Thunderbolt Fantasy brought a whole new meaning to “playing with dolls” when it first aired in 2016. Combining insane puppetry with gorgeously designed figures and sets, it told an epic fantasy tale in a unique medium, earning a solid fanbase in the process. Now, the second season has arrived, setting the stage for another cour of intrigue, swordplay, demons, and overpowered mystical weapons.
After Shang Bu Huan vanquished the powerful demon queen Yao Tu Li at the end of last season, he bid farewell to his companions and sought out a safe place to entrust the Sorcerous Sword Index: a magical scroll that gives him access to 35 exceedingly powerful weapons. Recognizing this as too much power to be in his hands alone, the opening scene shows him approaching the Xian Zhen fortress with a letter of introduction in hand from the honorable Dan Fei herself.
Despite its reputation for being an impregnable fortress, Shang Bu Huan still expresses some reluctance on leaving the item behind, unintentionally insulting the General in charge of the fortress. After a brief spat, Shang Bu Huan leaves the scroll behind, only to encounter an ally just outside of the fortress walls.
Armed with a mystical instrument that literally has a mind of its own, Lang Wu Yao reveals that he followed Shang Bu Huan across the wasteland of spirits, and that other fearsome characters from his former homeland have made the journey in pursuit of him as well. One such visitor is Xie Yingluo, otherwise known as the Princess of Cruelty. Keenly aware of her tactics, including subterfuge, deception and poisoning, Shang Bu Huan rushes back to the fortress and insists he be let back in immediately. The door guards put up a brief resistance as they clash swords, but when they realize no one else is answering their call, they agree to investigate.
As Shang Bu Huan feared, the Princess had already made her move. After disposing a swarm of scorpions, he confronts her in the General’s office. During their clash, the Sorcerous Sword Index is unwittingly cut in two, and the Princess of Cruelty escapes with half of the scroll.
Meanwhile, a mysterious investigator advises a local politician to be on the lookout for a vile man by the name of…Shang Bu Huan?! He states that the elite guard that he travels with recently crossed the wasteland of spirits while searching for him. The episode concludes with the surprise arrival of none other than Gui Niao – the enigmatic swordsman responsible for so much scheming from last season. Overhearing these comments about Shang Bu Huan, he appears amused – what will his next play be?
Full disclosure: this one totally slipped under my radar until literally two days ago. I didn’t realize that the second season was coming, and so the updated queue on Crunchyroll was a real treat for me!
Diving into the opening episode for the new season, I was hoping for another high-octane premiere – similar to the one we saw in Season 1. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. There’s a lot of explanation, and introduction of new characters from Shang Bu Huan’s past chews up a fair amount of the air-time. The battles we get are pretty sparse and conservative, not a lot of footwork/movement, or grandiose swordplay like we’re used to from the first season.
That being said, I couldn’t help but be re-acquainted with the visual elements that make this unique series so entertaining to watch. Everything from the set-work to the movement of the dolls and the solid voice acting built my hype for the weeks to come, despite its lackluster opening.
The idea that Shang Bu Huan’s past is catching up with him, quite literally, is an exciting premise. Sprinkle in the fact that the baddies now have approximately 17 exceedingly powerful swords at their disposal, and we have a recipe for some real fun.
You can catch Thunderbolt Fantasy: Sword Seekers 2 on Crunchyroll every Monday morning!
- Some exciting possibilities laid out in the opening episode
- Great to experience a story like this in such a unique medium
- Gui Niao is the coolest
- Slow opener when it comes to the action
- Lots of exposition - missing that playful banter