Scar on the Praeter

The Akatsuka Special Ward in Tokyo was meant to showcase what could be achieved by the total privatisation of society: in return for being given complete control over the Ward, various corporations were meant to supply the citizenry with high paying jobs and a superior standard of living. However, instead of delivering on the dream, the corporations fell to warring among themselves for total domination over the Ward, eventually bringing in yakuza and mercenaries to do their fighting for them. The result was the Akatsuka Conflict, which eventually brought about the total collapse of the corporations involved, and the descent of the Ward into ungoverned lawlessness and chaos. The situation was only saved by three organisations – Helios, Artemis, and the Public Safety Bureau – driving out the interlopers and assuring Akatsuka’s independence. Artemis eventually achieved governorship over Akatsuka, while its poorest neighbourhood, B1, remained the particular province of Helios; the PSB, however, is committed to eventually bringing Akatsuka back under the control of the central government. These factions are led by elite warriors known as Scards, each adorned with a “divine tattoo” that bestows them with particular fighting capacities and makes them virtually invulnerable in combat. Especially idolised by the residents of B1 is the leader of Helios, a Scard named Eiji Arashiba, known as the “Hero of Akatsuka”. However, his encounter one day with an idealistic young man named Yamato Kai results in tragedy: Eiji sacrifices himself to save Yamato from an invading band of yakuza, in the process transferring his “divine tattoo” to Yamato and committing him to the defence of the Ward. Yamato is then left with the task of mollifying the other members of Helios – especially Eiji’s hot-headed “brother” Kazuma – while fending off a full-scale invasion by the yakuza gang Dusk, led a renegade Scard, Hokuto Kurama. That’s when a mysterious figure named Fenrir appears – a predatory fighter whose own powers are seemingly greater than the Scards themselves…

Based on the Project Scard mixed media franchise created by Future Works, and produced by anime studio GoHands, “Scar on the Praeter” first aired on Japanese television from January to April 2021. Animated in a vibrantly hyper-realistic style with character renditions that make most of the male leads (and there are pretty much only male leads in this piece) look like the too-cute-to-be-human members of an idol boy band, “Scar on the Praeter” deploys an urban jazz cool vibe with well-choreographed combat scenes to deliver an arresting if predictable story of urban decay, vigilante rule, and the machinations of street-level politics. The potpourri of references to Nordic, Greco-Roman and Japanese mythology in the guise of the various “divine tattoos”, adds an interesting mix of fantasy to what is essentially a dystopian social tale of the near future. Unfortunately, none of the lead characters is especially engaging, not least because, for the most part, their personal back histories remain obscure, as does the history of the “divine tattoos” and how they came into the possession of the three factions. This robs the story of a good deal of depth; and although, in the second half of the series, we do learn a bit more about the members of Helios and their relationship to one another and the emergence of Fenrir, what might have given these moments dramatic weight feels instead like a kind of watered-down yaoi euphemism. That said, “Scar on the Praeter” is not without its charms, and the visual appeal of the animation cannot be denied. So if you’ve ever wondered what the members of Take That or Westlife might have looked like as futuristic retro-cool vigilantes, this series could be for you.   

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.