Follow TV Tropes


Light Novel / Juni Taisen: Zodiac War

Go To
Every twelve years, an organization hosts the Zodiac War — a deadly battle royale where its participants must be cunning, crafty, and above all willing to kill to reach the top. Twelve brave, determined warriors who bear the names of the signs of the Eastern Zodiac fight each other for their lives and souls, using a wide variety of powers to augment their chance of success. Beginning with ingesting poison Beast Gems, the participants have 12 hours to kill the rest of the warriors to get the antidote; only then can the victor of this tournament receive their coveted prize: to have one wish granted, whatever that wish may be.

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War (lit. "The War of Twelve") is a light novel written by NisiOisiN and illustrated by Hikaru Nakamura. An anime adaptation by Graphinica has aired for the 2017 Fall Season, with Nisio stablemate Akira Akatsuki drawing a manga adaptation of the book in September of the same year. Funimation's Simuldub premiered on October 18th, 2017. Watch it here.

The book received a sequel, Juni Taisen vs. Juni Taisen, in December 2017.


Juni Taisen: Zodiac War provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewers used by Rat and Monkey as a hideout. It's a very large underground canal that even an army of zombie crows can traverse though.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Boar's father is implied to have been one, as he used brutal methods to train her into an effective fighter, would kill people in front of her to punish her for showing mercy to her opponents, and had no problem beating her when she messed up. The anime plays this trope straight, with her describing him as "My father, whose discipline and training bordered on abuse." In addition, Boar's mother in the anime was overly concerned with making sure her daughter looked and acted refined due to her status as the future head of the family; Boar describes her as "My mother, whose care for, and reliance on, her daughters bordered on near obsession."
    • Advertisement:
    • Chicken was abused so horrifically by her biological parents that she has no memories of her life before she was fifteen. The abuse was so bad that her mind was long gone and her first identifiable memory is standing in a kitchen, half-naked, nearly dead from starvation and covered in the blood of her parents, who she apparently snapped at and murdered. Following this, the Niwa family adopted her, but the sole reason for the adoption was her lack of memories and emotions that made her perfect for training into a spy and mercenary.
    • Tiger's master took great pride in her because she was intellectually gifted and one of the best students produced by her family's dojo. By the time she returned home after being sent into battle as a teenager, her mental abilities had shriveled up, she was severely traumatized and depressed, she had turned to alcohol to try and forget her actions on the battlefield, and she was reduced to a near-primal state in which she fought on all fours and killed with her bare hands; he promptly disowned his pupil and threw her out, despite the fact that she only became a warrior in the first place because she wanted to make him proud.
  • Action Girl: Each of the female Warriors, though in different fashion. Boar is a Dual Wielding Dark Action Girl and Chicken is More Deadly Than the Male, while Monkey and Tiger are both Martial Artists with Super Strength.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the novel, Boar mentions she killed her sister in order to take the role for the current Zodiac War. The anime adaptation turns this into a Flashback showing how she manipulated her sister into an insane killing machine, then persuaded her to kill herself when she cracked under the pressure.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • Dog's backstory in the light novel initially seemed to be an example of this trope, as his anime focus episode only depicted a flashback of him participating in a sting operation. The last episode, however, has Dog elaborate on said backstory, thus providing context to viewers for the aforementioned flashback which only depicted part of that backstory.
    • Played straight with Ox's light novel backstory, which is never featured in the anime. As he did feature prominently in Tiger's backstory, however, the anime simply used that to flesh out his character instead.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Happens in all adaptations, which give the spotlight to the character that bites it by chapter's end.
  • An Aesop: Nobody really wins in war. No matter the prize, it's never really worth it. Further lampshaded by Rat’s interactions with the duel’s host. There’s a ton of ways he can die AFTER the fighting stops. Also, the host even says outright, Rat is perfectly allowed to wish for more wishes, but for most people, regardless how many wishes they get, it's still not enough.
    • None of the battles are predictable. Circumstance appears to play a bigger role than skill, with some of the less fight-focused participants actually faring better that the better fighters. The most powerful skill doesn’t have much to do with fighting, nor does it guarantee a good outcome.
  • Animal Jingoism: Despite only having the titles of their zodiac animal, each member still manages to have traits of the animal they were assigned. Boar arrives late, Rat is shifty, Ox kills just because, etc.
  • Animal Motifs: Every warrior has something that identifies them as their respective animal.
  • Anyone Can Die: It's a battle royale with only one possible victor; if they didn't die by murder, than the Beast Gem poison would have done the job. There's only a matter of who dies sooner than who.
