|Beautiful show, emotional war story, a solid not forced ending point, good music||Feels like only the start of a larger story, maybe not as much cultural focus as some would like, not much time for side cast to develop|
Even though in some ways it feels like the prologue to a larger story, Children of the Whales was an enjoyable show. I went into it uncertain as to what would be waiting for me there. I came out of it having enjoyed both a pretty solid war story and examining the societal issues involved with the setting. It really is a nice show to just look at. A moving island on top of a sea of sand has a distinctive look to it. This was a show willing to embrace the mystery of the setting a little and not just hand out all the answers right away. Not a show that hesitated to take some risks in putting characters in harm way and playing up the consequences of conflict.
The setting is one that caught my attention early. The major focus being on this moving island called the Mud Whale. The island is seemingly meandering aimlessly on a sea of sand. The social side of the story focuses on the inhabitants of this island. They are a pretty simple kind of people just living off the land and making some simple tools. The unique element being that some residents of the island can use an almost telekinetic power called thymia. It is a pretty straight forward ability that lets them move objects. Not so much a power to be used on human bodies, but it is pretty effective. The interesting stylistic element to it is that the users are covered marks called auras.
There are two sides to the story here. Part of it is focusing on the cultural side of things for those living on the island. The children with those special abilities have a short life-span. Thus the leadership on the island is normally left to those without special abilities. Part of the focus is just on how these two sections of society interact. This isn’t the biggest part of the show though as the war story does take over when it arrives. Now personally I liked the war story side of it. It was pretty intense and did have some emotional moments along the way. But I did like when the show wasn’t just about the action and showed how these people were dealing with their situation. It seems fitting in that sense that the main character isn’t so much a warrior but an archivist.
One part of the show that I found interesting was the mystery side of it. Not so much mystery in what was going on, but the sources of these abilities. Even by the end of the first season there are characters and entities connected to these powers that I still don’t understand. We see pretty visually incredible scenes that have a more spiritual meaning. The show may have war and conflict, but it doesn’t mind creating scenes to allow for touching farewells.
What some may not like though is the balance. When the show transitions more to being about the military conflict at play, there isn’t much time for cultural debates. Though I do think they still manage to tackle the issues and strengths of that society. But it is just hard to delve into how people live when they are just trying to stay alive. For me it wasn’t a big deal, but I can see how some might have wanted more of that side of the story.
This show has a pretty sizable cast of characters. You have the inhabitants of the Mud Whale, the more ‘supernatural’ characters, and of course individuals not from the island. In some ways it is hard to even talk about what characters are actually important. Some of the characters very existences are plot important and of course this is a show with some deaths. So anyone I don’t mention might be considered exceptionally important. So I’m going to talk about the characters in general.
It is safe to say the cast goes through some pretty emotional highs and lows. The short lifespans and the culture on that island could create some stress for people. But beyond just that the war that erupts really does put everyone through a difficult time. There is a fair amount of character drama in that sense. Part of the setting is just how various characters deal with their stressful situations and adapt to new ones.
For me the characters are fairly likable and sensible. It is interesting to see how characters who fit into the Mud Whale society react to these events and how the ones that don’t fit in react. There were characters that annoyed the heck out of me. I’m suspecting that they are characters that you should dislike. But there are characters with some pretty extreme personalities and I could see them bothering some people.
But luckily none of the main characters bothered me. They developed pretty nicely as the story went along and you can see the potential they have long term. That did make it a bit stressful since I never knew who was going to make it.
Honestly I think this was one of the nicer looking shows of the Fall season. There was some good looking shows, but this one stood out for me. The art style worked nicely for the environments. The sand sea looked good when it got some focus as did the Mud Whale itself. In some ways just watching the show itself was a treat. The thymia abilities looked nice with the auras that appeared on the bodies and on the tools being manipulated. And this show doesn’t hesitate in showing off some pretty spectacular supernatural sights. While I didn’t always know what was going on, it was nice to look at. I have no complaints about the character designs either.
The audio side of the show was solid. I enjoyed the songs for the OP and ED. Honestly, I would probably give the edge to the ED just in terms of having a song that I wanted to listen to after each episode. There were no glaringly bad choices for the voice cast. There are also some musical sequences and songs sung during the story and they fit nicely. I’m not sure if the music was as great as the visuals, but it wasn’t a problem.
Overall this was a really solid show. The downside is that it really does feel like the prologue to a larger story that we may not see animated. If nothing else I think this is a show that is worth watching and has some good moments. The war side of things was pretty shocking at times. They also did a solid job with the world building. I’m sure some would have liked less conflict and more examination of the society on the Mud Whale, but I think they found a pretty good balance. There are likable characters and the ones you don’t like usually suffer a hit before they get too bothersome.
It would have been nice to learn a few more things about the more mysterious characters/elements in the story. But I get that you can’t just get all the answers when clearly there is still more story in the source material. It was a solid and well-made show. Some emotional moments resonated with me more than others, but I was glad to cover it this season and glad to watch it.
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