On their latest raid, a group of sky pirates find themselves with a mysterious container among the usual loot. Young pirate Coud, overcome with curiosity, opens the container to find ... a girl named Reverie "Ren" Metherlence.
Right after the raid, the pirates are contacted by Arc Aire, who are interested in the container, or -- to be more specific -- the girl in it. Upon refusing, the ship itself is attacked by another mysterious group, apparently after the girl as well. During the fight, Ren suddenly melds with Coud and turns into a huge saber attached to his right hand.
And while Coud does get out of the fight with his life intact, the pirate ship doesn't. Stranded on the ground, Coud them decides to make good on the promise he made to Ren: he will take her to the garden of Eden, a place -- according to legends -- where all Edel Raids can live happily.
Elemental Gelade isn't something you haven't seen before. Not necessarily in anime, but in the kind of RPGs you get from Japan. Elemental Gelade's main fault, which pretty much glares you right in the eyes from the start, is all its RPGish clichedness. We have a main hero, larger than life and careless, but earnest and hardworking as well. He's the rookie member of a team of sky pirates, and he just so happens to come over an artifact of world-changing proportions just as they're attacked by an unknown force.
The artifact in question, which just happens to be a girl, looking for all the world like she's around Coud's age ... well, you can see where this is going, right? Coud, being of the chivalrous sort, immediately agrees to help and protect Ren, and, once she informs him that she plans to go to a place called garden of Eden, promises to make sure she reaches her destination.
Problem is, Ren doesn't particularly care for human beings, as she -- along with several other Edel Raids -- have been misused for their powers and battle capabilities for many, many years. However, during the attack and after a short conversation with Coud, she decides that he might be a worthy "pleasure" after all and merges with him, thus magnifying his battle abilities rather exponentionally. (A "pleasure", by the way, is the title of a Raid's human counterpart whom which she made a contract. As we learn early on, an Edel Raid can only merge with one human being, and that contract remains unbroken until they chose to end it themselves, or when the human dies.)
As you probably can tell by now, whatever Elemental Gelade has, originality isn't one of them. In fact, I caught myself thinking that this show would have been better suited as an RPG for a few episodes. However, the show does actually work quite well despite my initial fears, especially once you get to know the characters a little better. Since Elemental Gelade has a specific target in sight, the show is mainly about travelling, about the people they meet and the people travelling with them and largely about the Edel Raids. The main issue of the show, as it were, is the concept behind the apparently humanoid race of Raids. Ren, while being awfully deadpan at the beginning, quite clearly has emotions, which casts the whole "Edel Raisds being used" in a more sinister light, which only gets more emphasized in the first event after the initial episode and remains a constant reminder every now and then until the show's conclusion.
The character of Coud van Giruet is, in my opinion, a positive element in the series. In an era where main heroes seems to lean more towards the brooding, somewhat pessimistic style, Coud's energetic and straightforward approach is a much better alternative. Although he comes with no personal baggage attached, he can be a bit of a numbskull at times. But then, that's when the magic of "character growth" comes into play. Let me again remind you that this series is thoroughly shaped in the typical RPG mold, so whatever lessons he'll pick up in the duration of the show isn't going to teach anyone anything new. Still, his character is definitely one of the highlights of this show.
Some of the female viewers out there might feel miffed about this being another "male hero helping the female character out and protecting her" story. Of course, you could take some consolation in the fact that Coud can only protect Ren because she grants him the powers required to do so. And while this means that Coud is mainly in control whenever the two merge, Ren DOES have the power to stop him if he does something she finds disagreeable. (Which, if my memory serves me correctly, happens at least once.) In fact, this symbiotic relationship is part of the charm about the whole series, and does become an issue in several of the show's subplots -- not necessarily involving Coud and Ren, but involving several other human-Raid relationships, both happy and tragic. It also compounds the fact that the Edel Raids are humanoid beings with emotions and should not be treated as anything less, great powers or not.
Cisqua, on the other hand, I didn't much like based on first impressions. You see, she came across as a character who would do whatever she saw fit to get her way, even if that would resort to violence or even betrayal. She would make a grand moral statement, only to turn around on it mere seconds later. She would also tag along, uninvited, making sweet-talk to Coud while simultaneously making plans to betray him and take Ren away. And she was even WORSE in the manga, hard as that is to believe. Luckily, the anime has plenty character development in store for her as well, which eventually wiped the resentment I felt towards her away. I suppose there was a reason for her to be portayed as a money-grubbing egotist at the beginning, and I guess she wasn't supposed to be a very admirable character until her past was brought into light.
Aside from her partner Rowen and his own Edel Raid, Kuea, the rest of the cast consists mainly of antagonists and NPC-type characters. The antagonists would be considered the ones who brings Elemental Gelade's main issue to life; the use and misuse of the Raids and, though the rebel faction of Edel Raids, the misuse of human beings. Through a way where they can apparently force a merge with a human but still be in complete control, they become the cause of most of the battles in this show as well as the inevitable target for the ultimate showdown found at ... you guessed it ... the garden of Eden.
I guess the goal I'm trying to reach is to convey that this show, while predictable in the extreme, isn't a bad show at all. There are battles, both small and grand. There are insights to the lives of many characters, both human and Edel Raids, and stories regarding their relationships. There are triumphs and tragedies and remembrances from a time when human beings and Edel Raids lived in peace, which is what drives our main protagonists on their seemingly simple journey to a garden. And for those interested, there is also the story about the love forming between Coud and Ren, the human and the Raid.
Come on! Don't say you didn't see that one coming.
Essentially, this show is pretty much for the RPG fans among us, who long has been offered substandard fare like the Final Fantasy titles (not counting Advent Children) or other crappy titles. While nowhere near the best on offer, Elemental Gelade is still worth a look, provided you're in for what amounts to an RPG you don't have to play yourself.
Although I certainly wouldn't mind.
It's better than average, let down only with a somewhat cheesy ending, so if you're an RPG fan with a fondness for a hero's tale, add one star. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Erementar isn't particularly gory, but it does contain a lot of violence, though nothing too extreme. People die, sometimes horribly, sometimes plentiful. There is also a lot of mature themes in this series, featuring physical and mental abuse amongst other things.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Elemental Gelade © 2005 Mayumi Azuma / Mag Garden / EG Project / Sotsu Agency / TV Tokyo
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