Ulysses – Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist Knight is a dark fantasy series set during the Hundred Years War. When I say that this will be a dark series, it will be one. So viewers please bear with me, I’ll try not to put too much dark stuff in the screenshots. But, before I make my final assessment, let’s review the basic plot!
The story is set in the 15th century, during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England over the succession to the French throne. Montmorency, the son of a noble, immerses himself in the studies of magic and alchemy at a royal knight training school. However, following France’s crushing defeat at Agincourt, the school is dissolved. Having lost everything and now a wanted man, Montmorency, who had just become an alchemist, encounters a mysterious village girl named Jeanne.(Source: MAL News – MyAnimeList
Now, that’s the basic plot, but the first episode gets even more intriguing. So with that, onto the recap!
In 1415, France is invaded by the English. Paris is in a state of fear as soldiers march through the streets while the church announces the capture of another city, “but if they have faith in God, then an end to the war will come soon.” In the midst of this panic, a young boy with long black hair (Montmorency) happily runs through the streets towards a shop.
Entering the shop, the boy looks at the various magical artefacts and ingredients as the owner complains about the shop not being ready for opening yet. The boy asks when he will be ready and the owner recognizes him at once. Irritated, the owner declares that no new Grimoires have come in and questions whether he is sick of coming into the shop everyday to look for those. Looking at the book in the owner’s hand, the boy asks about the book. But instead of politely answering, the man just throws it to him and claims that its not a book he can read. Grabbing it anyway, the boy asks the owner to put the book on his tab and rushes out of the shop with it. The owner sighs out his grief, but the boy runs back in and thanks the master. As the boy leaves, the man decrees that he is not his master and calls the boy, “The Beast of Revelations.” Nice, huh?
At a school, a professor is giving a history class on the current situation with the war between France and England. Behind the desks, three females students all notice the empty seat beside them and one of them sighs. Meanwhile, the boy from earlier is trying to read the tome he got from the shop when he bangs his head against the wall. Guessing this is his limit, Montmorency (Ryōta Ōsaka (Mikleo (Tales of Zestiria)) ) hears a girl’s voice calling out to him and looks up to see a shaggy blonde-haired girl named Arthur de Richemont (Manami Numakura (Yuki Hanzomon (RELEASE THE SPYCE)), leaning against his door. Montmorency nags at her to knock firsts, but Arthur rebuts that he left the door open first and reminds him that he’s not going to graduate with his lousy grades in the military arts and poor attendance by absorbing himself in this heresy.
Montmorency automatically proclaims that the stuff he’s researching is not heresy, but alchemy and shows his new book to her. Soon after, another girl, Charlotte de Valois (Saori Onishi (Kiyoi Mizushima (WIXOSS)) pops out from a door, but finding the room empty realizes that Richemont got to him first. Angrily turning to her two friends, the girl storms away while complaining and wondering how he is so popular with the ladies. In the cafeteria, Montmorency is going on and on about the Philosopher’s Stone to Richemont. Realizing that he shouldn’t be talking about it in public, Montmorency immediately covers his mouth around the waiter and whispers the rest of it to Richemont when the waiter walks away. Richemont just devours her food, causing Montmorency to ask why she doesn’t react and Richemont just tediously states that she’s heard this stuff a hundred times already and urges him to tell her more about the Grimoires. Montmorency immediately starts talking about how the Grimoires are written in code and how he plans on asking Nicholas Flamel (the book shop owner) for lessons. Montmorency then repeats what he knows about him and recalls his first meeting with him when Nicholas refused to teach him because he claimed to be just a book seller.
Tired of this, Arthur asks if he is done now and gets back to the matter at hand about the current situation with the war and how as a noble, it’s his duty to become a knight and fight in it. Montmorency decrees that he’d much rather take a job that saves lives rather than takes them, but Arthur scolds him. Changing the subject, Montmorency asks if Arthur is free tonight. Later that night, the two of them sneak out of the academy when they are stopped by Charlotte and Philippite Valois Bourgogne (or Philip for short) (Yuuki Takada (Momone Yūki (Aikatsu Friends), the black haired girl who was with Charlotte earlier, who insist that they tag along too. Grabbing some horses, the group rides and Montmorency tells them they are searching for fairies because he saw some in the bookshop earlier. Montmorency reminds everyone how fairies are hunted down by the church because they are heretical creatures, but wonders why they are in Flamel’s shop and insists that there is a connection between Fairies and Alchemy.
