Jinzou Ningen Kikaider: The Animation- Dull Surprise Everywhere

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider: The Animation is based off of a live action tokusatsu series from the 70s. The anime version came out nearly three decades after the live action. Which might seem weird, but if you think about it, Hollywood does the same thing all the time in terms of mining old properties to make a quick buck off of the fanbase. It usually goes very badly. Let’s see if Radix, the studio behind Divergence Eve & Haibane Renmei, did better.

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Story:

We open with Doctor Komyoji working in his lab in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen.)  Meanwhile, his children are reading the story of Pinocchio, which I’m sure will not tie into anything that happens whatsoever. And if you buy that, I can sell you some prime subaqueous real estate for low, low prices. An explosion happens when he tries to bring his creation to life. His daughter discovers notes on what he was doing, trying to create a sentient android. Shortly afterwards, his children encounter Jiro, that selfsame android, and their adventures together begin.

My biggest problem with the series is the pacing. Jiro meets the siblings at the end of the first episode and then he takes off by the end of the second but we’re supposed to buy into the idea that they managed to really bond in that short time. They couldn’t have skipped the useless recap episode and just given us one to illustrate that bond before he gets driven off? Why is there even a recap episode in a thirteen episode series? Maybe because this series has a general issue with trite, lazy writing. The romantic sub-plot is another example. We have two characters who barely get to know one another before becoming romantically entangled. But it’s obvious that it’s going to happen because every event unfolds in precisely the most clichéd way possible.

But I can’t be too harsh on the series for that since the live action was made for children and it’s obviously trying not to age things up too much. Although it does go for a more teenage audience and probably should have put a bit more effort into the writing to reflect that.

I will give the series some credit for addressing difficult questions like “what makes a soul?” or “why is it important to feel things like sorrow?” And the series doesn’t address them badly, this isn’t Detroit. There’s an actual degree of competence to it. It still handles them in a kind of simplistic and non-challenging way, but it’s pretty adequate for the target audience.

Characters:

There isn’t much to say about the characters in this. The protagonists are basic archetypes, the antagonists are pretty much evil for the evils with a few exceptions who they try to be sympathetic with, but they execute it in completely obvious, unimaginative ways. At least none of the characters are awful. The one who comes closest is Masaru because he’s the child character who’s there to get into sticky situations and yearn for attention. And that type of character is always annoying when written by the trope.

Art: 

The artwork in this is just very low effort. If I hadn’t looked up basic information beforehand, I would’ve thought the anime was made maybe three years after the live action ended. It looks like an anime from the 70s with stiff movements, awkward facial expressions (with dull surprise being the most common emotion on display), a bunch of slow, panning shots and reused animation to cut down on costs. Did Radix have literally no budget for this or did they think that making it look like an old anime would be appropriate since it’s based off of an old show?

If the series had wanted to pay homage to old anime by using the general art style, I’d be fine with that. I think you could make it look good. Osomatsu-san managed that pretty well. But when you include all the lazy, cost cutting tropes all you do is make it look horrendously outdated. And give the impression that you decided that quality was just too expensive to bother with.

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Sound:

The actors get into the spirit of the series pretty well. They have those somewhat over the top, bombastic performances that are so commonplace in those tokusatsu series like Kamen Rider or Super Sentai. Which I’m completely okay with although maybe Kikaider is more subtle and this aspect really annoyed the fans. I haven’t seen the live action, so I don’t know. They got some pretty strong people for this as well. Like Horie Yui. Kosugi Juurouta & Seki Tomokazu. Wada Kaoru’s music is pretty good. Maybe not as strong as what he did for 3×3 Eyes, but still good.

Ho-yay: 

There is none to be found.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Replace the Recap episode with an episode between the first and second. Like I said, Jiro’s dynamic with the siblings doesn’t work particularly well as is and I think you could greatly improve it by giving us even one episode to build it up.
  2. Remove the romantic sub-plot. Honestly, it adds nothing of value and it’s poorly executed. You might as well just let the characters develop a strong friendship instead of adding pointless romance.
  3. Give the animation some budget. Like I said, having a modern anime with a 70s style can be good. Having one with all the shitty, cost-cutting measures and such included is always going to look bad.

Final Thoughts:

Jinzou Ningen Kikaider is not a bad anime. Yeah, it has some serious problems but, ultimately, they’re problems that don’t make it difficult to watch or annoying. They’re problems that lead to it being bog standard and a bit dull. Which is what we end up getting. A series that’s predictable, not very compelling and just very mediocre. Which is why I give it a 5/10. If you’re a huge fan of live action Sentai shows and the more solo-oriented variety like Kamen Rider you might have a grand time with this in spite of the various issues. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time.

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January Bonus Review: Maximum Carnage

Maximum Carnage was a fourteen issue Spider-man event from ’93. It was written by Tom Defalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh & David Michelinie. It’s a rather divisive event with some calling it one of the last good comic events and others calling it the start of the era of trash events. So, I’ll give my thoughts on it as part of hero month.

