Reviews of yesteryear: Venus Versus Virus

Venus Versus Virus was written by Suzumi Atsushi from 2005-2008. In 2007 it got an anime adaptation from Studio Hibari. You may know them from their work on… Kashimashi. What do you want from me, they haven’t done a lot of well known stuff, at least not solo. This remains their only solo production I’ve reviewed. They’ve co-produced some better known anime like A Little Snow Fairy Sugar and Street Fighter II: V though. In any case, this anime has been on my “plan to watch” list for quite a while and, as my only current request I can find is Monster and I’ll never finish it in time for this week’s review, I might as well take a look.

This is a series with a lot of potential right from the start. The story opens with a scene of our main protagonists about to face off against each other and then it moves into the past. To the anime’s credit, this is one of the few instances where beginning with a snippet of what happens towards the end actually works. The story proper begins with an introduction to one of our protagonists, Sumire. She’s working for an antiques shop that’s more than meets the eye. No, it doesn’t turn into a giant robot but it is a cover for a small group that exterminates supernatural monsters called viruses, which target individuals who can see them. Why they don’t just target ordinary people who would make easy prey is actually explained, so that’s something. This is where the potential comes in. We’re quickly introduced to a mysterious organization with goals that bring them into conflict with our heroes and both of the major protagonists demonstrate strange abilities. There really was great potential for a story here. The elements have an air of mystery and there’s a lot to work with. So, naturally, they hurriedly act to sabotage it. The first issue that comes up is a serious abuse of flashbacks. I think they spend almost as much time going through flashbacks as they do with important plot points and some of the flashbacks even repeat. This is a twelve episode series, do something of substance. The word of the day is “priorities.” Learn it. To make matters worse, most of the flashbacks end up being entirely pointless. The important information from them is actually shown in the story proper. They’re just wasting your time. Another pretty big issue is the main antagonist’s plan. When you actually learn what it is you realise that it’s so ridiculously convoluted that someone behaving in a slightly different way than anticipated can easily ruin the entire thing, which may or may not end up happening. I won’t spoil it. It’s not entirely unsalvageable though. The actual ending is pretty good and there are some strong scenes where the characters manage to overcome serious obstacles. If they’d spent more time setting up and expounding on these scenes, this could’ve been a really good anime. Key word being could’ve.

Let’s move onto characters. After all, really strong characters can save a relatively weak story, but don’t worry about that happening here. Sumire and Lucia are both potentially interesting characters and, to some degree they do fulfill that. The issue is very single other character in the anime. Most of them are really dull and only serve one story purpose. Sailor Moon has more interesting side characters who only show up in one episode. The biggest issue with characters, and what really makes Lucia and Sumire fall short, is that character motivations easily and readily change for the sake of plot convenience. Now, I won’t go into too much detail in case you want to watch this, but there’s a point where one of the characters just changes her mind, and not about something minor but about the major driving force behind her actions, and not five minutes later changes her mind again. Why does that scene even exist? To create some very brief and cheap tension, of course. Why bother setting up an actual scene that you can invest in when you can just squeeze some tension out of a sudden complete character shift? I mean, besides consistent characterisation, actual planning and basic writing skills.

The art in this is actually good. The viruses look appropriately otherworldly. The fight scenes are intense. The character design is interesting and the backgrounds are vivid. It’s not among the best I’ve seen but it is good.

The voice acting is decent. The biggest issue is that most of the actors barely emote. Take Kosugi Jurota, he spends most of the anime talking like he’s giving a weather report even in most of the scenes that are supposed to be intense. Sure, there are a few scenes where he actually shows some emotion, but there aren’t many. Then there’s Tsuji Ayumi who sounds vaguely excited and energetic most of the time. I know that you two can act, I’ve heard you, you’re just not really bothering here. Maybe the director was under the impression that humans only show one emotion, but that seems unlikely since Takagaki Ayahi, Chihara Minori, and Namikawa Daisuke all do quite well with actual range of emotions. Maybe the director didn’t want most of them to bother showing emotions since their characters were flat anyway, I don’t know, but most of the actors fall victim to the one emotion per character thing. The music is actually really strong. The music works even in the scenes that are confused about what they’re trying to do. Which is quite the feat.

The yuri factor is a 2.5/10. There’s some stuff between Lucia and Sumire, but most of it is in images during the opening and closing sequences and those really don’t count. Why did they even include those if they weren’t actually going to put something serious between them? Were they just trolling the yuri fans?

So, how does Venus Versus Virus hold up? Well, there are some things that it does do well and there was a lot of potential to make something truly great, but there are also a lot of areas where it just fails and most of the potential ends up wasted. The end result is an anime that’s neither bad nor good, an anime that’s confused about what it wants to do, an anime that’s pretty mediocre. So my final rating is going to be a 5/10. 

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