Juuni Taisen – Screenwriting at its Best

I’ve been wanting to say this from the very first episode: I’m a big fan of Juuni Taisen. With 1 more episode to go, we’re already down to the winner of this war. The anime has been quite consistent, except for Rabbit’s backstory. But I suppose there’s more than one way to know an anime character.

  • perspective of someone else – Ox (via Tiger)
  • shared experience(s) – Tiger and Ox; Dragon and Snake
  • actions they took – Rabbit, Rat
  • reminisces/flashbacks/memory/monologue – the rest

Rabbit was intriguing, a necromantist and a calculating psychotic case. Come again, a necromantist? Someone who raises the dead and uses them like puppets?  I suppose that will turn any fledging necromantists into psychos sooner or later. But I was most curious about his stilletto heels. Unfortunately he had already been blasted to bits so I don’t see how his story will be revived.

Not long ago, I was introduced to a 101 on scriptwriting – to enliven a technical (and dry) writeup with a UX narrative. It was tough work. Which concepts? How many characters? Their profiles? Scenarios? Character development? Kneading all these into a coherent story took more than a week’s work. And we’d just scratched the barest of surfaces.

So I want to kowtow to the Juuni Taisen screenwriter. The anime had a very good momentum despite having 12 main characters and a huge, shady conspiracy which revealed itself in episode 5. The scenes alternated between the present and the past smoothly, working like a recall for a character. This worked very well for Boar for example.

The use of monologues got a bit repetitive sometimes and predictive (because its the death knell for the character) but this couldn’t be helped since the 12 hardly knew one another well except for Snake and Dragon (twins). Here’s how their stories were introduced and told.

Boar – monologue & flashback as she arrived at the venue
Dog – monologue as he escaped from the blast, flashback
Chicken – conversation with Dog, monologue, flashback
Monkey – proposed an alliance at the beginning, Boar voicing her disdain in the background, mentioned by a few other warriors, conversation with Rat, flashbacks.
Sheep – singled out by the masterminds, monologue
Horse – mentioned by the masterminds, monologue
Snake – dead at the start, backstory about exploits with Dragon
Dragon – backstory about exploits with Snake
Rabbit – when he killed Boar, no background
Tiger – fought with Sheep, flashback, shared experience with Ox
Ox – talked about by other warriors, shared experience with Tiger, monologue
Rat – conversation with Monkey, interview with Referee

As you can see, Rabbit was the exception.

My fave was Snake & Dragon’s story because they were such heartless bastards with zero morals. The saddest ones belonged to Boar, Chicken, Tiger, coincidentally, all females whose lives and personalities were twisted by abuse and violence. The shortest were those of Dog and Horse. The most philosophical exchange had to be between Rat and Monkey in episode 4: a dialogue between a pacifist and a conservative.

He proceed to tell Monkey that to a trickster like Chicken, Monkey’s non-toxic nature could be posion. He then said he would not be reformed by Monkey because though he had nothing against peace agreements, he hated peace itself. Peace bred trash who were numbed by peace and he felt disgusted to have to risk his life to protect the lifestyle of these trash.

To Monkey who’s a renowned pacifist, he asked how she made her peace with all of that? She responded by saying she didn’t make peace with it, but carried it with her. Yet, we were shown how her brokered peace agreement was torn apart by civil war and her despondence in reaction to that.

Rat countered that ideals like every single life is precious, no one is evil through and through, were for those who were delusional and that it might be more effective (save more lives) to just kill the transgressors upfront. Monkey admitted as much and explained even though she had seen the reality she still choose to be committed to her cause.

Call her foolish if you will but she was definitely one of the strongest warriors in this suit. Unfortunately, having the best skills and the most noble intent couldn’t save her.

Here’s another scene where Rat continued his philosophical slant. Rat was still mulling over the value of peace agreements and sharing aloud what he thought with Horse. But he contrasted that with Horse’s inaction and concluded that not doing anything was in his view, the worst option.

That was a warning to Horse but it was too late. He didn’t leave his ‘sanctuary’ fast enough and asphyxiated (from lack of oxygen) when Snake burned down his hiding place. Here’s the death toll chalked by up by each character, excluding those contributed by the dead undead since they were technically, Rabbit’s.

Rabbit – Snake, Boar, Monkey, Horse, Dragon, Tiger (fatally injured)
Ox – Chicken, Tiger, Snake (resurrected)
Rat – Ox, Rabbit, Monkey (resurrected)
Chicken – Dog, Boar (resurrected)
Tiger – Sheep, Dragon (resurrected)
Monkey, Sheep, Horse, Snake, Dragon, Dog, Boar – nil

In the penultimate episode we finally were made privy of Rat’s special skills – the hundred paths. The Referee wanted to know how Rat won the ‘war’ because Rat’s specialty wasn’t apparent. Rat refused, walked out and promptly died in an ‘accident’. All the paths where he walked out led to death, each more violent than the rest. Finally, he decided the probability of him staying alive would be higher if he just cooperated.

Here, they talked about Rat’s 100 alternate paths, and who won the ‘war’ the most number of times (Rat: I couldn’t know because I was dead by then). They discussed Monkey’s plan, wherein the Referee revealed the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of this war (that’s a coup, Rat!).  We also realised why the other 11 warriors had a feeling of déjà vu whenever Rat appeared and why Rat was sleepy all the time.

There are some animes that drifted along at a snail pace (3 Gatsu no Lion, Your lie in April) and some which were just animated manga with sound effects (Suki-tte Ii na yo). So I was pleasantly surprised by Juuni Taisen which took a none-too-sterling source material and turned it into a highly watchable anime. Definitely an ‘A’. In fact, they should make this into a case study already.

Next week is the final episode. I’m hoping it will go out with a big bang and give a satisfying conclusion to this war (perhaps something on Rabbit?).

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