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Story:

We open with Cletus Kasady being taken for therapy at Ravencroft Asylum. Everyone assumes he’s powerless since the Carnage symbiote was destroyed. What they don’t know is that the symbiote mutated his very blood, allowing him to summon a copy. Which he does, breaking loose and massacring the staff. He runs into another inmate named Shriek, who he breaks out. The pair recruit some other villains and their little “family” goes around New York, while Spidey and several other heroes try to put an end to their killing spree.

My biggest issue with the event is that there are a lot of scenes that seem kind of repetitive. Yeah, I get what they’re going for. They’re trying to show how all of this is wearing at the heroes and how much difficulty they’re having. It just doesn’t have the best execution. The civilian casualties are also kind of weakly handled. Carnage and his group are basically killing a bunch of nameless fodder we have no reason to care about. On one hand, it is better than having them kill off characters we know and love, which is what would happen in a modern event like this. On the other hand, I’d like to see some mourners to give it some more impact and add some humanity to the victims.

There are definitely things I appreciate about the narrative too. I like that we don’t lose any of our heroes for a cheap, shock moment. I also like the general theme of holding onto hope when times are dark and finding the strength to overcome. Particularly when various heroes step forward to bring out the best in humanity when facing a group of violent rioters. That is a powerful scene. The back and forth with Spidey and his wife while they argue because she doesn’t want him to risk himself but he knows he can make a difference is really good. The way they foreshadow major events is solid.

Then there’s the whole element the story is about. Namely: should heroes stoop down to the level of villains in extreme circumstances? It’s important to remember that this was made in the early 90s when the trend of more “extreme” and dark heroes had already started. And this is a story that plays with that trend but also, ultimately, rejects the whole idea of it. Spidey questions the idea of just how far he and his comrades should go throughout the event and consistently argues against taking lethal action. Then he reaches his lowest point and he almost asks his amazing friend, Firestar, to take Carnage’s life. But he pulls back and realises that it’s the wrong approach. As heroes, they have to stand for something greater. Even when facing a mass murdering psychotic like Carnage. And that’s an uplifting epiphany. I like the way the topic gets explored a lot.

Characters:

I’ve already mentioned how well Spidey & MJ’s marital discussions work. Although I haven’t said fuck modern Marvel for retconning that out of existence yet. There are other characters to discuss though. There’s an effort to humanise our villains, in spite of all the murder and mayhem they’re responsible for. Which is a nice touch but it’s one of those cases where the execution is the lazy “they had rotten childhoods” types for both Carnage & Shriek. Doppelganger, Demogoblin and Carrion have the same basic motives they do in the regular comics. One is overly simple-minded, one has a misguided view of being on a holy crusade and the other is the victim of a virus. Which is something.

Our major heroes are Spidey, Venom, The Black Cat, Cloak & Dagger. We also get appearances from Firestar, Deathlok (nice to see Deathlok being used), Morbius, Iron Fist, Nightwatch and Captain America before modern Marvel made him a Nazi. Fuck modern Marvel for that too. The heroes are handled pretty well. The point where Cap makes his appearance is kind of brilliant since he’s kind of used as a beacon of hope and heroism when things are looking bleak but it’s not heavy-handed and he doesn’t just fix everything. I will say, Nightwatch is kind of pointless in this. His entire reason for being around seems to be to participate in two fight sequences and rescue Morbius before escaping. Although it’s still far better than what he was subjected to when modern Marvel decided he needed to be resurrected and turned evil. Fuck modern Marvel.

Art: 

One issue I have with the artwork is that it’s not consistent and some of the artists who worked on it are clearly better than others. Mark Bagley’s work is good. Tom Lyle’s work is good. Sal Buscema’s work is more than a little awkward looking. This guy might get the facial expression right once in every three panels where you can see a face. And that’s generous. It also does have some of the bad 90s art tropes starting to emerge at various points, like everyone being on their toes so the artists don’t have to draw feet properly or scenes being covered with shadows to an absurd degree but there aren’t that many moments like that all things considered.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Some work to humanise the victims. Like I said, I’d show some scenes with mourners. Maybe have that instead of some of the more repetitive scenes.
  2. Cut out Nightwatch and Morbius. Honestly, these two don’t do much in the event and it’s a bit annoying to have scenes where Morbius has to abandon a rescue mission or fuck off for multiple issues because it’s day time.
  3. Develop the humanity of the villains a bit more. I like the idea they were going with, but the execution was mediocre and you know these writers could have done better because they did with so many other elements.

Final Thoughts:

I will say, without any question, I agree more with the people who absolutely love this event than I do with the ones who hate it. It takes emerging trends and it tackles them in a way that’s subversive and clever. Its themes are, largely, well handled. There’s a lot about it that’s just good. It does, however, have its definite flaws. Its moments of lazy writing, 90s art and good ideas they don’t bother developing. So, I wouldn’t put it nearly on par with something like The Secret Wars but I would go so far as to call it good. I’ll give it a 7/10.

