Campione, Ep. 1

When last I left you, I had read the first published novel (third story) of Campione! and was downloading the first episode. As I suspected, it was the first story chronologically (third novel). It was also a slam-bang barrel of fun from start to finish. If they can keep up this pace and not turn the protagonist into the p-whipped milksop I read in the LN, this will be a winner.

The setup is that 15 year old Kusanagi Goudou is sent by by his grandfather to the island of Sardinia to return a strange stone tablet that he was sent by an old girlfriend. He was an archeologist back in the day and a bit of a ladies man, so he occasionally gets gifted items of various antiquity. For some reason, he decides to send it back, not via parcel post, but via his grandson, who speaks no Italian. Of such macguffins are series made. For that matter, if I could meet beautiful Italian girls like Erica Blandell over stone tablets, I’d have become an archeologist too.

Boy meets Girl. 'Is this a mugging?'

She accosts him in Italian, which Kusanagi mistakes for English, so Erica switches effortlessly to Japanese. (It’s the same seyiuu, and it sounds authentic.) She’s pretty agile, which she proves a moment later by performing a standing leap over him. Which Kusanagi counters by not turning around — though it’s not clear that he’s doing it deliberately, it’s still bonus cool points.

Their first date gets rather interrupted by the arrival of a giant bore. Excuse me, boar, giant. Really giant. Erica tells Kusanagi to get clear, and gives chase (with her Japanese driver, Arianna) to engage it in a desperate attempt to fend it off. A lot of Italian/Sardinian and Roman architecture bites the dust, to not much effect. Erica calls it a heretic god at first, but later amends it to a manifestation of such and states that there will soon be a fight between gods.

If you look carefully, those small objects overhead are sailboats.

It should be noted that she’s not exactly up to subbing for one.

Balance of forces is not in favor of side A...

The god meanwhile, is pretending to be a young boy, and meeting with Kusanagi. He looks over the tablet mutters about having tried losing for once, but never having been defeated. After some more talk, he laughs and hands the tablet back to Kusanagi, then disappears along with a strange glowing white horse.

The god must be crazy.

After the battle (and wow, is the local explanation for the destruction a hoot), Erica listens to Kusanagi’s story and finds that he’s taking the tablet to one Lucretia Zola, whom she knows as the witch of Sardinia. After a harrowing drive (“Arianna’s only faults are her cooking and driving”), they arrive at Lucretia’s mansion. Who greets them by talking via a cat. Seems she’s gotten a little lazy over the years. One thing she hasn’t gotten is old.

Hubba-hubba. Yes, she's in a nightgown. And propositions Kusanagi. Damn, Italian girls are easy.

As it’s fairly late, they spend the night at the mansion, where Lucretia’s mischievousness comes into play. First off, after identifying the tablet as that of Promethius, with the power to seize a god’s authority (power), she returns it to Kusanagi, over Erica’s objections. Her reasoning is that the god has chosen him to have it for some reason, and frankly, she doesn’t want the trouble it would cause, given that she got rid of it in the first place. Then she plies her three guests with plenty of alcohol. Though Kusanagi refrains, both Arianna and Erica become staggeringly drunk. In fact, Erica can’t tell a decorative mask from Kusanagi, and he has to help her to bed, since Arianna is useless. Whereupon Lucretia locks him in Erica’s bedroom, with a “Ganbatte!” and comparison with his grandfather. Quite undeserved, it turns out.

She's a cute drunk, but the kind that wants attention.

The obligatory morning smackdown later, the other side of the duel shows up: Melquart, god of the Phoenicians. The kid from yesterday was one of the ten forms of Verethanga, a Babylonian god who challenged him to a fight — one that might destroy Sardinia. Erica and Kusanagi decide to stop the fight, although he doesn’t tell her everything that he learned while Erica was getting smashed.

Pardon me, Mr. God, but could you cut out the racket? I'm dreadfully hung over!

Given that it’s the premise of the show, I don’t think any one will be surprised to find that Kusanagi ends up whipping out the Gate of Babylon, killing one of the gods and assuming aspects of his powers. This ends up being a bit of a problem, as it makes him one of the Seven Kings, and brings him to the attention of many troublesome gods and mortals. Not all of the kings are benign, or even give a damn about people. (Incidentally, the kiss at the end was for Erica to teach him how to use the spell. She later teaches him Italian the same way. Damn, but magic lessons are fun!)

Things I liked: it was fast paced, with just enough pauses for exposition. Rather than stop the momentum for a mass infodump in the middle of the episode, some of the key information was held until a flashback, explaining why Kusanagi went into harm’s way, and yes, there’s a little self-narration going on. It works a lot better than the alternative. Both Erica and Kusanagi are strong protagonists who play off each other well and don’t hesitate to jump into danger, — but it’s not just what’s there that they have to worry about. There’s foreshadowing of other dangers waiting around the corner. As for the animation, it wasn’t always top-notch, it was serviceable. The BGM was good, but I can’t speak for the OP and ED, neither of which made an appearance. The narrator is the same one that did the second Negima series, and he is applying his usual bombast to good effect.

The major dangers here are an unacceptable fall off in the animation, and a too-faithful portrayal of the Kusanagi from the novels. He won’t get back home until the third novel, but gets yanked back to Italy for a whirlwind trip. In it (the one I read), he was a total milksop, walked on by Erica, in fear of his little sister, and then the miko started in. The three things that marked it were to see so many people in fear of a unassuming teenager, the collateral damage from his fights, and being walked on by Erica, if not any other female god or passerby. Hopefully they can do something about that before I have to resort to watching The Aesthetics of an Antihero.

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