Jyu-oh-sei: The ending made the rest of the series look like Mushishi
Back in the days when I was a mere novice at writing rants, one of the series that met the wrath of my keyboard was none other than Jyu-oh-sei. At the time, I had only seen four episodes of the series, but my opinion was clear- four episodes were more than enough. Nonetheless, almost half a year later, I was to return to Jyu-oh-sei- not because I suddenly became convinced that it had hidden worth, but purely for the purposes of parodying it.
Indeed, as far as parody goes, Jyu-oh-sei is a veritable goldmine of material, but unfortunately, the very aspects that make it easy to make fun of also prevent it from having much in the way of entertainment value. The tale of twin cyclewear models brothers ripped from their sterile and futuristic life on the Juno colony and sent to prison planet Chimera somehow covers the entire spectrum of awfulness- from the laughably ridiculous to the downright dire, no type of mediocrity is neglected.
Spoiler Alert! The ending will be revealed…
Episodes 1-5: The Destined Hero
Every story needs a destined hero, but at the start, Jyu-oh-sei appeared to have two; what else could it do, then, than kill off Rai in his very first episode on Chimera? Poor Rai was so unimportant that he didn’t even get to return later as an enemy- all he could do was appear briefly in the OP.
Meanwhile, for Thor, events were to proceed more favourably. Protected by his main character status and a single beam knife, Thor was easily able to navigate the hazardous planet of Chimera and even defeat more experienced opponents when the plot called for it. Within the space of five episodes, he manages to recruit named allies, secure his own Ring (one of the four hierarchical settlements on the planet) and begin a quest to become Chimera’s Jyu Oh (Beast King). The Jyu Oh is the only one who can leave the planet, for when someone takes that position by defeating the other Ring leaders, the space elevator known as Dagger Pagoda magically knows to activate and let him go to Hecate, supposedly another prison planet- is it really worth the effort?
At Thor’s side are the obligatory supporting characters- Tiz, a girl who inexplicably wants to marry Thor after first catching sight of him, and Third, the manipulator of the series. Third is a man entirely devoted to the plot- through actions so blatant that the audience can see them a mile off even as the other characters fail to notice them, he makes sure that everything runs smoothly.
Unfortunately, Chimera is a world of contradictions and lack of explanations. For example, apparently men and women live separately, but where some Rings have a mixture of males and females as leaders, others seem to have separate hierarchies for male and female. Admittedly, Chimera is said to be short on females, but we only ever see about six women in the course of the show- surely there cannot be that few.
Worse yet, however, are the points which are introduced for the sole purpose of being forgotten by the next episode. In the first episode, we learn of the Wild Children who belong to no Ring, but aside from seeing their leader Zagi as a Ring leader later in the series, the actual Wild Children themselves are never referenced again. Equally pointless is the revelation that Thor has not had life-extension surgery and will only live to about twenty years of age- since we never see him reach this age, do we really need to know?
Episodes 6-9: It all turns HARD GAY
At the end of episode five, we see night finally come to Chimera and antagonist Zagi make his move against the Rings. We then skip ahead around five years or so whilst Zagi patiently waits for Thor to go through puberty- only then can he finally come forward and initiate the next arc. In order to provide a contrasting view, Zagi is interested in HARD GAY with Thor gaining independence for Chimera; he even goes so far as to attempt to alter the course of the series, although fortunately Third is there to get things back on track. In the end, Zagi must simply settle for being an inconsistent personality who switches between trying to use the leads for his own ends and accepting his place as an unimportant supporting character.
Thor, meanwhile, has issues far more important than the plot to attend to in this arc- having finally met Karin (a girl who briefly appears in the OP) he immediately falls in love with her. Unfortunately, being an OP character is no guarantee of immortality in this series, and Karin dies a scant two episodes later- just the impetus needed for Thor to defeat Zagi and become Jyu Oh. It’s almost as if someone wanted things to happen that way…which of course they did. Yes, it’s Third up to his old tricks again, but can you blame him when the series has too few episodes in which to digress?
