First Impression: Arknights: Prelude to Dawn

A bevvy of competing voices accompany a disturbingly close-up shot of a pale sickly eye framed by white hair: one voice is calling out instructions for medical treatment; another begging Doctor to stay alive; yet another—a creepy AI-like voice—intoning obscure philosophical phrases. The voices are punctuated by labored breathing. Is it a medical experiment gone wrong? The opening gambit of a horror film? The eye closes, the screen fades to black, and… restart. The action begins. Doctor has survived, just barely, and a crew of combat specialists and armed girls with animal ears and reassuringly soft voices are there to rescue him. He doesn’t recognize them though because, du du dunnnn, he has amnesia. Which is a problem because it turns out he’s not really a doctor—or at least not only a doctor. He’s really their commander, and in no fit state to command. But when the lives of a civilian mother and child depend on his strategic expertise, the memories, or at least muscle memory, kick back in enough for Doctor to lead the team and pull off a rescue and escape. There are flashbangs, crossbows, swords, the whip-wielding Captain Dobermann who—you guessed it, sports Doberman ears—and magic. Dark arts magic. They’re in an empty city called Ursus, being stalked by Reunion. They are known as Rhodes Island and they are rejected by all and sundry despite being Good Guys. They are nearly all infected with Oripathy, for which there is no cure. The credits roll to the tune of an infodump rather than an OP or ED. End scene.

Well, we made it folks! This is officially the end of the Fall 2022 premieres. And it was an okay end. Not scintillating, but not dreadful either. The animation here is inoffensive, and in fact there are some interesting compositions, reminiscent of first gen documentary reality tv shows like COPS, where real-life action can sometimes block the shot and the camera can get stuck at chest or waist height, cutting people off at the chin. It’s actually kinda cool. The persistent widescreen is an odd choice though. The main girl, bunny-eared Amiya, does an awful lot of talking and is so soothing in her manner that it almost washes away any tension or sense of peril in what is ostensibly a desperate escape from the enemy, but there are some decent moments of action nonetheless. The themes of discrimination, pandemic, and revolution are apt at a time like this, and could make for a thoughtful series down the line. One element I appreciated was the hidden reference in the city name, Ursus or Bear, to the setting’s inspiration, St. Petersburg, Russia (get it? The Russian Bear?), which is beautifully rendered, apart from the sidewalks, which are straight off the streets of London. But I digress. At the end of the day, this is a series inspired by a popular gacha game, and it will be relying on an established, devoted fanbase (whales) to turn a profit. And I daresay it will succeed too. But whether it will rack up any new fans for the game franchise is another question. Right now, I need it to do something more to keep me interested. Nostalgic glimpses of a city I won’t get to see again anytime soon are not enough. But I’m happy to give it another episode or two to convince me to stick around for the long haul.     

Arknights: Prelude to Dawn can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

4 thoughts on “First Impression: Arknights: Prelude to Dawn

  1. I hope the adaptation is closer to the Princess Connect one than the Girls’ Frontline one. The Princess Connect one wasn’t anything special, but the art was good and the action scenes were great.

    1. For sure! I’m waiting on the ED and OP for this one too. They really made Girls’ Frontline for me, which was otherwise a fairly run-o-the-mill strategy game adaptation. Still waiting for something to be as engaging as Gun Gale Online though…

      1. The ED and OP for Girls’ Frontline were definitely the highlight. I watched the series to the end and was still really lost on what the story was.

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