Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood is the new historical/ supernatural anime this season that takes place in an alternate history of the Meiji era in 1931 where Japan has developed a new energy source, called the ‘dragon vein’ or ‘ryumyaku’ and the 15th Shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, is still very much in power. The anime follows our heroine Sawa Yukimura, a mysterious woman with a grim past who also happens to be an assassin of an organization of shogunate executioners called the “Nue”.
A Grand Entrance
Everything about Joran intrigued me prior to watching it, from the elaborate title to the supernatural elements and time setting. However, after watching the first episode, I can honestly say that while I’m still intrigued, I’m also a bit confused as the first episode introduces us to the anime’s plot and characters in a rather messy way. The first minute introduces us to our jaded heroine as we see her undergo a cool super-powered transformation before starting a duel with a shadowy foe.
Afterward, the episode then takes us to the proper start of the story showing us how dissatisfied citizens are with the country’s current leadership. We then see Yuki’s life as a reserved and modest book clerk and elder sister by day, and a deadly assassin by night. Though we don’t get to see much of her everyday life, we do get a good glimpse of how she and the other assassins of Nue operate.
To put it simply, these guys serve as agents that assassinate criminals or targets that may prove a threat to the shogunate. The first episode shows Yuki and her associates being given a mission to assassinate a smuggler who works for a major crime boss. While her associates make themselves known in the least stealthy way possible, Yuki instead distances herself to deal with another, more dangerous threat known as a changeling, a person that has undergone transformations and mutations not unlike what we see Yuki go through in the first scene.
Direction and Themes
Story wise, the anime hasn’t given us a lot to work with so far. While the episode tries to give us an impression of who Yuki is as a person, she unfortunately only comes off as the typical jaded protagonist fueled only by revenge. And while we see hints of the mysterious ‘ryumyaku’ energy that seems to be a major plot point in the story, we aren’t told its origins or how it works specifically other than the few initial hints here and there.
Other than that, seeing as I’m a sucker for anime and manga centered around feudal Japan, specifically the Edo period, I’m happy to say that this anime commits to its themes quite well, which was one of the major factors that initially drew me to it. The character designs, environments, dressing, and cars blended with western influences synonymous with the era are incredibly accurate. This is further emphasized with the anime’s bizarre yet infectious soundtrack and distinct art style and animation, which dynamically changes during high-intensity moments.
While Joran’s story dangerously inches towards the convoluted side, I must say that its other objectively better features are what attracts me to it the most. And while the anime’s pilot episode is in no way a perfect introduction to the series, it is at least worth a recommendation to viewers like me looking for the next grim historical anime with a supernatural twist, as specific as that may be.
Thankfully the first episode was released on streaming platforms way before its April 7 premiere date in Japan, so western viewers can get their impressions on the anime now. The first episode of Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood is available to stream right now on Crunchyroll.
Have you seen Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood? What’s your favorite historical anime? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.