Episodes 10-11: Call that a plot?
If the rest of the series was poor, it was nonetheless nowhere near the depths plumbed by the last two episodes, a mishmash of poorly thought out story ideas that ranged from the laughable to the perplexing. Thor has become Jyu Oh, and the time has come to leave the planet, but beyond the orbit of Chimera lies only reams of exposition and a conclusion so bad that even the series’ handful of fans could not defend it.
The future of humanity.
As hinted at earlier in the series, humanity is slowly dying out, with only Chimera proving to be a place where people actually have children without artificial intervention (perhaps a few sex education pamphlets elsewhere would have helped out). In the most convoluted of plans, therefore, anyone who became Jyu Oh was allowed to leave the planet in order to be frozen in cold storage; after all that, the genetic material of these promising human samples was somehow combined to create Thor, who as lead character just happens to be the destined saviour of the human race- in fact, stranding him on Chimera was all part of the great plan to test his worthiness.
Thor is not just a typical destined lead, however- his powers go beyond even that. Artificially implanted into a surrogate mother’s womb, he nonetheless managed to look like his ‘mother’ and ‘brother’, thanks to his ‘magical DNA’. Although it requires a not-inconsiderable stretch, I could just about live with this happening in the womb due to some kind of retrovirus, but any vague chance at credibility this plot element has is blown out of the water when adult Thor somehow ‘absorbs’ the physical characteristics of Tiz and Third after their deaths.
The ridiculousness does not end there- having gone to all this trouble to use Chimera as a breeding ground, final boss Odin and his obligatory scientist underling Dr Loki have created a system that will speed up the rotation of the planet, killing the inhabitants but apparently making it the perfect place for Thor’s descendants (it is unclear whether they will be clones or genuine offspring) to grow up in. Yes, the one planet that humanity has been able to prosper on is to be unrealistically altered by a special doomsday device created for the sole purpose of being deactivated by the main heroes.
Of course, you can’t have such a device and make it easy to switch on and off- instead, once activated, the device requires an entire episode of clichéd action elements in order to reach its central controls. Cue the final episode, a sequence of scenes surely ripped from any action film or role-playing game, in which our heroes battle successively harder enemies on their way to the control room, with lesser characters and generics sacrificing themselves so that Thor can complete the mission and escape. They aren’t entirely successful, but it hardly matters- somehow, the very plants of Chimera rise up and stop the relevant parts of the doomsday device from landing on the surface. Who needs to work when the plants will do it for you?
By this point, even Odin has had enough of the series- having decided that this whole final boss thing isn’t really for him, he inexplicably decides to scrap his life’s work in favour of letting the hero live in peace on Chimera.
Third, and final
On top of its basic story, Jyu-oh-sei’s finale seems determined to throw in some character deaths for no apparent reason whatsoever. Back on Chimera, Tiz takes a bullet to the shoulder after protecting Zagi from a random generic, only to fall down a crevasse and subsequently breathe her last (compare to Odin, who gets shot in the chest but acts as if he has barely been scratched). Pointless as Tiz’ death was, however, she was not alone- Third also meets his end in the final episode.
In case anyone hadn’t noticed how scheming and manipulative Third was, the final arc reveals him to be one of Odin’s agents who was specifically sent to Chimera to watch over Thor (this was supposed to be a test of Thor’s survival abilities, but there would have been no series if he actually had died). Third’s actions were motivated by his lifelong desire to see Earth, but upon learning that it had been destroyed 130 years ago, perhaps he just didn’t have the will to continue living. Either way, it’s hard for the audience to care about these facts when they are introduced so late in the story.
It may have only had eleven episodes to cover a series that spanned five manga volumes, but Jyu-oh-sei does an exceptionally poor job of telling its story. From its average beginning to its completely ridiculous ending, there is little to recommend this series- save yourself the pain and watch something else instead.