Sacred Blacksmith Complete Series (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, January 24, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Swords, sorcery, demons, kings and the fate of many nations revolve around a blacksmith who can save it all.

What They Say
Cecily's a blushing knight in shining armor. Unfortunately, it seems most battles end with her as the damsel in distress. Her lack of skill and distaste for violence make her an unlikely heroine - until the brooding blacksmith Luke comes to her aid, using his powerful magic to forge blades of supernatural strength. Cecily wields this sacred steel and charges forth to face a dangerous new threat. A cloaked fiend is unleashing demons upon the land, and though he lurks in shadows, the villain is much closer than Cecily can imagine.

This limited edition includes an art box and a 32-page art booklet.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review!

Audio:
Sacred Blacksmith gets a solid bilingual presentation here with the original Japanese track in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English mix is in 5.1 at 448kbps. The Japanese track has a good sense of itself with the balance between the action scenes and the dialogue scenes. The action is spread across pretty much all the episodes and it captures the vitality of what's involved really well. The swords clanging against each other resonates well while the wooshing wind sounds from one of the demon swords has a good feel as well. Dialogue is straightforward with a solid presentation across the forward soundstage that places the dialogue well when needed and avoids any problems. The English mix takes the action and spreads some of the effects to the rear channels with a full feeling and the dialogue comes across as a bit louder and better placed by a notch or two. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
 
Video:
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode series is spread evenly across two discs with six on each. The manglobe animated series has a very rich and detailed look here and the transfer for it is fantastic. With a fairly high bit rate on a regular basis, it brings through the colors with a very bold look with a solid look to it alongside some very fluid animation. The series is one of the better animated ones of the last couple of years with what it presents and the transfer here captures it well. With only a very mild touch of line noise during some panning sequences, there's nothing to really complain about here.
 
Packaging:
Sacred Blacksmith is one of the first limited edition releases from FUNimation in 2011 and it's definitely a very welcome change to the practices of the last few years. The heavy chipboard box is designed to hold four thinpak cases (though the series only runs two, so we get a nice sized box overall here) which has a great front image of Cecily and Luke defending the city where she's very serious and battle worn while still looking attractive. The back side of it has Lisa and Aria against more natural surroundings. The back side has a glued on sheet over it that comes off very easily which does the basic sell of the show with a cute image of Cecily to one side while the other has several shots from the show. The summary is kept basic and small but it's all tied together well with a nice layer of elegance with the framing of it and a look at the book inside included as well. The discs extras are clearly listed as well while the bottom has all the production and technical information in a small white font against the dark red background.
 
Inside the box we get the buffer box which has a pair of really great images on it of Cecily that I can easily see cutting out and putting in a frame. The two clear thinpak cases use the same kind of framing that holds the artwork which takes up the majority of the cover. One of them has Cecily looking far too sexy and cute in a maid uniform while holding a knife and trying to keep the skirt down while the second has Cecily, Lisa and Aria together in Luke's place bandaging up Cecily's arm. There's a lot of detail to both of them and the contrast between them is very amusing, but definitely welcome. The back covers are laid out the same with the top half having character artwork in smaller frames which is cute while below it we get the episode number and title breakdown though there's no listing of extras on here unlike other releases. The reverse side artwork is equally fun and attractive as there are two panel images for each, one that has the main girls sitting out on a field with lots of smiles while the other features the girls from the Empire in their maid uniforms with Cecily alongside them.
 
The booklet is.... dangerous. The thirty two page booklet included doesn't bother with anything but artwork from the show. Gorgeous, gorgeous character artwork. A lot of it is good clean fun, pieces we see with the covers, but also a lot more. But it also includes some very sexually oriented pieces that are a lot of fun and very attractive. There's also a reversible poster included in here where one side has Lisa looking cute on it while the other has a very, very naughty image of a mostly naked Cecily laying on a bed as viewed from above as she wraps her body around the sword.
 
Menu:
The menu design for the show uses a lot of the same elements as the framing is used within it while the overall background has a bit of colorful red and purple ornate designs. The focus on the framing and the artwork inside it, which changes with each submenu, has a very rich feeling to it. Static menus are generally decent at best most of the time but the look and feel of these menus where they have a sense of texture about them really makes it stand out strongly. Submenus load quickly and the layout is easy to navigate and laid out well. Language selection is straightforward and it defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles.
 
Extras:
The only extras on this release are on the second disc with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Isao Miura that was illustrated by Luna, Sacred Blacksmith is a twelve episode series that ran in late 2009. With six novels to its name, there's a bit of material to work with and we've had good luck with other light novel to anime adaptations. With it being a fantasy setting, I had muted hopes when I watched the simulcast as we don't often see these kinds of shows and they seem to rarely get done in a way that I'd like to see them done. For better or worse, I still find Record of Lodoss War to be one of the best fantasy setting shows done in anime.

