They’re the best Anime that 1998 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV), Generator Gawl, Lost Universe, and more!
10: Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV)
English: Battle Athletes Victory
MAL Score: 6.87
Akari Kanzaki has just joined an all-girls academy in hopes of entering the University Satellite, an elite sports training facility. She wants to win the title of Cosmo Beauty – a title held years ago by her mother. It’s not an easy task for her as fear, doubt and peer pressure get in her way, but friends, rivals and fans slowly encourage her to overcome her obstacles and become the best of the Battle Athletes.
Our story opens in a training ground in Antarctica where a bunch of young female athletes are racing across an obstacle course while dragging giant steamrollers. It urns out that after an event that wiped out most of humanity, humans rebuilt and set up training schools to try and get the top athletes. The best students go to a satellite University to compete for the coveted “Cosmo Beauty” title. What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It uses all the regular elements of a sport anime, but it uses them in a tongue in cheek way, mixes in sci-fi elements and just plays up their absurdity in general. So, while it is predictable, the comedic elements keep the viewer invested and keep the action interesting. That being said, the series has its problems too. The biggest being that it’s pretty racist. For most of the athletes, the series will give some specific country or place of origin: China, Osaka, Russia, the United States, a specific encampment on the moon and so on. There’s one character, however, whose area of origin is a continent. Her name is Tanya and her area of origin is “Africa.” Not like that’s a huge continent or anything. To make it worse, she’s a very… “primitive,” is unfortunately the most apt term, character. She’s superstitious, she runs on all fours, she’s simple minded to an absurd degree, she even howls at one point. Who knows, maybe the nations of Africa were too busy making artistic and scientific advancements, but they didn’t want to offend the rest of the world so they found the dumbest, but most athletic girl they could, made up a bunch of superstitions to teach her and sent her on her way. They bet on the rest of the world being too clueless to notice that Africa has multiple countries. Another issue is that the het romance, although there’s very little of it, is really creepy and involves major age and power imbalances. On the positive side, the yuri romance, which there’s a lot more of, is pretty cute and well handled. Was Hideyuki trying to actively encourage lesbianism or did he just figure people would accept the het regardless of how screwed up it was and, consequently, he didn’t bother trying to make it good? The world may never know but this is the writer behind Read or Die, so the former seems likely.
The major characters are, for the most part, decently fleshed out and developed. The major exception being the aforementioned racist stereotype. One nice little touch is that Akari’s development arc is pretty realistic. She goes through both good and difficult times with certain elements becoming prominent based on which end of the spectrum she’s on. Each cycle she goes through becomes demonstrative of her growth. She becomes better at handling both extremes with maturity and grace as things progress. I also really liked Akari’s love interest, Kris. She’s just amazing.
The art is nothing special. It’s pretty standard late 90s fare. About the most visually interesting it gets is towards the end when certain elements are introduced that I can’t really go into without giving spoilers. That being said, it is competent artwork.
The voice acting in this is really good. You have some really great actresses like Hisakawa Aya, Kawakami Tomoko and Itou Miki being among the biggest names. The music is pretty nice as well.
The ho-yay factor is a 6/10. Primarily because of Akari and Kris. Although Akari and Ichino have their moments as well. There’s also the dynamic between Lahrii and Mylandah.
And that’s Battle Athletes. To be honest, I rather liked it, in spite of its racism. It’s a fun series with some good characters, and one really bad one. The jokes are usually very effective, Akari and Kris have a lot of cute moments and it is an entertaining watch, if you can ignore or forgive its issues. Final rating: 7/10. Next week I’ll look at Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.
What is this anime about?
Anime turns from light comedy into quite serious spokon with drama about girls who try to overdo their own abilities, with blood, jealousy, broken bones and rivalry until the end. Sometimes serious scenes are mixed with slice of lifecomedy parts.
Anime pays particular attention to such kinds of sport as running and swimming, and also pole vaulting, tennis, air hockey and so on.
Also near to the end you will be surprised by some entertaining plot twist.
Mankind was nearly destroyed 3000 years ago, but then Earth was recovered and humanity colonized Solar system. Sport became important part of people`s everyday life. Sport academies were founded on each planet to find the best athletes to attend the University Satellite.
There the best sport girls can take part in The Big Competition to become a Cosmo Beauty – the best athlet in the universe. Why only girls can attend this university you will find out when that plot twist happen.
Main heroine is cute and gentle Akari Kanzaki. Her mother was the legendary Cosmo Beauty who set lots of records. Akari will have to go through the hard way and turn from a weak girl, who hides from the troubles in the cardboard box with inscription “Akari house” to strong athlet to keep her promise given to her mother. I liked Akari so much actually.
