Polyphonica Crimson S review: Scholars and Rogues’ new Anime Binge feature (updated)

Music played from the heart can tame a wild spirit, which you can then use to protect or kill people for you. Spoilers ahead.

I’ve been watching anime since before I knew what anime was, starting with Star Blazers and Robotech on US television when I was a kid. Ever since college, though, when I was “officially” introduced to anime via subtitled versions of Ranma 1/2, Tenchi Muyo, Bubblegum Crisis, et al, I’ve watched and generally enjoyed anime. Now that I’m in my 40s, my kids have joined me in watching anime, and thus far they’ve enjoyed what they’ve seen.

Given how much time I spend watching anime these days (sometimes you just need a few hours of pure escapism), I decided a while back that I wanted to start writing reviews on anime I’ve been watching. Anime that was fun or not, anime that was binge worthy or not, anime I couldn’t watch past the first episode or two because it was so lame, and so on. I’ve also invited my fellow anime watching Scrogues to contribute their own Anime Binge reviews as well if they are so inclined. If you have feedback for making Anime Binge better or you want to go deeper into the anime I reviewed, please comment and I’ll see what I can in the next review.

Polyphonica Crimson S (Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica)

polyphonica_crimson_s_phoron_cortiPolyphonica Crimson S is set in a world where musicians called Dantists play transforming “one man orchestras” in order to control spirits. Music played from the heart can soothe spirits’ wounds, give them greater power, while mere technical proficiency can go as far as weakening a spirit’s abilities. The greater purity of heart poured into the music, the more powerful spirits can be summoned. Particularly powerful spirits can enter into pacts with powerful Dantists whom they feel a particular connection to. Weak lesser spirits appear as small spheres with two wings, medium spirits have four wings, and so on up to progenitor spirits, of which there are eight and all looked like well figured adult women (this is anime, after all).

The story focuses on a student named Phoron Tatara at a private music school for aspiring Dantists who had an encounter with an injured greater spirit (six winged) as a child. At school, Phoron encounters the same spirit again, named Corticarte Apa Lagranges, although she is somehow now missing a pair of wings and looks much like a teenaged girl rather than the full-grown woman she had been years before. The anime tells the story of how Phoron rediscovers his musical “voice” with the help of his friends and fellow students, and ultimately how Phoron and “Corti” go on to save the world from a group of Dantist terrorists intent on remaking creation.

Polyphonica Crimson S requires more than the usual amount of suspension of disbelief. The world is pictured as being essentially modern day, yet spirits are considered more powerful than even tanks. Yet when spirit battles are going on, why aren’t there things like military snipers or police with tear gas making it hard for Dantists to play their instruments? Polyphonica Crimson S is based on a series of visual light novels, and those issues may well be addressed in some way in the novels, but obvious issues like this subtracted from my enjoyment of the series some.

polyphonica_crimson_s_phoron_orchestraI didn’t mind that the series showed that the “one man orchestras” could transform from a backpack into a techno-magical looking musical instrument (with different characters having different instruments – violin, guitar, drums, piano, et al). What I minded was that the transformation itself was so lame.

And as for the plot, it’s pretty standard and reasonably predictable – love and friendship win out in the end, the world is saved, the terrorists realize the error of their ways but choose to perish together. But unlike some other anime I’ve seen recently, this doesn’t seem to be a horrible mistake. Being true to your emotions and having great depth of feeling is central to how Dantists operate, even to how the world was created according to the in-series mythology, and so it’s entirely reasonable for love to triumph over misplaced hate within the context of the story.

I wanted to add that for an anime supposedly focused on music, most of the music was rather uninspired. It wasn’t bad, but I expected extremely moving music, and except for The Score, I found it technically proficient, but not exactly heartfelt.

I will give credit to the writers for not taking the story in the direction I had guessed about two episodes from the end. It was nice to have my prediction of how the series would climax not actually work out.

All in all, Polyphonica Crimson S is a fun, harmless way to escape for a few hours. At 12 episodes long, it’s not a massive commitment of time, and while I binge watched it in a single evening, I probably shouldn’t have bothered. Unlike some anime I’ve watched over the years, Polyphonica Crimson S wasn’t worth getting only three hours of sleep.

I watched the subtitled version on Hulu.

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