The Meiji Period (1868-1912) was a chaotic time for Japan, in which the old ideas of what it meant to be Japanese came face to face with the reality of the outside world. But for all that Japan was becoming a world of modern science and technology, humans still had to face the gods and monsters of yore.
Ichinomiya Kantarou grew up with a sixth sense for goblins, spirits, and demons, and sought the company of a "demon-eating goblin" to learn from, in order to protect those he cares for, and to prove that mankind and "monsters" can coexist, even in an everchanging world. By day, he is a novelist and folklorist, but by night, he and his unlikely retinue solve supernatural mysteries in the name of compassion (and maybe a little bit of spare cash to keep food on their plates).
What I'm leaving out here, is that the "demon-eating goblin", the tengu Haruka, is a winged pretty-boy straight out of your big sister's most risque doujinshi.
Lately, the fantasy genre has been fairly dominated by manga strictly intended to showcase pretty men at the expense of relatively "unimportant" things such as plot and action. From all accounts, the Tactics manga is often referred to as a Japanese folklore version of Detective Loki, with some original elements, but not a well-done cohesive story. These criticisms are clearly not as apparent in the anime, however -- it's one of the rare shows that seems to improve on the original.
The art style, in particular, merits some notice. While perhaps not as apparent in earlier digital sourcebed versions, the color palette is spectacular on a high-definition flat-screen TV -- the opening sequence is dazzling, and the watercolor style of many of the backgrounds is beautiful. The actual animation is not as skilled, though -- there are some obvious "cheap animation tricks", particularly in the battle scenes which occur in each episode. Action fans may be a bit disappointed, but that's not the reason to watch this series.
What Tactics does well is setting mood and delivering often suspenseful short stories about love and existence -- while there is an overarching plot, the format here is clearly episodic, and while there is very much as "monster of the day" feel to the show, it doesn't come off as boring or repetitious, at least this far into the show. With as rich of a background as Japanese folklore to draw from, I think Tactics is pretty safe from running out of ideas prior to the end, and thankfully it doesn't insert the tired old routine of "bickering lovers" that Inuyasha perpetrates. This isn't quite Kenshin (history certainly takes a back seat to fantasy here) but the stories are interesting takes on some venerable folk stories that may not be familiar to newer anime viewers.
There is a fair deal of comic relief here (including a patently silly subplot involving a "white tengu" and his "wife" that invariably causes eyerolls) and while the characterization of many minor characters often comes off as cliched, I did like Kantarou and his slightly off-kilter attitude (honest and earnest one moment, mercenary the next), and there wasn't a single character that outright irritated me. Even the little girl, Suzu, was rather likable (though maybe it's not such a good idea for her to be hanging out around occulty type things?).
Also apparent is a slight undercurrent of shounen-ai between Kantarou and Haruka, which is frankly not surprising given the authors' previous work, though decidedly uncommon for something nominally tagged "shounen-seinen" (Comic Blade Masamune generally being a male-oriented magazine). This series is clearly less action-oriented and more mood-driven, which leads me to think of this as more of a crossover title than a genuine "boy's" title at all. In fact, the creators themselves produce yaoi doujinshi of these two characters, so the implication is quite intentional and not simply a "fanon" interjection.
The music was largely palatable, with themes by Akiyama Miki fitting fairly well with the show. The background is mostly inoffensive, though it is clearly not an emphasis of this feature.
A pretty-boy show I like? Quick, check my pulse! Okay, joking aside, this is pretty not going to please diehard action fans or folks who are allergic to even a whiff of shounen-ai. May go down a star if it doesn't deliver on the promised plot, but that's hard to tell from here. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: There is some violence, and some genuinely creepy scenes of suspense that would not do well for children. There's a little bit of fanservice for female audiences and a hint of shounen-ai, but it isn't overwhelming in any way. At least one episode is set in a brothel, and similarly mature themes are dealt with throughout the series.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (5/25)
Tactics © 2004 Kinoshita Sakura / Higashiyama Kazuko / Mag Garden / Tactics Production Committee
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