Anime Review: Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~


Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is the story of a young woman, Cardia Beckford, who is left alone in a mansion by her father. He tells her she cannot leave and that she must never know love because she is a monster. Her touch is a corrosive poison that melts anything she comes into contact with save the specially designed sheets and clothing her father crafted for her. One day, her father is supposed to come back for her, but before that happens, Queen Victoria’s soldiers arrive to take her away.

She’s stolen from them by none other than master thief Arsène Lupin, who brings her into his gang of friends who are hunting for Cardia’s father, legendary scientist Isaac Beckford. Cardia decides to join them rather than go back to the mansion, so she can learn more about herself, the strange gem embedded in her body in place of a heart, and to find her father.

Code:Realize is set in an alternate Victorian England, powered by steam-driven technology, and Lupin’s group is composed of literary figures who supposedly lived in that time period. So Cardia ends up rubbing shoulders with Victor Frankenstein, Count Saint-Germain, and Impey Barbicane. (I had to look up Impey, who apparently is from a Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon.) Abraham van Helsing joins them shortly afterward.

The show also features other literary cameos such as Captain Nemo and Herlock Sholmes (the “getting around copyright” adversary of Arsene Lupin), making it fun to watch for period fans, as long as one doesn’t expect too much historical accuracy. Even Queen Victoria herself has a sizeable role.

Cardia’s father isn’t just the greatest inventor in the history of Britain, he’s also suspected of being behind a terrorist plot, and a mysterious organization known as Twilight is after Cardia, led by none other than a boy claiming to be her brother.

Though her companions get some time in the limelight, the anime keeps the story focused around Cardia, her discovery of Isaac’s true plans, her budding sense of self, and her growing trust and affection towards Lupin. All this happens in a steampunk world full of cars, trains, airship races, government conspiracies, and mad alchemy. But even though the story is imaginative, it doesn’t quite come to life, and I think it’s due to the series’ struggle with its roots.

Code:Realize is based on an otome visual novel, so in the source material the player is Cardia and she pursues a romance with one of the men, so all five are young, single, and good-looking irrespective of how old they should be at this point in history.

It’s a really good otome, where the rest of the story is just as engaging as the romance, making an anime adaptation an excellent chance to pull in a crossover audience. Unfortunately the anime doesn’t go for that and positions itself as a more traditional reverse harem show where one girl is surrounded by a group of guys who all like her, rather than a badass group of friends who are trying to help one of their own (which is closer how it feels in the game, ironically enough).

It might be due to the run time constraints, but a lot of the banter between the different men is missing in the anime, making them seem more like work partners rather than true companions. This flattens their characterization and makes their strongest bond through Cardia rather than each other, which doesn’t feel convincing when most of them don’t get enough time to fall in love with her either.

This weakens the run up to the finale, when Cardia and her five friends are supposed to be working as a cohesive unit. The series actually has a fairly action-oriented second half, with London under siege due to an insurrection. We know the six of them are supposed to be composed of battle-tested friends, because they’ve been together since the start of the show and they’ve done some jobs together, but we don’t feel it, which is too bad because the last two episodes are otherwise pretty good.

Both in the game and the anime, Cardia starts off the story as an emotionless doll due to her isolation, but as time goes on she starts to display more of a will of her own. She never gets as expressive as in the game, which will probably be the biggest disappointment for fans of the original, but even as muted as she is, she’s still better than the average otome heroine, and the animation staff lets Cardia fight for herself in combat so she avoids the standard heroine helplessness for the genre. Her battle choreography isn’t particularly great to look at, but it’s about par for the course for the rest of the cast.

Despite the loss of characterization, the anime otherwise does an extremely good job of adapting the game. This is no mean feat considering that a single playthrough is about 15 hours long and most of that time is spent reading. Though it was a given that the anime would follow Lupin’s storyline, since he’s the series’ poster boy, there are a lot of details from the other romance routes that are necessary to understand the story as a whole, and the show manages to weave them in. This allows things like Saint-Germain’s backstory to work when it wouldn’t have if the script had scrupulously stuck to Lupin’s in-game storyline.