Finally stopping, Montmorency and the group get off their horses and walk onward into the forest. Montmorency tells the group that he hopes that by asking the Fairies, he will get them to teach him alchemy. Philip gets worried and asks if Fairies bite. Sensing an opening, Charlotte begins to mercilessly tease Philip by telling her some scary stories about fairies biting people, but Montmorency tells her to cut it out instead. Arthur also tells her to stay quiet otherwise the fairies won’t come out. Upset, Charlotte angrily asks Montmorency, why he is only ever nice to Philip, which cause Montmorency to reply that its because Charlotte only ever causes trouble. Suddenly an owl flies by and as it flies away, Philip pees her pants. As Montmorency stands guard over Philip, while Philip tries to pull herself together after balling her eyes out in embarrassment, he starts mentioning how he is used to accidents like these because he has a little sister and apologizes to Philip.
From a short distance away, Arthur is reminding Charlotte that Montmorency is not just kind to Philip, but is kind to everyone and Charlotte rebuts that’s why he makes her mad. Suddenly, Arthur notices some falling leaves and warns Montemorency as a thug drops down on them with swords. As Arthur blocks the first strike, she pushes him back and as he flips over, the group notices the armor they are wearing. Seeing the cross, Arthur immediately recognizes them as English Soldiers and charges straight at them while launching fierce strikes of her own. Montmorency tries to help her out, but gets easily pushed back. As Arthur is trying to fend one of them off, she notices her friends getting surrounded by the other soldiers and soon Arthur is cornered.
Pulling back, Montmorency pulls some powder out of his sack and creates a smokescreen which blocks the soldiers’ vision. As the smokescreen clears, Charlotte tries to scare off the soldiers by claiming that Montmorency is Nicholas Flamel’s student who is known by the title of ‘The Alchemist of Black Death.’ Montmorency plays along and threatens to turn them to stone unless they back off. The soldiers don’t believe him and starts walking toward the group while Arthur is still trying to beat the one soldier. Thinking that he has to buy some time for Arthur, Montmorency pretends to use the Philosopher’s Stone to turn Philip into an immortal Berserker. Obviously, it doesn’t work, but Philip plays along, scaring the soldiers in the process. Finally finishing off the one soldier, Arthur charges at the rest of them and defeats the group.
Later after tying up the soldiers, Montmorency and the others light a fire and start treating each other’s wounds. Arthur declares that she can’t believe England made it this far into France. After Philip bandages Arthur up, Arthur remarks how real battles aren’t like the mock battles at the academy, but Montmorency declares that she should be proud of her strength. Charlotte butts in that they won because of her strategy and Montmorency praises her too. Philip states that she should be praised too, which causes Montmorency to declare that the others should be praising his Philosopher’s Stone. Charlotte grabs the rock and declares that it is just a simple rock, but Montmorency explains that he found it in his family’s storehouse along with the other ancient treasures there. Taking a look at it, Philip states that its just a rock, causing Montmorency to scold her for being so blunt. Giggling, Arthur wishes that things could stay this way forever, but all of them are from different noble families from different countries (e.g. Charlotte is from the French Royal Family, Arthur is from a noble family in Brittany (Not Britannia) and Philip is from a noble family in Burgundy) and that they live in a mad time where wars are breaking out and that they may have to face each other in battle one day. Arthur then continues that she wishes that they could be friends forever, leading Montmorency to declare that they can if they want to be because they can do anything that they want to.
As Charlotte reminds the group that they even beat up English soldiers, an English soldier curses them and Montmorency throws his rock at him, knocking him out. Grabbing his rock back, Arthur smiles at Montmorency. The next morning, as the group is walking back to the academy, Philip suggests that they should swear an oath to always be friends and everyone agrees to it. They then make their oath at the riverside while being watched over by the fairies.
A day later, Arthur receives a mysterious letter. At the same time, Charlotte is walking with her servant through the hallways, being scolded about her behavior and how she might succeed the throne one day. Charlotte reminds the girl that she has two older brothers so she won’t be inheriting the throne any time soon. The servant argues that this is the reason why she should have taken her with her during the sneak out so that she lay her life on the line for her. Charlotte remarks that her statement is very manly of her and the girl (or actually boy in girl’s clothes) agrees. For that, Charlotte demands that he wear women’s underwear starting from tomorrow, which causes the boy to freak out. Stomping away, Charlotte declares that “all men are wild beasts in heat” just because her servant is making a fuss because she is already developing womanly features. Her servant replies that this isn’t what he meant, well that is until they hear a disturbance outside.
