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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is none to be found.
Areas of Improvement:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.