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Friday, January 12, 2018

Anime Hajime Review: Children of the Whales

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Children of the Whales. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Adrift in an endless sea of sand is the giant vessel, the Mud Whale. For the past hundred years, this wandering island has lost contact with the world. Nevertheless, a flourishing society has taken hold. A society that consists of two types of people.

There are the Marked who can move objects using a mysterious power known as thymia. But this comes at the cost of a shorter life. Then there are the Unmarked. Though these people are unable to use thymia, they enjoy a much longer lifespan.

Chakuro (voiced by Natsuki Hanae) is one of the marked and has an obsessive desire to write. He hopes to leave a record of his people in the small amount of time he has. Though trapped in isolation, his life on the Mud Whale is a happy one.

Then the unbelievable happens. The people of the Mud Whale spot another island. While exploring this new land, Chakuro finds something he has never seen before, a fellow human being not from his home. This girl (voiced by Manaka Iwami) appears to be the sole survivor of an unknown battle. And the only thing she has with her is the name Lykos.

Chakuro soon forms a bond with the outsider. Unlike his other friends, Lykos seems void of emotions. But as time goes on, she begins to open up.

A new chapter in the story of the Mud Whale has begun. Unfortunately, not all stories are happy ones.

Series Positives

I can’t say Children of the Whales was a “must watch” for me. There were aspects of this series that caught my eye, but there was not much beyond that. Given what had my interest, this could have been special. So then, what’s the verdict?

Children of the Whales was middle of the road.

There were stumbles throughout this series that prevented it from being good. Yet, there were a handful of things that helped prevent it from being awful. One was more than the other and the details of that will come over the course of this review.

I’m not annoyed that I watch this show, even though I know there were better uses of my time.

This series was kind of like the result of a group project from school. To everyone’s chagrin, the teacher decided who would work with who. Thus, leaving the end product uncertain. And you best believe some of the teams could be mismatched.

In the case of Children of the Whales, its members consisted of one or two average students. These kids would be able to get the job done and meet the bare minimum requirements. Too bad that’s a problem when the class jerk happens to be in this group too. This is the person everyone knows will sit around and contribute nothing of worth. And on top of that, they will expect the same amount of the credit as everyone else.

But there was also the golden child. This is the class all-star who always gives one hundred and ten percent to everything. Their efforts rise above the rest because the quality is on a whole other level.

For Children of the Whales, this was this show’s animation. This series was beautiful. My God this was stunning to look at. And this remained true from beginning to end. There was not a single moment when this artwork wasn’t gorgeous. And then when this show went into try-hard mode, wow. “Breathtaking” would almost lose its meaning with how many times I would need to use it. The key to that last sentence being “almost”.

Children of the Whales had excellent use of color. There were bright, vibrant reds. Calm, cooling blues. Rugged and lively greens. Every shade of the rainbow found its way here and they all stuck out.

Along with that, movements were fluid and smooth. Every frame worked in perfect harmony to create a lush world to get lost in. The way people walked, the way people danced, it was incredible. Then when there was an action scene, and there were a few, you’ve got to be kidding me.

If you were to ask me my number one favorite scene based on art alone, I couldn’t give you just one. Each episode had something of note. And most episodes had even more than that.

This animation added weight to this story. A story that would be void of such power otherwise. Scenes that needed to produce emotion managed to do so through these visuals. But the killing blow was when this artwork and this story came together. When that happened, it was impressive, to say the least.

If someone chooses to watch this series due to this feature alone, I would never hold it against them. Hell, I would even join them for some of it.

Am I putting a lot of stock into this one aspect? You damn well better believe I am because it's so disappointing. These visuals had the unfortunate distinction of being in Children of the Whales.

That sounds much harsher than it actually is since, again, this series wasn’t horrible. Except there is a massive gap of disconnect between this single point and everything else in this show.

If you are that person who’s in it for the visuals, be ready for the things that come with them. Not everything will be bad, but nothing in this story deserved this kind of eye candy.

That out of the way, there’s one more thing I need to address.

There were certain elements to Children of the Whales I wasn’t aware of going in. As such, when these things happened, they were unexpected and caught me off guard. Most in a positive way too. Many of these types of moments did a lot in this show’s favor. Too bad this sometimes didn’t happen, and the results were as you might imagine.

Thus, I feel it’s important to discuss these positive and negatives sides. Both for what they did for Children of the Whales and for what they mean in terms of storytelling.

While some of these instances were crucial to the plot of this show, they weren’t what I would call twists in it. Odds are, some of these examples would appear in a standard summary of this series. But I’ll let other reviewers worry about that. Since I didn’t see these moments coming, I want to be fair and give you the opportunity to experience them. Though Children of the Whales didn’t result in the hottest series of the Fall 2017 season, it was decent enough to warrant a spoiler free review.

That said, this series isn’t compelling me to tell you to check these moments out for yourself. I’m still going to go into some detail about certain points from this story. When I get to those sections in this review, I will issue a spoiler warning.