The adapted script is also unafraid of moving plot moments to different places in chronology or different locations from the original. Frankenstein, who was originally not part of Lupin’s gang, is already with the group by the time Cardia meets him, speeding up what was originally a much slower start to the story. Some element of cutting and rearrangement was expected, but Code:Realize does it a lot and remarkably without losing a single plot thread. Events might not occur exactly as in the game, but the story remains intact.

In the end, Code:Realize is perfectly viewable version of the source material, even without being a prior fan, but as an adaptation it has a lot of flaws in what was otherwise a promising premise. My feeling is that the adaptation writer was trying so hard to make the plot fit in the time allowed that characterization fell to the wayside in favor of leaning on common otome anime tropes instead of what made Code:Realize unique among its peers.

Number of Episodes: 12

Pluses: Entertaining steampunk worldbuilding, smart adaptation to condense the source material into 12 episodes without losing much of the plot, Cardia is not as helpless as typical for otome protagonists

Minuses: Characters are fairly flat across the board, series wants to be a simple reverse harem romance but can’t get away from the source material’s action scenes, combat choreography is subpar

Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is currently streaming at Crunchyroll (subtitled), Funimation (dubbed). Funimation has licensed this for eventual retail distribution in the US.

Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie’s short fiction has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Fall 2017 Anime First Impressions

I’m running late with this season’s impressions. Unlike last summer, which was fairly lackluster, fall had a number of new anime series I wanted to check out, including what is becoming one of my favorites ever, so I think it’s still worth bringing attention to these, even though the season is almost over!

As usual, I look for two to three series to keep me entertaining throughout the season and this fall wasn’t hard to choose from.

The Ancient Magus Bride


Why I Watched It: This is the most buzzworthy show of the season, about a lonely teenage girl who auctions herself to the highest bidder only to discover the man who has purchased her is a magus with the head of a beast, who takes her for his apprentice.

What I Thought: It was gorgeous to look at, but I wasn’t entirely sold by the first episode. Though Chise has obviously been troubled throughout her life due to being an orphan who sees supernatural creatures that most people can’t, I still didn’t feel connected enough with her to understand her pain to the point that she decides it’s better that someone other than her is in control of her life. Elias is interesting since he is clearly not human, but his own mysteries aren’t covered in the first episode. Also, it’s just a bit creepy that one of the reasons he bought her is that he would like to marry her later, assuming she’s interested.

Verdict: I might watch later. I have a feeling this will pick up in an episode or two, now that the main characters and their living arrangements have been established, but at least for the start of the season there’s other stuff I’d prefer following.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~


Why I Watched It: Based on my favorite otome game, Code:Realize is an adventure/romance set in 19th century steampunk London. Cardia lives isolated in the manor where her father left her because she is a poisonous monster whose body melts everything she touches, until one day the queen’s men find her and she is rescued by the dashing gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin.

What I Thought: I was a little concerned about the animation style going in and it still has an odd airbrushed look to it that bothers me, but the adaptation itself is on point and actually flows better than the Chapter 1 in the original game, even though a lot of things are rearranged or cut to quickly get Cardia integrated with her new companions. The show doesn’t shy away from Cardia’s potentially graphic flesh melting abilities and it shows enough to get the point across without entirely sugar-coating how lethal she can be. There are still a lot of questions left at the end of the episode, but I think it’s enough to be a satisfying appetizer for anyone looking for a steampunk fantasy.

Verdict: I’ll be watching. I likely would be anyway even if it turned out as a lesser incarnation of what we got, but to my relief this episode is actually good. Cardia might seem lackluster as a protagonist right now, but assuming they stick true to the spirit of the game we’ll see her grow over the course of the series.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War


Why I Watched It: I don’t like the art style of this one, but I heard about how each episode is from the POV of a different character in the death game. As a narrative trick it’s an interesting conceit, because it prevents the audience from knowing who’s going to make it to the end of the series. And admittedly, I’m partial to stories about deadly games. This one is themed around warriors who each take a name of an animal from the Chinese zodiac.

What I Thought: The premise is that there are twelve families who once every twelve years send a representative of their family to fight in the Juni Taisen (literally: Twelve War). Boar is our first POV character and her father won the last one. Each of the combatant’s swallows a poisoned gem at the start of the competition that will kill them within twelve hours. The winner has to collect all twelve gems and then will be given the antidote as well as the fulfillment of any wish they have. It’s not really clear why every family participates or how they benefit since the wish goes to the individual, but if you just want a killing game with sick rules and hyper competent combatants this dishes it up in spades.

