Fight! Spirit of the Sword
It is possible, believe it or not, to tell a great story in 30 minutes or less. I used to think we were out of the era of great short anime films until I saw Voices of a Distant Star, which ranks as one of the best anime of all time. It proved that you could be moved emotionally in just a short time frame. However, the anime world is typically interested in throwing its failed pilots and lousy creations onto a DVD or VHS tape and calling it entertainment. Such is Fight! Spirit of the Sword, which is just ridiculously bad from start to finish. Although the artwork isn't bad (especially as presented in 1.85:1 ratio), it's a confusing mess that finishes up before we even get a proper introduction.
The plot is this side of incomprehensible, but I'll give it a shot and have the purists forgive me later...Yo is a member of a family sworn for centuries to protect Heaven and Earth from demons. His companions are Chitanai, a sword with a spirit of its own, and Tsuki, a protective spirit who coaches and helps him along the way. But when Yo accidentally loses the tchotchke that Tsuki is somehow magically linked to, trouble starts brewing. Not only do demons start popping out of the woodwork, but also two troublemakers related to Yo show up in the background to attempt to steal Chitanai and open a rift between worlds. If Yo can't find Tsuki and get to banishing the ethereal bad guys, we're in for a mess.
From a technical perspective, this isn't really bad at all. Although the artwork isn't stunning, it's competent and clean. It's often subdued and soft, reflecting its shoujo underpinnings. The Japanese voice actors also do a nice job voicing their parts. Frankly, it would have been hard to get solid characterizations with so little show to work with, but they do a nice job. (Admittedly, I may be biased, since I actually enjoyed the 15-minute featurette with the seiyuu who performed in Fight! much more than the actual feature.)
Where Fight! falls apart--and it falls apart spectacularly--is within its basic plot. The story is convoluted to the point that the show is over just as we are starting to put together who's who and what's what. We have flashbacks and rapid scene changes and characters that have unexplained backgrounds doing shadowy things in the...well, shadows. We have unexplained men living at Yo's house that look for the world like a gay couple, but we have no idea. And this twosome who wants to create the temporal rift between Heaven and Earth...one of them is Yo's brother that looks like his sister? Is that right? Am I confused? Oh, yeah. It's a mess, plain and simple, without cause, purpose, character development, or even a reasonable ending. The bad guys don't even get in an attack, for crying out loud!
To me, Fight! looks like nothing more than a "love letter" to the fans of the original manga series who already knew all the characters and story by heart. These "love letters" actually aren't as uncommon as you'd think. Many a popular manga has a short one-shot OVA pilot. But shame on Anime Works presenting it as if it were a full feature, which it isn't. They even have the audacity to list the running time of the program as 45 minutes, which is only true if you include the voice actor featurette! Without credits, it's lucky to be 25 minutes long. It was in bad taste to release it on VHS this way, but to try and milk it on a DVD at an even greater price tag? Dishonorable.
Fight! Spirit of the Sword must have had a few fans in Japan from the manga, but no one's going to watch this show and be blown away...except if you're blown away by incompetence, of course.
Fight! Spirit of the Sword -- mild violence -- D