Outside, Montmorency is being challenged to a duel by a blonde haired student. Montmorency complains asking why they should fight and the boy states that it is because he put “his” Philip in danger when they were in the forest. Montmorency claims that Philip isn’t his, but the boy rebuts saying that “No man is a true knight until he swears his love to a lady,” and that he has already sworn and devoted the entirety of his love to Philip, causing Philip who is watching this to blush. Montmorency asks Philip what she thinks about Alençon‘s (Junji Majima (Souma Oogami (Kannazuki no Miko)) proposal and Philip bows and politely replies that she must decline his love confession. Montmorency asks if he can leave now, but Alençon curses him until Arthur (his older sister) interrupts the argument and asks him if he wants to duel her as well as she went into the forest too. Alençon replies that he would never do that to her, causing Arthur to ask what he knows about love. Alençon replies that he does know about love because he has read erotic novels on the subject, not noticing his mistake.
Cursing himself for unknowingly revealing his secret, Alençon reels back in fear as his sister approaches him while declaring that she must train him harder with some tough love for allowing him to slip into vulgarity and kicks him in the groin. As Alençon collapses from the pain, Arthur turns to Montmorency and tells him that they need to talk. Later that afternoon, at the bridge in town, Arthur tells Montmorency that she received a letter from her older brother about how the troops at Harfleur have been stricken by an epidemic and plan to retreat to Calais while the French Army will wait in Azincourt to initiate a decisive battle against them. Arthur then announces her plans to head to Azincourt the next day to join the battle as a representative of the household of Brittany. In shock, Montmorency asks why she has to do it and she replies that its because her big brother despises war, so her family is sending her to save face.
Angry, Montmorency declares that he will go with her too, but Arthur just stares at him. Finally smiling, Arthur reminds him that she is undefeated in the night tournament while he has lost every time. Offended, Montmorency argues that just because she’s smarter, prettier, richer and stronger than him, doesn’t mean she can look at him with pity in her eyes. Giggling, Arthur remarks that she is glad she is able to talk with him one last time (at sunset) and that this will probably be one of her most beautiful memories. Later that night, Montmorency goes see Nicholas Flamel and begs him to use the Philosopher’s Stone to make Arthur immortal. Nicholas cautiously reminds Montmorency that if he uses it to make one something more than human, then they will be banished by the church as a heretic. Nicholas continues that having immortality means to run away from death and live alone for eternity and silently asks if he is willing to put his friend through that. As Montmorency angrily tries to beg him again, Nicholas reminds him that he is an old bookseller and tells him to seek someone else.
Finally giving up, Montmorency leaves the store. As he leaves, Nicholas utters to himself that he had hoped that Montmorency would remain a blockhead until his dying days, however as he gets up, Nicholas encourages him to fight against fate as the Beast of the Apocalypse while disappearing into thin air. The next day at Azincourt, a English lieutenant comes running up to his older brother and tells him that the enemy is coming. Looking at their soldiers who are in a reverse pentagram formation, the lieutenant declares that the French may mock them as devil worshipers, even in hell. But his brother (the general) argues that there is no hell and that it is just the rambling of priests and that in his world, there is only heaven and earth. Getting down to business, the English General declares that they should offer the French the finest hospitality available.
Meanwhile, Montmorency is riding through town trying to reach the battlefield as the battle starts up. A French soldier madly fights against the British and curses the general who is revealed to be Henry V (Satoshi Hino (Tatsumi (Akame ga Kill)). In town, Montmorency beseeches God and prays to him to keep Arthur alive as she fights on the battlefield to stay alive. Slaughtering a whole bunch of men, Arthur is panting when Henry V approaches her from behind. A short while later, Montmorency reaches the battlefield and starts searching for Arthur. Finding her half-broken sword, Montmorency screams out her name while crying. Some time later, Charlotte is secretly escorted away from a closed academy, while Philip has returned home to Burgundy. As Philip greets her father, he reassures her that she has nothing to fear, because he has already allied Burgundy to the English.
In a secret cellar, Montmorency has started training himself seriously in alchemy to claim immortality for himself, all so that he can rescue Arthur who has been captured by the English. Stirring potions together, Montmorency declares that if there is no god then he’ll sell his soul to the devil. Initiating a ritual, Montmorency pulls out his stone and prays to it to guide him and he’ll offer his soul in return. However, when the ritual doesn’t activate, Montmorency picks up the stone which starts glowing. As the dirt crumbles, the stone turns into a crystal and a fairy appears from inside it. Making a mysterious, but clumsy introduction, the fairy introduces herself as Astaroth (Hisako Tojo (Tsubasa Tachikaze (Lord of Vermillion)), the Queen of the Fairies who declares that she shall never be kept by a human and demands that he be her servant.