Sacred Blacksmith revolves around a young knight named Cecily Cambell who took on the role just a month prior after her father died. She'sa part of the self defense forces of the independent trade city of Hausman. While the Empire could easily crush and acquire them, there are strategic reasons to have them independent and to deal with them in their trade of much needed iron sand metals and such. Cecily's a staunch supporter of the city and of her family name so she does her best to live up to it by being strong and protecting others. Unfortunately, her skills aren't at the same level that her intent is at so she's often needing saving which is done by a man named Luke who is quite skilled in the ways of the sword. Their first meeting certainly leaves Cecily with a strong impression of him.

That impression of him has her following him since her sword broke and she does her bet to try and get him to forge her a new sword. Unfortunately for Cecily, Luke has indicated that the days of forging weapons are in the past since it was his father that did it. There's a real curiosity about the weapon Luke uses since he calls it a katana, a word not heard by Cecily before and it's a blade style she's not seen either. The two end up in an amusing dialogue of minor misunderstandings before the show turns to a predictable large action sequence, dark and ominous to be sure, where Luke has to defend her against a rather intriguing creature that's trying to kill them.
 
This setup is a solid foundation that's well built upon thereafter. Luke lives with a young girl named Lisa who pretty much takes care of all the household chores and the like but she also serves as help for Luke in his forging by bringing the magical elements to it. The relationship between Luke and Lisa gets explored over the show as there's a fair bit to it and it's actually a key piece of the show as it progresses towards the end of the season with some very neat little twists and explanations along the way that show just the kind of complicated and layered story they want to tell overall. This is actually true of most of the characters as it goes on as we see their motivations and what's really driving them along.
 
The larger story unfolds over the course of the season as we see the key players from various nations trying to get together with Luke to convince him to do what they need him to do as time is running short for them. With Luke as the focus of events and Cecily being the catalyst trying to get him to move towards what's being done, the cast does grow a little bit along the way. The general supporting cast is decent when it comes to Cecily's household The best of the characters introduced is that of Aria, a character that Cecily is assigned to protect. What she discovers is that Aria is actually a demonsword that she's been told to guard, something she can transform into of which there are only a few in the world created by a particular demon that's of great import to the series in its larger context. Aria's actually quite the thoughtful character which balances well with the action she's drawn into. While she connects with Cecily and Lisa well, she's got her own concerns about what her real nature is and what her place in the world is truly supposed to be.
 
The show brings in a few other characters around the middle of the season that deals with Empire a bit more but has its own set of complications to it. It's a mixed storyline as it does show part of the larger world but then decides to place all of the characters in Cecily's House where they take on some work as maids and servants in order to pay them back for staying there. And, naturally, Cecily gets trapped into it as well which means maid outfits for everyone. It has a darker ending to it with some real emotion involved, but the detour to the comedy side goes a little too far for my tastes. But it also makes the serious turn the show takes in the final arc all the more engaging because it just digs right in with several revelations and then makes everything very clear.
 
The animation production by manglobe here is really fantastic. Fantasy series can go a lot of different ways but they went with a fairly realistic approach to it with lots of detail and a sense of grime and dirt about it rather than a purely clean look, at least within the city. Conversely, when they're out in nature near Luke's place, it's filled with such beautiful greens and the sky has an even richer feel to it that it comes together very well. The character designs are very appealing as they're well detailed, though I dislike that they all wear the same outfits constantly. Most characters are rather thinner than usual, and at times Cecily looks like she couldn't actually have any internal organs, but that's a small complaint overall as everything is consistent within the world. There's a good variety to the characters and it plays across a few different ranges with ages and types to give it a good feeling. It's a very strong visual production overall that really sells it as a strong show.
 
In Summary:
Sacred Blacksmith is a really fantastic series. Watching it in episode by episode form was a lot of fun and it had a great feeling to it, but when you watch it together like this, you see just how much tighter it all comes together and even the slightly weaker segments make more sense overall. There's a big story to be told here and that's the greatest weakness as well as its strength. This season serves as a beautiful and highly engaging first chapter to a larger story but it's one that likely will never be animated. If the light novels are as good as this or even better, it's the kind of fantasy series that needs to be realized even more. While some may stay away from the show because of this issue, I think it's a series that should be bought as it's better to get a taste of what could be than to not experience at all. FUNimation has put together a fantastic release here across the board and needs to put out lots of posters based off of the image they have. Definitely very recommended. 

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Previews, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
 

 



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 64.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sacred Blacksmith