All other characters have their own peculiarities too. Ayla and Jessie compete so hard that fall unconscious while swimming, Ichino starts envy to Akari when she becomes better that her, but fate punishes Ichino for this wrongdoing.
Anna does a terrible thing to her sister to attend the university. Chris torments between her religion and sport, and also she is a lesbian and loves Akari. Tanya is mischievous african girl who worships to totems.
Average for those years, but I liked it.
Nice OP song “Tsubasa” by Yukari Asakura. Also I liked voice of Akari`s seiyuu Rio Natsuki.
Sometimes sport competitions in this anime finish a little bit naive, nevertheless it was so pleasant to watch. I definately recommend it for people who like sport, drama, girls and the relationships between them.
One of these young hopefuls is Akari Kanzaki, who… Let’s just face it, is completely hopeless. She’s slow, fragile, and is just as clueless as to what she’s doing at the Antarctic training site as we are. Being the daughter of Tomoe Midoh, the greatest Cosmo Beauty in the history of the Great competition, she has the genetic make-up that any other competitor would kill for, but her athletic abilities, and her attitude towards training, make her long-lasting lock on last place feel even more painful to watch. While some of her fellow students may have a soft spot for the doe-eyed lump, others see her as an insult to everything they’ve dedicated their lives towards, and aren’t shy about letting her know it. But could the apathetic Akari be more than meets the eye? Could her exterior, which is about as threatening as a rag doll, be hiding an untapped well of talent that’s just begging to be discovered? And even going beyond that, is there some darker truth hiding behind the Great competition itself? As the competition heats up, and the champs rise above the chumps, the 1003’rd Cosmo Beauty may turn out to be the most important one of all.
For Battle Athletes victory, we return to AIC, or Anime International company, only this time we’re looking at one of their earliest works, which came out in the late nineties. The series will be 20 years old this October, and as such, it looks extremely dated. This was a time when the moe style was nowhere to be seen, anime had to work harder to look good regardless of budget, and character designs ranged from cartoony to realistic, while rarely ever straying away from believable human anatomy. Artwork was a lot less polished, and physiques were exaggerated a lot more than they are today. For the time it came out in, Battle Athletes victory looks really good… When it wants to. The animation in this title is heavily inconsistent, and it works for the most part. For athletic competitions that can’t be written off with cheap budget saving tricks(And a few of them definitely are), the animation can be straight up gorgeous. I’ve heard it said that one of the most difficult things to animate is character’s legs when they’re walking and running, and yeah, I’ve seen enough failed attempts to understand this.
A lot of work goes into the simple visual of feet hitting and pressing back off of the ground, which is why a lot of animation tends to focus on above the feet, if they’re not just resorting to bouncing the image of the character’s face. In spite of this, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Battle Athletes Victory makes running animation look easy. They can pull it off at any speed, from fast running that doesn’t give you time to analyze it, to slow-motion running that perfectly captures every single movement of the body to the point that I have to wonder just how much live action research they must have done beforehand. A lot of money clearly got poured into these scenes, because most of the other sports featured in this show aren’t really as impressive. That’s not to say they look bad, but there’s a lot of close-ups, a lot of short bursts of action, and occasionally even repeated animation cycles that are meant to give the illusion of physical activity, and thanks to some smart editing, it almost always works. About half of the action in this series is running, of course, so it’s still an impressive looking series.
Well, for the most part, at least. The budget gets spread too thin at times, and when they run into trouble with it, the quality just abruptly tanks. There are sequences, and a couple of entire episodes, that look less like a high budget show from the late nineties and more like a low budget show from the early nineties. A lot of the material between competitions is just characters talking, interacting and having the camera freeze on them during internal monologues, and this does worlds of good for the budget, but at it’s worst, even scenes like those wind up looking like ass. The character designs, while imaginative, don’t follow the most attractive color palette, making the artwork look kinda grungy at times, and since the characters are mostly designed to carry realistic human anatomy, there are only a few of them that can get away with deformed anime expressions… Some of the more serious characters, such as Akari’s rival Jessie, just look terrifying when attempting to do the same. The color saturation and use of lighting are beautiful, but there are too many instances where the artwork looks rough, and over-all unfinished.
The music, while pretty repetitive, is unbelievable. As with any good sports-related media, the story has a deeply emotional feel to it, and the music composed by Yoshikazu Suo was clearly designed to augment these emotions. Some of the happier moments between competitions will be played alongside the upbeat “There’s no Point Unless You Goal,” actual competition will be accompanied by the intense pounding beat of Battle Program, and for those more devastating and heart-breaking moments… Of which there is a surprising amount… We’ll get the violin track Adagio of Despair. Character themes were very thoughtfully put together and instantly reminiscent of the characters they’re attached to… Even when that’s primarily because they’re based on the races of extremely stereotypical characters, which i’m going to get to in a minute… But the highlight is Wings, the opening to the series, and easily on of my favorite of all time. Joyful and inspirational, and full of imagery that gives each character a fair dose of screen time while throwing in subtle hints about the series. Too bad you only get to see it once per disk… No, I’m not kidding. The same can be said for the sweet Honeybee, the closing theme.
