[Review] Dies Irae – episode 0

In 1939 Germany, General Reinhard Heydrich takes one Karl Krafft on as his follower, since he’s a supposed sorcerer who can see the future. Through Krafft’s guidance and a series of encounters with a trio of women who call themselves Valkyries, an odd couple made up of a torture-happy beauty and her priestly companion, and another pair of superpowered oddballs on a rampage, Reinhard is gradually encouraged to throw off his self-imposed limitations and take the world by storm for his own ends.

Source: Anime News Network

A blonde man wearing a black military brimmed hat and jacket stands in front of a tank, looking smug

Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to choose the worst part of Dies Irae. The show is a Kickstarted adaption of a 2007 visual novel that’s notorious for originally being released unfinished, among other… qualities. This episode technically wasn’t the start of the story, but a prologue “Episode 0,” serving to set up the villains before the main story begins.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: this episode was about Nazis. Not “serial numbers filed off,” Marvel’s Hydra-style pseudo-Nazis, but actual, factual Nazis. Sure, the swastika on their armbands is replaced with a vague, meaningless fantasy symbol, but that doesn’t do much to cancel out that this episode focuses on real historical figure Reinhard Heydrich. Yes, that blue-eyed, blond-haired bishounen that background characters call an “example of the master race” (shudder) really lived, and he did awful things. Horrible, awful things like masterminding the Holocaust.

A room full of people, some in 1940s period dresses, others in military uniforms with German iron crosses on them, stand about a room. At the center of a group of men in uniforms and tuxedos stands a blonde man wearing a black uniform and a red armband. Subtitle: "You're exactly what the Fuhrer means when he talks about 'the perfect race'."

In the year 2017, with fascism rising at alarming rates worldwide, someone decided it would be cool to make an anime with a bishie-fied fantasy version of the man who systematically murdered tens of millions of people. Heydrich is one of history’s greatest monsters and his atrocities are still in living memory and they made an anime focusing on him and making him look cool. I don’t give a fuck if he’s a bad guy. It’s frankly irresponsible these days depicting Nazis as anything but repugnant.

I’m actually shaking a little as I type this.

A long-haired blonde man wearing a military uniform and a red armband stands in the foreground. In the background is a dark-haired man in a black cloak. Behind them is a glowing, vaguely Greco-Roman building.

All that said, it’s a little difficult to focus on anything else. Dies Irae could have the most gorgeous animation (it doesn’t), witty writing (it doesn’t), and likable supporting cast (it doesn’t) full of empowered women (they aren’t), and it wouldn’t matter because they’re fucking nazis. But for the sake of thoroughness:

  • The animation is thoroughly blah. The character designs are bland and the movement is jerky and limited, even in the action scenes. It doesn’t help that most of the episode takes place at night, so everything is muddy.
  • I have only the vaguest sense of what happened. There was a lot of jumping from one weirdo to another without any sense of transition. The episode concluded with Heydrich making a long speech about how bored he was with everything, with incoherent writing that could only come from a visual novel. The flow of the episode seemed mostly about quickly introducing a big group of characters designed to make the VN fans point and say, “Hey, I know that guy!”
  • One of the Nazis goes on a violent rant about how an androgynous character is “disgusting” for not clearly presenting as a man or a woman, which is going to be flat-out triggering for some viewers. (And then this character actually goes on to join Team Nazi, because Reasons.)
  • The female characters might, under different circumstances, be interesting… too bad they’re fucking Nazis.

A redheaded woman with a burn scar across half her face stands before a red background, smoking. She is wearing a military uniform with an iron cross necklace and a red armband.

There’s nothing good about Dies Irae. I can’t even recommend it in good conscience for a hatewatch because of the shocking insensitivity toward historical figures and events. Throw Dies Irae in the dumpster and find a better trashy action-spectacle series to watch this season.


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