Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Leave your DS, this anime series can be just as entertaining as the game itself.
I have to say that, as a loyal anime fan and a hardcore gaming enthusiast, I have been both disappointed and occasionally even angry by the game-based anime titles available. I’ve seen mostly all of them and a part of me thought that there would probably never be a good one made in my lifetime. Then Sands of Destruction, The Complete Series, began to spin in my DVD player and I quickly changed my mind. At last, a series that’s actually as good as the gaming experience itself.
If you didn’t get a chance to play the Nintendo DS role-playing game by the good folks at SEGA, that’s Ok because it’s not really a requirement but for those who have you will be glad to see the universe come to life on a much bigger screen. Sands of Destruction takes place in the same universe where humans aren’t the dominant species but rather animals that have learned to talk, walk and think just like humans. This race is known as the Beastmen and they rule over humans in a world where oceans have turned to sand.
Seeing no peaceful coexistence between Beastman and human, a lone female warrior who carries a giant blade has become a wanted criminal and the leader of a one-person organization known as the World Destruction Committee. She is Morte, a girl on a mission to destroy the world and reduce it and its people to dust by way of a mysterious object called the Destruct Code that was passed down to her by her dead brother.
One day, Morte finds herself in quite a pickle in a local restaurant and when guards threat to catch her she takes what she thinks is a Beastman hostage. As it turns out, the young man she has chosen is wearing fake cat ears! He is Kyrie Illnis, a young human male working among the Beastmen and Morte and Kyrie run out of the town together. The pair of mismatched companions are joined by a cute little bear named Toppy who is actually a hero-for-hire who tracks the two down and decides to join them on their journey.
You see, Morte is hell-bent of destroying the world and Kyrie and Toppy find themselves hoping that they could convince her to back off. The trio quickly become wanted fugitives and become the World Destruction Committee so the Beastmen sends the World Salvation Committee to track them down. Strangely enough, this committee is made up of a beautiful dragon girl named Lia and a young man named Nadja.
Following the Destruct Code capabilities of showing where they should go, the three get into all sorts of trouble while trying to avoid the pair coming after them. In one episode, the three meet a smuggler named Agan (a character that shows up often throughout the series) who takes them aboard a “pleasure” cruise ship and in another episode the three are tossed in a prison work camp where they meet a Beastman who actually has genuine affection for a human girl who is whipped on an almost daily basis. In another episode, Morte and Kyrie are caught and tossed in a gladiator’s arena by a little bear that is similar to Toppy.
One of the best episodes has the three heading into a Beastman town where all the cherry trees have been chopped down except for one that is protected by a young man who has been waiting patiently everyday for the woman he loves. In yet another episode, the three travel through the desert and encounter a living community where Beastman and humans live in perfect harmony thanks to an elephant-like Beastman physician. In another episode, the three look into the case of another trio who claim they are World Destruction Committee and bullying people for free grub as well as antiques.
Things get a bit complicated in the later half of this 13-episode series as the three encounter their real threat that comes in the form of the Alligator Master and much later the Eagle Master who also wants to get his talons on the Destruct Code. There’s a great confrontation in the final four episodes as Morte, Toppy and Kyrie confront them and the two World Salvation Committee members as they all learn the startling truth about the Destruction Code.
The series is sincerely entertaining thanks to the cast of characters you will come to like and even their plight as we learn about Morte’s need to want to destroy the world. Each character has personality and Toppy is not only a super cute critter but also an extraordinary fighter and one of the coolest animal characters to come along in a long time. It’s just too bad the early fight scenes look like they were just slapped on or animated at the last moment. Good voice performances on both sides make the dialogue work and you have to love Kyrie’s panicky nature that comes off as truly comical.
An appealing first step in doing video game-inspired anime right, The Complete Series of Sands of Destruction is a fun romp that isn’t bad at all despite a few weaknesses. Still, the series has its really good moments and the characters are likeable enough to keep you interested in the story from beginning to end. If you enjoyed the game or have been looking for an anime series based on a video game that is actually good then you should really give this one a try.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In a world where humans are being oppressed by walking and talking Beastmen, a young human named Morte is the sole possessor of an artifact capable of destroying the world. She meets a young man named Kyrie and a cute-but-tough little bear named Toppy who joins her on her personal quest. Meanwhile, another organization is on their trail as the young trio learn about the world and themselves.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation isn’t bad at all but you can’t help but feel like you’ve seen it all before and some battles – particularly in the early episodes – have been lazily handled. Still, the visual affects can be very striking at times and the backgrounds look good.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
There’s a solid voice acting cast as far as the English dub is concerned and the original Japanese voices are even better thanks to a great cast. The score is also brilliant and does bring to mind the game and the closing theme song by Aimmy is a new personal favorite of mine.
There are some fun extras that come in the form of four “interviews” with the characters like Toppy, Morte and Agan. These are actually quite cute in their own way, especially Morte and Lia’s bonus material feature animated to look as if somebody had given them a video camera to capture their “off-the-set” moments. There are also clean opening and closing theme songs plus a few trailers.
The Complete Series of Sands of Destruction is actually a very likeable, amusing and occasionally even endearing series that could have been even more amazing if some story elements and some animation choices were different. Still, it’s difficult to deny the appealing nature of this series and fans of the game will certainly not be disappointed. If only more game-based anime were like this.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment