Review/discussion about: Nanatsu no Taizai
Everybody sins. You and me, friends and family, neighbors and strangers; nobody is averse to acting sinful. The severity, though, changes depending on the circumstance: a rogue thought doesn’t do much harm nor does a little bit of desire. But other, more malicious movements can harbor emotions with greater intent to maim. This is where atonement comes into play. For while sinning is bad, it’s the good we do to make up for our grievances that truly matters. Nanatsu no Taizai takes this idea to heart, crafting an anime that needs no forgiveness.
Taizai begins innocently enough. Elizabeth Liones visits a local pub where Meliodas, the now infamous “Dragon’s Sin of Wrath” resides. Seeking his and the other Sins’ aide in helping not only her father but also the kingdom from encroaching civil doom, Elizabeth and Meliodas embark on a journey to find the other “legendary warriors” – The Seven Deadly Sins.
The word “journey” here is important, because that’s what this is. “It’s not the destination that’s vital, but the journey” is something that’s often said to highlight the experience undergone while attempting to reach that ultimate, final goal. And this couldn’t be truer with Taizai. The narrative is, at first glance, a “fetch quest.” Elizabeth needs the combined might of the Sins in order to vanquish the evil that threatens her family and homeland. So what’s initially presented is just that – the two roam the countryside, picking up information and traversing lands in order to find the mightiest heroes to ever live. But already, the proverb previously picked comes through, because the events are allowed to naturally unfold as these smaller, mini achievements are carried out. And this is due to the Sins being vastly overpowered compared to everyone else: Meliodas is impossibly strong, Ban is literally immortal, Diane controls the Earth itself, etc. More specifically, the outcomes that our characters will succeed is a given, but it’s the show’s ability to always keep such victory just out of reach, until the last possible second, that provides every scenario that they encounter with the same feelings of initial hope, followed by rocky despair, and eventual elation.
These situations are further amped by the incredible diversity that they always contain. The nature of the world presents “Holy Knights,” each with his or her own special weapon or set of abilities that makes that person entirely unique – the Sins are the same way, just in a league of their own. So every fight, battle, skirmish, duel, or conflict is never the same; new abilities are constantly shown and unique characters are consistently introduced. And even when the same characters and their powers appear more than once, not only do they use their abilities in combination with one another but it gives the show the opportunity to have cast members interact with each other where they had never done so before. This idea also highlights another of Taizai’s strengths: character exploration. The overarching tale is explained and investigated through much of the side characters and the battles that take place, but the anime also takes its time in providing many of the people showcased with both meaningful and purposeful backstory. Ban’s depressing reality, King’s horror-filled past, and even bits of Meliodas’s mysterious upbringing are given. Yet it’s not just the mains; people like Gilthunder, Guila, Dreyfus, and many others have their motivations not just given but applied to the scenarios at hand, allowing for the narrative to contain plot points that are both worthwhile and connected to everything else that’s going on. In other words, the characters and their stories form one, complete adventure.
Even after all this, Taizai doesn’t stop, for it manages to cover almost all of its bases when it comes to telling not just a complete tale but a fulfilling one, too. The journey they originally began actually ends. There are minor fragments from this original quest that still need answers, but these are more related to characterization and development as opposed to having incomplete storytelling. At the same time, a new journey begins. And not just right before the final few scenes of the show; it’s introduced much earlier and it maintains that aforementioned relevancy by being used with the current narrative. Everything also ends up “as it should.” The anime had always been designed with happiness in mind: crazy action sequences, cute and fun comedy, characters to root for, etc. So watching as all of the good guys band together to take out the ultimate evil while providing the audience with a satisfying outcome for everyone involved gave the journey a nice sense of closure.
And just for good measure, Taizai creates a thematic foothold, one that was given in the introduction: the notion of atonement. People are capable of doing some rather vile things. Robbery, manipulation, murder, kidnapping, sexual harassment; or even less extreme cases such as having jealousy, insulting another, or simply being rude. Everybody sins, but it’s not the sinning that’s important, but the good one does to make up for the wrongs accrued that makes the difference. Meliodas protects Elizabeth with all his heart to make up for his failing on Liz, King fights for this kingdom because he couldn’t fight for his, and Ban lives life to the fullest because the woman that gave it to him never had the chance. And again, the side characters exemplify this as well. Using the same examples: Gilthunder chooses to become a roaming helper, Guila has only her younger brother in mind to the point of becoming a “traitor,” and Dreyfus squares off against his best friend. So while everyone in the show does something that one would consider bad, it’s what they do to atone for their sins, the good that they do, that matters most.
