- Animation is done by studio Toei, which has done hundreds of classic shows but usually has average production values and doresn’t allow any of them to shine.
- Directed by some nobody who never made anything else.
- Based on the RPG videogame by Namco.
Xenogears and Xenosaga are amongst my most favorable videogames for their guts to focus more on telling a very complicating story and less on having exciting gameplay. I was practically playing them to watch the cut scenes and less to max out the characters and own the bosses in a few rounds. When the anime came out, I wondered how well they would manage to transmit the feeling of the story. Believe it or not, they did a far better job than most adaptations out there.
The anime follows the normal story of the game, with rather small differences instead of going for random plotless adventures like most adaptations do. It still is that wonderful adventure of fending off the alien Gnosis with a super android, while a sinister plot takes place for the control of humankind. Looks like a typical alien invasion story but in reality it is far more than that.
And as for those changes, to the most part they were actually an improvement over the original, or in the least a very interesting retelling that was not damaging the overall feeling too much. For example, the VR training mission in the beginning initially presents KOS-MOS as a robot and not as a super sexy fembot, which helped the viewer to perceive from the start her as a weapon and not as some porn-related gimmick. He could even be shocked later on, when her true form appears. They also added a 100 series Realian to be part of the crew, which made the antithesis between her and her advanced version, MOMO, to strike all the more meaningful when later own she stays at the core of the reactor instead of KOS-MOS. Because to be honest, the 100 series was left at a complete background role in the game and the finale of the first game felt too convenient with all the stuff KOS-MOS did. Keeping the military soldier alive for most of the duration also helped to get to see more about himself, a thing that went almost unnoticed in the original. Having as a final boss Albido’s mecha was also keener to having that generic monstrosity in the game.
As far as the handling of the storyboard goes, I was very pleased. Unfortunately, it was the only thing they did right or even better, as all the rest were very disappointing. The terminology of the original was oversimplified a lot, which kind of made the series to feel like a typical sci-fi adventure, when the original had enough to fill a hundred pages of text WITHOUT any pictures. I supposed that was expected, as the series was only meant to cover the first part of the trilogy, and thus all innuendos or references to things that would happen later in the story had to be taken out. It would be very confusing to anyone who didn’t play the games and I doubt having huge walls of text in the end explaining all that would help either. So I excuse them for that, as the alternative would make things worse for the non-fans.
What couldn’t be forgiven is how they also watered down the crazy personalities of the characters. They took out the wacky mentality and replaced it with what can at best be described as anti-hero mentality. Which was quite the fun back in the 90’s but now it is plain boring and that makes the characters boring as well. I mean, seriously, Albido was one of the most twisted / psychotic / murderous characters I have even met on a game and the anime presented him as slightly crazy… who even helps little girl Realians when in the anime he… well… you know… Same thing can be said about the military soldier; he hated Realians with passion but in the anime he is just annoyed with them. Totally takes away the tripy feeling. Also, since the series only covers a third of the story, means that most of the cast is not fleshed out much and remains as generic crowd in the background. Which is quite sad how that makes them appear as average when they are all wonderfully developed later on.
Next up are the production values, which for a series of this caliber felt too low. The intro song is very good for me but the dialogues feel empty of passion and the visuals lack the wow-ing factor. Everything is made to look so average and the watering down of the psychedelic factor makes things even worse. I was almost annoyed by the way they drew the faces and the shoujo-ai element they threw in just… felt out of place.
Overall, it is a mediocre production that doesn’t really do just to the game other than making the plot more likable. Most fans like me were disappointed with the watering down and the non-fans just found it to be a mediocre space adventure. As a stand-alone adaptation, I can say with certainty that it has amongst the best transitions from game to series I have ever witnessed but that alone is not enough to make a good show. So I give this show a pass but only barely and only because I’m a fanboy of the games. Believe it or not, the story is quite close to that of Neon Genesis and overall far more complicating and mature. Too bad the series doesn’t let you realize that.
Now where is that Xenogears adaptation?
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 2/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 2/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 1/2, Story 1/3, Characters 2/4
Story - 4/10
Alright, this wasn't bad. Was definitely not great, but not bad. The developement from start, to evolution of the mission, to the climax was actually done pretty well. One of the problems with this being the fact that whenever someone showed up to save them, or to destroy them, they always appear out of nowhere, and everyone is always suprised. Frankly it came to the point I was wondering who would warp in during each episode.
