‘The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.” Hamlet – William Shakespeare.
Mahiro’s younger sister Aika was murdered a year ago – and since then Mahiro has been skipping high school, bent on revenge. His classmate Yoshino (who was in a secret relationship with Aika) goes to visit her grave, only to held at gunpoint by a glamorous young woman, Fraulein Evangeline (who may be working for the government) demanding to know where Mahiro is. Mahiro comes to Yoshino’s rescue – and, just in time, the two young men escape, only to witness the horrifying effects of the Iron Plague which is turning everyone to metal. Mahiro shows Yoshino a strange wooden doll through which he’s able to communicate with a young woman mage, Hakaze Kusaribe, so powerful that her mage clan has marooned her on a desert island. She is the protector of the Tree of Genesis, and has promised to help Mahiro find Aika’s murderer, gifting him with magic talismans – if he, in turn, will help her stop her brother Samon from reviving the Tree of Exodus and bringing destruction to the world. But Samon’s clan mages wield some very powerful magic – and they will do anything to stop Mahiro and Yoshino bringing Hakaze back.
Colour me baffled. Why does Blast of Tempest, inspired by the Shakespeare’s play The Tempest start with a quotation from Hamlet? And continue (mostly) to quote from Hamlet? In fact, the main (and only?) element borrowed from The Tempest is the idea of the powerful magician cast adrift by a sibling and washed up on a desert island. But where Shakespeare’s mage is Prospero, Duke of Milan, his role of duke usurped by his villainous brother, here we have a young ‘princess’ mage, the most powerful of the Kusaribe clan, who is put in a barrel and set adrift on the ocean by her brother Samon. Perhaps more parallels will emerge later on but right now the Shakespeare connection is far too vague to be of any real relevance and just comes across as a rather lazy excuse to spout quotations. The series is based on the manga by Kyo Shirodaira (with art by Ren Saizaki) and as Shirodaira is the author of that famously plot-twisty series Spiral, one can only hope that this doesn’t all fizzle out.
By far the most interesting aspect of this story is the uncomfortable ‘friendship’ between Mahiro, Aika and Yoshino; Mahiro must never know that Aika and Yoshino have been secretly going out together behind his back…because Mahiro (in spite of all his protestations) is also attracted to his sister (who is not, as it turns out, related to him by blood, so that’s all right, no incest here, folks!) And yet Yoshino is the only one who has been there for Mahiro – the arrogant, outwardly self-sufficient rich boy – since the boys were in middle grade. This potentially poisonous and complex triangular relationship is frankly rather more compelling than all the ‘end of the world’ gallimaufry.
Be warned: this set of twelve episodes ends on a massive halfway cliff-hanger. What begins so promisingly (revenge for a dead sister, a love triangle, a conspiracy of mages) gets hopelessly bogged down in a bizarre and wordy game of chop logic. It’s as if the writers were trying to thrash out the plot points in real time on-screen in an endless stand-off between the two central protagonists and Hakaze’s villainous (or is he?) brother Samon as the rest of the world falls apart. This kind of plot work should have gone on behind the scenes, not during the action, as it leaves the viewer baffled rather than intrigued, and ultimately rather bored.
Blast of Tempest is a very attractive series from a visual point of view with elegant character designs (the long hair of Fraulein Evangeline, Aika, Hakaze and her brother Samon is positively Art Nouveau in the way it billows, and drifts in long strands across the screen). The mage duels are thrillingly orchestrated. The destructive powers of the Tree of Exodus and the Tree of Genesis are chillingly portrayed. So maybe it’s unfair to come down too hard on this series as it’s only halfway through – and more references to The Tempest are beginning to appear. (Although whether this is just more casual cherry-picking from Shakespeare’s play without any true intellectual rigour remains to be seen…)
Another intriguing (or baffling, depending on your point of view) issue is that of the music. Michiru Oshima (FullMetal Alchemist; Patema Inverted; Hal) is responsible for the fully orchestral soundtrack. This is both a bonus (she’s an accomplished composer) and a disadvantage (there’s sometimes so much going on in the orchestral score that it overwhelms the action.) Particularly affecting is the poignant theme that accompanies the preview at the end of every episode; this is Oshima at her best. But what’s this I hear? Something rather more ‘classical’? Why, it’s the Third Movement from Beethoven’s piano sonata ‘The Tempest,’ orchestrated, no doubt, by Oshima herself and inserted, perhaps, to remind us of the (thus far pretty tenuous) links to Shakespeare’s play. The Opening Theme: “Spirit Inspiration” by Nothing’s Carved in Stone is suitably loud, jangled and brash – with English lyrics. But, for a show with such heavy emotional content (murdered sister, lost lover, family betrayal, the imminent end of the world…) what on earth is this cutesy little Ending Theme “happy endings” by Kana Hanazawa (who plays Aika) doing? It seems utterly out of place. I can only hope that the second Ending Theme will be less trite.
As this release is subbed, we are treated to the original seiyuu, and very good they are, too, especially young male leads Kouki Uchiyama as Yoshino and Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Mahiro. The subtitles are so-so in quality, leaving something to be desired in the long passages of talky exposition (but then, that’s more of a complaint to the script writers who obviously forgot the old rule: ‘Show, don’t tell.’)
Extras comprise Trailers and Textless Opening and Ending Themes.
Blast of Tempest starts well, looks and sounds good, but loses the plot toward the end of this first set of episodes. Nevertheless, it’s intriguing enough to make me – and hopefully other viewers – come back to find out whether it’s peaked too soon or just suffered a temporary dip in story-telling.
I’m just hoping that it’s not going to turn out to be ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ Macbeth