In Dies irae episode 0, “The Dawning Days”, Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich thinks he’s a normal run of the mill Nazi officer in the early days of World War II. He saves a mage (who says his name is Karl Krafft) from execution on the condition the mage becomes the Nazi’s personal seer. By the end of the episode, we see that all’s not what it seems to be: Heydrich is actually an inter-temporal/inter-dimensional being who crosses realities in a massive golden ship — with skeletal accrutiments. He’a accompanied by many supernatural and monstrously dangerous demon-like beings — including Krafft. And he’s come to modern day Japan to spread his “love.”
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What’s In This Post
3 Favorite Moments
- I’ve always liked a dramatic entrance (0:09), and I think it’s safe to say that Dies irae didn’t hold back. It gave Heydrich a very dramatic entrance. Riding a massive golden ship with Baroque-style architecture that’s powered by angry dead souls would be enough for most characters. But Heydrich has to go beyond that by posing with an arrogant expression as he waits for his opulent ship to build a personalized staircase for him to confront his enemy. I think it’s safe to say that he’s over the humility that he seemed to show around the middle of this episode! I should also mention that the level of detail was fantastic! The mammoth golden skulls and massive skeletal fingers drove home the idea that this isn’t a friendly ship.
- There are some shows that revel in “badassery,” and I see early indications this show might be in that category. Befitting such a theme was Eleonore von Wittenburg’s exchange with Riza Brenner. There were buildings burning all around them, and there were sounds of fighting nearby. Wittenburg began giving orders. When she paused, Brenner asked (10:25), “And what will you do?” The response? “Kill the attackers, of course.” Her expression said that she was more the willing and capable of getting it done.
- I’ve always been interested in how a god might perceive himself if he became immersed in our time-stream. It might seem like a bizarre question, but please keep in mind that I have a degree in theology, so such things pop into my mind from time to time. Krafft said to Heydrich, “You spend your life trying to avoid using your full power” (14:25). Heydrich tried to refute the statement, but he found that he couldn’t. Then, he started to question his existence, and he gradually remembered what he was. The gradual unfolding of his thoughts was fun to watch. Adding to the “badassery” theme, he then proceeded to easily defeat the two insane people who were fighting in his vicinity, as well as Wittenburg and Beatrice Waltrud von Kircheisen, who tried to stop him out of a misplaced concern for his safety. Can’t say I think much of how he treats his allies!
Dies irae — Latin for Day of Wrath. The subtitle after the end credits was in German, and translated, it read “Beautiful moment! Do not pass away. The eternal feminine draws us on high” (according to Google Translate).
The title sets a high bar. I’m interested to see if this show can live up to it.
Maybe I’m dense, but after watching this episode, I had questions. For example (in no particular order):
- In the beginning, is Heydrich meeting an old friend who’s standing on the top of the skyscraper, or is he greeting an enemy (around 1:25)? The blue-haired man seemed to have the same crest/glyph in his left eye that Krafft did when Heydrich pardoned him. What’s up with that?
- Who were the two who were fighting early in the episode (around 4:05)? They seemed to know each other. What’s more, they seemed to really enjoy fighting one another. They also seemed to revel in the amount of destruction they wrought on the people and things nearby.
- Is the huge golden ship traveling between time periods? Different time lines/universes? Both? It seems that Krafft was well aware of Heydrich’s identity even if the latter wasn’t (“I remember discussing this with you here, in this place…” around 15:34). I also got the impression that the two were caught up in a repeating pattern, possibly where Heydrich gets trapped in a timeline, forgets who he is, and has to be “rescued” to restart his mission — whatever that is? Is that the case?
- Is Wolfgang Schreiber the same person who was fighting the white-haired insane man — and who Heydrich slammed to the ground by ramming his fingers into his/her eye sockets? If so, where’d the new eye come from (19:39)?
- Without reading the series summary, how was I supposed to know that the carnage at the end represented the Soviet advance and overthrow of Berlin? I guess I should have recognized the Soviet infantry uniforms, but with the supernatural elements like the artillery that seemed to shoot tactical nuclear weapons, it was kind of hard to tell!
I don’t mind confusing narratives. Heck, I even enjoyed Concrete Revolutio! In that show, what appeared to be confusing turned out (most of the time!) to be non-traditional plotting, which came together in the end of an episode. I can see several narrative threads here, and I can see some of their relationships to one another. Maybe my questions are not only understandable, but intended from a dramatic perspective. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
My real concern at this point isn’t with plotting or characters. My concern’s about how the show’s presenting Nazis. There’s no doubt they’re villains. But they’re presented as such cool villains! The shots of Heydrich walking slowing against a backdrop of flames, his black leather coat hanging from his shoulders, presented an almost heroic look. His unfolding thoughts as he considered his near-divinity were almost noble. Granted, these traits could easily be examples of good, complex characterization. There’re plenty of examples of villains who are have laudable traits. It’s just that, at least here in the United States, there are too many examples of people forgetting what the Nazis were — or worse, not forgetting and still embracing that brutal and toxic ideology. I’m uneasy whenever anything related to Nazism is presented in anything but a harsh light.
It doesn’t help that Heydrich is named after a historical figure — “a main architect of the Holocaust” according to Wikipedia. So this show better portray him as not only a villain, but as a despicable villain.
That aside (is it possible to put something like that aside?), even though I haven’t read the manga, I’m not going to give up quite yet. After all, it’s clear the characters were not the good guys. One of my recent favorite series, Saga of Tanya the Evil, provoked a similar initial response from me. That show easily proved me wrong. I hope this show does something similar.
What do you think? Too much Nazism? Too disjointed or exciting and vibrant? Please share your thoughts in the comments!