REVIEW: ‘Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune’ Delivers Great Action But Struggles With Deeper Themes

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Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune - But Why Tho

In the future, humanity has been subjugated by an intergalactic trade federation. Due to humanity’s relative lack of tech or other exportable goods, the Earth is soon reduced to “third world” status in the intergalactic community. Its only export of value is humans as either food or mercenaries. These mercenaries, known as Yakitori, are legally treated as equipment more than troops. Their commanders view them as entirely expendable. But a new unit, designated K321, looks to break the mold thanks to a new, experimental training program. They are about to face their first challenge in the sci-fi action anime series Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune.

Rather than follow the story’s core group of five troopers from recruitment to final challenges in chronological order, Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune opts to start its tale with the unit about to enter their baptism of fire on the far away planet Barkha. As the battle progresses and K321 is thrown into one fire after another, the series bounces back in time to show the viewer how the group got to where it is. With the first skip back in time going a full year before the present, these skips grow closer and closer to the present day as the show works through its six episodes. This allows the viewer to learn all they need to about the squad’s members, while both allowing the action to flow steadily throughout the series and providing moments of growth in the past to be shown in tandem with their impact in the present. This gives some great cause-and-effect moments to the narrative.

The larger narrative is split into several different facets that land with varying degrees of success. At the core of the story are the members of K321. How the unit grows, learns to trust each other, and survives the dangers of their chosen profession both in training, as well as on the battlefield is excellently paced and well-handled. The way the past segments accelerate the character progression allows a lot of change to happen in the series’ short run time. While some of the characters are a bit rough around the edges, they all get their chance to show their redeeming qualities when it comes to their interpersonal struggles.

While the interpersonal comes through wonderfully in Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune, the struggles surrounding the political elements of the show, its resolution to the battle on Barkha, and the ramifications of that conclusion are messy at best. While the horrendous way the Trade Federation subjugated people is explored fully, holding nothing back on its commentary for corporate greed and self-serving motivations, it tries desperately hard to forgive anyone who isn’t a politician or bureaucrat of any responsibility for how horribly sideways the situation on Barkha goes. Because of this, Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune has several moments where it shines far too kind and forgiving light on the military side of the organization. It presents many of the core elements of the military as strong honorable men, who have no choice but to slog through the muck they have been saddled with by the politicians. This attitude is problematic at best. While that may be technically true at the moment, if these men are so proud and noble, they shouldn’t be on the planet in the first place.

Then we come to the moral judgment that the series brings upon its starring squad. In order to complete their mission and walk away intact, the squad requests support from its orbiting fleet in a manner that results in what can be easily labeled a war crime. While all the blame is quickly pointed at the squad for this event, which isn’t fair, the show attempts to resolve them of any moral responsibility at all, which isn’t right either. They made a choice. By making that choice, they became participants in something heinous. While they can’t be called to bear all the burden for it, as they were not the sole perpetrators of the act, they cannot just be excused because they hadn’t been trained properly. Morality is morality.

Delivering these themes is a visual presentation that does a great job of presenting the horrors of war, as well as the emotions of its cast. Bodies are ripped apart by explosions as the sands of Barkha are painted with blood. Sequences that see waves of enemies crashing on fixed fortifications like a tidal wave against a mountain never shy away from just how brutal battle can be.

While the animation delivers a lot, the alien designs in Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune are less than stellar. Every alien race in the show is simply an anthropomorphized animal. Cats, dogs frogs, and various rodents make up the majority of the aliens seen, which feels absurd and strange. Perhaps most bizarre is the AI the squad has supporting them, whose visual design is literally Hatsune Miku but as a rabbit.

Following the lead of the strange visual choices comes a soundtrack that is almost always a few notes off in tone. The music never seems to jive with the visuals they accompany, giving many moments a jilted feel as the audio and visuals clash with each other. And while I love hearing classical music in an anime, Mozart rarely ends up being the right fit for this series.

So, when all is said and done, Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune delivers great action and interpersonal growth for its core cast while fumbling many of its larger themes. But, given its short runtime, the things it does well are more than enough to make the series worth checking out if it has piqued your curiosity.

Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune is streaming now on Netflix.

Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10


akitori: Soldiers of Misfortune delivers great action and interpersonal growth for its core cast while fumbling many of its larger themes. But, given its short runtime, the things it does well are more than enough to make the series worth checking out if it has piqued your curiosity.

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