Tiger & Bunny: Tacky Product Placements Everywhere

Tiger & Bunny is a hero series from 2011. It was brought to us by Sunrise. I’ve heard it mentioned a lot over the years, but never got around to watching it. But since it’s hero month, it seems like a good time to check it out and form some opinions.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in the future where mutants… I mean “Next” have started popping up. Naturally, this has led to a group of heroes who wear product placements like they think they’re Captain Amazing from Mystery Men and who fight criminals & rescue civilians alike to earn points for a television show. Enter newcomer, Barnaby, a hero with a dark past he’s looking to unravel. He becomes the first hero duo with veteran, Wild Tiger. Unfortunately for both of them, they don’t get along all that well and Barnaby’s past may be creeping up on them.

One of the biggest problems with the series is that it has severe tonal issues. It tries to strike a balance between darker and lighter moments like some of the best comic runs out there including Claremont’s X-men run and the Wolfman/ Pérez Titans run. The problem is that it sucks at it and there are two reasons for that. The first is that it goes two far in both directions. If you look at those comics that shift tone well, they have pretty realistic degrees on both ends. For example, The X-men facing the brood and finding themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation on account of the royal eggs that have been implanted in them but still maintaining hope and doing everything they can versus Shadowcat telling little Illyana a bed time story for an issue. In Tiger & Bunny, the lighter elements cross into Silver Age goofiness. Think Batman and Superman having a slumber party at the fortress of solitude but somehow dumber whereas the darker elements cross into 90s darker and stupider territory. Which means there’s a lot more of a shift between the tones. Tiger & Bunny also fails because it combines the elements. If you look at those good comics, they actually transition from one tone to the other instead of abruptly forcing the tone to change. In this, they’ll have goofy silver age elements, like evil plush toys piloting mechs, side by side with more serious elements like Barnaby trying to get revenge for the loss of his parents and that’s just highly dissonant.

Another issue is with the main villain’s plan. I don’t want to go deep into spoilers, so I’ll keep this somewhat vague. Even though who the villain is going to be becomes really obvious as soon as our heroes have a certain conversation in hospital. In any case, our arch villain gets caught with a tiny contradiction and all he has to do to keep things from escalating is pretend he also doesn’t know what the deal is. Instead he gives a huge villain speech revealing everything and tries to cover things up by messing with someone’s mind. Then he makes things even worse by unnecessarily lying and trying to frame another hero. Even though said hero has had a costume where they can easily be identified just by visually comparing him with one of his old trading cards or videos. To make things even dumber, this guy supposedly wants Next to be treated well and that’s why he’s manipulated the Hero media but when things aren’t looking so good he decides to have androids kill all the heroes that the citizens know and love even though that will clearly interfere with his big plan. I don’t know how it’s possible to be as egregiously stupid as this villain.

Although that does lead me with yet another problem I have with this series. They bring up this idea of their mutants being feared and mistrusted a couple times, but it’s not something we see any real evidence of. There are, maybe, three scenes where someone is a dick towards the Next. Other than that, they’re treated like heroes, people buy their merch, big companies sponsor them to make themselves look good. There’s almost nothing to indicate that things are bad for them. The series also wastes its one opportunity to do something with some impact right at the end by having a cheap cop out. So, the ending is pretty shit. The series also likes to repeat itself way too much, going over plot points to a ludicrous degree. For example, the anti-hero appears and gives a big speech about how “he is doing the true justice” and there are about three conversations after that where our heroes can’t figure out what he’s after. It’s like they think their audience is really, really slow.

Characters:

I’ve already described how bad the antagonist is, so let’s talk about the other major characters. Our big characters are Tiger, Kotetsu, and Barnaby. Kotetsu is a horrible, neglectful father and obnoxious cretin. Barnaby is just boring. Which is kind of the way things go in this series. At best, the heroes are trite and bland. At worst, they’re gross homophobic stereotypes, Hi, Fire Emblem. Sky High is probably the most likeable of them all, even though he’s dumber than a wet cardboard box, because he’s a paragon character with a dog. Blue Rose is an insipid twit with a really annoying crush on a dude more than twice her age. Which might not be so bad if they didn’t bring it up constantly throughout the series.

Dragon Kid and Origami Cyclone are dull. Rock Bison is so boring that even his “best friend” can’t think of any personal information to give about him. Seriously, there’s a scene where Tiger is giving out some information about all the other heroes and he has nothing to say about this guy. There’s also Lunatic, one of those generic anti-hero characters. Although it is worth noting that he wants to be seen as seeking true justice, but he calls himself Lunatic. That would be like Mister Sinister trying to convince ordinary people he’s actually the hero while still calling himself Mister Sinister.

Art: 

The artwork is a bit mixed. Some of the city shots look impressive, but the character designs are kind of mediocre. and the action sequences aren’t very interesting. One thing that’s absolutely horrendous is the product placement. The hero costumes are plastered with logos to the point of it being really tacky. It’s like Sunrise just decided this had no artistic merit whatsoever so they might as well just suck off some fat corporate guys for a bit of extra dosh.

