ANIME MINOR JEWELS SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
TEASER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhZNkvouvN0, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf96XZv_x5M
To be honest, it took me several years to actually find the courage to write this review. This series has so many ups and downs that I had a hard time deciding what exactly to write about it. In fact, I gave up on the series twice before managing to see it all with a third try. Now that I finally found the mental strength (and I have no other titles to review for the time being) I finally get to make one about it.
Produced by Sunrise, which means you get good mecha action. Directed by Yonetani Yoshitomo, who also made Brigadoon, the most unappreciated anime in existence (and personal favorite). There is definitely something good cooking here…
ART SECTION: 8/10 [When something becomes scary without even seeing it.]
General Artwork 2/2 - Visual Effects 2/2: Being mostly dementia, the series needs to be grim and weird if it wants to be successful in this department. And yes, to the most part it is weird. Bizarre opening and ending songs, various uses of shadowing effects and a constant feeling of uneasiness is present throughout the series. As the previous reviewer mentioned, it really does have a Hitchcock feeling to it. It is not scary by showing deformed demons and guts splattering across the screen. In the contrary, it hardly shows what the hell is exactly going on. Remember that creepy fog effect in Silent Hill ? Well, think of something similar but with light, or the absence of it. You never see something as it really is because it is either hidden in the darkness, behind a wall or looks intentionally blurry. Dark colors and loss of details to the point of looking like plain caricatures may seem at first as if the animators were bored or trying to save money. But no, it is eerie as hell. The fear of the unknown! Something that you know it is there but don’t see it. Something that you think it is monstrous and it turns out it isn’t. I tell you, I was really scared without actually knowing what I was supposed to be scared of. Marvelous!
Character Figures 2/2: Nothing great to look at here. The characters look quite typical or weird enough to be considered stupid. So, we have plain people (the protagonist is just a normal geek with glasses), next to stupid-looking people (what’s with the multi-colored hairdo the heavy-dude and his sister share as inherited trait?). Then, we have the monsters and the villains in the story, who don’t show most of the time, and when they do… they are lame in appearance! Really, they are just silly looking creeps. Yet, I must warn you that having normal-looking people taking on silly-looking creeps under the pressure of dark colors and caricatures is actually even scarier. I mean, isn’t scary to have plain people (no superpowers or a secured way out) facing man-eating, mutated freaks that DON’T look scary? You usually expect the Diablo treatment in such cases. Something nightmarish in appearance pops up and you have this muscular guy full of super-guns blasting it to pieces. Well, no, here you have this insecure dork, piloting a rather crude mecha, taking on cartoonish monsters that LOOK easy to defeat and yet have committed in secret more murders than Hannibal Lecter . Freaky! It worked for me.
Backgrounds 1/2 - Motion Fluidity 1/2: Nah! They are ok for a television series but I have seen much better. The animators gave their best to the visual effects and the creepy atmosphere and left the details on objects and backgrounds to look and move in a typical manner. Of course, the above example with the character figures may apply here as well. But since objects are not alive and don’t show emotions, I don’t find it all that satisfactory.
SOUND SECTION: 8/10 [Did you heard that? … Neither did I. OWWW!]
Voice Acting 2/3: Very good for the most part, although I didn’t found it exceptional in the long run. There is emotion and spice given to it but some dried up talking here and there doesn’t leave you completely satisfied.
Music Themes 4/4: Shit man! They are great! Seriously, the intro and ending songs alone are so weird that you hardly know what to expect of the series. Part of the whole “What is going on in here?” business. Loved them!
Sound Effects 2/3: The music during those eerie moments is generally atmospheric, although the visual effects do a much better work that the sound effects. Pretty average in all.
