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Anime serial with shapechanging college students

By Linda Schoales, editor

Feb 7, 2009: “It’s All Relative” is a web serial modeled on Japanese anime. The main characters are animari, or shapechangers. They wear Spirit Bells on their collars to prevent them from changing inadvertently. They’re also college students in a world called Atheria which has contact with Earth but, unlike Earth, allows magic. Outside the college, villages are being attacked and destroyed. The authorities are responding to the threat by imposing a curfew on all magical creatures, and restricting their travel. The students respond by organising a protest concert, outside of curfew hours. The showdown approaches.

The story reminds me of "Inuyasha", although that may be because one of the main characters has white hair, canine ears, rushes headlong into trouble, and blushes bright red. Takun can change into a wolf/lion hybrid. He’s rich, famous, and the subject of both tabloid articles and fangirls’ fantasies. His friend Sirod is a dog animari and she’s a bit more moody. Another friend, Sasuke, is a dragon animari. He’s very serious, responsible, and slow to take action. There’s a fairly large cast, which got a bit confusing, as some of the names were similar. Fortunately, there is a link to a “Cast” page with cute pictures of the characters.

There is a also an “Info” link which leads to pages of information about the University and the various magical creatures. This last link was useful as there wasn’t a lot of description given when new “creatures” were introduced in the story itself. The explanations came several “pages” later, sometimes giving too much information at once. Even so, after 12 chapters, I’m still not sure what a cursed wolf is, although I read a lot about what it isn’t. Also, I still have a few niggling questions about the animari, such as what happens to their Spirit Bells when they take them off?

The story started out strong with some interesting world building. I really liked the first paragraph, and the first two lines made me smile. “These weren’t the best of times or the worst of times. They were just times.” Then we had the introduction of Takun, who goes hunting. The action is well written, with a bit of gore. After that, the pace slows and there is a lot of talking. There’s lots of backstory getting filled in, characters getting fleshed out, and a fair amount of college-aged angst. The action does come back in brief sequences, but most of the tension comes from characters arguing with others, or themselves. It reminded me a lot of the few anime series I’ve seen on TV. The backstory is very interesting and complex. There are magical creatures, humans, and magic-using humans. There is history, there is politics and there is prejudice.

The series “It’s All Relative” is off to a fairly solid beginning, with an interesting backstory, a large cast of characters, and a crisis just starting to happen. The pacing feels like a TV anime series, with bursts of action and lots of arguing, but it has a slightly darker fantasy setting. If you enjoy watching anime series, you should give this a try. If the thought of college students with animal ears holding a concert to protest a curfew strikes you as weird, you should probably stay away.

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