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Sound:

Here’s one aspect where I can give the series some credit, the actors are pretty decent. Maybe not great, but they’re about as good as they can be with characters this insipid. The best is probably Inoue Go, who does pull off the simple-minded paragon character pretty well. The only truly bad performance comes from Tsuda Kenjirou. It’s not really his fault since he’s voicing a super flamboyant gay stereotype, but it is awful to listen to.

Ike Yoshihiro does the sound track and it’s the best part of the series. They may not be the best tunes out there, but they’re quite good and well put together.

Ho-yay:

It comes entirely from our gay stereotype, who has fire powers. Wow, that isn’t the least bit subtle or clever. And I’m sure one person is going to say “didn’t you have a gay character with fire powers in Omicron Squad?” Which is true but I had a lot of gay characters and Anastasia wasn’t a stereotype. So, not really the same at all.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Gives the characters personality beyond tropes. One of the things that makes for a good hero comic is a strong sense of personality from the characters and well developed interpersonal dynamics among them. Plus strong villains instead of total knob heads.
  2. Consistent Tone. If you want something stupid and goofy like the Silver Age, just go for it. If you want something darker and stupider like an early Image comic, go for it. This clearly doesn’t have a strong enough writer to pull off something between, so let’s not fluctuate between those two extremes.
  3. A Consistent World. If you want to be like the X-men and show powered heroes doing their best in a world that hates and fears them, that’s fine. If you want to have a future where everything is built up around a culture of hero worship, that’s also fine. These two things do not work together.

Final Thoughts: 

Tiger & Bunny is a complete mess. It can’t decide which extreme tone it wants and ends up awkwardly and really badly mixing them, its heroes range from boring to obnoxious & offensive. It has plot holes so massive you could fly a 747 through them. The world building is wildly inconsistent. The “twists” are really obvious to the point of being bland. They treat their audience like it’s made up of a bunch of morons. The sponsorships are tacky as hell and it’s just never interesting or entertaining. My final rating is going to be a 2/10. This anime sucks.

Iron Man: Madhouse Hates Tony Stark

I’ve talked about Madhouse’s Marvel anime a couple times before. There was Blade, which was decent, and X-men, which was a complete and utter pile of shit. Since we’re focusing on hero anime this month, it seems like an ideal time to delve further into Madhouse’s takes on super heroes. This time we’ll look at the first Marvel anime, Iron Man.

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Story:

Our narrative opens with industrialist Tony Stark heading to Japan. His plan is to retire as Iron Man and get a reactor up and running that will provide free, clean energy to everyone in the nation. He needs plutonium to get it going, but it’s totally clean. Don’t question it. Things take a turn when Cobra… I mean Zodiac, a ruthless terrorist organisation bent on world domination arrives on the scene and begins making life difficult for Tony. We know all about them because they were in that Avengers cartoon I reviewed.

Let’s begin with what’s wrong with the series, and there’s a significant amount. The first noticeable issue with the narrative is that it’s very clumsy and inconsistent. To use an example, Stark seems confused in the first two episodes when the name Zodiac comes up but in the third he’s able to explain exactly what their organisation is like an expert with no explanation for how he learned all about it. Incidentally, the early villains introduce themselves as Zodiac but the others just show up and don’t say shit. Like Zodiac just decided “he gets it, no need to do that any more.” There’s also an episode where Tony takes great pains to get into space including attaching boosters to his armour and hitching a ride in a jet but very shortly after that his armour goes out of control and he just goes into space without any difficulties. I guess that’s all he needed, a lack of proper control. That makes things easier. Then we have the mastermind behind Zodiac. He takes great pains to try to deceive others and cover up his involvement but then he just says “fuck it” and makes a huge villain speech in front of everyone and we aren’t talking about the situation changes and then he does it. The situation is the same when he’s trying to frame Tony versus when he says “nope, I was evil the whole time.”

There are also a lot of issues that come up from Tony behaving in a way that makes no sense, but I’ll go into that in painstaking detail when I talk about how bad the characterisation is. I will say that another issue lies in how obvious the whole plot line is. You can easily predict every twist the story takes based on cursory experience with more action-oriented fiction. And it seems to be a deliberate decision because a lot of their reveals are just weak and lazily written as though the writers expect everyone in the audience to see it coming and are just rushing through it. It’s like they didn’t care.

Characters:

I’ll start with the lesser character issues before moving on to the big one, which is our hero himself. First off, the antagonists are dreadful. Madhouse tries to go with the “well-intentioned extremist” route we see used in strong portrayals of characters like Magneto, or Poison Ivy. The trouble is, they’re really bad at it and we end up with villains who come across as bitter assholes who want other people to suffer because they have.

We also get the world’s worst reporter as a major supporting character. Seriously, this useless dumbass has no journalistic instincts. She gets an interview with Tony and can’t think of even the most obvious questions to ask him. Okay, he’s announced he’s retiring and that he wants to provide this free energy. You could ask “are you going to be subsidised for this energy and if so, how much will it cost the taxpayers?” “If the energy isn’t going to cause any pollutants, why are you using plutonium?” “If we aren’t going to be paying for this energy, how much is it going to be costing you and will it be sustainable?” You could also go with retirement based questions. “Who will be taking your place with the Avengers?” “Are you worried that your old enemies will decide to take revenge against you?” The point is, there are a lot of really obvious questions, Nanami.

