Kaze no Stigma Was Sword Art Online Before Sword Art Online Existed

You probably noticed that I haven’t written too much about the Winter season as a whole aside from Twitter comments. That’s because I found over the years that I prefer doing reviews – or as close to reviews as you can get from me – and I can’t really work up the motivation to write a final write-up for something I’ve covered extensively each week. Yes, there was Amagi Brilliant Park, but there were circumstances surrounding that show that made it the exception compared to Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, which I can’t seem to type up many words for besides “could have set a higher standard for card game adaptations but I suppose the bar it set is fine for now”. If there’s something interesting about a show that I don’t want to highlight too much in a review, I’d do it, but the only thing so far has been that Magical Boyfriends show, and isn’t that just ironic?

In the meantime, I need something to write about besides weekly Durarara posts, so I’ve come up with a lot of different projects and one of them is looking back at some old anime. And we all know how much I like to examine the bad, so let’s bring attention to an obscure anime that nobody cares about and rub that fact in by drilling holes through its miserable loathsome brain.

Kaze no Stigma has been brought up by me several times as one of my most despised anime, but I’ve never really had a chance to say why, partly because it came out during a time when light novel adaptations were considered good and any that actually weren’t were purged from the collective hive mind that is anime fandom – barring the occasional fanboy who still tries to claim that Kazuma is someone that protagonists should look up to. I saw it during a time when Bakemonogatari was airing, so you can imagine it took a lot to make me hate something when I was still buying Kanon and Shana DVDs unironically. I don’t remember how I found out about the show beyond random Youtube searches back when you could actually watch anime there, but I remember thinking it seemed like a cool urban fantasy and instead got “why why why WHYYYYYY?!”

Whilst Sword Art Online and Mahouka are now considered the poster-boys for “Gary-Stu fanfiction/wish-fulfillment LN crap that’s not even well-animated”, Kaze no Stigma was doing everything they did back in 2007 aka “the golden year of anime that wasn’t actually so golden when you look at it closely” and whilst I’d hesitate to determine if it’s worse than either, it’s the one that I hate the most largely because of the “shock”. You know what I mean. The “shock” when you’re a newbie who’s optimistic about everything, unaware of what the dark side is truly capable of, and when you go in without any preparation you get backlashed so hard to the point that you can actually press charges against the creators. This is why I go into practically every anime with no expectations whatsoever. Because quite frankly, the “shock” is something I can do without for the rest of my already miserable life.

The story is centered on Kazuma, a kid who was banished from his family because his female cousin was able to wield magic without setting herself on fire and burning all her clothes off – which isn’t nearly as positive as it sounds – and thus goes away for a few years only to return as a stock cocky douche who wields wind magic like Jesus on steroids. His reunion coincides with another wind user killing off his family and rather than do much to clear his name, he arrogantly takes them on, including his cousin (Ayano) who has grown into a beautiful sword-wielding babe so you know what’s going to happen to her before the first half of the premiere even concludes. Other characters include Kazuma’s brother (Ren), who sounds like a prepubescent kid who smoked too many marlboros, and his dad (don’t remember the name and don’t care to look it up), who gets hospitalized very early on due to father/son differences that I refuse to describe because I don’t want to spend much more effort into hating this show than the creators did in its overall quality.

This admittedly is difficult to do because the main problem with this show, along with the reason I hate it so much, is that it’s completely unimaginative in every single way imaginable (no pun intended). The anime was made by Gonzo post-Welcome to the NHK and that’s pretty much all you need to know regarding the production values as well as the overall quality. But even if Kenji Nakamura was set to direct this show, you’d need a complete overhaul of the original source material to make up for writing this phenomenally bad. That story premise I mentioned above gets resolved within the first four episodes and then succumbs to light novel syndrome of padding out the time with lower quality story arcs, and considering how awful the first story arc, that’s saying a whole lot. Now I never actually finished this show – get your mouse cursor away from that “x-mark” – but I have had some exposure to what I never gave a proper chance and my god it’s like the writer wasn’t even trying to make the very premise of their story interesting.

