I believe that efficiency is important in most things, maybe more so in a story. If it doesn’t build on the characters, the world, or the plot, then it’s wasting all our time. So, when I say you need to slow down, I mean it!
Giant Beasts of Ars (Analysis) – It Needs More Time!
Giant Beasts of Ars is a twelve-episode season that starts a story and probably doesn’t get anywhere close to finishing it. There is no source material so unless they decide to make a second season, we’ll never know what was going to happen next. I think that concern probably played into the pacing of this series. Basically, it was too fast. For an epic fantasy, it was way, way, way too fast. For this post, I’m going to compare it fairly frequently to Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation which is pretty much the gold standard for fantasy, isekai or otherwise.
The first issue I see occurring from the increased pace is that the characters aren’t given the time to develop. Rather than allowing us to meet the character and get a sense for them ourselves, we get overused tropes and cliches. Jiro is the gruff, battle-hardened drunk who gets a second chance when he saves Kumi from herself. Kumi is the innocent princess who harbours tremendous power but has no control over it. By the end of the first or second episode, they are who they are and that’s it for the rest of the season, allowing for the obvious tropes such as Jiro opening up about his past and Kumi realising that she had the power all along.
The same goes for all of the characters. We learn who they are and how they behave and that’s it. It’s even worse for the villains. We don’t really get to see their motivations or how they became to be who they are. No, the series skips that and goes straight to moustache-twirling pantomime villains. There are also a couple of times when these villains deliberately withhold information just because of the plot. We would have been off without even knowing that they know something if they aren’t going to tell us.
So, the characters are boring and flat. There’s not a lot for the audience to grab onto. If the characters are going to work, there needs to be something relatable about them. We need to understand why they behave that way. But there just wasn’t the time for it. Sure, it could be done in twelve episodes, however, this series had other ideas. It had to move the plot forward at a million miles an hour in the hopes of getting to a point that might make people want to see a second season.
Ironically, the rush to get there meant that the series blew through location after location and unsurprisingly, we got to know little of the people and certainly not enough to care about any of them. If you look at the first twelve episodes of Mushoku Tensei, it focused on a small group of characters and only a couple of locations. Then, it hit us with a big twist. By that time, we cared about the characters. You might not like them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to know what happens.
Then, once we cared about the characters, we saw them explore the world and meet new people. It didn’t rush the important stuff and it got to the point where we could watch Eris training by herself in the rain. We could sit with Rudeus and watch the world around him, sharing in his wonder and excitement. There was no time for that in Giant Beasts of Ars because we had places to go and magical-girl sequences to watch over and over again.
Basically, this series tried to squeeze too much into the first season and that probably means there won’t be a second season. And given what I saw in the first season, I’m not that worried. I am, however, frustrated at the wasted potential, especially when there isn’t as much pure epic fantasy as there used to be. Most of it is isekai and, while some are good, a lot of it doesn’t get close to the heights that Mushoku Tensei has achieved.
I say all this from a place of experience. I write very lean first drafts, probably too lean with sparse descriptions. I hurry through the events to get to the next big action piece I have in my head. However, I know this and will spend more time on revisions building up the world and slowing down the pace. This series feels very much like a first draft that has a bunch of quasi-interesting scenes and ideas and regularly finds the quickest way to link them together, usually at the expense of the characters. You can’t and shouldn’t do that to them. The characters are the most important part.