  • Arc Number: 12. The War happens every twelve years, there are twelve participants, twelve Beast Gems to collect, and twelve hours to win it all before the poison in their bodies kills them. Even this year's host is named Duodecuplenote .
  • Battle in the Rain: It begins to rain after Ox and Tiger "finish off" Rabbit. Before they can fight each other, Rabbit returns as a Humanoid Abomination, and Final Boss of the tournament, and begin to hunt them down.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Rat tries to think of a good wish that has as little chance of backfiring as possible out of fear of this trope. When he wins, he pores over so many hypothetical backfiring outcomes he decides to choose the safest one he can think of: forgetting he ever participated, and living a quiet, thought-free life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rat wins, but both his ability to experience multiple timelines and his win have clearly negatively impacted his mental health. Trying to come up with a wish that wouldn't come with severe consequences eventually drives him to a near mental breakdown and, upon being approached by Duodecouple and ordered to decide, he panics and screams that he just wants to forget everything that happened during the The War. Duodecouple happily obliges the poor kid. Even though this is rather sad on it's own, as it is pretty much as if The War never happened (except for the deaths of its participants) and everything that everyone went through during it was totally meaningless (not to mention the people the dead have left behind now having to move on without them, and the fact that some of the warriors had no one and will likely be totally forgotten except for providing data for future Juni Taisens), it's heavily implied that, given the nature of war and the morality involved receiving a wish for the death of eleven other human beings, it's the best choice that Rat could have made. In the end, he goes to school and goes to sleep as usual, but he's clearly content and at peace now that his memories have been wiped; he even has a genuinely happy expression on his face as he sleeps.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Anyone who wins the tournament. The tournament host says outright that Rat can wish for infinite wishes, but it still won’t be enough to achieve any peace of mind.
    • Rat considers his power this and it isn't very hard to see why. While he is able to live out 100 different possible futures based on on a specific choice or action, this ability is physically exhausting and has a very horrible effect on his mental state. Just because he can live out multiple realities doesn't mean that there is always a favorable outcome and, many times, an outcome is inescapable no matter what he does because all choices will lead to the same conclusion. Also, he doesn't just see what could possibly happen if he does X, he actually lives out the possibilities before picking one to become reality, which means that he gets to experience up to a hundred times the pain and suffering; for example, in the past, he tried a hundred different ways to confess to a girl who he had a crush on, but ended up getting his heart broke every single time. He has to live with the pain and fear he experienced in all of those timelines; specifically, he died 99 times during the Zodiac War and survived in just 1 timeline, which is the one that he selected to live out during the events of the story. This is also why he ends up being driven to a near mental breakdown and wishes to forget everything that happened related to The War. He's unable to be optimistic or care about anything because he writes the reality and, as a result, has to see that everything has a negative aspect to it; he flat out states that he thinks that Ox was insane because, thanks to his power, there really is no such thing as "doing the right thing" because he can see that, in most situations, there really is no right thing to do, thereby meaning that all actions that he could take are totally meaningless. There's also the fact that the hell he went through using his powers during The War were also the fault of his power in the first place; if he didn't have his power, then he would never have been forced to fight, and if he hadn't had to fight using his power, then the Zodiac War organizers would never have scouted him due to his potential to shake things up during the tournament. Wow; Awesome by Analysis at its least awesome indeed...
    • Tiger considers her whole life to have been nothing but a long line of pain, suffering, and insanity. The only two good parts for her were that She got to met and be inspired by a great soldier when she was at her lowest point and that, after figuring out that said warrior was Ox and entering the Zodiac war to get to met him him again, she was able to die by his hand after being injured saving him from an attack from Rabbits dismembered corpse. She even thinks in her final moments that the way she got to die was way to good for someone like her to deserve, but that it makes her happy anyway.
  • Child Soldier: Given that this is a show about the greatest warriors and mercenaries in the world, there are quite a few of the characters who began fighting and killing from a young age.
    • Boar and her younger sister came from a affluent family of warriors and were trained to kill from a young age, with the expectation that they would follow in their family's legacy of being mercenaries.
    • Chicken was an abused child who eventually snapped and killed her parents after developing severe amnesia from the abuse. She ended up being adopted by the matriarch of the Niwa family, who saw her lack of emotions and memories, as well as her ability, eye of the cormont, as an opportunity to turn her into a emotionless, unstoppable fighter that would follow their every order
    • Tiger was such an intelligent and gifted member of her family's dojo that she ended up being sent out into battle as a soldier as a teenager.
