The reviews I post on this site are of shows I’ve seen in their entirety; quality does not influence my decision to review or not, although you can be damn sure I’ll be posting reviews of series or OVAs I love much faster than for the shows about which I was lukewarm. Hence, I plan on making regular posts such as this one, where I analyze shows which, for one reason or another, I could not finish watching. This does not mean they are necessarily bad: as a matter of fact, the first two shows in this post are critically-acclaimed TV series. Find out more with a click!
The synopsis: As an anime, Monster has more balls than a DVD box set of Prince of Tennis. The story follows Doctor Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese neurosurgeon interning in Germany during the 80s, and the questionable manhunt he undertakes for a mysterious murderer who turns out to be a young man whose life he once saved on the operating table. The manga was published in the late 90s and won numerous awards; its focus on matters psychological makes it definitely seinen (head over to Wikipedia if that word don’t ring no bell for you), and that’s great because quality adult anime is nigh impossible to find.
The problem: Sadly, Monster is veeeeeeeeery slow – I’m talking about a glacial pace that encroaches on rigor mortis – and 74 goddamn episodes long. Yikes. For me, the pacing issue was compounded by my newfound love of anime; Monster was the third, maybe fourth series I watched with diligence and seriousness, but right after I finished hard-hitting lightweights Welcome to the NHK and Towards the Terra. I hadn’t yet developped the stomach for such an ambitious show, and only made it to episode 16, if I recall correctly, before my hunger for entertainment with a little more spring its step took over.
Will I pick it up again? What I did see, I liked: in that “short” time most of the characters (including Tenma’s spiteful ex-fiancée Eva, suuuuuuch an evil bitch) evolved accordingly to the situations they faced, and not a single one seemed cliched or shallow. Once I acquire the patience and attention span that it requires I’ll certainly give it another go.
The synopsis: Touted as Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s most worthy successor, RahXephon follows the story of Ayato Kamina, an ordinary boy who lives with his mother in near-future Tokyo. Soon however the city finds itself under attack, and he is whisked away to the outside world by TERRA special agent Haruka Shitow, who reveals to him that the Tokyo that Kamina has known all his life is not as it seems, and that his own mother is involved in a plot to deceive and control its inhabitants – but to what objective? Kamina is also haunted by visions of the ethereal Mishima Reika, a beautiful girl from his school who appears to be linked to the enormous robots that fight over Tokyo and to the one he eventually takes control of, RahXephon.
The problem: It’s fine to be a spiritual successor to NGE, but do your characters have to be copies of Shinji and the rest? It’s beyond the realm of coincidence: I could not believe my eyes at first and had to Google to see if Haruka’s seiyuu wasn’t the same as Misato’s, since they looked and sounded so incredibly alike. And it doesn’t stop with those two. NERV, TERRA. Shinji has a dominating father, Kamina’s got a dominating mother. The mysterious Ayanami Rei appears to Shinji at random intervals, the mysterious Mishima Reika appears to Kamina at random intervals. There’s Asuka the fiery redhead, and Megumi the fiery, uh, pinkhead I guess. The list goes on, and I’m certain I could write a long yet generic plot outline that could describe both shows equally well.
For sure, RahXephon did try to bring new themes to the table, music being one of its fetishes; that’s praiseworthy, but the show is written so as to appear so mysterious and alluring that I eventually lost track of how many unanswered questions I had, along with any hope of finding answers. The first time I tried to watch it I made it to episode 8 before wandering to newer and greener pastures; the second time, I reached episode 16, and I hadn’t learned a goddamn thing more.
Will I pick it up again? It’s not Vandread, but dayum, it’s a show with potential that couldn’t stop shooting itself in the foot with a twelve-gauge shotgun. I already gave it two chances and, to be honest, there’s simply too much to watch for me to bother again. Sorry RahXephon, I’m not interested in your song anymore.
The synopsis: Vandread starts off with an amazing premise: what if, in the future, men and women have gone their separate ways and consider each other an alien species? Left to their own devices, what type of society would each gender build? What type of government, of military, of arts? How would they reproduce? How would they interact? Holy freaking premise motherlode, Batman!
The show then proceeds to follow the adventures of Hibiki Tokai, a short-statured male who steals aboard the Men’s powerful new battlecruiser as the Women attack the Men’s homeworld. Then there’s a crystal alien or some shit, I still can’t tell. Long story short, the Men’s battlecruiser and a Women pirate ship get fused together, and Tokai joins forces with the female crew, along with pals Duelo McFile (medic) and Bart Garsus (bullshiter extraordinaire). There they form relationships with the female pirates and Tokai discovers that his Vanguard mecha can combine with the females’ Dread fighters piloted by Dita the ditzy moe girl, Jura the blonde bimbo and Meia the fierce blue-haired amazon.
The problem: Dear Lord, where do I start? Vandread‘s premise is terrific, but the show cleverly sidesteps any related issues or plot lines and instead attempts to jam as many CG space battles and bouncy breasts as will fit on your screen. Not that there’s anything wrong with bouncy breasts and space battles – but if the people to whom the bouncy breasts are attached are all insipid chatterboxes who always spout the same hackneyed lines, and the space battles all solved by the same fucking gimmick (“ZOMG ALIEN OH NO HE KICKED OUR ASSES WAIT LET’S COMBINE YAAAY”), then forgive me if my interest evaporates before episode numbering reaches double digits.
Now, it may very well be that many of my criticisms become moot later on: after all it did air for two full seasons, so maybe my curiosity might have been sated and Vandread‘s quality improved, had I kept watching. But come on. How many shows have you heard of that start out as steaming piles of manure and turn into magnificient jewels of art halfway through? More often than not it’s the other way around. Furthermore, why should I let it a perform a season-long impromptu lobotomy on my frontal cortex just to get to the “good” stuff?
I could drone on and on about why I disliked Vandread, but in the end, it comes down to characters and their flimsiness. Every single character is a thinly disguised stereotype. That’s it. Even the diminutive robot buddy made me consider axe-murdering as a hobby.
Will I pick it up again? Let me put it this way. If the world suddenly transformed into a Fahrenheit 451-esque fascist society where all works of art were deemed dangerous and hosed with napalm, and I could save one work of art but had to choose between the Vandread DVDs and a copy of Mein Kampf bound in human baby skin, I’d have to think about it.
Today’s Karen is: UNIMPRESSED