The record of the bloody battle between the twelve proud warriors— The 12th Twelve Tournament that gets held every twelve years… Twelve brave warriors who bear the names of the signs of the zodiac fight each other for the lives and souls. The participants are twelve very strange warriors: “Rat,” “Ox,” “Tiger,” “Rabbit,” “Dragon,” “Snake,” “Horse,” “Goat,” Monkey,” “Rooster,” “Dog,” and “Pig.” The victor of this tournament gets to have one wish granted, whatever the wish may be. The one wish they want granted— Who will be the final survivor?
The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac being thrown into competition with one another is a theme that I have seen crop up in a few anime such as Fruits Basket and Etotama, but never have I seen the concept be turned into a battle royale where heavily-armed, professionally-skilled and bloody-minded individuals with animal-themed costumes kill one another off until only one remains as the victor to have their one wish granted.
The story begins from the perspective of Inonoshishi, the Boar, who is the daughter of the last battle’s winner. She is cocky and confident of her abilities, having manipulated and destroyed her younger sister who was the one actually meant to the participating, because her pride as eldest daughter could not withstand the thought of being displaced. When the fight begins, she ends up fighting her first opponent in a way she never expected.
The combatants quickly disperse in an abandoned city. They had 12 hours to whittle their numbers down to one, else the poison bombs they were made to swallow at the beginning will explode and kill them all – leaving no winners. As the episodes progress, we begin to see the game from the perspective of other participants as they try to stake one another out: Dog, Chicken, Horse, Ox – we can take a look at their fighting prowess, their alliances and their relationships and assess their potential to win this death match.
I love a good elimination story, and if it includes horror, thrills, suspense and ultra-violence well, that just makes things even better. Ever since I watched Battle Royale many, many years ago, this type of storyline has always grabbed my attention because you just don’t know who’s going to go next. It’s merciless and sometimes seemingly random in its execution. It has you on the edge of your seat with its anything-goes, no-holds-barred seasoning to the storyline. And that’s why I had to watch Juni Taisen to see if it gave me that same feeling.
The one thing you should never do whilst participating in an elimination game is never over- or underestimate people. In Juni Taisen, every entrant in the game is apparently there for a reason. But with most of them, at episode three at least, we are still to find out just what that reason is. Overconfidence, therefore, is a trap of one’s own making, which both Boar and Dog succumb to early on. The Chicken, Niwatori, appears to Dotsuku the Dog as a vulnerable young woman that he can use to his advantage. By planning to use her as a decoy, he gives her more power and it’s only a matter of time before he lets his guard down around this seemingly harmless ally.
Clearly we can’t make a call on who might win at this point. The competitors are all well-trained warriors and we’ve already seen some of the most promising warriors meet their death early on. Some identities are still shrouded in mystery and I’m particularly interested in the rather evil-looking Rabbit warrior, his psychotic unpredictability and his necromancer abilities.
One thing that I couldn’t ignore about Juni Taisen, for all the wrong reasons, was how skimpy most of the women’s outfits were. Why was Boar firing her guns around her huge breasts whilst running around in heels and a pencil skirt? Why is Tiger fighting in just her pants and why was Niwatori in a feather bra and thong? Even Dotsuku questioned why she was appearing before him in such a revealing costume despite knowing she was coming here to be targeted by 11 other assassins. When the characters in the anime are actually voicing your thoughts, you’ve really got to wonder what’s going on.
It’s clear that Juni Taisen can bring the action and the gore, but what remains to be seen is if it can keep us gripped by building it’s characters up further into the story. I know feeling for murderous warriors is difficult, but it is their unique backgrounds and motivations that have viewers rooting for them, ultimately. I am looking forward to seeing what new surprises this one can pull.