This review is part on a little push I wanted to start on the blog. I wanted us to review more shojo anime. Not a lot of it gets made and I feel we hardly review it enough on the blog and I think all genres of anime and manga should be examined on the blog. How much this title counts is a matter of opinion. Unprecedented Game aka Hatenko Yugi aka Dazzle has an unusual history as a manga that makes classifying the anime a bit tricky. The manga started out in Square Enix’s shonen anthology GFantasy but after book 3 it switches to Ichijinsha’s shoujo magazine Comic Zero-Sum. But the most important thing we should get out of this is it is a story that can appeal to both genders quite well. It is a show with a nice mixture of seemingly hard to mix elements: action, romance, drama, comedy and horror. A pot luck that really blends well together.
Why is this called Dazzle in the TokyoPop release anyway? It gives absolutely no clue as to what the story might be. Maybe it refers to Rahzel’s magic powers? Baroqueheat’s tricks? Alzeid’s good looks? Well, whatever, still seems like a silly name. I also didn’t realize for a while that Dazzle and this anime were one in the same. I had watched a bit of this show sometime ago, found it amusing, and then promptly got distracted.
Rahzel’s life is turned upside down when her father throws her out of the house an declares that she must learn to fend for herself. Not long after leaving on her forced journey she meets a handsome albino named Alzeid. She vows that she will travel along side the dour man until she can inject some joy and adventure into his life. They are soon joined by Alzeid’s friend Baroqueheat from the military who falls in head over heals in lust with Rahzel. They head out on the road using their spell casting and fighting skills to survive while taking odd jobs to make money. While most of their jobs start off simple they often take a sinister twist.
The format of the series is going to be love it or hate it with its episodic and roaming nature. Besides the first episode where characters meet, the order of the episodes is unimportant and could be random. However, the mystery solving slant of the show lends itself to the format and doesn’t feel particularly jarring. Though I had to laugh as a one point I realized it reminded me of Scooby-Doo, especially when they all of a sudden in a snowy area and have new winter outfits. The tone is more a mixture of Slayers and a little Kino’s Journey thrown in. There are plenty of laughs but ultimately they usually learn a sad secret or truth behind whatever it is they have stumbled upon.
The trinity of Rahzel, Alzeid, and Baroqueheat are the main draw of the show because the comedic interactions really draw you in and keep the stories fresh. Rahzel is a fiery girl that takes anything that life throws at her and dishes it back twice as hard despite a tragic past. She can be playful and kind but also selfish and cruel. It also helps that Rahzel can take care of herself which is always refreshing to see. In short, she is a benevolent Lina Inverse. She obviously has a genuine affection for Rahzel but can be obtuse in her expression of her feeling while she basically sees Baroqueheat in the same way you would look at something on the bottom of your shoe. Alzeid is the the Zelgadis of the group. Stoic and quiet it might seem that he does not care for anyone else. But as we go on it is clear that he has a deeper affection for both his two companions. Baroqueheat is the romantic rival who lives to impress Rahzel and tweak Alzeid’s nose. He comes of as an easy going ladies man but we do get see a layer of introspection and depth to him from time to time. The three main characters are constantly playing off each other and their dialog really snaps. My favorite part is what I call the Rahzel effect. She will often praise Alzeid for the same things she takes Baroqueheat to task for. They are done suitably enough that they have a delightful comedic bite to them.
Rahzel immediately reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint who till I watched the series first episode a second time. As Hisui also mentioned, I too was reminded of the infamous Lina Inverse (one of my favorite characters in my early fandom). It all comes together what with her zeal, her bossy nature, and her appetite! This energy is what the series really runs on, and from the first few moments of episode one, it is apparent that Rahzel is running this story and it’ll be an energetic one. Though don’t be fooled, she has a tragic past even when making light of it. Her two companions’ dubious pasts are much more at the forefront. These two are pretty much polar opposites as Baroqueheat is funny and Alzheid is only unintentionally so thanks to his stoic manner. While all three of these characters are hard not to enjoy, you can’t really say there is much about them that evolves in this short stint. Even as a group, they have a rapport and trust between themselves almost from the very beginning. We learn more about who they are, but don’t really see them change too much over the course of the series. So what you really get from them is the fantastic team-up, and because of that rapport I mentioned, they are a joy to watch travel about.
As for the romantic aspects present in the series, I think it comes off pretty obviously that Rahzel has affection for both men but in very different ways. If Alzheid goes to the left and Baroqueheat goes to the right, well, actually Rahzel would probably go straight ahead. But she would praise Alzheid for thinking on his feet while calling Baroqueheat a dumb dumb for not following her. Baroqueheat is all insincere charm while Alzheid is effortless mystic. Even though both men are capable, only Alzheid ever really looks that way in Rahzel’s eyes. It’s also plainly obvious to Baroqueheat who doesn’t seem to take it too seriously which makes it all in good fun.
Even though the anime is done by the infamous Studio Deen I liked the animation. The character designs were attractive and I think they improved on Minari Endoh’s original characters deigns which definitely improve as the manga goes on. Rahzel has a different outfit for every episode which is always nice to see. Alzeid and Baroqueheat sadly do not have that diverse a wardrobe which is a shame. The opening and closing were good but nothing super memorable. The opening does set the mood for the series quite well which is always a plus. I know that the ending had a bit too much of Rahzel’s blindfolded bear which always creeps out Narutaki.
The anime really plays around with the plot manga while remaining faithful to the spirit. They insert Baroqueheat into the anime as soon as possible unlike the manga. They also take stories that are not part of the main plot arc story to make up a bulk of the episodes. I think this is what lead to Mikey-san in his Secret Santa review to say that Baroqueheat gets less character development. The stories they picked from later in the manga build a mood more than anything else. In fact we only get a hint that the main plot from the manga is starting at the end of the anime. This definitely seems like one of those anime designed to get you interesting in reading the manga while providing a treat for people who are already fans.
At just 10 episodes, you’ll never get bored with Unprecedented Game. No story wears out it’s welcome since most of them are only one episode in length. As I implied earlier, the seller for this show is the wonderful and hilarious interactions between these three characters that run the gamut of personalities. This part of the story is done so well, has so much life, that I wish it was just an endless series of adventures between them never knowing a true destination. However, a large plot is hinted at in bits and pieces and the really cinches it is the ending which clearly makes you feel like it’s only just the beginning of what is really the crux of the story. But even so, I never felt cheated, it was enjoyable all the way through and easily makes me need to pick up the manga.
I think the reason Unprecedented Game works so well is that blends together horror and comedy so well. The stories can often take a turn for the morbid and horrific and have no problem killing children if that is what the plot necessitates. Although there is tragedy there are also amusing and funny stories and Rahzel, Alzeid, and Baroqueheat interaction can often provide a bit of a break before and after a grim story. This build up and wind down from darkness is a gentle cycle that other series in the same vein often can’t get quite correctly. If you like the anime I really suggest you check out the manga as well. As they say at the end of the anime this game has just started.