A (Belated) First Impression: Ulysses: Jeanne D’Arc to Renkin no Kishi Episode 1

Apologies for the delay in getting these First Impressions out. I’ve been without power off and on in addition to dealing with some family stuff. Without further ado, let’s dive into some more shows!

Pictured: Not Jeanne D’Arc

The year is 1415. The great war between France and England – the conflict which will one day become known as the Hundred Years’ War – drags on. Many young men and women, the children of nobility, train to be knights. But one student, Montmorency, instead spends his days skipping class and reading forbidden books about alchemy. Despite this attitude, he is apparently one of the most popular students at the school, especially with the ladies.

One night, Montmorency and his female classmates Richemont, Charlotte and Philip sneak out of the school to investigate rumors of fairies living in the nearby woods. Instead of finding fairies, they are ambushed by English soldiers, who they manage to subdue via a combination of Richemont’s fighting skills and Montmorency bluffing about his alchemical powers. Emboldened by their success, the four swear an oath to be friends forever, despite their differing statuses and families meaning they are likely to wind up political enemies in the future.

Unfortunately, their time together is cut short as Richemont leaves the academy to fight in the Battle of Agincourt. There, the French army is defeated and she is taken captive by two mysterious British men who claim to wield demonic power. The academy is closed and the students disperse – Charlotte returns home, Philip’s family throws in their lot with England, and Montmorency throws himself headlong into his studies. It turns out that the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary artifact said to grant great powers including immortality, had been held by Montmorency’s family the entire time. Aided by Astaroth, the Stone’s guardian spirit, the would-be alchemist spends seven years in isolation studying the Stone and attempting to unlock its powers.

Yeah, like THAT’S gonna last

Oof. Getting through this one was rough. Yeah…I think this is definitely going to rank among the weakest first episodes of the season, if not of the entire year. When I heard that this series was about Jeanne d’Arc and the Hundred Years’ War, I wasn’t expecting pinpoint historical accuracy – that’s never been something anime has been known for, after all – but I was at least hoping for a fun bit of historical fantasy. Famous French battles fought with knights and magic, y’know? But instead, we got…this. And what a “this” it was.

First things first, for a show that has Jeanne d’Arc right there in the title, she wasn’t even in the first episode! Man, talk about terrible pacing decisions. Instead, we got introduced to the utterly insipid Montmorency, who is an exceptionally generic harem protagonist with the “oh so unique” (not) twist that he’s more interested in alchemy than fighting. He’s lazy, kind of wimpy, and I’m pretty sure he had like, three lines in the entire pilot that weren’t about alchemy or the Philosopher’s Stone? And yet, we’re somehow just supposed to accept that he’s the most popular guy in school, with so many ladies fawning over him that other male students are challenging him to duels for their affection? Yeah…I’m all for suspension of disbelief when watching anime, sure, but that’s just a little too much.

Because kids capturing and tying up trained soldiers is so believable

The terrible pacing issues continue with the random seven year timeskip shoved into the very end of the episode. While that does at least mean the show is not likely to contain a lot of “kids at magic school…I mean knight school” scenes beyond flashbacks – good, because the world doesn’t really need more of those – it was also super random and came out of nowhere. I was expecting that Montmorency would go look for Richemont and meet Jeanne along the way, thus explaining why she’s in the title, but…instead, he just leaves her captive for seven years? And now there’s been this huge timeskip and the former “best friends” are all now on opposite sides, because…drama, I guess? Man, I don’t know. That was just kind of a terrible thing to just tack on the end of the episode.

If I had to say one at least slightly good thing about Ulysses, I guess I would have to go with the fact that it doesn’t attempt to hide what it is? It is openly and unashamedly a harem show from the first couple minutes, when Montmorency’s status as desirable among the women of his class is established. It allows people like me, who aren’t fans of the harem genre, to know exactly what they’re getting into and happily drop the show with no second thoughts, rather than attempting to pass itself off as generic fantasy (or worse, historical fiction) and then slowly adding the harem elements.

Richemont was definitely the best of the characters. She deserved a better show than this mess.

Unfortunately, I did say this was only a “slightly” good thing – because this shamelessness also allows Ulysses to be so in-your-face, unapologetically, unabashedly sleazy. Yeah, harem shows are often pretty creepy in general, but this one looks like it’s going to be a stinker among stinkers. The opening/ending sequences are basically a parade of mostly large-busted women, with both Charlotte and Richemont apparently getting a bust size upgrade after the timeskip (and, of course, much skimpier outfits to go with it). Preview images show Richemont being creepily groped and fondled by at least one of her kidnappers. The “on the next episode” segment, rather than telling the viewers anything about what was going to happen, spent the entire time commenting on how Jeanne is going to be flat-chested and….comparing men who like flat-chested women to men who like children? I cannot think of a single thing to say about that other than “Ewwwww”.

I definitely won’t be continuing this show any further. It’s a pity, because Jeanne D’Arc deserves so much more than being a female lead in a harem anime swooning along behind a milquetoast like Montmorency.

Out of 5 Dios:

1/2. Just half. Not even a full one.

Uh….I wouldn’t exactly call this “useful”….

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