“Yes. No. Maybe. I Don’t Know. Could you repeat the question?” – “Boss of Me” by They Might Be Giants
Jikuu Tenshou Nazca is a bit of an infamous anime, but not for anything the anime itself did. No, it’s infamous for being featured in the opening credits of Malcolm in the Middle along with several other lesser known media (such as One Million Years BC, Clash of the Titans, Creature from the Haunted Sea, Thrill Seekers, and clips from a WCW Mayhem PPV just to mention a few). So I had absolutely no idea what to expect when going into this series. To use an exact quote from Malcolm from the middle, specifically Dewey, “I expect nothing, and I’m still let down”.
The series follows Miura Kyoji, a dedicated kendo student, who, after rushing to see his Kendo Team Captain and mentor, Tate Masanari, participate in a national tournament. His random encounter with Tate’s fiancee, Yuk a Kiritake, is soon overshadowed when both of them discovers that Tate Masanari is a reincarnated Incan warrior named Yawaru who wishes to destroy the world to purify it after both seeing him briefly transform into Yawaru during the Kendo match. It is soon after that Kyoji discovers that he is the warrior Bilka, who foiled Yawaru’s plans in their previous lives. Yawaru gathers other awakened spirits to release the powers of nature. Now Kyoji must wrestle with his own fate and decide if he is merely a vessel for the reincarnated soul or if he is truly Miura Kyoji and which will be better able to save the world and the future as he knows it.
After all my years about wondering where that one clip of that guy grinning in the Malcolm in the Middle opening, my curiosity has been satiated. But not in the good way. Nazca is a bit of a mixed bag even at the best of times to put it nicely, and just flat out just not good the rest of the time. I guess the biggest compliment I could give to the series is that the plot had mild potential. Yeah, the reincarnation stuff is old had in story telling at this point, but it’s something. But of course, the series quickly squanders any potential it had with everything else.
Everyone in the English dub sounds bored out of their minds. They all sound like they’re just reading the dialogue off the script without even bothering to have read it before or practice their lines before the recording, with little to no inflection, which I imagine is not too far off the truth. One of the teenagers sounds like he’s been smoking cigarettes for 20 years, and said character has quite a bit of forced cursing as part of his dialogue
Another character even says “Aww shit!” about something that’s about to happen to them in an unironic manner. And no, going over to the Japanese dub is minimally better than the English dub at best.
I imagine that this was one of those English dubs that had little money put into it since it was a package deal with some other bigger and more popular anime just so they could shove whatever they could onto shelves in the West to jump on that Anime craze going on in the late nineties, and what we got was a stilted script.
The animation is also all over the place. Every now and again, in between the mediocre animation, we’re treated to some of the most 90s CGI that I’ve ever seen from a series. It’s hilarious watching two characters slide across the floor of a 3D room that they don’t fit in stylistically with whatsoever. Say what you want about CGI in modern anime, at least the software has significantly improved to the point where it blends a lot better than what the 90’s had to offer (even if half the time it feels lazily put in, but that’s another thing).
The design of some of their characters before their reincarnation is OK, but that’s such a backhanded compliment that I don’t consider it a plus. The most interesting thing were the designs of the characters before their reincarnation, and that’s me desperately looking for something to compliment.
The series doesn’t feel like it has any natural progression. Usually a scene can come out of nowhere with no transition, and if you’re lucky, it’s followed by another scene of characters sitting down and haphazardly trying to explain what just happened. There’s no smooth in pacing in between scenes whatsoever, and there were times I was confused as to what was going on.
It was until a couple of episodes later that I finally realized that the characters had even flown to another country to investigate what’s going on, because the characters were in a completely different location altogether, and while they were there, they got a vision that just made things more confusing. Once the story manage to lay everything out, it wasn’t a very interesting story.
So out of fairness for the anime, I decided to check out the 2 volume manga to see if it was any good, or at least better than the anime, but it's bad for completely different reasons. Also, I decided to throw the review of the manga into the review of the anime simply because it's the same story and there's no reason to stretch out an anime that covers a lot of the same source material.
Much like the anime, the manga rushes through a lot of scenes, going from one to the next, but even worse than the anime. Some scenes from the anime don't even appear in the manga, making it feel even more rushed. On the other side, a lot of scenes involving the characters past lives have been expanded apon, fleshing them out somewhat. So I guess that makes the manga and anime companion pieces to each other.
The manga states that the main character had gone to Peru for 10 days, something we, as an audience, don't learn until after it happens. The whole thing makes it seem like he left for a weekend.
Characters just suddenly appear with no introduction. The manga also has characters that the anime doesn't, and since they're not properly introduced, it's annoying to try and keep track of stuff. And Shinri doesn't get enough time unlike their anime counter part, even if that character is shallow.
However, the manga does provide back stories for some of the characters, both in ancient times and recent history, with Tate and Kyoji getting the most of it.
Also, in the manga, when it flashes back to the main characters previous life, he even has a giant talking cat creature that looks like 'Red XIII' from Final Fantasy VII if they were more closely designed to be more of a mix between a tiger and cheetah. And even this character gets reincarnated, with the character being awakened in a small dog, and is the one joke in the whole thing that's actually amusing. Still, the dog transitions into it's old self, but it's one of the memorable things about the manga.
I would have loved to see that in the anime.
Basically, the whole thing felt tiring to read, and not for the right reasons. Some of the comic panels are slightly awkward to read due to the layout, taking me a second to figure out the reading order of the panels on quite a few pages, which contributes to how rushed the whole thing feels.
I guess that makes the anime the preferred way of experiencing Nazca. It's more coherent than the manga at least.
And the most hilarious thing is that after some light reading on the real Nazca culture, it appears that this isn't even historically accurate, taking so many liberties that it might as well be it's own thing, combining stuff from Mayan, Aztecm, and Incan cultures as well inserting some Japanese elements, such as katanas.
Nazca needs another proper anime series that smooths out some of the problems. It needs to combine the backstories and extra characters from the manga, and have the whole thing better paced so the audience can tell what is going on.
Is Jikuu Tenshou Nazca worth watching or reading? Not unless you’ve had the burning question “What was that anime clip from the intro of Malcolm in the Middle from?” for the last 20 years like I did, which is an incredibly niche and obscure question that I doubt that a lot of people would have even asked to begin with.
The short: better than you expected, but still probably not worth the time. Nazca. What a strange show.
Positives: Ok, so Nazca isn't completely without value. It's close, but there's a chance you might be the sort of person who sees something worth watching in it. The story is strange, and sort of a weird mishmash of Native American mythology twisted under a weird bushido acid trip, but it's not wholly unwatchable. There were even moments where I thought, hey, this is maybe not a total waste.
There are a few compelling moments and a few interesting character moments that poke into view here and there. With a SERIOUS rewrite there could have been something worth recommending this for.
Negatives: The art isn't that great, and the story is...well, it's not good. There's also not enough character development to really get excited about anything. The battle scenes are also rather "meh".
Overall, the only people I can really see this appealing to is completionists (i.e. those who would watch it simply to say they have done so...) and maybe there'd be some draw for those who are into Japanese swordcraft or oddly confused Native American mythology mixed as seen through the eyes of a Japanese drug addict.
So, now that I've brutalized Nazca, I'll close with a reminder that I did, indeed, finish this show. Which is a lot more than I can say for some others (FLCL comes to mind). And I can distincly remember thinking while watching that the reviews and opinions of it were too harsh. It's bad, but there are a LOT worse shows you could waste your time on. That said...why would you choose either when there are so many other GOOD choices out there?