    • Rat is the youngest of the twelve warriors, as he is still in high school, yet he is apparently a good enough warrior to be chosen to participate in the Zodiac War.
    • As a young man, Sheep was already a well-established arms dealer and explosives expert.
    • According to Ox's profile in the novel, he experience his first battle at the age of five.
  • Crapsack World: The World that the warriors of the Zodiac War live in isn't an exactly happy place. There are so many conflicts here and there and even the most pure character, Monkey can't save the conflict and have her ideals hammered down. Perhaps the Bartender of the 9th Episode said it the best, that fish won't live in a pure water.
  • Composite Character: Due to the narrative difference between the manga and novel, Navi gets to be the information man and thinks several other characters' thoughts.
  • Conveniently Empty Building: Invoked by the organizers of the Zodiac War. In only one day, they managed to get rid of everyone in town so the participants can have a big stadium to play in.
  • Creepy Twins: The Tasumi brothers are pretty dang sadistic and are only mercenaries for the money and the sheer joy of it. With how both the anime and novel noting that they are exceptionally destructive and brutal; even when compared to the other participants and the members of the 12 families as a whole; that they repeatedly get taken to court for taking things to far during their jobs, and that Snake is an outright pyromaniac, this definitely seems to apply. This definitely is the case in the anime, where they sport slasher smiles and laugh like a pair of crazies while hunting down people that they were hired to kill.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the original Chinese tale, or with other battle royale works such as Future Diary and Magical Girl Raising Project, the participants aren't people who were randomly forced into a life or death battle. They are all warriors and mercenaries who knew exactly what they were getting into; the whole point is for the greatest killers in the world to fight it out to see who is the strongest. In fact, it's perceived as such a great honor to be selected to fight in the Zodiac War that one participant even murdered her own sister to take her place. Among the "Evil Versus Evil" variation, the cast isn't exactly evil, either; sure, they may be warriors, and definitely morally unscrupulous in some cases, but they're all practically Gray vs. Gray since their own individual chapters and Rat's timeline-jumping ability show more facets to them than we see in the main timeline. Even the purest character, Monkey, isn't an actual innocent because she has spent years surrounded by death on the battlefield while working as a mediator. It's established early on that the majority of the characters are horrible people and that there isn't really a "good guy" to root for. With all the focus on the characters, it becomes equal parts war story, ultraviolence, and character study— a blend generally left more to other genres. The War takes place in a Crapsack World, as these stories generally tend to be, but it's considered to be a secret, but very normal feature of the world it is set in rather than a one-off anomaly. While a decent amount of people live normal lives with no clue about what was going on, there is an endless amount of war and violence, 12 extremely brutal families of warriors more or less run a good deal of what happens, and the 12 houses are openly allowed to engage in violence and illegal activities and have the legal leeway to do so. It also turns out that The Zodiac War is actually a proxy war that draws the geographical and political boundaries of the world, which the 12 families and the warriors themselves are unaware of, implying that the world is in such a bad state with all the wars going on that they need to literally use the betting during the Zodiac War to keep relative peace. Overall, the tone is that war is awful and nothing good can come of senseless violence. In the end, despite the winner getting one wish of their choice, the message is driven home that war has no real winners; the victor nearly suffers a mental breakdown as a result of realizing that there was no wish without dire consequences and even the most selfless wish would backfire in the end. The strain of participating was so great on him, he eventually settled on wishing to forget that the events of the story ever happened.
  • Darkhorse Victory: From the perspective of all the patrons for the Zodiac War, Rat. He slips in and out of scenes easily and didn't have to do much in the naked eye to win the tournament.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: As it turns out, quite a few of the participants have wishes based around this. (At least, in the anime).
    • Chicken admits to feeling that she has no sense of self or anything she really wants as a result of her past trauma and training by the Niewa family and wants to be able to to either have pride and joy in her work as a warrior or some sort of personal ambition. When Rat brings up that she could wish to quit being a soldier and live a normal, happy life, she likes the idea and adds it to her list of wishes that could fulfil her desire to know who she really is.
    • Horse has a strong inferiority complex and wanted to wish for some sort of talent. Despite being physically strong, he view himself as being rather worthless and is even more scared of losing a battle or dying after leading a pointless life than being killed on a battlefield.
    • As it turns out, despite enthusiastically talking about how they want to wish for a bunch of money when Rat questioned them together, both Dragon and Snake individually admitted to him in different timelines that they secretly feel a uncomfortable void in their lives despite all their money and that the wish that they really want is to find something that will make their lives worthwhile and fill the void.
