Romance is a very specific genre. There is not much variation to how “boy and girl meet” and usually everyone expects the exact same thing to happen in the conclusion. That is why to spice things up, the conditions under which the boy and the girl meet or the ordeals they are going through need to be different each time, in order to at least make the world around the otherwise one-track romance to appear interesting.
Take this series for example. We have quite the usual fuss. Naive good girl meets mysterious pretty bad boy and falls in love with it 0.13 seconds after they first meet. Why? Well, she is naive, he is a boy, he is pretty, and apparently being bad is quite fascinating if you spent your life pampered and see this as a way to get wild before you grow old and wither away in boredom with some fat, bald poor business man who cares more about football than you. Ok, I understand; it’s been like that in most corny shoujo and it still sells today no matter the stupidity of the whole deal. For more information, check out the success of frakking Twilight .
STORY SECTION: 6/10
But that is now and this is, what, twenty years ago; a time when romances were to the most part not happening in space, in the past, or in magic fairylands. Very common today, very rare back then. This anime did not receive its fame because of its romance, which to be honest is following the book of corny romances to the letter. It is about the world around that romance.
-Let’s have the girl being the reincarnation of a celestial being, whose death during adulthood magically signals the prosperity of her family.
-Let’s have her knight in shining armor be a super mercenary of some shady secret organization performing inhuman experiments.
-Let’s have her twin brother being possessed by her ancestor and have him try to rape her.
-Let’s add a hundred other people trying to exploit, survive or just have fun with all that.
-Let’s add carnage. Lots of it.
-And tears. Lots of tears.
-And let’s always end the most important episodes with a cliffhanger.
Yeah, sounds great already.
So I’m not going to lie, the premise of this anime is amazing, despite being so old. You can focus on different aspects to it instead of just seeing it as yet another corny romance (which it is by the way).
But let’s try to see a bit deeper than that and check out some things most fangirls … err… viewers don’t notice. The pacing for example has always been the most overlooked aspect of most stories, being left alone in a cold dark corner while bijinism and extravagant are dancing like crazy with naivety and suspended disbelief. If this poor champ would be noticed for some weird to imagine reason, he would tell you that this series (as well as most others for the same matter) is suffering from tuberculosis. It has no smooth unraveling of its plot, some parts are damn boring, some others are hardly affecting the overall, and the finale is a drunken old man writing poetry on a serial box… with a toothpick.
Of course, nobody ever listens to poor old pacing as the fang… fans of such shows are too busy yelling “Kyaaa, Toya is so dreamyyyyy!” This example can expand to pretty much any romance by the way, with the only difference being the name yelled. But in some alternative reality of the multiverse where his voice is heard, everyone would agree that the way the story unravels is far from “as dreamy as Toya”.
-Most side stories are hardly affecting the overall plot and yet they are there to force more drama on our consciousness.
-And the way the fated couple keeps copping with their ordeals looks too silly at best.
-And as the episodes keep increasing, the plot keeps decreasing to the point you mistake this for the Hueco Mundo arc.
-And then comes the ending where the plot suddenly becomes supersonic and ends everything in 10 minutes. What a crock!
But it’s not like the story is complete boinkers either. Its main idea expands further beyond the main duo and shows how one person can indirectly affect thousands of others by simply not … being killed the designated day. I could always nag about it by saying it is just another silly take on fighting your fate or having a super powerful dark side coming out to save your ass in the nick of time, but I will be a bit lenient considering the age it came out, long before crappy shounen like Naruto or Bleach turned such tropes to manure. And to be honest, it still feels more original in its experimentation that those two. And to its core, it is still a romance, ideal and corny enough to follow with your ears gone out of order because of the constant screams of those fang… fans of romances.
Bottom line, it is a good story with a bad presentation. It may sound far-fetched but with all the death and gore it has at its key events, I consider this anime the forefather of Elfen Lied, which a decade later managed to gain in far less episodes, far more fans by having far more exaggerated plot and above all, far better looks (fan-wise that is).
ART SECTION: 5/10
Yup, the visuals are as weak as Superman next to kryptonite. All the attempts at showing cinematics seem poor even considering the age they were made. And the character figures have quite simplistic anatomy and facial structure, being separated only by their hair color or clothes. Of course, this being a romance most will probably only care about how pretty the guys and the gals look (or better say the same guy and gal with different wig and uniform) and won’t give a frakk about the awful way they move… or don’t move at all and stay frozen with a flapping mouth. The manga version could get away with its fluent lining and rather stiff body positions but the anime version is guilty as charged.
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
This part is rather ok. Voice acting is fine (considering how annoyingly sappy the characters are meant to sound) and the songs are ok to listen to many times without feeling fed up with them. At the same time, there is nothing amazing about it either.
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
The cast is actually quite interesting on paper as there is a plethora of different people with different goals and demeanors and most of them do change or mature or simply get killed. As far as variety goes, there is lots of it and their behaviors are very well excused through their backdrop stories.
What ruins it is the way they mature / develop, etc. It feels so… silly in the least. A monologue by some good guy is enough to change one’s worldview immediately while inhuman villains try to look sympathetic to us ten minutes before they kick the bucket. I’m sorry; it’s too sudden to mean anything. As it is with all those characters who appear for one or two episodes and are disposed of like they didn’t matter at all.
Some minor bickering can be said about the main characters as well for being to the most part irritating stereotypes. They do eventually develop of course but considering the amount of air time they get, it feels slow and vein popping to the most part. The secondary cast who appear every now and then feel better as their changes are shown with less staling.
-Aya for example will be remembered for her crying. That’s her most distinctive feature; crying over the cruelness of the world every 5 minutes. Until the finale, she otherwise feels like a generic naive girl in constant urge to be saved or kissed by a random bijin she fell in love within a fraction of a second.
-Toya is to the most part as cold and bitter as a half-drank cup of black coffee, hardly able to relate to and probably done deliberately so my ear drums will explode from the sound attacks.
-Aki is hardly a character. He is just there… and then he is no more; absorbed completely by Mikage before offering nothing to the story.
But to be honest, this anime has the title for the most developed and interesting hidden dark selves I know of. Ceres and Mikage are originally shown to be monsters but eventually you get to see why they are as they are and how they develop wonderfully throughout the series. It may feel rushed when it actually happens but it is still good.
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Um, not much. It is ok the first time you watch it, with those cliffhangers constantly making you yearn for more. But the second time you will most likely skip most of it, especially towards the second half where the pacing-nobody-cares-about transforms into a turtle. And the premise in general has been used numerous times in later shows with better animation; so tough luck even there.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Good concept, bad pacing, bad animation, irritating personalities. Gets 1 out of 4. But if you are one of those Banshees, you will like it a looooooot more.