It starts out with the main character abord a ship in a fleet, working to finish a prototype weapon that went berserk once before with her assistant, when a large group of Gnosis attack. Standard tragedy hijinks ensue, and bang-poof, prototype weapon (which is actually a hot female!) saves her while the fleet is destroyed. Picked up by a transport vessel trying to scavage for valuable pieces from the newly-created graveyard of ships, the main character and prototype weapon with assistant in tow go off on a journey to their company's headquarters. Which due to the pursuit of an at-the-time unknown enemy, ends up elsewhere, various discoveries are made, and finally after multiple battles and disjointed realizations, a final battle occurs to save a planet with a madman for the final boss. A sacrifice is made, planet saved, cue mysterious "to be continued" scene without the actual to-be-continued part.
That being said, the largest problem lies with the fact there are many holes left in the plot i.e. the Zohar, and the fakes, like their function, why they were wanted, the reason Realians were made originally, and so forth. Huge gaps left in the explanation of things that just make you draw a blank.Too many topics and not enough background ruined what could have been something great.
Animation - 7/10
This actually struck me as great for it's time, and suprised me with some fluid action scenes and movement. The reason I don't rate this any higher is the fact that there are plenty of still-shots and static movement scenes. Personal opinion being they could have taken a bit of the effort from the few and spread it more, and it would have been a hell of a lot better, but that notwithstanding, it did suprise me and was, overall, pleasant.
Sound - 5/10
I'm fairly well split between this, hence the scoring. The Opening and Ending themes weren't particularly amazing, but the voice acting was startlingly good. There isn't much insofar as background music during the anime, but this is, in my opinion, countered by the fact that there were multiple scenes where I was drawn in by the voice acting and the emotion put into it. So while I'd rate the soundtrack a 1 or 2 out of 10, the voice acting rates at least a solid 8.
Characters - 5/10
This is another I'm split on. So I'll just go about it from a character to character basis.
Shion - While this is seemingly the main character, they did a damn fine job of making you say "...What the hell is this chick thinking?". This is a bad hallmark, in that being able to empathize with the main character is what you're aiming to do, to get people to enjoy it more. Instead I found that she irritated me more than anything. She came across as whiney and emotionally damaged at times, then she becomes demanding and critical near the end, with little to go on as the transition.
Kos-mos - Another character that came across as irritating. I suppose it was their aim to leave you guessing as to whether she had emotions or not, but since Realians exist with them, why the heck doesn't she? Aside from those personal issues I had with her, she's a solid character whom you can easily see what will happen when she acts. Aside from the fact she can seemingly continually pull weapons out of nowhere.
Allen - A kind of standard for a good many anime's. He's the subordinate of Shion, constantly being supportive and following her around like a love-sick puppy, as well as being a kind of scaredy cat. This is as much insight into this character I can give, despite seeing him in every episode with plenty of screen-time. Another of my issues with this anime being the lack of background provided.
Momo - The original Prototype for the 100 series Realians. Seemingly has information inbedded into her memory by her creator Joachim Mizrahi. She is kind to everyone, and tries to help them to the point of recklessness. Has issues with the fact people see her father as a mass-murderer. Again, while this character is seen in most of the series, that's about as much information as you're going to get.
Junior - While having many different names, this is the most common. One of three survivors of a mass-produced group of kids created to combat U-DO, the being which appeared on Miltia. Scared from having left his companions behind to save his own life, he (and no, it's not explained how) "halted his own time", leaving him with the appearance he had 14 years before.
All in all, while the character's are nicely varied, there's multiple issues that aren't explained with them, and that are never resolved.
Overall - 5/10
While this anime is good at the surface, it's entirely lacking in any kind of depth. Good for a watch if you've nothing else to see, but in my honest opinion, this one is lackluster, and could have been a lot better with more effort.
Set 4000 years in the future, humanity is facing the prospect of annihilation at the hands of the Gnosis, beings who can phase in and out of normal space. Artificial humans known as "Realians" and combat androids are created to counter this threat. On behalf of Vector Industries, scientist Shion Uzuki creates KOS-MOS, the most powerful android capable of wielding a massive arsenal. A very entertaining series overall.