Sometimes the first five minutes of an anime are all you need to know if it will bore or excite you; but sometimes, these precious minutes end up being nothing but the ultimate fake-out and disappointment. Bus Gamer, in true Ergo Proxy fashion, begins with a bang and a promise of an engaging, high-octane story to come - and then accidentally flushes itself down the toilet, never to be seen again.
I loved Gantz. I loved Bokurano. I loved the 90s movie "The Game" starring Michael Douglas. Give me entertainment about people willingly or unwillingly stuck in a game with dire consequences and I'll watch it in a heartbeat; why, then, did Bus Gamer prove itself to be such a fickle mistress? I can boil it down to a few key points:
Bus Gamer alternates between being a serious and mysterious thriller and (BARELY), and a campy feel-good anime about Kazuo winning over the comradery of his two teammates who (understandably) think he's annoying as hell.
Personally, I gravitated far more strongly towards the thriller aspect and desperately clung to the hopes that the story would pick back up. Unfortunately, that just doesn't happen.
In episode one we are introduced to the vague notion of the game and what the stakes are, watch Kazuo make an ass of himself, and see the boys partake in their first fight. Episode two is the most throwaway, random interjection of "character development" that I've seen in a long time: Kazuo plays video games with a local detective, and the guys sit around and talk for a long time. Minimal fighting occurs.
At this point, I began to lose hope, as Bus Gamer is only three episodes total.
Finally, in episode three, the boys fight again and we see a confusing resolution that seems to have been pulled out of a magical hat. I can't say the details without spoiling, but let's just say it's unclear what the result of the game was. We also are never shown a clear picture of why our protagonists wanted to participate in the game in the first place.
Pointless, and very disappointing - three points only for the first five minutes and occasional plot development.
Clearly, Bus Gamer doesn't have the most outlandish budget. Cringe-worthy animation shortcuts are aplenty and include still scenes and line-filled backgrounds during action shots. Fight sequences are flat out average and unengaging, and little else can be said except "meh."
That being said, the bishounen character designs are "ok" - "ok" being in quotes because while clearly meant to be attractive, the protagonists' designs are rudimentary and not terribly appealing. In addition there is nothing out of the ordinary about any of the main characters; they could have been plucked out of any-other-bishounen-anime-out-there. I'd be a rich woman if I got a quarter for every time Nobuto or Toki looked at the camera either smoking a cigarette or gazing deep into the eyes of the beholder; hello, recycled idea!
Bus Gamer's intro is relatively slick and cool - it's something you'd expect to hear when watching either a bishounen anime like Saiyuki, or any title that deals with shounen-ai or yaoi.
During the meat of the series, the audio is minimal and reserved, usually focusing solely on sound effects. Action sequences are generally accompanied by metal riffs or other synthy beats, none of which are memorable.
Voice acting-wise, most of the characters sound as expected - except, once more, that loveable Kazuo. He's sometimes serious and he's sometimes nasal and irritating - heavy on the nasal and irritating.
Average marks for the audio for the average impact it left on me.
Kazuo pulls a Vash - err... Kenshin - err... Abel, and fluctuates frequently between being somewhat of a tough guy to a naively happy and trusting doofus; and frankly, it just doesn't work. In my top ten "characters I'd most like to punch in the face" list, Kazuo easily slides into the top five. His abrasive goofy ways are irritating at best.
Kazuo's teammates, Nobuto and Toki, do not suffer from the same dichotomy of personality. They are hardened badasses, plain and simple, who will do whatever it takes to get to the top. Ruthless, skilled, and understandably annoyed at the teammate that has been forced upon them, they provide all of the sultry bishounen looks that are needed to ensure that Bus Gamer has a minimal fangirl status. Unfortunately, they bring little more to the table than that.
The problem that plagues each of the main characters is that their back stories are never explained in even minute detail. During episode two, we are shown very short and minor flashbacks that serve, in theory, to explain why each character is after the one billion yen reward; but these flashbacks are far too truncated to make any sort of sense. This leaves you with a feeling of incompletion and complete lack of empathy or understanding for any of the three protagonists - and that's not a good thing, given that they are locked into a battle of life and death.
Besides Nobuto, Toki and Kazuo, only one other character is brought into the limelight briefly: local detective and gamer extraordinaire Keiko. Her inclusion in the story is about as cohesive as me being forced to watch a hardcore ecchi anime, and frankly she should have been left out so another fifteen minutes of plot could have happened.
Perhaps the unappealing, vapid, often irritating (*cough* Kazuo *cough*) characters are a casualty of Bus Gamer's short length and abhorrent pacing; whatever the case, I was disappointed.
Bus Gamer's inconsistent pacing, underwhelming characters and disappointing story make it a relatively pointless watch. Bishounen lovers will find merit in Bus Gamer's character designs, but anyone looking for a substantial viewing experience is advised to stay away. Had Bus Gamer stuck with either full-on campy (Get Backers-style) or full-on intense (Gantz-style) it may have succeeded; as-is, however, it remains an awkward clash of two genres in a far-too-short package, and in my opinion fails because of it.
In the underbelly of the corporate world, a secret series of battles takes place called the Bus Game, whose participants are solicited randomly via letters in the mail. During the games, teams of three attempt to take into their possession a disk filled with corporate secrets; the winners are given increasingly high cash rewards, while the losers get nothing - or worse, they lose their lives. Toki, Kazuo and Nobu make up the "no name" team, and their goal is to win one billion yen each. Each has a reason to need the money and a secret, disturbing past; but with high stakes and mysterious employers, they can only hope to leave the game alive.
My fav genres include sci fi and horror, but you'll find a lot of obscure reviews from me too, given I watch a ton to add to the database. My new reviews are written a lot better than my old ones, so when in doubt, sort by date! ^_^ Enjoy, and I welcome any and all feedback.