The Sacred Blacksmith? How do you make a show about a blacksmith? Would the audience be forced to watch the blacksmith at work, which typically involved a lot of hammering more than anything else? Despite the title, this anime wasn't really about a blacksmith at all, but instead focused on Cecily Cambell, a fledgling knight guard for the Independent Trade Cities of Housman, who just so happens to know a blacksmith.
Cecily Cambell.Cecily has only been a knight for a month when the show begins, and although she struts around the town like a battle-hardened commando, when facing her first enemy she is instantly petrified. The crazed fiend quickly goes in for a finishing blow when Luke Ainsworth, our sacred blacksmith, scares him away with his deadly katana. While Luke is the show's titular character, he sits in the periphery as Cecily defends the city with the help of a demon sword the knight guards later entrust her with. There are many demon swords, all of which have magic elemental powers. Some of them can even transform into human form, which provides for some existential moments as Aria, Cecily's sword, becomes fixated with her raison d'etre.
Watching character interactions in The Sacred Blacksmith is a treat. Cecily Cambell is catalyst for the show's relationships, pulling off miracles like getting a wayward princess to forgive her deadbeat dad, or helping Luke shed his obnoxiously rude attitude. Cherami Leigh voices Cecily in the English dub, and I think she was a good choice. Leigh commonly voices characters who are highly ambitious but a little too impotent to save the world without some help. It even takes some coaxing for Cecily to consider killing people, an absurd problem for a knight guard to have, but this allows her to use some unorthodox fighting methods in order to preserve life. Cecily's character progresses nicely throughout the show's twelve episode stint.
The Sacred Blacksmith has a lot going for it. The animation was handled by Manglobe, who also did Samural Champloo and Ergo Proxy. It looks very similar to the short animated segments Production I.G. does for the Tales video game series. The color palette is rich and bright and vivid, but still manages to be easy on the eyes. The only oddity would be the female character designs, which can often border on anorexic. A running joke in the show is that Cecily's breasts are huge, and this is absolutely true when they're compared with the thinness of her body. Her breastplate also bothered me initially; it conforms exactly to the shape of her boobs. I know anime tends to draw women with shirts that hyper-accentuate their breasts in impossible ways, but I've never seen it done with armor before.
The antagonist of the show is "the man in black," a cloaked figure who gets men to willingly give him their souls with promises of false power and salvation. These victims soon become demons who attack the trade cities. At the end of the show his aims are ambiguous and the conflict remains unsolved, forcing viewers to peruse the novels to delve further. The many questions Aria had concerning her origins are answered but not resolutely; such points are likely also in the novels. The fact that the show is named The Sacred Blacksmith is puzzling because Luke only becomes significant in the last quarter of the series. Every other time Luke is around, he is too busy being a jerk to contribute to the story. There's even an arc that has Cecily fighting with a renegade princess and her band of demon sword wielding cronies; this long distraction is only important when the princess reveals she met the man in black at some point.
I had a great time watching The Sacred Blacksmith, flaws and all. For those who watch the show and then move onto the books, let me know how they are. Perhaps I'll find time them to read them someday...