Taizai’s art is quite splendid to look at, mostly because of how colorful everything generally is. And not just with the characters – the world itself shifts in tone and mood to match the situations on-hand, with the color palate morphing accordingly. The same goes for the move-sets – it’s an explosion of color at every turn. The fight choreography is also handled quite well, with the camera making sure both the big and the small actions are always front and center. For an added sense of coolness, the abilities are always given names, followed by a textual representation surrounding them to emphasize just how awesome the power, and subsequently the art, really is. Beyond this, the locations are varied, the lighting is appropriate, and the abilities shown are provided flashes, flairs, and focus to match their overall high sense of power.
The character designs are also some of the strongest in the medium. Elizabeth in particular is incredibly well-designed: her intentionally concealing hair, cute, frilly, pink dress with ribbon, short skirt, one-legged tights, mismatched shoes, and teal eyes to match her teal earrings easily demonstrate how unique every character is drawn. Ban’s spiky hair with red-leather vest and pants, King’s favorite cloak and pillow to go with his transformations, Gowther’s somewhat androgynous appearance, and literally every knight having their own distinct style makes the characters look like the over-the-top parts they play.
In typical Taizai fashion, actual animation is always above average. Character movements are fluid, the abilities are never not going off, and the fights are tense from start to finish due to the near constant action that occurs. Be it a bit of blinking, hair moving, or watching as dark flames engulf the surroundings in waves, the anime refuses to let up when it comes to animation.
There are a lot of characters within Taizai, and many of them see some interesting characterization and a bit of development. While some of them could have seen a bit more – Meliodas, Diane, and Gowther, to be specific – what was given is still a healthy dose. Mostly because it wasn’t just the main characters that maintained focus but the side characters did, as well.
One of the better characters offered by the anime was Ban. Ban is the “Fox’s Sin of Greed,” and he is as carefree as can possibly be. His behavior is somewhat aloof, with him coming off as entirely rude and unsympathetic to anyone he converses with. Even towards Meliodas, who is not only his captain but also his closest friend. His snarky attitude and mean spirit should make him hard to like, but it’s his very uncaring nature that allows him to be as entertaining as he is, for he holds no remorse towards anyone. Save for one. Before acquiring his immortality, he was a thief looking to drink from the “Fountain of Youth.” There, he befriended a fairy girl named Elaine, which eventually turned into love. Unfortunately, outside influences cause her to sacrifice herself to save Ban, granting him the power he had initially sought but no longer wanted. Living forever, but not having that person who is dearest to you, unable to have and to hold for the rest of your days, is one hell of an atonement. So Ban’s position becomes clear: he doesn’t get close to anyone because he doesn’t want to have those same feelings of loss again. But even if he may not be kind towards others outright, his intentions are always founded on being there for the people that matter most, lending credit to the notion that Ban isn’t so greedy after all.
Helbram is an interesting individual for a variety of reasons. He not only has his own “fake” persona like his best friend King, but his background is told in a roundabout way – through King’s recollection of the past. And what is given is a kindhearted fairy who was infinitely intrigued by the humans of the land. Sadly, some of these humans weren’t as good as he thought them to be; witnessing the mutilation of his fairy brethren – men, women, and children alike – he dips into insanity. Similar to Ban, he lives his life in an unbearable fashion – listening to the sounds of tearing wings and desperate screams, forcing him to kill the people he thought he loved, to both “get back” at them and to relieve him of the nightmares he has lived with for centuries. While King ends his best friend’s suffering, Helbram is reincarnated through magic twice-over as a sort of zombie with no brain and a fairy with no heart. He’s a tragic character whose third death at King’s hands not only (finally) saves him, but proves that sometimes, one’s atonement is cruelly massive.
As a final look into the cast, Elizabeth acts as a foil to everyone; comparing them to her makes it easy to see how sinful everyone is. She is the princess, the “damsel in distress,” and so she’s initially perceived as being very weak. But she’s in fact the strongest in the show. Not just because she got herself hurt one time by sneakily grabbing that bell, or allowing herself to be kidnapped to save Meliodas, or even using her druidic powers to heal everyone and the land. She’s the strongest because, out of the entire cast, she’s the only person who doesn’t sin. This seems to go against the earlier discussion, but that’s precisely the point. She’s caring, doting, and kind; she’s an absolutely beautiful person both inside and out. So in this world where everyone around her does something bad, she’s the lone outlier, because all she ever does is good.
