Let me preface this by saying that I will not contest Encantadia‘s effectiveness in entertaining its avid viewers. I understand that many people, especially local audiences, do not demand visual sophistication and narrative coherence in the movies and TV series they consume.
But when people say Encantadia’s visual effects are top-tier — please, don’t me. Filipinos have done better. Erik Matti comes to mind with Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles and even the 2005 movie Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom. While having budget limitations is understandable, it’s time to recognize that these fake-looking dragons and tall castles in synthetically vibrant colors are just as backward as what we had in the early 90s.
It would have been better if the visual shortcomings were used in an attempt to create a campy tone. Encantadia, however, takes itself way too seriously. What’s worse is that even if we forego the cheap visual look, the series’ mythology itself stands on an even rockier foundation.
Cassiopeia guards a Brilyante that’s sought after by beings with evil intentions—who these people are, we don’t know. Why they want the Brilyante? They just do. Why are they evil? They just are. It’s like the writers are telling us: ‘wag kayong tanong nang tanong, matuwa na lang kayo!
In order to protect the Brilyante from said evildoers, Cassiopeia breaks up the jewel into four, each of them representing the classical elements earth, wind, air, and fire. The four jewels are then handed to the leaders of the four kingdoms of Adamya, Sapiro, Lireo, and Hathoria.
Why the four kingdoms? Who knew. Basta ganun.
The pilot episode is essentially an hour long exposition explaining the history of the four brilyante. It’s never made clear, however, what exactly the jewels do. They’re supposed to be powerful but even with the Brilyante ng Tubig, Adamya isn’t able to stop the Hathoria gang from barging in. Hathor king Avrak only has to say “akin na ‘yan” and boom, Imaw gives him the brilyante. And even when Avrak possesses two of four jewels and his kingdom is now the most powerful in the land, Cassiopeia easily teleports into his castle and kills his guards.
So, um, how exactly are these jewels powerful if anyone can just show up and kill your people?
It’s also annoying how Cassiopeia conveniently prophesies Avrak’s downfall. There’s no inclination that she’s clairvoyant but bam, apparently Hathoria would be defeated by a princess born on the same day Avrak dies. Later in the episode, Reyna Minea learns that she’s pregnant. A few more scenes and Minea prays to Emre who then fast-tracks the queen’s pregnancy. How convenient that Minea is about to give birth sooner than later! Deus ex machina, am I right?
Employing major tweaks in the narrative just for the story’s convenience is honestly terrible storytelling. The script even violates the sacred “show don’t tell” rule. After Adhara defeats Amihan in a battle, the former holds a gem in her hand and shouts, “Para sa paghahanda sa laban namin ni Minea!” She is not speaking to anyone at all; she just has to say the sentence aloud because the writers were too lazy to actually portray her motivations instead of reducing it to one line.
The characters are one dimensional as expected. The queen is the loving, motherly leader. The soldier generals are willing to die for their kingdoms. The evil lords are just evil for evil’s sake. Nothing fancy, just cardboard archetypes with no depth whatsoever.
Was the episode entertaining? It might be for people who only have three TV channels for options.
I, however, feel slighted for being a victim of a good build-up. I came in expecting a carefully planned mythology and a script that at least attempts to create compelling characters and deliver clever dialogs. What I got — and I say this with a deep sigh of disappointment — was an episode that is frankly a demo piece for a terribly written short fiction.