Verdict: I’ll probably be watching. Honestly, with two death game series this season it’s a toss up between this and King’s Game to see which I’m going to stick with or if I’ll manage both. Boar’s backstory was very nicely built and I assume later episodes will similarly build out the rest of the cast.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

King’s Game


Why I Watched It: The manga version of this has been on my radar for a while (the source novel has not been translated), making this the second death game anime I’m checking out these season. The unwilling players of the King’s Game receive text messages demanding that they complete an action, and gradually the demands become more and more outlandish.

What I Thought: Unusually for a horror anime, our protagonist knows a lot about what’s going on. Nobuaki is actually the lone survivor of a previous King’s Game and he transfers to a new high school where he’s quickly ostracized by the rest of the class when a new game starts up. He knows that everyone who disobeys the King’s orders will die and that it is a supernatural phenomenon rather than a human being, but nobody else believes him, at least initially. I’m curious how this will play out though, because the end of the episode makes such an impression that it feels more like what aren’t they going to do to stay alive?

Verdict: I’ll probably be watching. There are some things that don’t make sense, like why nobody knows about the previous King’s Game (even if it wasn’t written down as due to supernatural causes, the violent and bizarre deaths of all but one student in a class should have been the stuff of national headlines), but I’m curious about how a more knowledgeable protagonist might change the formula on how to survive.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World


Why I Watched It: Kino’s Journey is based on a long running novel series about a wandering adolescent kid and their talking motorcycle Hermes. Each episode Kino arrives in a new country with new experiences to be had. This is not its first adaptation, and I’ve heard it’s good, so I wanted to see for myself.

What I Thought: Without any preamble, this episode starts with Kino already on the road. They meet up with another traveler who tells them about a nearby country where it’s legal to kill people, and undeterred, they proceeds to visit the country as part of their ongoing journey. Of course, the truth about the town and it’s willingness to kill is the crux of the episode, and Kino leaves unharmed to go on another journey later. On a translation note though, the first episode has character to refer to Kino’s gender as male, but this may have been a translation mistake due to Kino’s age and unisex outfit, since the dialogue itself doesn’t use gender pronouns in Japanese. The previous Kino anime series referred to Kino as female, but that may have been a different extrapolation. It’s entirely possible that Kino’s gender is simply left to the audience to decide.

Verdict: I might watch later. I think I would have loved this show in middle school (the nuance and violence level is probably too high for elementary school), since it features an independant pre-teen who gets to travel all over the place with their trusty motorcycle buddy, a pair of guns, and nobody bats an eye. Unfortunately there’s a lot of other stuff this season that’s more to my taste, but I think this will be an excellent pick for a lot of people.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled)

Recovery of an MMO Junkie


Why I Watched It: The titular junkie is a 30-year-old adult woman, which is not what I expected for a series of this name, but at the same time, I think that’s fantastic, as women are capable of being MMO junkies as much as men (says the former MMO guild leader in me). I’m a little leery that it might lean too hard on stereotypes, but we’ll see!

What I Thought: I did not expect this to be a romantic comedy. After recently becoming unemployed, Moriko gets back into gaming and joins a new MMORPG. Her male fighter avatar Hayashi quickly meets a female healer named Lily who helps her get acquainted with the game and they hit it off, becoming good friends. Though she probably doesn’t know yet (since it’s an online game), it’s clear that Lily is played by a man who lives in the same area as her, and they briefly cross paths while getting ready for their Christmas Eve “date” online. I really like the touches that feel like the characters are actually players in a game. They talk about getting home after work, the guildmaster has to worry about potential drama because two guild members are having romantic issues, and the game has relatable silly parts like taking on monsters that are too high a level or accidentally running away because the player hit the wrong button.

Verdict: I’ll be watching. I like that the writing feels like it was done by someone who has spent a lot of time in an MMO and that the main two characters are crossplaying, since a lot of anime seem to forget that a fair number of the “men” online are actually played by women (the reverse being less surprising).

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie’s short fiction has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and the Intergalactic Medicine Show.