Now, let’s move on to Tony. The big issue with him is that he comes across as completely insufferable and obnoxious. It’s like whoever Madhouse got to write this hates Iron Man and decided to portray him as an arrogant, lecherous, entitled moron. And this is supposed to be our hero. The one we look up to and care about.

Now, I did promise to go into details about the actions he takes that make no sense and they do tie into just how much of an idiot he comes across as here. There are a lot of examples and I want to talk about every single major one.

First off, he decides that he’ll retire. Now, in the comics when he did that he gave he Iron Man suit to someone he knew, trusted and who had acted as Iron Man to help him keep his identity secret. Which made sense and gave us James Rhodes, a fantastic character, to carry on the legacy. In this, he has three different dudes and they all have to share one suit. Why not have suits for everybody? To make things worse, Tony meets them for the first time during the series. So, how did he decide on them? Did he just tell his intern, Karen, to give the job to the three strapping lads who would look best in the armour? We’re expected to believe he cares so little for his legacy that he couldn’t be bothered to meet his replacements until after they’d been decided.

He also has his specialised new Iron Man Dio suit for these three guys to share, but he has no way to track it or shut it down if it goes missing or gets stolen. Which happens in the very first episode. He must have really trusted those three guys he never met before.

Tony just has trash security in this in general. His computers get hacked multiple times. His shipment of radioactive material gets targeted multiple times. His station is targeted by hostile forces multiple times and in every single instance his adversaries seem to have no real difficulty and yet we never see him do a bloody thing about it.

The second big one comes when he decides he’ll look into the loss of his plutonium shipment himself, in spite of the Japanese government telling him to stay out of it. Not only that, but he doesn’t use his high tech helmet to record everything he sees in order to give him some evidence of what happened if things go wrong. Things get even worse when he starts pursuing the culprits in his car. Not in the powerful armour that can fly and easily catch a speeding vehicle, in his car. Now, you might be thinking “maybe he was just being discreet” but that argument doesn’t work because he shoots missiles from his car at theirs. And he has to change out of his suit to get in his car and chase after them and then change back into it later which just makes it take longer for no good reason.

Art:

This is one aspect where I can mostly give the series credit. The Zodiac robots have interesting designs, the characters look good, except for Wolverine who has the same trash design he had in Blade. The action sequences aren’t great. They tend to be pretty one-sided, usually with Tony taking a beating before something happens that causes him to rebound and easily dispatch his foe. They aren’t bad though.

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Sound:

The acting isn’t bad. They got some strong actors, Itou Sizuka especially. Unfortunately, the writing doesn’t allow for strong performances and we end up with good actors doing passably. The music is kind of dull. Which has been a general thing with Takahashi Tetsuya’s soundtracks for all these Marvel anime.

Ho-yay:

There isn’t any. Tony is only lecherous towards women, including the ones who work for him because he is a major creep in this.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Lose the whole retirement angle. This leads to a lot of dumb moments and it gets immediately forgotten about after the first episode. Just have the first big antagonist use his former experience with Stark to build his own Iron Man suit.
  2. Stark shouldn’t creep on his employees. Sure, have him be a bit flirtatious but let the man be a professional towards the women working for him. He’ll come across as a lot less horrible that way.
  3. Keep things consistent. If you want to explain to us who Zodiac is after Tony’s been confused about it, have it explained to him by someone who he asked to look into it. If you want to show him make it into space with difficulty, don’t make it easy later. If the major antagonist is going to use subterfuge, even when he’s in an advantageous situation, have him keep using it. It makes no sense to switch just because “well, the audience knows who he is now.” This is basic.

I know there are a lot more problems, but I think fixing those three would help immensely.

Final Thoughts:

One thing I will say, this isn’t as bad as X-men was. It’s still pretty bad. It’s full of holes, Tony Stark is a complete wanker in it and it’s just not entertaining to watch. Ultimately, I give it a 3/10. If you want to see an animated Iron Man, I’d pick the old cartoon from the mid-90s over this.

Boku no Hero Academia: My Quirk is Biting Sarcasm

Boku no Hero Academia is a Bones anime based off of a manga by Horikoshi Kouhei. So, this is from the same studio as Heroman, Kekkai Sensen & Mob Psycho 100, to name a few. Their works vary in quality quite substantially, so let’s see where this one falls. Now, I will be covering the first two series together. So, keep that in mind and understand that there may be some spoilers for series one. Let’s kick hero month off with a look at those.

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Story:

Our narrative is set in a world where the vast majority of people have super powers, or quirks. This has caused the world to shift and super heroes to become an actual thing paid for by the government. Midoriya Izuku wants to be a hero but there’s one problem. He has no quirk. In spite of that, he still wants to try. He just needs to witness the brutal murder of his parents, inherit billions and spend some time training in martial arts and detective work before commissioning a bunch of gadgets.

