There's a certain majesty to the speed and thoroughness with which Tatakau Shisho self-destructs. It opens with every advantage an anime could hope for and then over the course of six episodes squanders it all, leaving itself barren of all but the occasional withered remnant of interest. It's a collapse worthy of the Ancient Maya-minus the endemic warfare and human sacrifice. More's the pity; they might've helped.
With its interesting fantasy conceit (books that, when touched, provide direct access to the memories of the deceased), superior production values, and a triptych of strong, sympathetic and tantalizingly interconnected leads, Tatakau Shisho initially seems poised on the cusp of fantasy excellence. The first sign that there's trouble in paradise comes when the visuals start slipping in episode two, and before long it becomes clear that the series is spinning dangerously out of control. It wants very badly to be a daring mixture of political fantasy, shonen-styled action and transcendental romance, but ends up pulling itself in so many different directions that it simply falls apart. Intriguing ideas are floated (the destructive capabilities of religious zeal, the persistence of humanity in the face of inhuman degradation) only to be abandoned and left dangling; the memory-book concept devolves into a hollow gimmick; the romance gets shunted aside to make way for fantasy riffs on bioterrorism and free will, which are in turn sidelined in favor of destructive action-movie thrills. Far from excellence, the resultant series is a flailing mess.
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