The English dub is a bit hit or miss, but I still prefer it over the Japanese by a great deal, even if the writers made a few embarrassing mistakes in it, such as mistakenly writing a flashback scene as a current scene, or having Akari say another character’s name before actually learning it. I can kind of imagine mistakes like those happening in the old days, but it would be unheard of today. Hey, at least they didn’t try to crowbar in any pointless references to obscure current events, am I right? Anyway, the cast is full of Geneon actors from the late nineties, including the legendary Lia Sargent as the main character Akari, whom she plays very straightforward, innocent and full of heart, even as she grows from a spoiled and co-dependent slacker into a stronger, more confidant idealist, constantly changing while still sounding like the same person at heart. Wendee Lee plays the gruff Osakan native Itchino, in what’s probably one of my favorite roles of hers, as she balances the characters softer and tougher sides fluidly. Steve Blum also gets a small role as the University Satellite headmaster, Grant Oldman, although it’s not a very demanding role, his presence is still appreciated.
Bridget Hoffman pulls double duty as both the Chinese stereotype character Ling Pha, which she performs in a comedically exaggerated accent, and then in a much more dignified role as Anna, who… Like one of her more recent characters… Is a sweet, diminutive girl with a dark, potentially dangerous side that’s hiding beneath the surface. As a treat to any Trigun fans that happen to be reading this, Dorothy Elias-Fahn plays Kris Christopher, a strange but strong-willed girl who has a deep, unrequited crush on Akari. So it’s basically the Milly and Meryl pairing you thought would never happen. Also, as an interesting for Ghost in the Shell fans, two different Motoko Kusanagi actors… Mary Elizabeth McGlynn from the anime and Mimi Woods from the video game, play characters that never actually meet or speak to each other. They’re both good, but McGlynn is phenomenal at how she plays an emotionless character who finds emotion through competition. Julie Maddalena probably had the only bad performance, but I don’t really blame her, because she was playing an annoying and entirely problematic character, so she was probably doing the best she could with what she was given. Finally, we get Jamieson Price, and as much as I’d like to go into detail about why he’s so amazing in this, his character is unfortunately mired in spoilers.
So if you haven’t realized by now, this show is really freaking weird. It’s possibly even one of the weirdest anime I’ve ever seen. There are a ton of strange anime out there that just shove weirdness into your face until it hits diminishing returns and becomes passé, such as Hare + Guu and Excel Saga, but with victory, the weirdness is paced in a way that it can keep consistently shocking you, as each strange detail that gets added to the story makes it’s impact and then settles neatly into the reality of the series’ universe, becoming commonplace for both the viewer and the characters… Until the next kooky detail comes along. So what if one of the main characters has a pet cow that’s allowed to live in her dorm with her? That’s just Gyuube, don’t mind her. So what if an alien turns a girl into a car? those aliens are just like that. So what if one of the show’s only male characters needs a constant supply of chocolate to survive? So what if some characters have unexplained jewels embedded in the foreheads, while other girls don’t? This series takes place in a strange world, with a strange premise, and it seems to revel in the idea of completely ignoring your expectations.
To it’s credit, though, it’s not like it tries to trick you into letting your guard down for it. Victory lets you know right off the bat how weird it’s going to be right from the first shot of episode 1, where the athletes at the Antarctica Training Center are in the middle of an important assessment test, racing while pulling gigantic rolling weights behind them. They’re not just pulling these multi-ton items behind them unhindered, however… They’re moving over rough terrain, avoiding booby traps, and even using their weights as weapons against each other. The results are of course catastrophic, as them main character(Whose been in dead last nearly the entire race) accidentally launches into the air and takes out a media reporter’s hot air balloon. And if that’s not enough, right in the second episode, there’s a biking competition where the contestants are riding on a roller-coaster track, which is designed not only to go up and down, around curves and loop-de-loop like a real roller coaster, but which can even be moved and rearranged DURING THE RACE from a control room overlooking the action.
If you can get through episode 2 without picking up on the fact that this series will leave no shark unjumped, you must have been fiddling with your phone the entire time. Not everything got the sci-fi treatment, of course… We get more normal sports like racing, soccer, tennis and the like. But when it came to making up weird sports, this series goes balls to the wall with it’s level of creativity and imagination. Like a game of pool where the balls are huge, and you have to break them by bowling. Or zero-gravity lacrosse that adds several new dimensions to the game. Then there’s my personal favorite, when they play air hockey, but the puck is as big as a dinner plate, and it’s literally hovering in mid-air. There are others, of course, but in most of these events, the human limit is constantly being pushed and broken, even before we see runners that can accelerate fast enough to create shock waves, and there’s seemingly no rule against injuring your opponent in the middle of battle, as people being taken out with grueling injuries is seen as little other than an elimination.
