Bungō and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement (文豪とアルケミスト ～審判ノ歯車～) is the historical fantasy anime adaptation of the browser-turned-mobile game of the same name, and it’s being produced by studio OLM with direction from Toshinori Watanabe. When I saw notifications for this go live on AniList by fellow users, there was one distinct word that caught my attention immediately: bungō. One of the reasons that I loved Bungō Stray Dogs is because it’s all about authors and this series is no exception, granted the premise is quite a bit different. Japanese authors and literature are my ultimate fucking drug. I can’t resist ‘em. As such, on the watchlist it went.
Bungō and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement starts off in what appears to be Ancient Greece and follows this red-headed dude named Melos who wants to murder the king because he’s an ass of a tyrant. Unfortunately, he gets caught almost immediately. His buddy takes his place so Melos can say good-bye to his sister before receiving punishment. Along the way, Melos runs into a random—yet dashingly handsome—unnamed man that gives him a tiny bit of assistance on their journey. The story then unfolds henceforth.
I’m not going to lie. As far as pilots go, this one was a mess. There’s a bit of confusion when the episode begins due to the flashbacks that occur. This non-linear progression of events can create some befuddlement and prevents the watcher from connecting to the characters or their plight. It felt more random than cohesive. Even so, an explanation of what the hell is going on is provided in the second half, and that helps to smooth out some of the more frustrating wrinkles.
For an introduction to a new series, Bungō and Alchemist is one of the crappier ones I’ve encountered. Nevertheless, there were some elements that helped prevent it from feeling like a waste of time. The main one relates to modern Japanese authors of the past (such as Osamu Dazai). The nuances of these authors, such as the mentioning of Dazai’s addiction problem, as well as references to their works—obvious and subtle—kept me entertained and intrigued enough from beginning to end. There are plenty of little details that will be familiar to folx familiar with Dazai’s works, for example (since the pilot focuses on him mostly), and it gave me strong vibes akin to my watching of Rampo Kitan. The series will probably cater to these authors’ fans just like Kitan did, which makes me kind of excited.
The humour isn’t blatant or bland or cringingly obvious—something I appreciate in comedies—but rather on the dryer side, and the rendition of famous authors as lovely bishōnen boys makes it aesthetically fun. The action sequences have engaging fluidity to them, however, they also aren’t going to be masterful feats of animation. There is nothing awkward or clumsy about the fight scenes and little use of disjointed 3D mechanics. It’s normal, decent animation that doesn’t take away from the watching experience. (There are also magical-girl type, authors-going-super Saiyan scenes that are a bit hilarious.)
The gist of the plot, which is revealed towards the last one-third to one-fourth of the pilot, revolves around authors that are phantasms of their original selves, who are brought together to help protect literature from disappearing from the world, in a nutshell. It’s a bit ridiculous and can be somewhat convoluted given how the first segment unfolded. I can see this being a huge turn-off for many watchers. Personally, I think it’ll be a cheesy ride of fun; definitely nothing to take seriously that’s for sure.
All in all, I don’t have grand hopes of Bungō and Alchemist: Gears of Judgement becoming the next masterful work of perfection. Nevertheless, I do see it as being a goofy romp with a literary twist and I’m rather looking forward to it. I would recommend this anime to people who don’t mind a show that can be somewhat of a hot mess but is also about mindless kick-backs. If you’re in the market for something more intellectually stimulating or artistically original, then you may want to pass on it.