Ishura – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser January 3, 20240 Comments
Yuno with blood splatter on her face

Content Warning: Gore, mass death

What’s it about? Yuno, known as the Distant Talon, lived a peaceful life in the Nagan Labyrinth City; until the Labyrinth itself rose up from the ground as a giant automaton and razed her city to the ground. While the True Demon King is dead, the machines made to end that threat continue to destroy; and the arrival of a fantastically strong visitor from another world only deepens her grief.

Ishura isn’t a show that’s even passingly familiar with the phrase “subtlety.” Pretty much every character’s dialogue leading up to the robocalyptic blood-letting is either explainers about the magic system or wistful musing about how Yuno and her very special friend love living and being alive. The second half is largely given over to a big flashy action sequence, in which murderous Visitor Yagyuu Soujirou does a passable job as a 2B stand-in. And somewhere in there, we get a long crunchy cut of Yuno being showered with her dying girlfriend’s blood.

It’s a premiere that’s nakedly yearning for the heat of Attack on Titan’s apocalyptic opener, and I will admit that it hits its familiar beats pretty well. I like the Escaflowne-esque magical machinery, Passione does some good-looking compositing for the climactic giant mech fight, and there’s some fantasy bona fides in the crew roster in the form of chief director Takahashi Takeo (Spice and Wolf, MAOYU). But its future appeal is going to live or die based on how much it decides to center Yuno as the protagonist.

a silver haired girl leaning against Yuno's shoulder
They were just three days from picking out a Fantasy U-Haul

There is so much to mine with Yuno. Her character design does feel like a missed opportunity—Nagan is clearly a Middle Eastern-inspired city, but Yuno looks like she could’ve been pulled out of any European-set fantasy anime—but there’s no leering or fanservice at play, and the writing is at its best when it sits with her. She’s a highly skilled magician, clearly shy and now weighted down by a bucket of PTSD and survivor’s guilt. And most interestingly of all, she deeply loathes her supposed savior—who may have been the reason the giant machine that destroyed her home awakened in the first place.

While it doesn’t have the immediate catharsis of The Executioner and Her Way of Life’s opening bait-and-switch, Ishura positions itself in the same position of suspicion regarding wish-fulfillment isekai protagonists. Soujirou shows no concern for the devastation around him or Yuno’s pain; he’s just looking for food to eat and something strong to fight, and it seems as if nothing and no one can stop him from getting what he wants. I’m absolutely down to follow Yuno as she tries to find someone strong enough to kill this guy without getting killed herself…if that’s the plot the show decides to stick to.

a swordsman mid-strike
A less impressive Yagyuu than Jubei-chan, if I’m honest

There’s an awful lot of flash dedicated to that climactic fight scene, is the thing. It could be that the show wants to have its cake and eat it too, indulging in the high-flying bloodletting before (if you are an optimist) highlighting the discordance against Yuno’s reactions for horror or (if you are a cynical fuck who’s been reviewing anime for almost a decade) po-facedly scolding the audience for cheering at the cool fight scene they threw a couple animators’ lives and health at. Or worse, it could come around to having Yuno realize that Soujirou is a cool guy after all. It doesn’t exactly give me confidence to see Ihara Kenta’s name as series composer, given that his CV is 80% hot garbage regardless of the quality of the source material.

All of this is additionally muted by the fact that this is the season’s Disney/Hulu show, meaning that it will be minimally advertised and difficult to search up regardless of its ultimate quality. Because why on earth would you try to provide a quality product when you can just throw money at the problem. I’m going to give this a couple episodes to see if it treats its promising heroine right, but I might recommend other folks give more of a wait-and-see approach unless you’re an avid dark fantasy fan.

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