Montmorency immediately accepts, startling Astaroth who asks why he so readily agrees to her demands and Montmorency declares that he wants the power to protect lives and that she appeared after he wished for it, so he feels that its a message from some higher being. Hearing this, Astaroth accepts his wish and states that she will grant it as she is the guardian of the Philosopher’s Stone after all, surprising Montmorency. Astaroth then informs Montmorency that if he swallows the stone then its immense powers will be his, like other famous leaders at one time did (e.g. King Solomon, Clovis I, Otto the Great and Jesus Christ (Yes, she seriously said that)) and ended up earning the title of “Ulysses.” Hearing this, Montmorency interrupts Astaroth and asks where the Philosopher’s Stone is anyway. Astaroth points to the stone in his hand and informs him that one of his ancestors must have been a member of the Knights Templar and that the Knights Templar’s mission was not to reclaim Jerusalem, but to reclaim the stone. As Montmorency resolves himself, Astaroth cautiously warns him that he must transmute the stone into an Elixir first before swallowing, otherwise it will turn into poison and kill him and that once he drinks the Elixir, his body will be able to withstand the poison.
Years later, Montmorency has yet to successfully transmute the stone into an Elixir, causing him to ask Astaroth, how long it has been since they started on this venture. Astaroth replies that it has been seven years and that he has no talent. Looking at himself, he finally realizes how much time has gone by as he has outgrown his clothes and his hair has grown longer.
Ulysses – Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist Knight is going to be an interesting choice for anime viewers. If you were expecting a soft, happy fantasy based adventure series out of this anime, then throw that idea out of the window! Following the same lines as Cross Ange, Freezing and Seikon no Qwaser, Ulysses – Jeanne d’Arc and the Alchemist is a dark, sexy anime with some or perhaps lots of ecchi moments. Even the opening sequence shown at the end of the episode highlights each of the girls’ hot bodies in sexy poses. But I digress, while this is a very fan-service catering series, there are sure to be exciting action sequences to compliment. Whether the creators equally balance the two sides out has yet to be seen yet, but so far it seems alright.
As for my impressions towards the first episode itself, well, while I didn’t expect it, it was basically an exposition episode which explains the world-building, the love interests and the main characters’ pasts and reasons for fighting. While it was a very entertaining episode, it was also a bit dry in terms of plot since all it really did was provide backstory to Montmorency’s motivations for fighting, to rescue Arthur. The plot was very attuned to the era that it was set it and I liked how the title Ulysses played into it, but I’m not sure what Ulysses has to do with the Philosopher’s Stone. But, like I said, it’ll probably get more darker and enjoyable as the series goes on (especially since Arthur was captured by the English).
Animation-wise, the series animation was of very excellent quality. From the settings to the immaculate details on the armor, they just really well-drawn and animated. I loved the character designs. Arthur comes off as rather Mordred-y (Fate/Apocrypha) so she’ll probably be a berserker in battle, Charlotte is the princess-y type while Philip is the shy noble girl type. I can’t really speak on Jeanne since she wasn’t in the episode (besides for the preview), however, Astaroth’s design is by far my favorite especially with her outfit. Montmorency is….well, rather plain in terms of design, however, his personality really shines through it. His design really shows how he is a simple boy who is really not exceptional at anything, but is incredibly kind and caring. His backstory was really thought out and I feel as if he is relatable in his desire for power to rescue his friend. The only character design which I perhaps didn’t like was Henry V’s as his design was more Asian than British especially with that ‘Heaven and Earth’ talk.
With regards to the music in the series, I really loved the opening theme song “Libération” by Mai Fuchigami. While the song is typical of a fantasy series, it was really edgy and heart-pumping and it flowed well. OST-wise, the music instrumentals was good. The stringy guitar music for the academy scenes really cast the scene for an ordinary school day, while the violin music during the Arthur and Montmorency goodbye scene really created the sense that this may be the last time for them.
With regards to the religious elements, while they were believable and in tuned with the times. Some of the stuff was a little doubtful especially the part with Jesus using the Philosopher’s Stone and the Knights Templar. But, I loved the little French language section at the end of the episode, so overall, this was an okay first episode. It wasn’t great, but it did enough to keep me hanging in there for the rest of the fall season.