...when the screen takes over...

Thunderbolt Fantasy, First Impression

Oh, dear. Oh, dear. I feel like a kid in a candy store. This interesting presentation had me intrigued and excited right from the start. With Gen Urobuchi at the helm and glove puppetry in the front line, Thunderbolt Fantasy’s first episode is a dazzling spectacle.

Thunderbolt Fantasy, written by Gen Urobuchi (Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero), is an action, martial arts, sword fighting puppet show. It premiered July 8th in Japan.


Action. Martial arts. Swordsmen. Puppets. How do they do it?


In episode one, Tan Kou (Dan Heng) and his sister Tan Hi (Dan Fei) run from soldiers from the evil clan Genkishuu, who are after the “Heavenly Retribution Sword” that is under the siblings’ protection. But they are cornered. The evil overlord Betsutengai (Mie Tian Hai) comes, defeats Tan Kou, who sacrifices himself to give Tan Hi chances to escape, and takes the sword handle. Tan Hi falls off the cliff.

Meanwhile, under the rain, a swordsman Shofukan (Shang Bu Huan) takes an umbrella that has sheltered a stone Buddha. A nearby busybody, who is lazying under a tree, reprimands him for taking the umbrella and advices him to repay the deed by helping the first person he will meet on his travel. The first person he meets is Tan Hi who is being chased while sustaining injury. He rescues her and in the process gets himself involved in her plight.

I didn’t know anything about this show before.

The premise of the story is nothing new, as is the presentation. It employs Taiwanese glove puppetry in cooperation between Pili International Multimedia (the company that makes Pili, which has been around for decades), Good Smile, and Nitroplus. But still, it surprises me to see it on an anime channel for it’s not something I see often in my part of the world.

The most delightful of all is that it made me laugh all the way throughout episode one. Not because it’s funny, although there’s a touch of comedy in it, but because it feels absurd — the episode one’s title, “Code of the Umbrella”, had me in stitches. It has everything from rpg-like theatrical deathblows, to poetic scenes of a man smoking pipe under the tree and action packed battle under the rain, to intricate details of settings and puppets, to gory visuals, to fancy Bourne-series action camera work, to evil overlord with thick mascara, heavy eye shadow, and raving mad laughter. It leaves me with a sense of wonder.

I still hold my judgement on this show. In places, the editing and camera works give me headache. Another thing that worries me is that without strong story to tell, the dazzling fun, spectacle and fireworks in episode one might wear off with repetition. The name Gen Urobuchi may be a guarantee for compelling drama and conflicts. So far, the story feels familiar, closer to those old-fashioned wuxia stories. This familiarity may or may not be an advantage.

It’s still too early to tell. But, with this promising start, I surely am looking forward to the next episode.


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