Let’s do something a little different. I mean this was released as if it was an anime but the moment you start watching… it’s puppets. So let’s all drift into a fantasy where the Thunderbird cast are able to use swords and show blood during demonic fight scenes (FYI no this does not contain the cast of Thunderbirds).
Thunderbolt Fantasy is a Japanese-Taiwanese Puppet show. Now since we are not in America where the all powerful Sesame Street heavily put the image of puppet shows as a children’s thing, we with our memory of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet will know a puppet show can be surprisingly adult (not in that way). Thunderbolt Fantasy’s opening scene helps make that abundantly clear.
Right away you’re thrown into a scene in a dark night; two people in rather elaborate outfits are being chased by a group of shadowy assailants. The male of the two Dān Héng is able to face back the assailants with some fancy sword work (done though a mix of puppetry and CG) but when their leader descends from the sky he is overwhelmed and outright killed, his sister Dān Fěi Falling off a cliff to escape.
This very much sets the scene and tone of what you are going to get as we then lead into meeting our true leads Shāng Bù Huàn and Lǐn Xuě Yā (no I’m not going to try and pronounce those).
Shāng Bù Huàn is a wandering swordsman that appears new to this land, so he also works as a means for the audience to be introduced to the world (he also kicks so much ass) while Lǐn Xuě Yā is a mysterious figure that when showing it to a friend described him as Japanese Gandalf (not too wrong there). Lǐn Xuě Yā Roping Shāng Bù Huàn into accompanying Dān Fěi to reclaim what was taken from her brother as an unconventional group (a good chunk all wanting to kill Lǐn Xuě Yā) is formed for this task.
What follows is an interesting and bumpy road as identities are questioned, loyalties shift, Karma is enacted and lots and lots of awesome fight scenes… I do wish we got more than one insert song for those but it’s really good as it is.
While I probably will never be able to say the characters names they all stand out so you won’t get them lost in a crowd even during the fight scenes.
A big draw when I held a viewing party to show a few people this is the puppetry and it holds up amazingly well giving a different experience from everything else they had seen. Many of them admitting they got sold on it.
There are currently 3 seasons and 2 movies (at least I think they are movies) of the show and I’m looking forward to seeing them all. You really get attached to Shāng Bù Huàn as a protagonist. His personality and character are explored through the first season with some great payoffs through especially the end. They don’t come off as cheap either as the ground work for reveals are layered through the show.
Thunderbolt Fantasy definitely stands out as memorable thanks to its use of puppetry and while that will help draw you in as you look for something new to watch, the story, characters and action will keep you hooked till the end… and then wanting to watch the other seasons.