What’s it about? In a kingdom where mutant creatures are on the rise, guns are a precious resource, and wealth disparity is aggravated by new laws that presume the wrongdoing of the accused. Tension is at a breaking point. New imperial soldier Leocadio and delivery driver Innumael hit it off only to find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict after a chance misunderstanding ends in bloodshed.
Content Consideration: Implied war crimes (offscreen)
This is one deceptive little premiere. While it has the most generic Fantasy Oppression setting imaginable, the very emphatically capitalized MAGATSU WAHRHEIT knows exactly how it looks—and it’s unexpectedly sly at playing with those expectations.
Soldier boy Leo screams “Standard Anime Protagonist” from the moment you look at him, while Innu’s design is much more in line with a secondary or even tertiary character. Innu even has a long speech about his young sister who relies on him, in the tone of one who might well be three days from retirement, and then he proceeds to…not die, and in fact do a lot more main character heavy lifting than Leo. It’s a small swap but a smart one, shaking the audience out of their assumptions and making even fairly standard plot beats feel ever so slightly uncanny.
Likewise, while the show’s visuals range from acceptably average to downright rough in certain long shots and crowd scenes, it also knows how to build atmosphere when it counts. The battle that caps off the episode is fantastically anxious, with every bad decision visible from miles off in a way that feels in line with what the characters know. Even though the action itself is mostly functional, with only one or two fights lasting longer than a few seconds, the mounting emotional wince is palpable in a manner much more effective than stunning but flat animation could’ve accomplished on its own, and it left me unexpectedly eager to see the next episode. Plus, Tsuda Kenji is here, playing Leo’s blatantly slimy boss. I’m basically always here for Tsuda.
Looking over the production slate is similarly a rollercoaster. Head director and co-series composer Hosoda Naoto has worked predominantly in key animation, including some very notable works, with several outings as episode director. Specifically, he seems to be the guy you call for first episodes in order to hit the ground running with a good hook. His prior outings as series director are an oddball mix, including several adaptations of adult visual novels with sci-fi-fantasy theming, energetic comedy The Devil is a Part-Timer!, and engrossing trash fire The Future Diary.
His co-composer Momose Yūichirō’s comparatively brief resumé, meanwhile, is somewhat less inspiring: including the exceptionally sleazy by T&A standards My Girlfriend is a Gal; the Aggretsuko‘s duller, less funny cousin, Africa Salaryman; and epicenter of infamous crunch meltdown, My Sister My Writer.
That knowledge makes me uncertain as to whether WAHRHEIT will be able to hold onto its momentum through twelve episodes, but it feels too soon to reasonably call. The duo’s past history with fanservice fare did, I suppose, make me grimly relieved that this episode features only one female character, the very standard—but admittedly not egregiously designed or dressed—Tough Hot Fighter Schaatz.
Maybe more than any other show this season, this project feels like a kettle of the unexpected. Whether it continues to soar to new heights or crashes and burns, well…I’ll give it at least three episodes to show me what it has planned.