While watching this, I discussed this series with my roommate. Upon finishing my description, he told me “this series seems like someone just looked at TV Tropes and just wrote a series around a collection of tropes they chose.” I stared at him, contemplating choosing to watch this, and just agreed with him. I bring up this story because his response is the best description of this series possible. This is just a collection of half-written cliches thrown together with the thinnest possible thread connecting them and never rising above their cliche status.
In a version of Japan using some sort of magic, Harutora Tsuchimikado was born into a powerful family but lacks powers (Oh, did I mention this is a light novel adaptation? Could you tell?). When an attack by a high-ranking general kills his love interest, he becomes the familiar of his cousin, the heir to their family’s gift, and travels to a high school in Tokyo with her to learn magic. In the background, dark machinations are underway to make malicious use of his family’s magic. Don’t worry, it is just as generic as I described.
I brought up that this is a light novel adaptation and, in many ways, it really feels like one. Roughly 75% of the dialogue, if not more, is spent giving exposition about the plot, the family histories, the mechanisms of magic, the history of the school, and “dark, mysterious, vague musings about bad things to come.” Despite mostly being exposition, the series does not worry itself much with world-building. After watching this series, I could not tell you how anything in the series works, which is odd considering how most light novels approach world-building. The characters are all archetypes, with no character rising beyond their collection of associated tropes. This hurts the storytelling, since the result is a collection of generic characters placed in an infuriatingly distant and obtuse plot, not helped by the fact that our leads are both the central figures of the plot and the last people to learn anything relating to the plot. The result is just boring to watch.
The animation is handled by 8-Bit, whose resume is less than impressive. The characters move competently, but there is a myriad of awkward CG placed in to represent the magic in the series, which brings down the visual style of the series. Well, it would have if the series aesthetic was interesting at all. The design sense at work here is the epitome of generic. I could not tell you what anything looked like because I do not remember much about how the visuals were executed. That also goes with the sound. I can assume that the sound design is competent, but it left no real impact. I cannot tell you about the sound effects used, the music used, or how the performances were. None of it left an impact.
Actually, the plot didn’t leave an impact either. What I described earlier was written while staring at the series’ Wikipedia page. The only aspect that left an impact is the ending, and all I will say about that is that if the series had any promise earlier, that ending squandered it.
In the end, this is just another anime. It’s just another light novel adaptation. It will not leave an impact, it will not excite, it will not offend, it will not stand out. It will take up your time and not much else.
Final Grade: C-
Tokyo Ravens is available on blu-ray and DVD by Funimation and is streaming on heir website and on Hulu.com.