Neptunia is a game franchise from Compile Heart and Idea Factory. They are solid games, albeit with some issues, and their Lily system is one of the best things in any video game. Seriously, more games need a system where yuri makes the characters stronger. In 2013 there was an anime version, separate in storyline from any of the games. It was handled by David Production, the same studio behind Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s only the second anime I’ve seen where they were responsible for the main production. How well does it hold up?
The Console Wars are coming to an end in the great land of Gamindustri as the four Goddesses, Neptune, Noire, Blan and Vert, sign a treaty of friendship that will prevent their nations from taking Shares from one anther by force. Thereby allowing all of them to work for the betterment of their own nations. But all is not well. During a joint excursion with Neptune, Noire is forced out of her HDD form by an unknown force. Meanwhile, an activist named Kiseijou Rei is trying to stir people against the Goddesses.
Actually, the narrative blends elements from several different Neptunia games, mostly the second and third and that’s the biggest problem with it. The games themselves took several hours to flesh out events that get glossed over in one or two episodes of the anime. As a result, the anime feels like a watered down version of those two games. The story would have worked better if they’d stuck to one game plot or done something completely original. The anime also has some uncomfortable moments surrounding its usage of the character, Trick. Which is kind of a weird choice both because he is needlessly gross and since, in the game, he’s part of a group of four and the other three never appear in the anime. It would be a bit like Marvel having the Human Torch appear in a big comic event where the rest of the Fantastic Four are neither seen nor mentioned.
To the series’ credit, it does maintain its light-hearted aesthetic fairly well and there are a lot of good comedic moments. I will also give it credit for doing a decent job of tying the two game plots together and it mostly deals with the events that it lifts from those games decently enough, in spite of the more limited time frame. While they were much stronger in the games they aren’t at all badly done here.
The character portrayals are actually really faithful to the games. Neptune, Noire, Blanc, Vert, Nepgear, Uni, Rom, Ram, Compa, IF, Plutia, Peashy and the villains are all recognisable as themselves, even though you spend less time with them. I do respect that they left out some of the side characters instead of trying to cram all of them into the series just for the sake of having them. There are also a lot of well done character moments. I do like the idea of the younger sisters being ready friends while their elder sisters have to move past old hostilities. Even though it could have been handled better.
That isn’t to say that the characters are done perfectly, however. There are some moments that just don’t make sense, like Uni blaming Nepgear when their sisters are in trouble. In the actual game it made sense. In the anime the justification for it is really flimsy. There’s also a plot point about Nepgear, Uni, Rom and Ram being unable to transform into their HDD forms yet and having to overcome their own inner struggles first. With Nepgear, we see her actual struggle and the way she overcomes it. It actually works pretty well. The other three just start transforming with no real explanation because… they discovered the true meaning of yuri, I guess.
The only real problem with the art is that it gets really fan-servicey at times. To be fair, that’s also a problem that persists in the games and the art here doesn’t look that different. I will also give both the anime and games credit for having the good sense to keep the fan-service scenes limited to the older characters. The anime looks very similar to the games’ cut scene animations with the same vibrant, colourful style and character designs. I have to give it credit there. It mimics the game’s style very well. I will give the anime credit for having really well done action sequences, too.
Tanaka Rie, Imai Asami, Asumi Kana, Satou Rin, Horie Yui, Kitamura Eri, Ishihara Kaori and Ogura Yui all return as their respective Goddess and Goddess candidate roles and they all do really well. Really, the series has no weak performances. The actors from the games return to voice their respective characters and the result is some really strong acting. The music is really good as well. It largely has the upbeat style that you expect from Neptunia. I will say that the music for more serious moments isn’t as good. It isn’t bad, but it is kind of standard.
There’s quite a bit of underlying yuri in the series, but the two biggest examples are Compa & IF and Vert & Nepgear. Especially Vert and Nepgear. Compa and IF come across as a married couple in this, or at the very least like two people who have had a long romantic relationship. Vert and Nepgear really get homo-erotic. There’s a scene where Vert brings an archway covered with lilies to Planeptune so that she can cuddle up with Nepgear on a bench underneath it. She also tries to get Nepgear to refer to her as sister, used in the yuri sense obviously. When Neptune sees it she gets annoyed because they’ve apparently been doing this every day lately. Vert also refers to Neptune as her sister in law. Yeah, Vert and Nepgear raise their Lily rank right past five and into Red territory. Although I’m sure Red would be happy to see her “wifeys” getting along if she was in this. But they decided to save her character for the spin-off anime Choujigen Game Neptune: Red’s Grand Adventure, coming Spring 2016. I say that in jest, but I would really love to see that as a real thing.
This is one of those anime series based on a video game that’s definitively for fans of the games. If you aren’t familiar with the Neptunia franchise then the pacing is going to seem even more ridiculously hectic and you probably aren’t going to have much investment. If you are a fan of the franchise you’re going to figure out exactly what to expect from the plot very quickly but, to its credit, it does have its share of good moments and it features strong art in the exact vein of the games and superb performances. If you are a fan of the games, you’ll probably like it fine for those aspects in spite of the predictable narrative. For myself, I give it a 6/10. Next week, let’s look at a really bizarre adaptation.