Takt Op. Destiny Review: Fate stay/night the Musical

Studio: MAPPA x Madhouse

Director: Yuki Ito

Streaming on: Crunchyroll

Believe it or not, I have a favorite child when it comes to seasonal anime. Usually once a season, a certain kind of anime comes out. It’s an original project propelled by a strong creative vision, and it shows me something I have actually never seen before. I can’t tell you how much I’ve grown to appreciate an anime that can show me something truly novel, after I begin to think I’ve seen every trick in the book.

Last season it was Sonny Boy, last winter it was nearly Wonder Egg Priority, though I’d say it got shown up by SK8 The Infinity. I’d include Oddtaxi in this lineup, though I haven’t seen it yet, and while I trust the people calling it a masterpiece, I’d like to see for myself. This season, though, the weird new original anime knocking my socks off is Takt Op. Destiny.

It’s a collaboration between two of the anime industry’s hardest hitters, MAPPA and Madhouse, and neither are slouching here. Add in Yoshihiro Ike, the composer for Dororo and Kuroko Basketball, along with Fumiyuki Go, the sound director for Shield Hero and Overlord, and you’re starting to understand how this musical action anime gets to roll its sleeves up.

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Promotional material featuring Destiny and Takt in battle-mode.

Imagine a world with no music. Instruments have been boarded up, destroyed, or set aside as the world is attacked by the D2, alien monsters who hate music and go berserk at the sound. By the year 2047, music is a fond memory to the people who were alive long enough to know it, and a fairy tale to the children who weren’t so lucky.

But the D2 aren’t unopposed as they try to stamp out music. The only people capable of standing up to the monsters are the Musicarts, girls who form a magical bond with a Conductor in order to fight. By supplying their Musicart with energy and ‘conducting’ her in battle, it’s possible to destroy the D2 and return music to the world.

In particular, we follow a young pianist named Takt, who serves as Conductor his Musicart, Destiny. It’s unclear as to the specific nature of their relationship, but in the D2 accident that killed Takt’s childhood friend Cosette, Destiny seems to have saved her by hitching a ride in her body.

They’re now doing their best to make it to New York, as Destiny is in dire need of some maintenance, and Takt seems to believe he’ll find a grand piano to play there. Meanwhile, their road trip puts them at odds with the D2 and Anna, Cosette’s older sister, and the unlucky soul trying to keep them alive long enough to reach New York.

So if you haven’t quite gotten the hint, it’s basically the Servant-Master system from Fate with a musical twist and fighting aliens instead of each other. Does that sound like everything you ever wanted in an anime? Good, me too.

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Takt and Destiny pointing at the person who lost the single brain cell they share.

I lamented that last season Mappa wasn’t bringing their A-game with their water polo anime Re-Main, though there’s no shortage of talent on display here. Madhouse is fresh off of Sonny Boy, and they’ve nailed a completely different art style while not abandoning visual fidelity in the slightest. The art is routinely stunning.

The character design is excellent and endearing, although, considering Takt Op.’s pedigree, it’s a little generic. The monster design of the D2 is weird and creative, but the show’s aesthetic is a little ‘standard anime’. Still wonderfully done, but I know both studios are more than capable of doing something just a little bit stranger.

Even so, the fights are reminiscent of some of the best of Ufotable’s Fate, and I keep having to check to make sure they had no involvement. I’m particularly in love with the gaudy wardrobe Destiny transforms into when she goes into battle. We haven’t seen much of the other Musicarts yet, but I sincerely hope they all dress up like they’re going out for a night at the symphony. It’s such a dump detail that works so well; I love it.

The CGI is astonishingly good, because so many anime are determined to use CGI fingers to play instruments, but no studio wants to do the work compositing so that it looks natural. I don’t know if MAPPA took the burden on that, or if Madhouse has seriously beefed up their CG department since Overlord, but whatever they’re doing, it’s working. I have a Pavlovian reaction when I see a piano in anime at this point. No need to worry, though, Takt Op. Destiny is as strong in presenting its music as it is in the music itself. Speaking of which…

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You wouldn’t think a guy standing on the sidelines with a baton would be this intense. You’d be wrong.

I will admit music isn’t my specialty. I can appreciate when it’s done well, I just lack the technical knowledge to properly appraise it. So take this with just a grain of salt, but Takt Op. Destiny has impressed me as much as any music anime has, particularly in how its music is used in concert with its fights.

The selections, ranging from the standard score to the compositions that Takt is so fond of, are all excellently chosen. The swelling elegant fights, the haunting operatic theme that envelops the mood as we watch the eulogy of Takt’s father. I’m actually still marveling at how much I enjoyed the jaunty jazz theme that Takt and Cosette play at the festival shortly before everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

Music isn’t exactly underrated when evaluating anime, but it certainly isn’t credited as being a pillar of the experience in the same way as writing and animation. So many things can be communicated through music that would take expert writing and direction to accomplish in a dialogue scene. The chemistry between Takt and Cosette is cemented simply by the song they play and the simple character animations.

And I will have to be tied down and gagged to avoid gushing about the entire second episode. The first is wildly impressive with its fight choreography, animation, and compositing, even in how it introduces us to these quirky characters. The second, though, tosses all that right out the window. It’s a slow character introduction where we get a glance at these characters before their lives were completely broken apart. It’s exquisite.

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Best girl has arrived and she is dressed to kill. Literally.

I’m excited for Takt Op. Destiny to really get going, not just because its visuals are this sharp or its characters are already so lovable, but because it managed to demonstrate the strength of its presentation and its writing so quickly. Some anime take their time to pick up, some swing right out of the gate, but Takt Op. has gone off at a sprint in every single category.

Considering the last of the Heaven’s Feel movies are in the rearview mirror, and there’s no sign of a Fate Route adaptation, this is a welcome addition to the Fate franchise, even if it has literally nothing to do with Fate. It’s not exactly a great time to be a Fate fan if you’re not entrenched in the Grand Order nonsense; don’t get me wrong, I am, but I like this just as much.

It’s always a nice treat to pick up an anime and immediately know the soundtrack is going to be a good listen while writing these reviews. Well, that’s assuming I can find the soundtrack before I’m done writing these. If not, it will pair excellently with the winter’s reviews.

So whether you’re looking for something to scratch a Fate itch, or you want an anime that refuses to drop the ball in any capacity, give Takt Op. Destiny a peek. It earned the distinction of Entertaining Pleasing, and I don’t think it’s content to stay there.

So if you liked the review, go ahead and like it, or follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress and Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku for notifications when new reviews pop up. Until next time, thanks for reading.

PleasingTakt Op. Destiny

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