With anime running the gamut from here to someplace far enough away to implicate scope, it can often be hard to pin down the type of series you want to watch. Are you in the mood for a charming slice-of-life number that will warm the cockles of your heart, despite you not knowing what cockles are? Or are you maybe in the mood for some rough-and-tumble mecha action that will send that adrenaline needle into the red? Perhaps, just a shot in the dark, you might be interested in a more political tale, one that deals with the trials and tribulations of maintaining a happy citizenry? Well, what if you could have all three at once? Would you combine your interests into one big visual gumbo? And would you be happy to stomach the result?
In the world of content/sombre looking anime girls, Rena Asteria is…unique. In addition to looking roughly seven in age despite being the older sibling of her family, she also happens to be the sister of Yuinshiel Asteria, the Empress of Enastoria. And if that weren’t enough, she also happens to actually be some sort of supper fighting robot, named Magna Alecto. She also isn’t the main character. Despite leading the bulk of the first episode, ol’ Rena slides firmly into dos when it comes to our deuteragonists. Rather, it is Yuinshiel (Yui, to everyone she meets) who absorbs our focus, as both Empress and pilot of Magna Alecto. Which is not unfair, as both are rather complex roles that build the basis for a number of interesting relationships and situations…that never truly bloom. Despite being jam-packed with premise and promise, the series often falls short of actually doing anything with its various elements. Take Yui for example, a majority of her time is spent behaving like a typical high-school girl, at least as far as anime is concerned. She makes breakfast, she hangs out with her friend at cafes, she even rushes to catch a train at one point. Though endearing to her youthful visage, it does little to even support the notion that she also leads an entire country. Sure, she has advisers, but there is never a sense of urgency around her; she’s never busy. Yui could honestly have been presented as the child of a wealthy family and the series would remain largely the same.
With that in mind, the series as a whole lacks any sense of rush or panic. Between mysterious mecha raining down on a purportedly peaceful country and the fact that another country’s populace vanished merely twelve years prior, you would think that somebody might possess a disposition a few clicks down from cheery. To be fair, Ingrid (Princess of the aforementioned eradicated country) is far from jovial, however the overall facial animation places her visage roughly on par with that guy in the background who you aren’t actually supposed to focus on. It may seem a little harsh to decry the faces of literally every character, but I can count on a single hand the amount of sequences that wordlessly convey a character’s emotions. Apart from that, everybody seems too doll-like, with a slight up-or-downturn of the lips being our window into joy and sorrow. People are dying in this series, countless have died and our heroes are often forced to do the killing. None of that comes across. Yui spends almost every episode wavering from her stance on love and compassion, only to be reminded of her pure heart and end up right back where she began. From the outset, every single person loves her and she loves them in return. I feel evil for assaulting such an archetype, but it’s all so darn saccharine. Yui treats the decision to bond her soul eternally to Magna Alecto with the same fervour as the time when Rena baked a cake. There’s no emotional oscillation, there’s no variation in stakes, there’s no damn consequences. I spend most of my time touting the notion of a fictional world where the general populace are not out-of-the-loop jerks who impede the progress of the plot…but maybe one of those guys might have been fun. Somebody to question what is happening in Enastoria. You know, somebody other than the omnicidal maniac trying to kill the world.
Speaking of the series lacking any concept of panic (which I totally got sidetracked on and am painfully aware of the irony therein), not even the direst of circumstances can shake our cast from their slice-of-life ways. Even when every being in existence is in danger, when she has been separated from all she knows and cares about, when the villain’s plan is nearing its final stages, Yui treats the situation like she failed a pop quiz. In her resolution, she makes dinner and goes to bed at a reasonable time…because reasons. Look, maintaining a positive outlook on life is all well and good, as is learning to take care of your self, but it all seems so pointless when there is a weapon encircling the globe. To top it off, Yui was left behind as her allies made way to battle, a battle that was underway fairly soon after. Were they fighting for a whole day? Did the villain take a break until Yui woke up and made her way to her friend’s side? I honestly can’t say and that is not the right thing to be saying about the climax of a series. You are supposed to fell strong, to feel your emotions swell in tandem with the hero who stands strong in the face of adversity, not dumbstruck by the notion that said hero learned their lesson and then went to bed. For all Yui knew, Rena was being strangled by the villain, or worse, so why the sleeping? I know I’m really harping on this point, but I cannot fathom the logic behind it at all. It makes zero sense and this is a series where little girls turn into mecha that are then piloted by their sisters. Not because those are the rules, mind you, it’s just a coincidence that every main character is a sister/sister duo…because other reasons.
Not that I mean to continue this negativity train, but this series explains nothing. At least, it explains nothing at the right moment…or in a satisfying manner. From the second Rena transforms into Magna Alecto, the series assumes you either have a handle on everything, or are happy to wait until it gets around to telling you. Yes, I am aware that mystery is cool and sparks imagination, but series also require a solid foundation on which to rest their hanging questions. Regalia themselves remain an unknown quantity for far too long, especially considering half of the main cast is acutely aware of their faults and strengths. Rena herself possesses a secondary being within her soul and we have no idea if that is normal for Regalia, or a sign of ill omen. Little to no discussion is given to Alecto’s frequent lapses into mania and the ramifications of Yui binding to Rena are treated with the dramatic weight of a feather. Honestly, the most consistent and well supported element of this series is that Yui gave her measurements during a press conference. Which, considering I am unsure of how old anybody in this series is meant to be, is perhaps illegal, though definitely creepy regardless. I don’t mean to hate on this series so hard, it’s just that no plot elements ever measured below the surface level. Each event was simply a set piece in which Yui could remember how much she loves her sister and her country, despite seldom forgetting these facts. It just…it just never meant anything.
I really do feel bad about ragging on this series so much. It isn’t devoid of its charm, nor am I upset that I watched it, simply that it could have been so much more that it was. Apart from the Regalia themselves looking pretty cool, especially Magna Alecto, the story behind their existence is truly interesting and opens up the potential for a much larger world. However, every glimpse into this concept is blurted out in clunky exposition and immediately glossed over in favour of something inane, like how hungry Tia and Sara are. Said exposition is also the closest we come to understanding this world, as the basics of what it is to be a Regalia are ignored, in the hope their sudden inclusion will be enough to artificially manufacture a sense of drama. On the reverse side of this, the tender moments of daily life are severely undercut by the presence of the Regalia. Though touching to see sisters bond and friends learn more about each other, it is hard to care when there is a madman in a giant robot enacting an insidious plot. It’s just…Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars tried to pull into two wildly different directions and never budged from the median. Except maybe that time Yui almost drowned because Rena got mad and all those eyeballs appeared and cried blood into Magna Alecto…that was weird.