Thunderbolt Fantasy

Thunderbolt Fantasy is an anime made out of glove puppets. A regular Kotaku reader told me that, and I was like, excuse me?

Thunderbolt Fantasy

Released early July, Thunderbolt Fantasy is testing the public’s definition of “anime.” Puppeteers inhabiting anime-styled, classic Taiwanese hoteigeki dolls play out sword fights, love scenes and light banter on camera (with a little help from CGI). It’s a classic, Eastern-style fantasy, complete with sword and sorcery. But it’s also completely unique. I am now convinced that puppet shows can be anime, too.

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In the show, two siblings guard a legendary sword that evil forces are attempting to steal. The plot—and for that matter, writing—isn’t particularly special, but reminds me of Bunraku, a Japanese puppet style. Movement and emotion are primary; it’s all about visceral reactions. For an anime, it comes off trite. For puppet theater, it is absolutely spectacular.

Thunderbolt Fantasy

In its natural setting, Thunderbolt Fantasy’s artistic style benefits from not being a cartoon. Rain drops on leaves, smoky fires and realistically-glittering swords contrast well with the fantasy feel: an excellent juxtoposition of reality and imagination. On the other hand, the anime’s more fantastical elements—like a dragon flying off into the night—are harder to pull off with puppets.

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Crunchyroll is airing a new Thunderbolt Fantasy episode every Friday at noon. Gen Urobuchi, who also worked on Fate/Zero and Psycho-pass, is its original creator. Check it out and tell me if you think it’s an anime.