Four years ago, Kazuma was the greatest failure of the Kannagi family. An ancient house of fire masters, the strongest in the world, he alone cannot manipulate it at all. In the end, unable to uphold the Kannagi name, he was shamefully evicted. But now he has come back, and things have changed. Having discovered an affinity for wind within himself, he is now stronger than everyone who once stood over him. It’s hard to tell what scars he bears and what grudges he holds, though both clearly must exist. What is clear is that power of his level cannot hold aloof. Now that he is back, he is a player, as the Kannagi’s have always been. There is always work for the strong.
Fujimura Ayumi as Kannagi Ayano
Ono Daisuke as Kazuma Yagami
Morinaga Rika as Kannagi Ren
Ohara Sayaka as Tachibana Kirika
Takahashi Chiaki as Katherine McDonald
Itou Shizuka as Kudou Nanase
Inokuchi Yuka as Shinomiya Yukari
Fantasy, Action, Comedy.
Kaze no Stigma aired from April 11, 2007 till September 20, 2007
Kaze no Stigma has twenty four episodes, and the ending suggests a sequel.
There are all kinds of taste in anime. Some people really don’t care what kind of action there is or about any suspenseful plot so long as the right boy and girl become a happy couple. Some practically couldn’t care less who’s on what side so long as there’s enough action. I’ve given two level ratings before for anime that others would probably rate much higher. My job is to make sure people can tell if they’ll like it, not to like it myself. However, you can pretty much always tell what an anime is trying to do-and Kaze no Stigma fails. Lacking impact in almost every way, Kaze no Stigma makes the dubious honor of being my first one rating by being not a case of missed taste, but of just plain missing.
First, characters: So much potential-what is actually done with them is almost painful. The male lead, Kazuma, at first seems to be a rightfully wronged member of the family come home to prove it. His attitude, his power, and his use of it, all suggest someone who isn’t quite immature enough to pound on the Kannagi gates and beat them up, but who is all too willing to do so the moment opportunity crosses his path. However, introspection into the shame he suffered in the past ends within four episodes, and what started out an intriguing and understandable figure becomes just an irritating, supercilious, high and mighty character that is wildly incompatible with the female lead, Ayano. Ayano started out equally promising. The thing was, I assumed character flaws presented in the beginning were there to be exorcised, not as their permanent description. To me, the signs were that the series would be about her maturing, growing, and learning about what the Kannagi family’s power really means, what it is for, and when their pride becomes their downfall. Instead, they threw her straight into the ‘insists she hates him while going nuts whenever he belittles her or pays attention to another girl’ stereotype, from episode five on, and that is where development ends. And they make multiple filler episodes focusing on it too. Ren, male side-kick, is both Ayano’s cousin and Kazuma’s younger brother. He hero-worships his brother, and clearly has a close relationship to him-he alone views Kazuma’s leaving only in terms of not having his brother for four years. He is also the only one to have any real character development; the only worthwhile arc in the series actually focuses on him. Oh well. A fiercely in denial love interest must come with ‘wiser’ friends to stand in the background and tease them about it. Ayano’s come in the form of two friends, Nanase and Yukari. Nanase is more tomboyish than Yukari, with short black hair to Yukari’s long blond. Yukari also has a disturbing lean towards being a nosy journalist; this ranges from knowing the oddest school gossip to getting in disguise to follow Ayano and Kazuma and take pictures of ‘the hundred faces of Ayano in love’. Until the climax, however, they are primarily there to giggle whenever Ayano and Kazuma are together, and make remarks about dates and love when he’s mentioned, so that Ayano will yell and freak and clue in any particularly wooden headed watchers. Last and unfortunately not least: Katherine McDonald, a truly horrible ‘rival’ for Ayano that appears in episode fourteen. A fire master from America, big breasted with long curly blond hair(Japanese apparently consider this the only proper representation of a foreigner), she comes to challenge the Kannagi title of strongest fire user family, and stays to make eyes at Kazuma and basically be a forthright Ayano. May I mention that she has this laugh like a third tier actress trying out for the Witch of the West? Thanks.
Okay, plot, general flow, handling, delivery-all royally flops. The series consists of two to four episode arcs sandwiched by somewhat amusing to just plain stupid fillers until seventeen, where the final arc kicks in. The first four are actually quite good, mostly because you assume they are hints of arcs and developments to come. Unfortunately, however, that is the one thing they are not. After that comes a two ep. arc, and then a mildly amusing filler that actually introduces a subject of the next four episode arc: a wind fairy who is by far the most amusing character of the series. Actually, that arc is the only truly good part of the whole anime. It actually brought tears to my eyes, and the comedic interaction between Kazuma and the little sprite is honestly, truly funny. Of course, the tear jerker part all focused on Ren and a character that does not appear again, and the fairy doesn’t appear either, so all the things that made it good stay there. It even managed to redeem the Kazuma x Ayano bit for a while…but once they took the spotlight again, that quickly wore off. It’s nonstop fillers, mostly groan worthy, until seventeen. The final climax, in concept, is actually quite interesting, as is the psychology involved, but that took a back seat to focusing on how it tied to Kazuma’s past, attempts at which came across as unbelievably banal. The facts of a scene are meaningless. You can portray increasingly impressive, dark, portent filled skies with glowing red moons and what all till the budget runs dry, but if you can’t tell the story right, it’s just a lot of colorful high rez pixels. That’s what happens here. Gonzo is known as the top dog of animated eye candy – but they are also known for lousy character, and this is a prime example. All their focus and time spent on it only emphasized that it had no punch. It’s actually pretty hard to produce the climax without a rise of some kind. In this case, I was almost not bored. And there were several almost touching scenes too. It was a step up. If the whole thing had been like that, it would have rated a two instead. As is, one four episode arc that was good can’t really be allowed to change things.
I have always said that neither animation nor voice actors really mattered. What really matters is the story you tell. Do it right, and the watchers will forget everything else. Do it wrong, and nothing can save you. The fact that even as I was watching this, I was enthusiastically enjoying a 640 rez low budget RPG rip-off just illustrates the point further. Gonzo should be ashamed to see it’s competition. Kaze no Stigma is a one. As always, the rest is your call.
P.S. There is actually a bit of what you might call fan service in this anime. Since the animation quality is very high, this might well be considered the best done part of the series. Level ranges from Ayano’s clothes getting torn a bit to seeing her in underwear choosing a dress. I don’t go for this, but like I always say, it’s your call.
Final Rating: 1/5
This review was brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Most info such as cast was taken from ANN’s encyclopedia listing. In this case, the airtime is courtesy of wikipedia. All else is and always will be the origination of the author.
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