    • Deconstructed heavily with Rat. He's unable to really care about anything or take anything seriously because of his ability to experience multiple realities and then pick one to become the final reality. Everything becomes meaningless when you are able to see and choose what will happen, and the ability to see all the things that could possibly happen also gives him a strong sense of anxiety over whether anything has meaning or is worth doing.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: As this is a battle royale tournament, inevitably characters are going to die off in the middle of their character development.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A lot of the characters have what amounts to a video game convention.
    • Rat benefits from save scumming.
    • Rabbit is effectively a level grinder.
    • Boar’s power is pretty much an ‘infinite ammo’ cheat.
    • Horse has something liken to god mode.
    • Monkey, Taurus, and Tiger are all skilled players.
    • Chicken is sort of a dungeon ninja, in that she has powers, gains boosts from other players, and promptly abandons them.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Implied. Each warrior have clearly been shaped by all the fighting and killing they've experienced in one way or another.
  • Eastern Zodiac: The main motif of the war. With the exception of Snake, even their deaths followed the standard order of the Eastern Zodiac in reverse. They fight members of the Western Zodiac in the second book.
  • Everyone Has a Special Move: Courtesy of their guardian signs.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Sheep may see war as nothing but entertainment and a chance to make a profit but, surprisingly, he lives a rather normal life as family man when he's off the battlefield; he outright states that he never expected that he'd be able to live to an old age and have a family like a normal person and that his family is the reason that his life was so fulfilling. In fact, his wish as the winner of the 9th Zodiac War was to simply live long enough to see the birth of his first grandchild, and the reason that he is participating again is because his young grandson was selected to participate, but he volunteered to spare his family the suffering.
    • As it turns out, Dog is actually a father to a young girl that he adopted. similar to Sheep, he says that caring for his daughter and making sure that she has a good life gives him a purpose in life. He's also a preschool teacher; that has a bit of a darker side, as he does it to scout out potential child soldiers and sell them to interested clients, but he genuinely does care about the kids and sticks with it because he enjoys it. While this is explored more in-depth in his chapter in the novel, this is played off more as a surprise in the anime, as it is only shown briefly in one of Rat's visions during the last episode and he says that his daughter doesn't give him a purpose in life, but admits that hated life before he adopted his daughter and that she gives him some happiness in his otherwise crappy life. In addition, in the anime, his work as a teacher is played off as something he dislikes, but does because needs the money to feed and care for his daughter.
    • Played with in regards to the Tatsumi brothers. While they are highly immoral and openly admit to caring more about themselves and money than each other, they are rather close and do appear to care about each other on some level. Dragon, in particular, is highly protective of his younger brother, despite how often he comes close to losing his patience with Snake's carelessness. It's played straight in the novel, which repeatedly and heavily touches on how strong their bond is; Dragon even flat-out admits to missing his brother after Snake is killed by Rabbit, but is openly grateful that his brother was killed off right away so that it wouldn't come down to them having to kill each other. The anime zig-zags this more, as Dragon and Snake appear to care about each other somewhat, but their closeness and Dragon's real feelings about his brother's death aren't shown; the anime even leaves out the emphasis that the book put on them being Together in Death once their bodies are frozen and smashed (through, at least, the final episode shows a moment from a deleted timeline where Dragon is very much pissed off after watching his brother be killed by Ox).
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • While she is sad that she lost and upset that she was going to die in a dark and dirty place, Boar maintains her composure as she dies and even continues to snark at Rabbit in her head in her last moments.
    • While his actual death doesn't fall under this, Sheep entered the Juni Taisen knowing that he was going to die and had no qualms about that knowledge. He's fully content as, since he's lived an unusually long and happy life with his family, he thinks that dying in one big, final battle after taking his grandson's place in the tournament seems like a good way to go out.
    • Tiger goes out happier than she has even been in her while life and has her wish fulfilled when Ox mercy-kills her so that she won't have to bleed out from a fatal wound and become one of Rabbits puppets. Even since Ox saved her as a young girl when she was at her lowest point, she wanted to meet him again and have him acknowledge her as a warrior. While the warrior didn't remember her, she received her lethal from protecting him and got to die by his hand; in the novel, she even gets to die in his arms. Afterward, it's revealed that Ox thought of her as an unmatched warrior and highly respected her for saving his life, as well as secretly remembering their past encounter She noted to have been the only warrior in the history of The War to have had her wish granted despite dying.
