Children of the Whales revolves around 14-year-old Chakuro and the 513 people on the Mud Whale. The show begins with the funeral of a 29-year-old teacher. She died at the usual age most thymia (magic) users pass on the Mud Whale. During the procession, everyone gathers around Chakuro to give him encouragement not to cry because if he does then the souls of the dead will call to him and he will die sooner than he should. Right on cue, Chakuro begins balling his eyes out.
Lost on a sea of sand for 100 years the people of the Mud Whale have created a peaceful and idyllic community. All of this comes to a crashing halt after the first episode and half. Battling the emotions inside him, the traditions he has always followed, and the inescapable fate of those on the Mud Whale become the basis of Chakuro’s journey.
The bulk of the show follows Chakuro and his crew; namely Ouni, Lykos, Suou, Ginshu, Nezu, Ro, and others. They make up the youthful contingent forced into violent matters set up by their elders. On the other side of the ledger, the main antagonist is your average young general seeking world domination. To achieve all of his dastardly plans he must destroy the Mud Whale and everyone on it.
The floating city sits proudly on a vast expanse of bottomless sand. The haphazardly put together behemoth has jutting towers from all directions that are covered with bright green trees on top and dark green moss on the bottom. The Mud Whale also has reservoirs filled with water, fields ready for harvest and a community lost in the bliss of their own existence.
For anyone looking for over-the-top fighting, magic, and action then this show will not deliver. Instead, the focus is on how violence destroys, changes, and ultimately shapes the people of the Mud Whale. The first three episodes follow Chakuro as he goes from seeing a sword for the first time and not being sure of what it is to experience first hand all the horror violence has to offer. The young man who wanted so badly to see the outside world is confronted immediately with a world that is nothing like the life he knew on the ship. Everyone on the Mud Whale finds out that their world is not quite as empty as they thought and that their ship is a lot more than just a perfect little home.
Chakuro and others figure out that their ship is powered by the Falaina. These Falaiana eat people’s emotions and also take on the shape of characters themselves. The Falaiana on the Mud Whale is unique and becomes something that Chakuro and everyone else on the ship has to protect. To do this, they turn to violence. Violence becomes both the impetus for change as well as the result of the change itself.
Violence and emotions are the major themes of the show. Some of the time this comes out a bit over the top as the show will hit you over the head with a few emotional lessons. But, just like the ships on the great sea of sand, emotions fuel and drive the show.
Lykos is a young mysterious soldier found by Chakuro and Ouni. She has no emotions and becomes a strong counterbalance to Chakuro’s emotional overflow. Through the course of the season, both Lykos and Chakuro find themselves dealing with emotions they’ve never felt before. As they both learn to deal with these new found feelings there is genuine character growth to behold. Not just someone getting stronger and gaining different powers.
The emotional growth of Chakuro and Lykos are in almost direct contrast to the emotional destruction of the young enemy soldier Liontari. Liontari enters the stage with a dark, twisted, and genuinely creepy debut. He is supposed to be emotionless just like Lykos, thereby making him a perfect soldier. Instead, Liontari is overflowing with a particular emotion. As a result of this, his subplot becomes one of the more enjoyable ones to watch come together. A young soldier questioning who he is and what he’s doing until his story basically comes full circle. Not only does the show do a good job of taking you along Chakuro’s journey there is also quite a bit of engaging and rewarding subplots for both friend and foe equally.
Chakuro is looking to unravel and record the mysteries of his world. This is a beautiful, bright, and vibrant world. The show’s focus on art cannot be understated. At no point does it come off as haughty or unnecessary. Instead, the images, score, and story all play off each other so well that the viewer does get transported to the Mud Whale. Not only is it a beautiful world, it is undoubtedly unique. Chakuro, his crew, and their enemies all, in the beginning, fit into generic anime character archetypes but all of them are capable of breaking their mold without it feeling forced.
The show sets a clear distinction between good and bad. Those within and those without. But as the first season progresses, the lines between these distinctions begin to blur. Good and evil are shown to be intertwined and inextricably connected. Sometimes those on the Mud Whale are evil, those outside are good, violence is the reason for those once peaceful to become violent and violence is also the only means for the violent to find their peace. There is no violence for violence sake or gore for gore sake. Every bullet and swing of the sword is weighted with dire consequence.
As the secrets begin unraveling, the world around the Mud Whale goes from feeling like endless nothingness to way too small. Chakuro can’t help but be excited as all of the things he gets to record grow larger and larger every day. The show is a fun, artistic, and emotional journey that doesn’t rely on anything over-the-top to get its message across. At points, it may take the artistic side of it all a little too seriously but that can be forgiven because of how well everything is executed.