One story arc is centered on a girl wanting to kill Kazuma to the point that she’d sell her own soul to darkness, which made her the most sympathetic character on the show until her redemption at the end because she was nice to Kazuma as a kid and he even confirms himself that yes, that little thing was all she needed to do for him to care about her. Another one focuses on Jun trying to protect a girl he fell in love with after a five-minute at best playground romp only to discover she’s an artificial human with limited time, leading to another vomit-inducing conclusion. There’s even an arc where an American chick comes and falls for Kazuma because she’s under the impression he has a nine-inch cock when in reality, it’s (censored, but I assure you it’s a small number) inches long. If uninspired mediocrity was an Olympic event, it’d get unanimous tens all across the board.

There’s even an arc where Kazuma has to suppress a super powered dark side – which is meant to be the overlying plot that connects the various stories together – that has no weight to it because A) it actually makes him weaker, so I dunno why he has it to begin with B) he’s so much of a hypocritical asshole as is that there’s practically no contrast. Literally every second he’s on-screen is a second that I want to steal his powers and go all Texas Chainsaw Massacre with them on his face, because the writer just can’t seem to write his “loner with a heart of gold who gets all the ladies, seems to always know what’s going on, and never gets so much as a scratch on him throughout the entire show” character consistently and decide whether his facade is an act or not. Not that the other characters are much better, being shallow stock stereotypes who wear the same outfit to the point that Ayano had to decide between four identical school uniforms to wear to a date, but at least they’re straight-forward and actually get dirt on their faces (which says a lot about the show’s quality when that’s the best you have to say for them).

And of course it wouldn’t be a wish-fulfillment Gary Stu story without awful action scenes that looked like they were conceived and choreographed by interns for the janitor position. They use the same stock footage of Ayano summoning her sword almost every single episode (you’ll see that above image alot in this show) and it doesn’t even work on the bad guys 95% of the time, which makes her even less competent than Asuna or Miyuki and ain’t that a sad truth? Kazuma’s wind powers are so cheap both in practice and in a visual sense that he doesn’t even have to move in order to use them, which is pretty much the triple-threat of boring action right there.

Not that he moves during the non-action scenes either. I recall one episode where he, Ayano, and a bunch of her friends explore the school late at night and make the girls perform lame comedic routines whilst he just smiles without revealing the truth because we needed the plot to go on for an entire episode because we have two cours to fill and we don’t have the brains to fill them with anything more meaningful.

Well I refuse to be the kettle that calls this show black, Gonzo, so I’m ending this review of your uninspired mess right now before my own imagination is sucked dry from this black hole (I don’t see myself as a kettle, so I feel no hypocrisy in calling Kaze no Stigma that) of banal story, characters, animation, music, and even author existence – the writer of the original light novels passed away before he could finish the series – that in retrospect, I shouldn’t have rediscovered in the first place.

4 responses to “Kaze no Stigma Was Sword Art Online Before Sword Art Online Existed

  1. Gonzo for me was the worst studio,even in it’s heyday. They would occasionally stub their toe on gold,but they mostly made schlock with terrible cgi thrown in. Hell even their “good” shows like NHK looked like crap.

      • NHK is great the first time around,but on further reflection it was a missed opportunity. Didn’t did a good job balancing the comedic elements with the darker stuff(manga did this well). And like a lot of 2-cour shows it stumbles in the second half.

        I do plan to watch Bokurano when Discotek releases it this year. Now I can’t totally hate Gonzo,since they did Gankutsuou which is their magnum opus(I could’ve done without the eye-rolling mech scenes though).

  2. I /knew/ I’d heard this show mentioned recently. Oh, jeez.
    I agreed to watch it in exchange for a friend watching Gundam Build Fighters, and now I’m a little terrified.