    • Ox remains calm and greatful as he waits for Sheep's bomb to annihilate him and the corpses of Rabbit and Monkey. He even tells Rat, who set the bomb, that he views his death as the right thing to do, as he'll be able to die knowing that Rabbit and the rest of his corpse puppets wouldn't be free to run amuck and that he wouldn't be turned into a mindless puppet who would be able to do anything except cause destruction. Prior to being vaporized, he'd attempted to kill himself ;though the undead Monkey stopped him so that he could be killed by Rabbit; and admitted that he disliked the idea of suicide, but that it was the right thing to do because he knew that his body being reanimated by Rabbit after his death would be very bad for everyone else.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • You'd think a handsome, ripped man wearing nothing but a skimpy bunny suit would be hot, wouldn't you? Not when he's mentally unhinged with constant dilated Black Eyes of Crazy and very willing to chop people up to make "friends".
    • The manga has a nude Monkey bursting out of Rabbit's corpse to subdue Ox. The disservice part is that, aside from being inside a humanoid abomination, Monkey is a zombie covered in his blood.
  • Feuding Families: According to what little is known about the Zodiac War, the participants are all drawn from members of twelve families, each one representing a sign of the Chinese zodiac, and all expected to fight to the death. That being the case, this trope certainly applies here.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since the story is based on the original myth of the Eastern Zodiac, the basic outline of defeats is a given. It's only the how that is uncertain, with several cases of Loop Hole Abuse along the way. Rabbit's ability throws a wrench into things, resulting in deaths and defeats that play with the order of things. Snake dies before the contest, but is destroyed in the proper order. And Rabbit dies in the proper order, but his corpse continues to terrorize the others until the very end.
  • Foreshadowing: It is mentioned that the previous battle was won by the Boar. This helps establish that the current battle will follow the traditional story, as the Year of the Rat follows the Year of the Boar.
  • Helping Hands: Corpses that are reanimated by Rabbit's ability are capable of this trope, as hacking pieces off them does not debilitate the corpse, but instead creates more pieces which can attack the foe.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • The light novel and anime both feature common Japanese phrases that mention the animal that the chapter's focus was assigned.note 
    • The manga uses the names of the warriors that appear in it. note 
  • Image Song: A rap battle produced as a tie-in to the anime serves as this for the fighters, with each one having his or her own verse.
  • Irony:
    • One of the last things Snake said to his brother Dragon before he died was "Hey, big brother, you gotta wonder which poor idiot is going to get himself killed first, right?"; he ended up getting decapitated before the start of the game not even ten minutes after saying this.
    • Boar was the daughter of the last tournament's winner, yet she is the first person killed once her tournament starts.
    • In episode 8, Dragon plans on using his decapitated brother as a distraction and killing Tiger and Ox while they are trying to destroy Snake's corpse. He says that he's excited that he and his brother will be able to "fight" as a team one final time, as he had previously come to terms with the fact that they would never get to partner up again; shortly after this, Rabbit chops him in half and he ends up as a reanimated corpse that attacks Tiger and Ox alongside his brother. They did get one final team-up, just not in the way that Dragon had planned on.
    • While talking to Chicken about the other fighters, Dog thinks "It doesn't matter whether you are killed by me or the Ox. Either way, you're going to end up dead soon" in response to Chicken's concern over Ox's bloody reputation. While Dog ends up getting killed by Chicken soon after this exchange, she actually ends up being killed by Ox in the next episode.
  • Jerkass Genie: For once, averted. The wish, whatever you use it for, generally won't screw you over. It's the cost for that wish that will ruin the rest of your life.
  • Legacy Character: Every fighter in the Zodiac War is this, as they all inherited their titles as warriors of a specific zodiac sign from those that fought in the Zodiac Wars before them.
  • Loophole Abuse: Several fighters engage in this, exploiting things to their advantage either in the past or during the competition itself.
    • In the past, Snake and Dragon killed their employers and stole large sums of money. When confronted about it, their defense is to point out that they killed the opposing client and therefore honored the terms of their contracts.
    • The victor is determined by whoever claims all 12 Gems. Rabbit nearly wins by committing suicide and programming his corpse to collect all the Gems. The rules don't state the winner had to be alive, per say.
  • Lost in Translation: Some of the killing styles lost their original meaning during the translation. As seen here.
    • Rat's can be read as "killing tediously" rather than "killing all", which fits his personality;
    • Ox "just kills", as he don't have a specific method and just stab others;
    • Horse's "killing mutely" (in the sense that he does not say anything, due to his shyness), became "killing silently" (which imply that he kills stealthily).
