C³ is an Action, School and Ecchi kind of theme to it that I came across from a reccommendation of another Anime and seeing some good pointers on it, so decided on giving this series a little spin and well this is what I thought of it.
Story - (6/10)
Yachi Haruaki is a high-schooler who’s always been naturally immune to curses; for this reason, his father keeps sending him cursed tools, called “Waas”, in order to free them of said curses. One day, he receives a mysterious, heavy box; this reveals as an instrument of torture called “Fear in Cube”, whose human form, a young silver-haired girl, soon appears to Haruaki. The two, along with Haruaki’s friend Konoha, will have to fight together against other cursed tools and their owners.
As the arcs progress, more girls (or cursed tools taking the form of girls) will add to the cast. Those who have seen “Bakemonogatari” will probably start to see a pattern here. After an incredibly non-indicative first-and-a-half episode filled with silly and mostly annoying moe comedy material, the action and even psychological elements kick right in, providing lots of pretty intense action scenes, lots of blood, some surprisingly creepy and disturbing moments here and there, a couple of interesting character development sections…and still lots and lots of fanservice and ecchi comedy. The presence in the plot of various organisations centred around Waas, providing the role of “villains”, helps spicing up a bit the story, creating some more suspense and interest, but the abrupt and unsatisfying finale typical of light novel adaptations leaves so much stuff hanging, so much development mid-way, that all the interest and questions created go a bit out the window, and even make the whole series feel a bit useless. Even with its pretty unoriginal plot, though, it still manages to suck in the viewers surprisingly well: the mystery and suspense are really well crafted, the plot twists are effectively prepared and pulled out, despite an annoying overabundance of ecchi-centred situations some moments are genuinely hilarious, as some others are genuinely disturbing. After the awful first impression the anime had given me, I was really amazed seeing how I was getting increasingly invested in the plot and characters. As I already said, it’s not very original, and in the last arc some parts do feel a bit forced, but the effort is definitely there. What I meant with “how Bakemonogatari probably should have been” is here: the two have kind of the same defects, but C³ is not trying to be all brilliant and dialogue-heavy, it knows it has a simple plot and focuses on at least pulling it off effectively; by doing this, what it loses in originality it gains in better emotional impact; because in such an episode-based medium as anime, not being able to keep the viewers wanting for more can be a big problem. Unfortunately, a good part of it is ruined by its disappointing finale; probably if they had more episodes to show further developments it would have made the story more memorable, because like this it’s like if your guests suddenly left your house without a word just as you finished getting dinner ready: it might have been a perfectly good meal, but you haven’t eaten it. So, to sum it up, C³ doesn’t do anything special, but it does it decently good.
ANIMATION - (9/10)
This is where I say clearly “how Bakemonogatari should have been”. Just like “Bakemonogatari”, this simple story is directed by a “virtuoso” anime director, Ōnuma Shin; but unlike “Bakemonogatari”, here the very particular direction actually manages to create and improve the atmosphere. The most prominent feature would probably be the various filters applied to the background at appropriate moments, especially during confrontations (as to create an “isolated” environment for the key events to take place), but also very clever symbolisms (like chains, or bind eyes trying to open when Fear is trying to keep her inner self at bay…), shōjo manga-like frames or little hearts or stars appearing in the eyes or mouth for comedic effect, sudden art shifts, wide angles, very creative visuals, even decoupage-like animations with the characters moving like puppets on a theatre-like background or turning into sketches of themselves creating a very gothic atmosphere that I find perfect for the single arc these ideas are used in…I simply loved the direction. The animations and CGI are also very fluid and intense in the action scenes, and the design of the various weapons is really nice. However, the art loses points for its incredibly unoriginal and generic character design. Believe me, it pains me to give it less than 10.
