By: Vrai Kaiser October 3, 20175 Comments
A muscular man in a playboy bunny costume points a bloody knife toward the camera

What’s it about? The 12th Twelve Tournament gets held every twelve years. Twelve brave, strange warriors who bear the names of the signs of the zodiac fight each other for the lives and souls.The victor of this tournament gets to have one wish granted, whatever the wish may be.

Source: Anime News Network

Say, readers. Do you like guns? How about blood? How about murder poison and empowered bunny men in high heels? Then Grimdark Fruits Basket Royale is for you!

Let me be clear right off the bat: this series isn’t going to win any awards for thoughtful feminism. It’s a bloodbath series (we open in an empty city that “got rid of” the 500,000 inhabitants through unspecified means) that’s purely about the spectacle of who’s going to kill whom and with what weapon. The female fighters are all wearing either battle bikinis or thongs and have pretty universal enormo-boobs, and a good chunk of our point-of-view character’s internal monologue is about how much she resents one of the other women for undisclosed reasons. Women be competin’ and all that.

Each episode seems as if it’ll put us in the shoes of a different competitor as well, giving us a taste of how they ended up fighting in the titular “Zodiac War.” In this premiere, our perspective character is The Boar, and her story is… about how she slowly drove her younger sister to a mental breakdown because daddy liked the little ‘un better. Women. Competin’. Etc.

a long-haired woman in her underwear lies in bed, holding her younger sister in her arms

None of this particularly bothered me while watching, mind, but everyone should know what it’s about if they’re going to pick up this series. JUNI TAISEN is AAA garbage, the kind that needs to be thrill-a-minute ridiculous in order to be worth it, and is so far succeeding with aplomb. It’ll need to keep that spectacle up, because falling into QUALITY animation or excessive still shots would be an absolute knife in the throat for this show’s success. While the actors are all hamming it up to a delightful degree, even they wouldn’t be able to save a production that so far shows zero interest in developing audience empathy.

Fortunately, this premiere is a polished production. The characters all have distinct, enjoyable designs—in addition to the enormoboobs and thongs, several of the men are also cut like fleshy gemstones, which doesn’t exactly solve anything but at least puts everyone on a fairly equal plane of ridiculous. There’s also a very empowered bunny man in a furry thong, high heels, and giant cotton puff tail who’s my new favorite everything, as well as an asshole who stole Mr. Freeze’s back-mounted tank. It’s a very silly series, is what I’m saying.

a girl in glasses, a heavy coat and no pants holds up her hand in the middle of a banquet hall

The animation is courtesy of Graphinica, whose work you might recognize from the Hellsing OVAs (and a bunch of other stuff, but that certainly captures the “visually dark bloodletting” feel going on here). Graphinica has worked on an incredible number of high-profile shows, but they’re generally there for in-betweens, CGI work, or key/finishing animation on select episodes. This is a rare example of them heading up a production on their own, so it’s totally up in the air whether the series will be able to hold onto its sleek bombast for the duration.

In short, this is my kind of garbage, made for group MST3King and without a brain in its head beyond showing you the next cool, super edgy thing it thought up. Why is this tournament happening? How does the magic wish the winner gets actually work? We might well get answers, but who cares? The all-caps titling tells you all you need to know. It’s a low-risk investment, fun while it can keep up the pace and no great loss if it drops the ball. And honestly, it’s nice to see a little hilarious gore on my watchlist again.

a stomach-level shot of the bunny man's abs, suspenders, and furry thong

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