Sunday, 22 May 2016

Strange Dawn

Although it's mostly forgotten now, this show actually got an English dub and even aired in the UK during that brief, glorius period when every major TV channel needed at least one dubbed anime series in its schedule. Oddly, that dub (which I think was made in/for Australia) seems to be totally unavailable nowadays, through means both legal and otherwise. It's odd that the dub was even made under those circumstances, though, airing as it did in an early morning Saturday morning kids' slot. I can only assume that some comissioner at Channel 5 just looked at the misleadingly-cute promotional art for the series, assumed it was a cute, light-hearted adventure series and then bought it without actually watching an episode. The reason I think this is that it's a pretty serious low fantasy series with bloody violence, war, death and politics and an attempted rape early in the series.

At its most basic, the premise is one seen in quite a few shows of the 90s and early 00s: two schoolgirls (Yoko and Eri) suddenly find themselves in a fantasy world in the midst of war, where they're heralded as prophecised saviours. The catch is that they really are just two normal girls, with no latent special powers or anything. However, the world in which they find themselves is inhabited by little potato-looking people, only about 20cm high. So by default the two girls are significantly larger and stronger than everyone around them, which makes them seem like mighty heroes, even if they aren't. There's also the fact that most of the little people believe that they're holy saviours prophecised to end the war one way or another, giving any side they align themselves with a massive psychological advantage over their foes.

Back when it aired on TV, I didn't think very highly of Strange Dawn. It looked like a boring show with silly-looking spud-people, annoying protagonists and lots of time spent with characters sitting around being sad. Watching again as an adult, I'm enjoying it a lot more: there's fantasy political intrigue, Yoko and Eri each have different, but equally believable reactions to their strange situation (and very different personalities in general), and the cute SD character designs actually serve to make the violence, horror and general seriousness of the series' events seem more serious and shocking, simply through the dissonance between the events and the visuals.

As I write this, I'm still a few episodes from the end, but unless it takes a sudden and dramatic downfall in the episodes to come, I can say I'd definitely recommend Strange Dawn to those wanting a serious fantasy cartoon with an unusual twist.