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First: I'm not an anime fan! I saw these series by a pure accident, simply because there was nothing else to watch on TV. Is it a masterpiece? Nah-h...I hate this word. Is it perfect? Again, by no means.
Is it wonderful in spite all it's flaws? Well, here my personal answer is a resounding YE-E-E-E-E-ES! This is not to everyone's taste, mind you.
It takes 45 episodes, 25 minutes each, of a true journey, this means the pace might be a bit slow for some. The show is overloaded with details and strange terms, which also may turn off many viewers. The animation, while very beautiful, is a bit lacking in movement department. You can see that for some seconds the picture stays still with only characters's mouth moving and many body movements are awkward and unintentionally ridiculous.
The story is, actually, just a fairy tale, which may turn off another part of the public and as for the anime/fantasy fans - the story sounds a bit too familiar and banal.
A young girl in modern Japan, Youko, suddenly finds out she actually belongs to another mysterious world, very reminiscent of ancient China, and some weird stranger takes her there, against her wish, apparently, to find her destiny. Which, of course, must be something special, because, why else this stranger named Keiki who commands some ferocious beasts, kneels before her and declares her to be his master? Yes, you've heard it hundreds times before and, definitely, will hear it another gazillion times - an ordinary man/woman finds out he's the chosen one who can save the world or whatever...bla-bla-bla...Matrix? Star wars? Lord of the Rings? Millions other versions?
Well, it's all the same all over again, i thought.Well, yes and no.
The "chosen one" here is a an insecure (and not in particularly sympathetic way)ordinary teenage-girl. She's a mumbling conformist of a worst kind, the one who's desperate to please everyone and ultimately fails on every level. Seemingly popular and "accepted" among her school friends, she's actually despised and used by everyone as a convenient mean to patch every uncomfortable hole. Youko will swallow every insult, hidden or open, will berry her head under the sand even before her parents, will do everything just to remain "a good girl" in the eyes of the others.
I won't tell you how exactly the things will flow from here on, and, yes, you can guess the general direction, but words can't describe the overall beauty of the wonderful, unpredictable (yes, i MEAN it) and very complicated storyline and fully realistic, flawed and human characters, which develop all along the series, coming a full circle of growth along with the viewer...
There's no triumphant endings, cheering crowds, big battles and sieges for 20 minutes each (well, there are some, but it's a relatively small part of the story). The ending is quiet and the whole feeling of the conclusion is very poignant, bitter-sweet and genuinely touching and rewarding.
It's about how life isn't a simple thing and its lessons are harsh and not always clear. And it's only your own responsibility which way to choose. While trying to please people you may take an easier path to became a "good" person in other's eyes, but there are things and principles that are worth fighting for, even when the closest to you don't share your opinion.
It's about the totally different world, which, at the end, appears to be not that different as it seemed. This is a movie about growing up and becoming a wholesome human being, who's ready to take upon himself not only the rights of grown-up life, but also a heavy load of the responsibilities that come with it and painful sacrifices.
Thanks to everyone involved in the production. Even without completing the whole 68 episodes as was planned, it's still a rare gem truly worth your time and money.
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