SOUND - (6/10) CAST - (8/10)
The music does its job decently, but I found it a bit lacking and generic. It fails to stand out in any given moment, and there are times where it could have helped a lot. Both ED songs are your typical, incredibly generic sappy pop tracks, while the OP songs have somehow a nice “Japanese” feeling to some of their melodies that, combined with the beautifully edited credit sequences, get easily stuck in your head.
The voice acting is where I was surprised the most. Tamura Yukari (who performed as Tenten in the “Naruto” franchise) as Fear, in particular, managed to annoy me with Fear’s initial personality and then creep the hell out of me with a deep, violent voice five minutes later; with this character, she conveys a very large range of emotions and expressions, and she does an astonishing good job. I was also surprised at Mako’s performance of Mummy Maker, a minor character with quite little relevance who still somehow managed to feel sympathetic to me thanks both to the few lines establishing her character and her subtle voice acting. The names of Chihara Minori (Nagato from the “Haruhi Suzumiya” franchise among many others) and Saito Chiwa (Senjōgahara in “Bakemonogatari” among others) as Konoha and Sovereignty respectively are always a guarantee, and this series doesn’t make an exception, especially Saito’s deep performance during one scene in episode 8. I also found Ohara Sayaka (Milly in “Code Geass” and Selvaria in “Valkyria Chronicles” among many others) very convincing in her portrayal of the psychopathic first villain. The rest of the cast also does a solid job, although I will say that Kaji Yūji as Haruaki (he’s also the voice of Ōma Shū in “Guilty Crown”) didn’t fully convince me.
CHARACTERS - (7/10)
The protagonist is an extremely selfless boy full of good intentions using his special qualities to help others; he’s surely bland and bidimensional, but also likeable, his personality and some of his lines are likeable, and he makes a nice mix between a typical shōnen hero and a character à la Araragi Koyomi. Fear, the female protagonist, starts off as a typical loli character (you know, clumsy but arrogant, always insulting but with a sweet side, hyperactive and easily distracted…), but soon reveals a kind of “double personality”, a different side of herself she wants to get rid of, and her inner turmoil is actually surprisingly good; I’d even say she’s the one with most potential out of all the characters, but unfortunately her exploration is not as well done as it could have been, it feels a bit hasty, so her potential doesn’t fully pay off. Then we have your cute obvious childhood-friend-with-a-crush Konoha (a type B tsundere), with glasses, twin braids, big tits and everything (yes, I do like her, why do you ask?), who surprises at first by showing a personality quite different from your first expectation, but remains quite flat and underdeveloped despite a lot of potential and mystery around her. Lastly we have Kirika Ueno, your typical strong, serious, selfless class president, with an interesting twist and small inner conflict which manage to make her intriguing. As you can see, it’s your stereotypical cast ready to create the usual dynamics of “everybody gets a crush on the protagonist”, fanservice and comic scenes, but still it’s well balanced and well done enough to not feel forced. Plus, all of them are likeable enough to connect emotionally to the viewer. Regarding the minor characters, I’ll say I was surprised by how clearly they managed to flash out some personality for everyone of them instead of just making them walking plot devices, especially Sovereignty, the school superintendent and his secretary, and most of them have their hilarious moments; when this happens, it’s always a big plus for me.
OVERALL - (7/10)
So in the end…is this anime unoriginal? Yes. Is at times predictable? Yes. Does it feel useless? Yes. Does it have too much fanservice for its own good? Yes. Is it bad? Well…I say, definitely no. Despite all its flaws, and its clearly commercial nature, I have to say that it has potential and effort, it manages to be emotional here and there, to crack me up one moment and creep me out the next, against my own better judgement its characters managed to connect, and the direction, animation and voice acting are simply impressive. Still, at least unless the adaptation of later novels will bring its unexploited potentials to light, it’s one of those forgettable, skippable ones, so…if you liked “Bakemonogatari”, you may like a darker and more action-packed version of the same type of set up; if you think what I described here may be suited for you, by all means give it a shot; but otherwise, feel free to skip this one, you’re not losing very much.