I wasn’t fond of the first half of Children of the Whales and while the second half had more interesting moments and ideas than the first, it was executed so poorly that I’m more excited to be done watching the show than anything else.
The whole thing just made me angry. It shows how despite having an interesting cast of characters, sort of, the show can be ruined by focusing on the wrong things.
Chakuro and Lykos are two of the most uninteresting protagonists I’ve ever seen. They somehow became even less interesting and more useless in the second half of the show than in the first. They don’t do anything particularly important. They have no character or emotional arcs, and they are actually in the background for a good portion of the episodes. This latter part is actually an improvement in some ways.
But it still isn’t enough to save the series.
The second half allows us to get know the other members of the Mud Whale, as well as some of its enemies. However, their character development gets rushed in order to introduce a whole slew of new characters and plot points.
Suou, for example, doesn’t get a lot in terms of character development or an arc, but he definitely plays an important role once the truth about the Mud Whale’s world is revealed.
And yet, I almost wish the season was longer so that I’d have time to deal with it all but the real hero of the story was finally revealed: Ouni. He has some major moments in this half. And he actually seems to get a good amount of focus.
So, I have to ask, why isn’t he the main character?! From a storytelling perspective, I understand why Chakuro is the focus; he’s the perfect character to tell a story through, but he doesn’t make sense as a protagonist since he does very little to progress the plot.
If Ouni were the main character of the show, I don’t think I would have as much of an issue with the show; he’s more interesting and sympathetic. It’s also clear that if the show is renewed for another season, Ouni is going to play a major role. His character holds a lot of potential, he has a goal, and motivations and I don’t understand why the show waited so long to really explore him.
Chakuro barely even has a goal or motivation; he just wants to record events that happen for future generations. In a primarily action-oriented anime that’s not enough; it’s not interesting or compelling. We don’t even know why he really wants to do this; we don’t have a lot of backstory on him.
Ouni at least, wants to protect his friends and his people. He cared deeply for his friend Nibi and the regret that he couldn’t protect him from being killed is much more potent than Chakuro’s regret with Sami’s demise. Their relationship was much better established, no doubt in due to the amount of time spent on in series.
I don’t have a reason to care about whether Chakuro completes his goal, whatever it is, or if he survives.
And while the first half of the show was pretty consistent in terms of pacing, the second half was all over the place. We not only spend time on the Mud Whale but in the Empire whose name I don’t care about enough to look it up for this review with characters I barely know dealing with the fallout from the battle. That’s not a lot more interesting to watch, in my opinion.
It also feels as though the anime skipped over HUGE chunks of the manga; plot elements are introduced but nothing happens with them and character interactions feel rushed. There are just so many holes in the story. I had to pause the episodes several times and switch over to something else because I couldn’t keep up with the inconsistencies. I was so bored…with the exposition, the slow pace in certain areas and the frenetic pace in others, and just from a total lack of care for the vast majority of the cast.
That’s never a good sign for a series.
For example, one character, Ryodari, appears to die but doesn’t. Chakuro gains an animal companion who barely appears after its seemingly important introduction. I can barely remember the creature’s name. And the show also brings back Lykos’ pet, who I had pretty much forgotten about. All that is just crap storytelling.
Other issues that are presented include an attempted coup against the Unmarked elders by two of the Marked, the truth regarding the Markeds’ short lifespans, that for the past 90-something years the Mud Whale has been trapped in currents and that most of the world doesn’t know of their existence. Also, a whole new nation called Siderasia is introduced; their prince boards the Mud Whale and wants to bring the people back to his home as proof that he’s worthy.
The first issue alone could have potentially made up a whole season in and of itself but its all over in fewer than two episodes. In that case, there’s no reason to include it at all. There was so much potential there for exploring issues of societal and social power on the Mud Whale. But it’s over before any of those ideas can be even touched upon.
The steering of the Mud Whale is another issue that’s addressed; it’s been floating aimlessly in the sea, but after fixing the rudder or some other process where all the people need to do is sing and do a kind of dance, which is a process that isn’t explained and is such a shift in tone that it feels like it belongs in another anime entirely.
I can’t seem to understand what this anime’s themes and messages are. Is it emotions are human and must expressed? Is it about what people are willing to give up for power? Is it about the importance of conserving and recording the history of one’s people? The show isn’t clear. I’m not even sure if there is a major theme or message, here. If there is one, I’m missing it.
I really wanted to enjoy this show, and I really wanted the second half to be better but it was just a slog to get through. I honestly don’t care whether this show gets a second season or not; I won’t be watching it. I can see why others would enjoy it, but it’s just not my thing. I’m just ready to watch something else. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Rating for second half of the series: 5/10
Rating for full series: 5.5/10