Since that origin is already taken, what actually happens is that he encounters All Might, the greatest hero on Earth. All Might becomes impressed by him after an encounter with a villain and he tells Midoriya that he can be a hero. He just has to inherit All Might’s quirk. From there, Midoriya manages to enrol in the highly competitive hero course at UA High School and gets to know his classmates while trying to learn how to use his new found quirk without hurting himself. To make things worse, his class seems to attract villains a lot.

My only real gripe with the series, narratively, is that they spend a bit too much time on exposition. Every time they have an event, whether it’s the sports festival, intern-ship or their exam, they spend a bunch of time explaining how it works and why it is the way it is instead of just showing us the event in action and letting us draw our own conclusions. It might not be so bad if the explanation was fairly brief, but some of them go on for quite a while so we can see our various characters reacting to it. We don’t need the exposition for the world building to work. This time could’ve been spent showing the characters interact with their families or just spending time with each other. You know, develop those interactions and relationships more strongly. But no, we get exposition.

I will say, the narrative progression is strong and I appreciate that the students aren’t shown as being “just amazing” and ready for anything. They struggle and they need their teachers to come to their rescue. They’re shown as having promise, but needing time and effort to refine it. I also appreciate that the series doesn’t put Midoriya on an absurd pedestal just because he’s the protagonist. He fails, quite a bit. He needs help. He loses out against other students who are more skilled. The series also does a good job of balancing serious situations, like encountering actual villains, with more ordinary situations that don’t have hefty stakes but still matter. The world building is really good too. The flashbacks are worth mentioning because this series uses them really well. They aren’t overdone. They’re positioned nicely and there’s a variety of different ones to get the point across instead of the lazy thing where they hammer you with the same couple flashbacks over and over again. I also appreciate the aesthetic. It’s like a really good super hero comic, like the ones they wrote back in the 80s before most things had to be dark and stupid. It’s been dark times for comics since the Frank Miller law passed.

Characters:

There are a lot of aspects to the characters I appreciate. The dynamics among them are pretty strong. We get a pretty good sense of what the major characters’ families are like. Which is a nice touch. Every single character in the class gets their moments to shine. Naturally, that is more true for the major characters but I do like that it’s not exclusively true for them. The antagonists do have some reasoning behind their actions, albeit twisted reasoning. Stain is a great example since they actually go into detail on his. I also like the way they subvert expectations with some of them. Like Shinsou wanting to be a just hero but with his design and ability that would normally scream villain.

The big negative thing I can say about the characters is that there are a few minor characters who don’t really have much to them. Aoyama, Kouda, Mineta, Satou, Hagakure and Shouji are the big examples. Which is kind of to be expected when a series is trying to juggle an entire class. And most of them are fair enough. Except Mineta. He’s basically like Carrot from Bakuretsu Hunters, a crazed, obnoxious pervert. The only thing that makes him slightly more tolerable is that, unlike Carrot, there aren’t any female characters stupid enough to be romantically interested in him. Watch, now that I’ve said that I’ll find out that changes in the third or fourth series.

Art:

The artwork looks really nice. The character designs are varied, interesting and just really creative. The costuming is really reminiscent of comics. There’s a variety, some bright and popping while others are darker and more plain but they still stand out as a contrast to the vast majority of the costumes we see. Which is nice to see given how many adaptations of those do away with the bright, colourful, good costumes in favour of ones that are drab, and boring. I’ll give Horikoshi credit, he knew where to take his costuming inspiration from.

The action sequences are great and there’s a real sense of impact when someone gets a heavy hit in. It’s also interesting to see how different characters use their quirks. It’s clear a lot of thought went into that.

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Sound:

There are too many strong performances to go into each and every one of them. I’ll just name a few of the most prominent good ones. We have Miyake Kenta as All Might, Yamashita Daiki as Midoriya, Okamoto Nobuhiko as Bakugo, Sakura Ayane as Uraraka, Yuuki Aoi as Tsuyu, Inoue Marina as Yaoyorozu, Kaji Yuki as Todoroki & Ishikawa Kaito as Iida.

I could go through the vast majority of the cast and whoever I listed would have a strong performance. The only real exception is Hirohashi Ryou who chews the scenery so much that you’d think it was made of chocolate. It’s not her fault. She’s a capable actress and has been very strong in several anime I’ve heard her in. She just has the misfortune of voicing a character who has a lot of heavily exaggerated lines. Have I mentioned that Mineta is awful?

Ho-yay:

The closest we have in the first two series is Ashido & Jirou both commenting on how cute Yaoyorozu is. It’s fine, the three of them can form a sapphic hero agency.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Subtract Mineta. I’d seriously just lose the little perv altogether. Give his screen time to the other, better characters. Like literally anyone.
  2. Less exposition, more substance. I’d cut back on the amount of time dedicated to explaining points, let them stand on their own a bit more and use that time to show the students just interacting with each other or their families a bit more. Maybe pump up that ho-yay factor. Then again those of you who know my writing know there’s no “maybe” about that.
  3. Explore All Might’s Decision more. Here’s the thing, All Might’s decision to pass his quirk to Midoriya makes sense, but it also feels a little rushed. So, I’d probably have the villain event that causes it be the catalyst and have All Might test Midoriya in another way before revealing the truth about his quirk and offering it to him. I think it would make that whole sequence a bit stronger.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, the first two series of Boku no Hero Academia are great. Yeah, I have a few issues with them but they’re relatively minor and don’t affect enjoyment all that much. If you’re a fan of stories involving super powers, I can heartily recommend it. In the end, I’ll give it an enthusiastic 8/10.

