Did you know there was a new show written by Gen Urobuchi airing on Crunchyroll this season? If you’re wondering why you should care, Gen Urobuchi is the writer behind recent anime megahits like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero and Psycho Pass (but not the second season, in case you were worried). So yes, he’s something of a hot property right now. But you may have missed that he had a new show coming out next season since, as it isn’t an animated series, you wouldn’t have found it on Myanimelist. Although, it’s not a live-action show either. Well, sort of. It’s a puppet show.
No really. It’s called Thunderbolt Fantasy. And it’s amazing.
The show is a Wuxia drama, which if you’ve never seen before can be quite the experience. It’s a genre featuring elaborately over-dressed fantasy warriors fighting as though gravity is merely an amusing pastime rather than a law of the universe . Think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon crossed with the Dynasty Warriors video games and you’ll have a general idea of what we’re talking about. Now imagine all of that, except with hand puppets. It heightens the ridiculousness of these dramatic fights far beyond their usual level to create one of the more bafflingly entertaining spectacles around.
The story, for how much it matters, is about a fabulously evil man who wants to complete his collection of overpowered fantasy weapons and grab the blade for the most deadly sword in the world. He’s already got his hand on the hilt and is now chasing down a lady who keeps the blade locked away.
However, there are some people who would prefer this stupidly evil man didn’t have access to unlimited power though, including a mysterious vaping weirdo. The vaping weirdo wants to help this lady so he collects a ragtag group of heroes to storm the bad guy’s keep to get back the hilt and save the world.
The story is just a light backdrop allowing us to enjoy the entertaining cast of characters the show is slowly building up. We have a travelling put-upon swordsman who might as well say “yare yare daze” after every line of dialogue.
We have the brash young spearman who gesticulates wildly with everything he says (and considering this is a puppet show, where everyone gesticulates wildly anyway, this means he’s constantly flailing across the screen like the person controlling him is having an epileptic fit). There’s a demon lady who speaks as though everything she sets her eyes on disgusts her to her core. This is without getting into our vaping white-haired weirdo who leads this group, for whom more than half the cast appears to have previous beef with. I choose to believe all of them were previous lovers of his he ran away from years ago and they’re still seeking revenge.
Thunderbolt Fantasy’s secret best thing though is the writing and dialogue. It’s genuinely clever and witty. I feel like I don’t need to explain the appeal of overly elaborate hand puppets engaging in gravity-defying battles as they spray the floor with puppet blood. That’s fairly self-explanatory. But the fact that the dialogue is so well-written, with each character being given such unique and distinct personalities that I actually care about them, is the reason this show has been so consistently entertaining.
This, I suppose, is where Gen Urobuchi’s influence shines through the most. Without his touch in the writing, it would have just been a goofy puppet drama that you find yourself fast-forwarding through to find the next action sequence. But with his touch, it’s the goofy puppet drama that you find weirdly engaging until the point where you realize you are completely invested and it’s your not-so-secret favorite show of the season.