  • Low Fantasy: Yes, this series has fantasy. However it's very downplayed. Sharyuu's mentors are talking macaques, one of Usagi's main ability is to resurrect the dead and Dotsuku appears to be half dog, given that he has dog ears and a tail. The story's main focus, however, isn't fantasy.
  • Make a Wish: Whoever wins the War gets the chance to wish for whatever they want.
  • Negative Continuity: The second book somehow features all of the fighters from the first going up against another group representing the Western Zodiac. Whether this is a true case of this trope or not remains to be seen.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The jewels are invulnerable to nearly any sort of damage, with human stomach acid being the only thing that can destroy them.
  • No Body Left Behind
    • Boar is turned into one of Rabbit's puppets and then ends up having her entire body consumed by Chicken's birds
    • Chicken's dying wish is for her birds to eat her body once she is dead as thanks for all the help they have given her over the years
    • In the light novel, Snake and Dragon's corpses end up being frozen solid when Tiger douses them with the liquid coolant in Dragon's ice-thrower. Their bodies then end up being smashed so thoroughly that all that is left is a pile of indistinguishable dust and shards. Averted in the anime, where some pieces are still large enough to be identifiable.
    • Just as Ox is about to be brutally ripped apart by the undead Monkey and Rabbit to become one of the living dead, Rat mercy-kills him by throwing one of Sheep's bombs at him. The resulting explosion vaporizes Ox, The reanimated bodies of Monkey and Rabbit, and the body of Tiger (who had died in died in Ox's arms after he killed her so that she wouldn't die from a wound given to her by rabbit and reanimate after her death).
  • Prequel: The light novel is a prequel to an earlier Nisio manga story titled "The One Wish That Must Be Granted, And The 99 Which Can Be Done Without", which the last episode of the anime is an adaptation of.
  • Punny Name: All of the contestants have names based off of their Zodiac animal, even before getting their codenames. Heck, even their codenames can be pronounced differently to get new words. Given who wrote it, what did you expect?
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: The deadly Zodiac War tournament happens every 12 years.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Unlike most zombies, this trope is subverted when it comes to corpses reanimated by Rabbit, as all body parts, including the head, that have been cut off corpses still retain their mobility and can still attack foes. In fact, cutting a corpse to pieces is considered to be a very bad idea, as it then means that there are now more pieces that can attack you from more directions.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The show had a pretty cynical tone onto it and how nihilistic some of the characters are like Rat, Tiger, Dragon and Snake. However, Monkey comes across as the most idealistic of the cast and tried her best to solve conflicts that were plaguing the world. However, her idealism was horribly hammered down by the narrative, since she still tries to be positive and try to solve the conflicts that happen in the world no matter what it takes, despite the fact all the conflicts kept coming anyway and were in part facilitated by her intervention. And even with her peace plan and pacifistic attitude in most of the whole War, she met her end to one of the most violent contestants there.
  • Spoiler Opening: The anime's opening gives the final survivor away with a visual cue. All of the eventual dead have glowing eyes in the character montage— that is, all except Rat, who is the eventual winner.
  • Spoiler Title: Due the puns the sayings in each chapter have, some of them turn into major spoilers the more you read. "Cutting a Chicken with an Ax-cleaver"note  is just the icing on the cake.
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: Subverted. Though they fit the dynamic of Tiger being fierce and passionate in comparison to cold and calculating Dragon, the Warriors barely acknowledge each other. Instead, Tiger's rivalry is with Ox and she only faces Dragon after he becomes a reanimated corpse.
  • There Can Only Be One: Each participant has swallowed a jewel of crystallized poison (Called a Beast Gem), and they have 12 hours to kill the other eleven and obtain their jewels to get the antidote.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: The anime turns Horse's story into this. Between the "focus" participant of the episode and Monkey and Rat's subplot, Horse's story is about as far removed from the former two as one can get. In contrast, the novel instead has all events featuring Horse be contained in his focus chapter.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The fatal flaw of almost every participant. They're so short-sighted that they can't see that their opponent might have something up their sleeve, which invariably leads to their demise.
  • War Is Hell: The primary Aesop.
  • Wishing for More Wishes: It's an option if you win. Nobody ever does it though.
  • World of Jerkass: There aren't a lot of characters who are considered "nice" in the story. Any character who is shown to be a likable person gets dispatched quickly.

"Everybody, clap your hands!"

Alternative Title(s): Juuni Taisen, Juni Taisen Zodiac War