new one. Her newest partner is a Demon Sword, a wind-enhanced slicer that can turn into a human ally. Wanting a katana to go with her skirted scabbard, she seeks out a man who can create a katana that can cast out the evil of the world. She seeks out the Sacred Blacksmith.

The Sacred Blacksmith is a 12-episode series from late 2009 based on a light-novel series. Unquestionably, it echoes Fullmetal Alchemist‘s melding of a swords-and-sorcery world with some crazy monsters, rival warring factions, and modern-enough clothing and concepts. Roughly composed of three arcs, the series goes from the lead character meeting and learning of the world of the titular character, meeting refugees from a rival state, and defending their city form the rival state. Sure, it’s effectively four episodes per arc, minus side stories and padded moments, but it moves at a brisk pace, definitely feeling like a pretty tight miniseries with a decided opening/middle/climax that knows when to decompress and when to focus on the goal.

While the series plays in a field that too many series currently also occupy (European-style swordplay and warfare seems to be Japan’s version of America’s current obsession with zombies, vampires, and werewolves [oh my!]), at its core, it’s not too much different from the common adventure series, despite the fact there’s no real quest for the heroes to go on. In fact, their focus on the Independent Trade Cities becomes a vital plot point, and the politics surrounding it in this fictional world become policies of debate. There’s no goofy adventure of a rag-tag team of stereotypes wandering the world looking not at local laws; this is loose affiliation of civilians and soldiers working with or around the concrete parameters of the law. This grounded and focused nature is a nice contrast, which is only brought down by some tropes that do get brought up, such as the “overly violent female” and the “cute little helper girl”.

The show does hit that awkward target point of “there’s a fair amount of nudity, but not all feels right.” Sure, jokes about the lead character’s well-endowed nature are almost standard and expected in a series like this, and when you invariably get to see such weaponry, nothing feels weird because, hey, she’s probably around 20 or so. When all the tweens get in the pool though, you wonder what this has to do with a series about slaying evil. It’s just the disconnect that takes the series from “reasonable levels of awkward-but-funny moments” to “okay, this is straight-out pandering fanservice.” Almost humorously, we never see the sword girl get unsheathed, despite the fact she’s the only real female in the cast that we know is a few decades old (but doesn’t look more than two of them).

Almost balancing the skeeviness are a few real emotional moments. There are some hard decisions in this series, and there are some sad back stories for some of the characters. At the end of it, each character either has their scars shown or foibles faced, and some are not unsettling, but saddening. Of course a show sharpened on swords and sorcery has a few good battles, but the heart is up to the hilt. As a fan of Luna’s art, I’d say the series is well-animated and keeps the static and pin-up style and animates it as well as can be expected. Voice acting is appropriate, and so is music, but the notable traits of the design artist stay as one of the few sharp points in an industry that tends to dull to a general blandness if not polished every once in a while by series that dare to take a different stylistic approach. Luna’s designs aren’t completely groundbreaking, but refuse to fall into some tropes that most other animation studios would have defaulted to. That’s not to say the series is free of generic faceplants and stock footage, but all the other stuff has its distinguishing marks. It’s all in a smile.

The Sacred Blacksmith is a part of FUNimation’s new initiative to bring back hard boxes for collections. This is a great style choice that makes the product seem to have more value … or so we assume. Our screener copy is disc-only, so we can’t comment, but unless there are some major errors, we’re going to chalk this up as a probably good thing. For some reason, the “next episode” previews are cast off to the extras section, and don’t run between episodes. This honestly feels like a cheap trick to make the extras section seem as if it really carries more than just textless openings and endings, and they seem somewhat pointless when marathoned back to back instead of between episodes.

The Sacred Blacksmith most likely won’t attract many people and will instead fade into shelf shade, but it’s sharper than that. It’s a series that has its flaws, for sure, but it is a nice breath into the genre, and knows when emotions are better to strike than armor. A pleasant surprise such as this needs at least one viewing.

Plus, it has boobs that tend to take precedence over the armor defending them.

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