The Story

Children of the Whales’ story wasn’t the greatest. I didn’t love it. There were a ton of problems that I will get into later.

That notwithstanding, it would be wrong of me to act as though I didn’t feel invested while watching this series. There were a handful of parts that had my full attention. On more than a couple of occasions, this show hit hard. There was a span of about seven episodes that was rather solid.

With that said, you may be able to see where some issues might be. The ending of this series was a thing that happened, and the opening was nothing special.

Then again, it was during the beginning of Children of the Whales where this story did something worth mentioning.

And this is where that spoiler warning comes in. This occurred early, but it does blur the line between what I can get into. Since, as I mentioned, I didn’t think this series would go in this direction, I want to be cautious. I’d rather give you the choice.

If you continue reading, you will get a better context for the rest of this review. Except doing so will dampen the unexpected factor.

If you decide to skip to the Series Negative section, you only need to know this. Quantity-of-episodes-wise, Children of the Whales’ story was serviceable. Except when this series fell, it fell hard.

Please make your choice.

And if you’re still here, let’s continue.

The first two episodes of this series were strange because of how annoying they were. This was not so much a fault against this show, but it was more of a byproduct of what it was setting up.

Everyone on the Mud Whale possessed unimaginable levels of naivety. They were in their own little world, oblivious to the bigger picture. They had no idea what was beyond the horizon. And this makes sense. Why would they be any other way? This was their reality.

The residents of the Mud Whale had no way of knowing anything about the things they had never encountered before. Imagine traveling back thousands of years. To a time before humans ever developed the basic foundations of written language. When you get there, show the people you meet a simple pencil. Are they going to know what this does upon seeing it? I would think not since the concept of this everyday item would be alien to them.

Is this a bit of an exaggeration when describing the people of the Mud Whale? I will admit yes to that. Except how else do I explain why these characters were so clueless. Especially when they mistook a human as another random object. And they did this more than once.

Regardless, the Mud Whale’s circumstances were understandable. It didn’t change how irritating this got, but this was what we had to work with. So, if you start to get peeved during the first two episodes, I know how you feel. Yet stick with it a little longer. There was a purpose behind this.

I actually want to use the term “pay off” to describe what happened. Except doing so would insinuate a much happier outcome.

In episode three, I’ve Had Enough of this World, an unknown ship made contact with the Mud Whale. Upon doing so, the visitors proceeded to, how do I put this nicely, slaughter everyone in sight. And yes, this was brutal.

Up to this point in the story, nothing close to this transpired. This series went from eating plain yogurt to chugging a gallon of Sriracha in the blink of an eye. This was beyond jarring. But this was not a negative. Children of the Whales played this hand well.

The time this show spent with its over ignorant characters got tiresome. There’s no getting around that. Yet by doing so, the full weight of this attack was real. It’s amazing how effective this was.

This series went the same route Fractale did. The stark and sudden juxtaposition from lightheartedness to raw cruelty was powerful. And to give credit where it’s due, Children of the Whales took this a step further.

Many characters who appeared pivotal to this plot did not survive this encounter. They met a violent end. Also, it’s important to remember something. Most of the people on the Mud Whale were young children.

Even in some of the best-written anime, it’s difficult to care about characters only after three episodes. Knowing the numerous other issues with this story, Children of the Whales managed to this. Even if it was only for a brief moment. And that moment was during the funeral following the attack.

This scene was heartbreaking. Then when you throw in this series’ visuals, it was also hauntingly beautiful. I said it would be hard for me to pick one scene that was my favorite. This one would be a frontrunner.

Between episode three and up to before the finale, Children of the Whales found a stride. It was by no means perfect. Nor did it last.

And though this particular moment was well executed, it came at a cost. One this show wasn’t ready to pay.

Series Negatives

At the top of this review, I said Children of the Whales was middle of the road. Yet it did fall on a certain side of that scale. The wrong side

This animation did its job. Some people may even find satisfaction in that. Too bad even the most powerful of guns are hunks of metal without any ammo. This series was all style and no substance.

Think of a sunset. They are inherently beautiful. But ask yourself something. How many sunsets do you recall watching?

I’m willing to bet you’re not coming up with many examples. Yet for the ones you do remember, why do you remember them? Were you looking at one with that special someone? Was it the close of a trying, yet fulfilling day? Perhaps this memory isn’t good. Did something unfortunate happen? If that is the case I’m sorry to hear that.

The point is, something happened. The sunset is a big part of this memory. But it itself is not the memory. The events surrounding the sunset are. Positive or not, the circumstances made this moment important. And it’s that importance that made this moment memorable.

Children of the Whales did understand this. The example I gave in the spoiler section fulfilled the criteria. Too bad this was an outlier.

There was another scene that was as beautiful. It was even coupled with a lovely musical score. There was a tearful edge to it. But there was no point behind this scene. What was going on didn’t warrant this kind of imagery. To make this more frustrating, later there was a scene that would have matched this sequence way better.

