Oh my, how delightfully NOT interesting. Episode 1 of Dies Irae did nothing to remedy the plot holes of the preview episode. If I had come to this without ever knowing about those crazy Nazi super team, I would have been even more confused. A guillotine, a fear of blades, three friends and a runaway Nazi? Yeah, I guess that’s all I managed to grasp.
Japanese Title: 黄昏の少女
At last, we get to meet the real protagonist of this series. Ren Fujii is the same guy we saw against Heydrich in the beginning of the prequel episode. Now, we will probably get to see how he became the Nazi-kicking hero he came to be. For all the action of the prequel, however, this episode has none. It plays more like your typical drama-mystery anime that revolves around a bunch of students. These students are his two lifelong friends, Shirou and Kasumi, and a senpai that is probably from Vulcan called Rea. On the sides, we get an F-CUP nun (boobs seem to be a stable asset to any and all visual novels, even if I have actually played just two so far), and an equally boob-blessed female character who reminds me of one of the Valkyries (and probably was).
By the end of the episode, Ren hasn’t manifested any special powers. The only indication that there is something coming to him is the ghost of the beheaded (also big-boobed) French girl and the image of the mysterious shadowy figure he sees in the corridor to the guillotine. We still don’t know what role the guillotine plays, but I’m guessing it’s important, since there was a Dies Irae contest held in Twitter that gave a replica of it as a prize.
In a nutshell, there was nothing especially memorable about this episode. We have to wait a few episodes for Ren to start fighting the Nazis. Maybe then Dies Irae will have more to show.
Holes in the Wall: That was sweet and one of the few moments where I felt a connection with the three main characters. Fujii, Kasumi, and Shion must have been really close to make holes to each other’s rooms. That’s some real friendship there.
Guillotine song: I don’t know if there is a reference for that song, and I sincerely hope there isn’t because it was creepy as hell. Having the scar on that girl’s neck was one thing, but chanting about how the guillotine is thirsty of blood… Remined me of Sweeney Todd…
Themes & Trivia
Shambhala: Probably the name of that huge gold flying castle from last episode, Shambhala is the name of a mythical kingdom in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. It refers to a pure land, much like Eden for Christians or any other religious equivalent, that exists in a plane that is neither real nor ethereal, but something in-between. The myth of Shambhala has been referenced a lot in popular culture and one can find it in countless science fiction stories. In anime culture, the most prominent example is the Fullmetal Alchemist feature-length anime movie Conqueror of Shamballa. The movie takes place in 1923 and features Hess working with the Thule Society in their search for the mythical land.
Kendo: If you have seen your share of anime, chances are that you have probably seen kendo at least a few times. It is a modern Japanese martial art than has its base in classic swordsmanship (kenjutsu). It uses bamboo swords (shinai) and a protective armor called bougu. Like many Japanese martial arts, it is practiced all around the world. There is even an international kendo association. Like other martial arts like karate and aikido, kendo combines the values of a traditional practice with the physical activity of a classic sport. Kendo is written with the kanji for ‘sword’ and ‘road’, literary meaning ‘the way of the sword.’
Guillotine: Probably one of the most famous execution devices, the guillotine is best known for its use in France during the French revolution. Of course, there were more efficient ways to execute people, but the beheading apparatus was more of a way for the oppressed French to feel the avenging nature of the revolution. Curious enough, the guillotine was the preferred method of judicial execution until the abolition of capital punishment in 1981. If you think that’s farfetched, the last man to lose his head this way in France was in 1977.
Cagliostro: That’s the name the weird beheaded lady called Fujii with. My best reference guess is an Italian adventurer and magician who lived in the 18th century. Count Alessandro di Gagliostro was a famous occultist who pursued psychic healing, alchemy, and scrying. There are so many references of him in music, literature, and film, I am not sure if this naming was intentional or not. Just to mention one Cagliostro in Japanese popular culture: he is a playable character in the Japanese mobile game Granblue Fantasy.
With the lackluster action (what action?) of Episode 1, I am glad we at least got the confused mess that Episode 0 was. Even though it triggered a lot of ‘OMG NAZIS’ responses, this is not going to be a tribute to the divinity of one of the minds behind the Holocaust, and honestly, I can’t believe that many people thought that the prequel was placing them as the protagonists. I guess this is going to be more of a Wolvenstein ordeal where the protagonist will have the chance to kick some Nazi butt before they bring the Apocalypse.
What is Happening Here
I know I’ve already expressed my puzzlement on the plot a number of times, but this looks and feels more like a game than an anime. We still don’t know the number of episodes Dies Irae will have. If they plan, however, to keep the same pacing, they better be a lot.