December Bonus Review #5: Silver Surfer

We’ve discussed Marvel cartoons of the late 90s, early 00s twice before with looks at Spider-man Unlimited & Avengers: United They Stand. There are two other cartoons I want to discuss of that era. So, this week, we’ll be looking at the best cartoon of the lot. Not that that’s much of an accomplishment.

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Story:

For those of you unfamiliar with the character, The Surfer, also known as Norrin Radd, has simple beginnings. He lives on an alien world dedicated to peace and philosophy called Zenn-la. In spite of that, he’s always wanted to explore other worlds. One day, his relatively idyllic life is interrupted by the greatest menace to worlds with intelligent life, proselytizers. Actually, it’s Galactus. A being who feeds off of planets. Norrin uses an old ship to meet up with Galactus. He offers the devourer a deal, he’ll find planets for Galactus if Galactus spares his home. Galactus takes the offer, transforming Radd into the Silver Surfer.

There are some pretty significant issues with this cartoon. The first is that, like the other two we’ve discussed, it ends its only series on a cliffhanger. The second is the execution. The Surfer is a character who’s worked best in comics that can largely stand alone so that he can have his science fiction themed adventures, give us some excitement and proceed to the next thing. The cartoon, in contrast, tries to do more the X-men thing and have a bunch of inter-connected stories where the promise of a pay off is always lingering until that amazing moment where all the build up comes to fruition. The consequence of trying to do too much of that when you have all of thirteen episodes is that everything jumbles together in a bit of a mess. It doesn’t help that most of the episodes aren’t all that interesting.

I will give the cartoon some credit. The writers may not be the best, but they do demonstrate some understanding of the character. They try to copy his reflective, inner monologue and they do give him some decent scenarios. The episode with the royal skrull egg is definitely the best in the show. I also appreciate that they do actually address the Surfer’s wicked deeds that he performed as a herald of Galactus.

Characters:

The Surfer himself is a well done character. Thanos is pretty true to his comic roots, although he’s obsessed with Lady Chaos instead of Death since standards and practices of the time didn’t allow the word “death” in a children’s cartoon. Galactus is pretty accurate as well. Nova is drastically different, mainly because they want to make her sympathetic and her murderous tendencies in the comic aren’t good for that.

One issue I do have is with all the one-shot guest characters and the way they give the Surfer a temporary sidekick with the troll Pip. Pip is really pointless. I also don’t like the way they waste Nebula & Mentor as characters. It’s also worth noting they make Mentor Thanos’ brother instead of his father. Probably because Thanos’ actual brother has exceedingly rapey powers and was deemed inappropriate for a kid’s cartoon. They kind of waste Adam Warlock, Drax, Gamora and Beta Ray Bill too. Just because they don’t do anything interesting with them.

Art:

Here’s one area I’ll give the cartoon a lot of credit. It looks really good. The CG doesn’t always blend well, especially with Galactus, but the alien environments, space phenomena and action sequences all look great.

Sound:

As a whole, the acting is really good. And I’m not just saying that because a bunch of actors from X-men make appearances as minor characters. Although that is true, we hear Cyclops, Xavier, Forge, Mystique, Storm, Magneto & Jubilee and those are just the ones I noticed. But I digress. Paul Essiembre, Tara Rosling, & Gary Krawford are all really good. The musical score is quite well done as well.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Instead of trying to connect most things, let the episodes stand alone. Like I said, these are the types of stories that the Surfer works best in.
  2. The Surfer does not need a useless travelling companion. Pip is just a waste. If you really want the Surfer to be journeying with someone, use a character like Quasar, Captain Marvel, or a well written Beta Ray Bill. In other words, a capable companion who can fight alongside him.
  3. Don’t end on a cliffhanger. I get that they thought they’d get a second series, but it’s just poor form to end a series like that when you don’t have another series definitively lined up. Because this could happen and the audience you did manage to grab will be stuck without closure.

Final Thoughts: 

The Silver Surfer, is not a bad cartoon. I don’t have nearly the same issues with it that I did with either of the others we’ve covered and there are actually some things it does pretty well. But, ultimately, the clumsy execution and the mistakes it does make leads to a mediocre product. I’ll give it a 5/10. A happy new year to all of you. This Wednesday we’ll be getting into January and you all know what that means. I pick some random theme for the reviews. We’re going to be doing super heroes this year.