STORY SECTION: 8/10 [But I thought… It isn’t? Then what is…? Oh man, this is deep…]
Premise 2/2 - Complexity 2/2: Hell, it is so perplex and reveals so smoothly most the time that you can’t do anything else other than liking it. It is generally about the evolution of life but spawns left and right into so many other fields that you end up with a huge pile of various religions, sciences, philosophical movements and emotional situations. The story begins in a rather typical manner. Teenagers with sexual awkwardness and a dramatic past, become part of a secret organization that fights genetic freaks with a mecka. And there is also the heavy-dude in the story that always pops up and saves the good guys when they are in trouble. Nothing much to like in all this mediocrity of mecha clichés. Soon, other issues become apparent. What can make a man better than he already is? The initial approach is genetics. Which is a nice excuse for gruesome biological experiments to pop up. Then there is the state of mind. You can’t have a great body without an appropriate mind to come along. Revelations and master plans come up. And then we have the perfection of the soul, so expect concepts like enlightment, shedding of the physical boundaries and disgust for inferior beings by ascended beings to come along. Really, the story gives a loot of food for the mind to build upon.
Pacing 1/2: Unlike 90% of anime, you actually MUST pay attention to what the characters say. All the talking is full of philosophical, psychological, mythological allusions and symbolisms that you must understand if you want to make heads or tails of the story. Even the daily routine dialogues are likable. Some episodes are scary, others are funny. Every episode adds something to the story and utilizes a nice idea to build upon an entire story ark. These are the good parts. Then again, most ideas don’t last more than a single episode. Here you are with a great bio-ultra-killing worm that can annihilate all life on Earth and you hardly see it more than two episodes. Seriously, a hundred awesome concepts for recurring villains and world threats will simply run by your eyes in less than 30 minutes. Major bummer!
Plausibility 1/2: There is a lot of explaining for all the weird stuff in the story and all the mysteries are eventually revealed. You will definitely not be left with question marks flashing above you head. Then again, most events end in a very convenient way for the protagonists. The heavy-dude will always pop-up and save them when they are about to lose. There is always a way to beat a monster in 5 minutes. The villains appear and disappear at will. All the stunts get killed in a flash but the main characters survive better than cockroaches could. Not that good at convincing us.
Conclusion 2/2: The ending is DEFINITELY SOLID. No reason for a sequel to pop up, as everything there was to be shown and said HAS being shown and said. It may leave you unsatisfied as you hardly know the fates of the surviving cast but the main conflict of the series is DEFINITELY RESOLVED.
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10 [When a weak nerd is equal to a God.]
Presence 1/2: As said above, the characters look and act either simple or silly. None of them is as imposing as the ideas they implement.
Personality 2/2 - Backdrop 2/2 - Development 2/2: A great point. All the main and secondary characters have personalities, nice backdrop stories and all of them affect the story. Forget about useless NPCs that are there just for show. A great cast of all kinds is present. From the nerdy boy with glasses, to the butchy girl with a dramatic past, to the heavy-dude in a quest of revenge, to megalomaniac industrialists, to hateful ascended beings, there is one for all tastes present. Plus, all of them are colorized and each develops as character at least a little.
Catharsis 1/2: Although the conclusion of the story IS SOLID, you are left only to guess what happened to our heroes and remaining cast. Damn!
VALUE SECTION: 6/10 [Value your lives. They may end before you know it!]
Historical Value 1/3: A title forgotten by most. Anime fads come and go faster than sex partners.
Rewatchability 1/3: Well, the mystery is already known and most battles are predictable. Only the dialogues about those deep issues deserve a second watch.
Memorability 4/4: DEFINITELY! It is unlikely anything I have ever seen. It doesn’t directly remind me of any other title and the story rocks.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10 [Evolution is not a thing to laugh about.]
The atmosphere and the main songs are great. The story unfolds smoothly but refuses to hold on to its great ideas for long. The battles are not that great for the most part and many events are forced. Still, it was a generally great series, even if it took me three times to actually finish it.
This series will make you better men … As long as you manage to finish it and understand what the hell all is about.
Successful mix of Mecha with Religion and Metaphysics series: Neon Genesis Evagelion, Ghost in the Shell, Zegapain, Ergo Proxy, Argento Soma, Soul Taker and Rahxephon.