This dichotomy of hers – being “weak” when she is actually the “strongest” – is something that is seen with each of the Sins as well. Meliodas is the “Dragon’s Sin of Wrath,” yet he is the nicest guy in the world, both to Elizabeth and the people. Diane is the “Snake’s Sin of Envy,” yet her giant-like status is something she comes to accept. And Gowther is the “Goat’s Sin of Lust,” yet he’s purely logical, calculable, and objective in his dealings, with no emotions whatsoever let alone desire. The other Sins can be described as such, but what’s most important is what this represents for Elizabeth, the Sins, and people in general: that nobody should be defined by a single facet. In other words, someone shouldn’t just be known for a single sin committed, for we are all more complex than at first understood.
The opening themes are, like the majority of Taizai, top-notch in their execution. The first OP has a very adventurous feel to it, with the singing and beat being extremely catchy to listen to. It maintains a not-too-hopeful yet not-too-melancholic vibe about it, with the blend of both happiness and sadness capturing the happenings of the anime itself quite nicely. The second OP opts to go entirely optimistic. The lyrics aren’t just easy to sing along with, but also hold relevancy to the themes: “the pain and the pleasure all come together” is another way to phrase how sin and atonement go hand-in-hand.
The ending themes follow the same trend. The first ED just oozes fun, with its fast beat, hard guitar, and its all-over-the-place lyrics. It really does make you “fly high” when one sits down and jams out to it. The second ED goes in the completely opposite direction of its counterpart and everything else. The vocalist gives a strong performance, bringing about a lot of power in her voice where the instruments lean towards a “softer” melody. It’s almost depressing, but not in the sense that something bad has gone down, but rather that something good has finally come to an end.
Hiroyuki Sawana does it again, bringing about an original soundtrack that fits the mood, contains his signature style, and even has some tracks that are nice to listen to outside of the show itself. “Dragonsin” is one of the best pieces, with the continuous violins, distinct accordion, and rising tone pumping one’s adrenaline. “Erionesu” is played during those emotional moments, with the backup drums providing that extra kick. And “Kenkamatsuri” with its orchestral composition and choir brings the epic feeling that Taizai employs in droves.
The voice acting for the anime is always above average. Special shout-outs are deserved for Sora Amamiya as Elizabeth for her consistent and perfect princess voice, Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Ban for his nonchalant way of speaking, Misaki Kuno as Hawk for her very impressive uniqueness she brought to the pig, and Yuuhei Takagi as Gowther for performing as the emotionless mind-freak in his first major role. Realistically, though, everyone did a splendid job.
Part of what made this show so much fun to watch was due in part to both the characters’ individual personalities and the interactions they had between each other. Elizabeth’s constant cuteness, Meliodas always kicking butt, and Gowther’s weird yet endearing way of acting managed to make me smile every single time. Diane’s crush on the captain but obliviousness to the leader of the fairies, Ban messing with King at every turn, Elizabeth patiently putting up with Meliodas’s “flirting;” the cast have this dynamic connection that portrays them as the tight-knit group that they are. Elizabeth is my favorite, but Meliodas, Diane, Ban, Gowther, King, and Hawk are right alongside her, because everyone is just so easily likable from the moment they first appear on-screen.
The hilarity is well-done, as are the battles that take place. The wonderful animation, varying abilities, and grand scale of it all makes each fight just as exciting as the last. Ban versus Meliodas in the tiny village as well as Meliodas versus Gilthunder and Hendrickson in the royal capital were crazy to watch, and are excellent examples of what the anime has to offer in the action department. Despite all of this – the comedy and the clashes – this isn’t an anime that I found myself absolutely attached to, but there was never a dull moment throughout the series.
Nanatsu no Taizai is an anime with crisp visuals and killer music; a stellar story and fun-loving characters; and enough entertainment to make even the saddest person smile with glee. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that “The Seven Deadly Sins” aren’t just deadly: they’re amazing.
Story: Great, all about the journey, with constantly unique scenarios, purposeful character exploration, a complete narrative, and themes of sin and atonement
Animation: Great, colorful and fight-focused art style, incredible character designs, and above average actual animation
Characters: Good, while Meliodas and a few others needed a bit more focus, Ban, Helbram, Elizabeth, and the rest of the cast received more than enough to exemplify atonement and complexity
Sound: Great, great first OP, great second OP, great first ED, good second ED, nice soundtrack, above average VA work
Enjoyment: Good, endearing characters, nice comedy, and high-action battles leave one grinning ear-to-ear
Final Score: 9/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3