Puni Puni Poemii: Wishes it could be on par with Excel Saga

Puni Puni Poemii is an OVA from the early 2000s. It’s ostensibly a spin-off of Excel Saga although the two don’t have that much in common, but I’ll get to that in detail later. It was brought to us by JC Staff. Like Chocotan, Voogie’s Angel, Potemayo, Kill Me Baby or a whole bunch of other anime of varying quality I’ve reviewed. It was written by Kuroda Yousuke, which could also go either way considering he’s done scripts for absolute trash like Highschool of the Dead but he’s also done script work for solid anime like Battle Athletes. So, let’s see how this stacks up.

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Story:

We open with an action sequence involving our “heroine” fighting her way through a bunch of magical girls including Usagi from Sailor Moon and Sally. But don’t worry, they appear very briefly and there’s a bright red filter so it’s not copyright infringing.

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After this, we cut to Earth and the whole action sequence is never mentioned again which makes it entirely pointless. We meet Watanabe Poemi who calls herself Kobayashi because “her actress can’t get into character.” That’s the level of humour we have to look forward to. Kobayashi loses her parents to a stand user but gets taken in by the Aasu sisters, thanks to her friend/ red string of fate partner Futaba.

Let’s start with the big problem with the series. Most of the jokes aren’t funny. The opening sequence is a great example. Poemi goes through a bunch of familiar magical girls in a brutal fashion that just comes across as mean-spirited. Compare that to Excel Saga where there’s also a clear reference to Sailor Moon but it’s actually a joke and a very funny one. And having a battle between the characters could be funny. Just have Poemi win by pushing the Usagi look alike into a desk with a maths test or something to that effect.

Then there are the jokes that are based around Kobayashi talking really quickly and loudly. Which you can also compare to Excel Saga since that was also a part of Excel’s character. The difference is that Excel had funny dialogue to go with it and in this the entire joke seems to be that she’s ridiculously energetic to the point of being annoying. There are also a lot of fan-service jokes, which just come across as crass and exploitative. Then there are the fourth wall breaking jokes which generally just don’t work all that well. Fourth wall jokes work best in moderation and used at unexpected, strategic moments. Not so much when they’re a constant, in your face factor.

That being said, there are some funny moments. Having Futaba and Poemi’s relationship be like a super homo-erotic relationship you would get in a magical girl series while one of them pursues some random guy anyway works since they make it even more blatant and have the girl without any interest in a male love interest, Futaba, actually react to the way her obvious girlfriend is carrying on. There are also some funny action sequences. The scene where Nabeshin fights the one-balled alien is really funny. Unfortunately, those actual moments of comedy are heavily outweighed by the unfunny moments.

Characters:

There aren’t much to the characters in this. Kobayashi is just kind of loud and annoying. Futaba’s main schtick is that she’s madly in love with Kobayashi. Her sisters are all one-note fetish fuel. Which becomes especially obvious towards the end with an egregiously unfunny scene, but it’s totally okay because they lampshade it as being fan-service.

Art:

My big issue with the art is the excessive fan-service. It’s not the only problem. The backgrounds are frequently lazy. The opening sequence with its red filter to marginally disguise the familiar characters we’re looking at actually hurts the eyes. It’s like that climactic battle with the red filter from Figure 17, but much worse. And there’s just not much to recommend the artwork except for the visual gags in the aforementioned Nabeshin fight.

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Sound:

The acting isn’t very good. I think that both Kobayashi Yumiko & Imai Yuka are capable actresses. They’ve been strong in series like Angel Beats or Doki Doki Precure but one of the by-products of going with the obnoxious, hyperactive style of humour is that your actors don’t come across very well. And I’m speaking as someone with ADHD. The music also isn’t very good. It’s the worst showing I’ve ever heard from Masuda Toshio. And we know he can compose because he also did music for Mushishi.

Ho-yay:

Like I said, the stuff between Futaba & Kobayashi is really obvious. To the point where there’s a red string of fate joke and they disappear together into a futon while Kobayashi is naked. So, they’ve had sex.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Take better advantage of the magical girl parody aspect. Like I said, when it actually parodies the whole “blatant les-yay, but here’s a male love interest so we can pretend it’s not” element that’s common in magical girl series, it’s actually funny. They could do more with that. Have a character who they think has been brainwashed into turning evil, give the big speech about friendship & “opening their eyes” only to have the character just be mad over some minor sleight. Have a magical creature companion but no one can actually understand it when it tries to talk to give advice. There’s a lot of room for actual genre parody here.
  2. Have a modicum of class. Excessive fan-service in and of itself is not funny. So, just show some restraint and do something that’s actually funny instead of bringing in all the fan-servicey shite.
  3. Limit Fourth Wall Breaks. Like I said, these work best in moderation. In two episodes I would say the most you should have if you want them to retain their impact is three or four.

Final Thoughts:

Puni Puni Poemii wants to have the style of humour that Excel Saga uses to great effect. The problem is, it doesn’t have a good sense of why Excel Saga works. As a consequence, it takes some superficial aspects like the quick, energetic dialogue and acts like that’s enough. And while it has the occasional comedic bit that works, most of it is just obnoxious. In the end, I give it a 3/10.