By a huge margin, this series didn’t give its visuals importance. Thus, there was nothing here to make them memorable. This animation will become but one more sunset out of countless others.

Shame on this show for doing that.

But thank God, this series’ artwork was as good as it was. Had it been any less, this show’s problems would have torn it apart.

The Characters

Not a single person in this show is worth highlighting. There wasn’t anyone who will get on your nerves or anything like that. The issue is, there weren’t any characters in this show. There was a big cast and not one of them stood out.

By the end of this series, there won’t be much you can say about anyone. You can list their role in this story and that’s about it. Personalities were bland. Characterizations were lacking. There was enough uniqueness to distinguish people, I’ll concede that.

Except there’s also a difference between blue, light blue, and dark blue. Sure, you can see the differences, but they’re still blue. It was hard to feel anything towards anyone.

And that’s a problem given the nature of Children of the Whales. There were moments where you should sympathize with these characters. I didn’t want to see the residences of the Mud Whale lose or suffer. This show did a fine job establishing this connection.

Only, this was for the whole group and it was never with individual people.

Chakuro and Lykos are already fading out of my head. Ouni (voiced by Yuichiro Umehara) was cool in a fight, but he was as interesting as watching paint dry. Suoh (voiced by Nobunaga Shimazaki) faired the best out of anyone, except he needed a lot more to him. Then for everyone else, there’s no reason to care about them. Not because they were bad characters, but because this show gave you a reason not to bother investing in them.

In the spoiler section, I talked about a moment this series hit home with. All the pieces came together to create something meaningful. It had great set up and great delivery. And it came at the cost of ruining the rest of this show.

Children of the Whales had a terrible habit of telegraphing what it was going to do after the spoiler scene. Nothing past that moment was a surprise. This instance made it clear that a certain element was possible and that it was going to occur quite often. It reached the point to when characters got introduced their fates were already sealed.

You know exactly what’s going to happen to them and you can prepare yourself accordingly.

This isn’t a for sure death sentence. If a story is strong enough, it will make you like someone even if you know what will become of them. Don’t expect this from Children of the Whales.


This was obnoxious.

This series would jump between extreme tones without any regard to what was going on. This story got rather dark, there were some pretty heavy moments. Breaking such tension with comedy is fine and not at all the wrong thing to do.

But the type of humor Children of the Whales would often revert to was uncalled for and unwanted.

This didn’t always happen. There was one moment in this series that was the perfect level of lightheartedness. It acknowledged the bad things that had happened instead of taking a second to flat out ignore them. As a result, this was a high point for this show.

This was also the exception to what this story usually did.

When a character dies in a dramatic way, it creates an atmosphere. When a story takes the time to explore this event and its effect on the survivors, it sets a tone. Mourning, suffering, sadness, these are not fun emotions. Comedy is a good way to bring back a sense of normalcy.

But when the comedy is more akin to what you would find in a goofy slice-of-life anime, someone made a wrong decision.

If this were a one-time lapse in judgment, then I could look past it. Too bad in Children of the Whales, this became a recurring theme.

And there was a character who was the embodiment of this. Ginshu (voiced by Mikako Komatsu) had no reason to be in this show. She stood out for all the wrong reasons. But for a moment, I will give her the benefit of doubt.

If Ginshu’s coping mechanism was being silly, that could work. This would be an excellent opportunity to explore the inner workings of a character’s mind. I can even picture the scene where Ginshu would reach her limit and could no longer put on a brave face. If this was what was going on, I’ll be more than happy to reevaluate this aspect of this show.

Except Children of the Whales never hinted at this being the case. Nor am I confident this was the truth either.

Ginshu was the biggest culprit, but she wasn’t the only one. Most characters in this series did this too. I’m looking at you Chakuro.

The Ending

Long before reaching this point, I did not think this story was going to wrap everything up. There was a lot going on and there was not much time to give even a fraction of those things closure.

How did Children of the Whales respond? It had an ending that was rushed, felt flat, and failed to plant the seeds of intrigue. This story introduced a ton of non-problems. As well as two potential antagonists, and I use that term with a grain of salt. Characters started blaming themselves for things that weren't their fault. Also, the big baddie of this series finally got some exposure.

And then the whole thing ended.

Yes, many questions remained unanswered. This is a problem because I don’t care. Learning the fate of the people of the Mud Whale will not keep me up at night. I am indifferent to any possible continuation. Oh, and by the way, this show did indicate there will be a continuation.

I won’t hold my breath, but okay.

Final Thoughts

In regard to a possible season two, as a reviewer, I won’t mind coming back to this world. In fact, I still see potential in this story. As a typical viewer, though, I could not care any less.

This series was well animated and beautiful. Everything else didn’t come close to matching this aspect.

The show had its fair share of moments. There were good things here. Too bad there weren’t enough good things to counteract the other problems. Characters were uninteresting. The tone was all over the place and broken. And the ending didn’t leave much to be desired.

In conclusion, this whole thing was underwhelming. Children of the Whales is a series I can’t recommend.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise Children of the Whales? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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