Signal, a robot companion built for Nobuhiko, is attacked by Pulse, one the its creator's previous prototypes. Reprogrammed by Dr. Otoi's mysterious rival, Pulse is loaded down with weapons and sent on a mission by Otoi: steal the most recent robot technology, and obliterate anything that gets in his way.
I have never been a big fan of shonen and the fact that I have even watched a show as obscure, or antiquated, as Twin Signal might raise a few eyebrows in lieu of new, phenomenal, shows such as Kill La Kill and Space☆Dandy getting the buzz they deserve. Yet, as it happens, Twin Signal is one of those oddity bargain bin 99p releases that has some appeal if only through the charm of being released during the nineties OVA boom on VHS and for sharing prominent English voice talent for the era, even if it is a little underwhelming. Twin Signal’s set-up follows the titular Signal, an advanced cybernetic lifeform, created by famed roboticist Dr. Otoi. Despite being a fighting robot with offensive capabilities, it is made clear to us that Signal’s sole purpose is that of guarding Otoi’s grandson in Nobuhiko as if an “older brother”. Characteristically this isn’t inaccurate either because Signal in many ways is the definitive hero with an f in good, from being a selfish, narcissistic show-off, to his all-round distaste with the “vast green nothingess!” that surrounds the tranquillity in which he lives in. Signal does get his wish for action before too long however upon the discovery that his brother, the prototype robot known as Pulse, is disturbing the peace, reprogrammed with new orders to destroy! While the core of Twin Signal’s narrative focuses on Signal and Pulse’s eventual confrontation, and what it means to have something to protect, we’re better accustomed to the world in which Signal’s friends exist in. Being based on a shonen manga, alot of silly frollocking takes place during the story: From Otoi’s rival and his inept henchman – the figures primarily responsible for Pulse’s capture and reprogramming, to the introduction of Kris Sine - Otoi’s loud, lazy and obnoxious apprentice. Signal’s actions for most of the show are done with comedic effect, playing off his chief gimmick of transforming into his cute, chibi hyperactive alter-ego, a form only activated through sneezing. It even saves Signal’s life in his initial encounter with Pulse in the first episode. Surprisingly enough, the supporting cast members all play off each other great too, including the over-zealous police officer and his bumbling robotic colleagues, who contrast with each other in his seriousness and their playful optimism. Sadly they never get much screentime outside of becoming targets for Pulse. We are similarly introduced to Elara, the shrinking violet of Twin Signal, presented as Signal’s love-interest and damsel-in-distress but somehow wonderfully subverted. Elara’s simple nature allows her to unwittingly be kidnapped for the sake of spare household dishes, ironically playing a crucial role in the downfall of Otoi’s rival despite being held captive, and amusingly so too as she clumsily feeds them bad food and overloads the power through her household chores. Otoi’s rival and his henchman also remind me very much of Pilaf’s gang in Dragon Ball in their scheming and one-dimensional villainy, naturally played up to silly proportions, especially in the voice acting. But while this all well and good for a 26 episode show, like all ambitious OVAs, the 90 minute runtime is run-through superfluously. The main plot of Signal and Pulse’s conflict is ended rather inconclusively, alluding to a rivalry that would last for the rest of the series but we sadly never get to see it. Similar to Mobile Suit Gundam: F91 before it, perhaps Twin Signal was intended for a longer run and was never green lit for it. A shame really, considering that the opening especially, in true bait-and-switch fashion, presents us with scenes that never makes an appearance during the animation itself. Sachi Oshimizu’s original story had already been running for three years before it was adapted in 1995, in fact, Twin Signal the manga lasted for another six years before it finally ended in 2001. It isn’t like they were ever limited in source material to work from. It is similarly of some fascination to note that the animation director, Toshiko Sasaki, had only ever worked on longer syndicated TV shows such as Urusei Yatsura and Tsuide ni Tonchinkan prior to working on Twin Signal. Still, Sasaki likewise did the character designs which might explain the surprisingly bioshonen looks to both Signal and Pulse, then again, Sasaki was also responsible for the designs in Marginal Prince and Saint Beast so go figure. Needless to say, Twin Signal’s animation doesn’t flow quite as smoothly as Macross Plus, nor does its presentation appear as distinctive on-screen as Tenchi Muyo did. Yet through her work on shows like Urusei Yatsura, Sasaki makes the lighthearted tone play well with its simple use of frames and character movement, with pay-off in the form of the comic, exaggerated expressions often made use effectively during Twin Signal’s funnier moments. The action is Twin Signal’s weak link, never quite being able to capture the same intensity offered by its opening tease and even then the plodding nature of Signal and Pulse’s fight in the third episode can be tough to watch. Fortunately there are no noticeably bad errors in the art, save for Kris’ missing legs nine minutes into the first episode. The rest of Twin Signal's presentation is largely forgettable sadly. Music is used sparingly except for various cues during the more intense moments of the show. Sound effects are what you come to expect, of both the English and Japanese localisations, although the voices themselves are average although I’d argue that is less because of the actors and more because the dialogue itself is rather poor (e.g. “I did it because I hate you!”). I preferred the Japanese audio track overall yet the talent is definitely there If you do stick by the dub as Lisa Ortiz (Lina Inverse of The Slayers ), Mike Pollock (Dr. Eggman of Sonic X) and Rachael Lillis (Misty from Pokemon) all do a fantastic job playing their goofy characters. Wrapping this up, I wish I had more to say about Twin Signal. Of the three episodes this OVA encompasses, it is easy to see the promise of this show based on the titular robot alone. The concepts of family and responsibility could harbour a strong thematic core and if the animators were given free reigns with the source material (which sadly I can’t comment on), maybe they could have gone one step further and brought up complex character arcs and stories, maybe the very semantics relating to the existence of Signal and his kind. With the supporting cast grounded as they were, it would have been fascinating, atleast for me, to see a shonen story develop in such a way. Alas, it is as readily apparent in other ways why TV stations would have disregarded Twin Signal given the bland look of the show, with not particularly original character designs, or new takes on the regular tropes of the shonen genre. With no major gimmick to rely on either in terms of its presentation (excluding Chibi Signal), no memorable soundtrack, and rather average animation, it is doubtful Twin Signal ever left any bold impression on anyone. Its 99p bargain bin status is a true testament to that as well.
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