Swordgai is an interesting but flawed anime based on the manga of the same name. Although the concept and world building are really well written, aside from a couple of characters most are largely forgettable, including bland protagonist Gai (Yuuto Uemura). This lack of care given to fleshing out the characters consequently makes the stakes less important when the action does pick up and an open ending that leaves a big question mark around which direction the second season will take makes this a largely unsatisfying watch.
The first episode acts as a prologue and sees an organisation called the Shoshidai on the hunt for legendary weaponry possessed by demonic spirits. After introducing us to the mood and feel of the series, the next set of episodes jarringly jump forward to show a young adopted boy called Gai working as a swordsmith’s apprentice. After losing his arm, Gai is forged a new arm out of a demonically possessed sword called Shiryu and becomes entangled in an inner battle with the demon whilst working with the Shoshidai’s member Seiya Ichijo (Yuuichirou Umehara) to hunt for weaponry. The story swiftly jumps between a serialised, overarching plot and an episodic format throughout before the final couple of episodes that focus on Ichijo’s fate and leave the story with numerous unanswered questions.
For those already accustomed to the manga, Swordgai faithfully recreates the world and characters inhabiting the pages but for those new to this one, Swordgai gives little reason to empathise with main protagonist Gai or a lot of the supporting cast. There are a few well written characters you do gravitate toward; Seiya Ichijo has a really nice character arc and Miki (Tomokazu Sugita) and Marcus (Hiro Shimono) have some good chemistry together in their scenes. Aside from those three, there’s little reason to become invested in the other characters. The English dub is surprisingly not bad either although in true anime fashion, the native Japanese tongue is the preferred way to watch this one. Visually, Swordgai does a pretty good job with its animation too although the CGIed metallic warriors do look awkwardly out-of-place on the hand drawn backdrops and vistas.
Unsatisfying ending aside, Swordgai does an excellent job building a believable world and fleshing out the lore around the weaponry. The idea of demonic swords and thought provocative questions around the evil inside all of us and how we handle that is smartly written without feeling contrived and is just enough to overshadow the poor character work. Some of the characters, especially Ichijo, do have a good character arc but unfortunately Swordgai gives little reason to care about Gai who dominates most of the run time here. Swordgai is an enjoyable anime but it also feels like it lacks focus at times, especially with the lackadaisical way it portrays Gai and most of the supporting cast. The enemies are equally as one-dimensional too and given the ending, it’ll certainly be interesting to see where they go with a second season. With so much anime out there, Swordgai falls into the realm of mediocrity and fails to offer up a substantial reason to really stick around for the long-term.