I’d normally be tearing apart a show like this over how ridiculous it is, how little sense it makes, and how almost none of it could feasibly happen in the real world, even in a dystopian future. Hell, there ARE some plot details I can’t get over, but that’s just the thing… They’re plot details, not connected to the weird pieces of sports logic throughout the series. What ultimately saves this show from being too stupid to excuse is just how sincere it all is. Yeah, the featured sporting events may be ridiculously beyond human capabilities,
but to it’s credit, the athletes performing them are constantly TRAINING themselves beyond human capabilities, and the final story arc gives us an actual solid reason(albeit still just as ridiculous) for why they need to train to surpass conceivable human limits. It never feels like their abilities are undeserved, either… The characters train their asses off, and even when you don’t get to see them do so, you can easily tell from their attitudes what their approach is to training as well as just how serious they are about it. Those that don’t are considered ‘naturals,’ and are treated as anomalies.
So, ultimately, what saves this series from being laughable is it’s mastery over character writing. Every single character who gets even a mild level of importance is given a distinct arc, full of development and memorable moments. Akari easily gets the most of it, because in a way that’s almost reminiscent of Goku, every time she breaks into a new level of ability, there’s another major lesson she has to learn, and another serious challenge for her to overcome, and they all seem to make sense, despite rarely being predictable and once or twice relying on some shaky logic. I went into some detail about this in my review of Gunbuster last year, but throughout the course of the story, Akari is forced to evolve and grow as a character, from a whiny, spoiled little doll to a fierce competitor who can shave significant time off of her running speed just by reading a tip in a book. She has to overcome limits and challenges that are really more psychological than physical, and she’s not the only one. Everyone in this show has demons they have to deal with in order to grow and develop.
There’s a lot of ways to bring depth to your writing, and one of those ways is to have your story be about something. It can be a theme, it can be an idea, but it has to be consistent. Battle Athletes victory is a story about Truth. I don’t mean abstractly, like learning how not to lie, I mean deep, complex truth. The truths we hide from others, the truths we hide from ourselves, and even the truths that get buried throughout history. I said before that there’s a lot of character development in this series, but more specifically, every character has a hidden truth… Sometimes multiple… They they need to uncover within themselves in order to grow. An emotionless girl who’s been trained to be an athletic machine will be forced to realize that the only thing she truly cares about is beating her rival. A prideful overachiever will be devastated to realize there’s another plane of greatness she’ll never be able to reach. The goofball will realize just how much winning the competition meant to her, when she no longer has food or friends around to comfort her. You may train your best friend, only to be forced to acknowledge how much being better than them means to you when she starts to close in on you. Hell, the most dishonest character in the cast, Ling Pha, is arguably the only one who never really develops.
But the most important truth in the series, to me, is the one that rang true to me a few years ago. I’ve seen this series multiple times, and one of those rewatches happened when I was having trouble at work. I was slowing down, not really giving it my all, and after a while of it, I got called into the office. They asked me what was wrong, why I wasn’t producing results, and I said I didn’t know, claiming that I was busting my ass… Words I almost choked on, because even I knew they were bullshit. This all changed when I realized that I was doing the same thing Akari was doing. Whenever I was faced with a task that looked too difficult, I’d automatically accept that it was impossible, and I’d use that excuse to not try. I didn’t have a friend like Itchan to wake me up to this fact, but it was true, I was sabotaging myself, making excuses for failures that hadn’t happened yet. As soon as I realized this, I put a stop to it. I decided that no job was impossible, no matter how unreasonable. Ever since that day, I’ve never given up, I’ve never made excuses for myself, and I’ve continued to be employed as a result. It’s easy for a story to teach life lessons to kids, but when you can change the life and outlook of an adult viewer, there’s something special there.
Having said that, this series isn’t perfect. It has some flaws, and they go deep. There are constant logical derps… The true nature of the character Eric might have you pulling your hair out… But it’s biggest problem is it’s over-use of harmful and insulting stereotypes. The Russian girl is an emotionless machine, the Chinese girl is a dishonest cheater who’s always trying to sell stuff to people, the lesbian is a predatory lech who pays no regard to consent or mutual attraction(think the black girl from Pitch Perfect but not quite as bad), and the black girl… Holy shit, the black girl. Yeah, there’s a character here who’s from Africa, and her character is so racist that even Paula Dean would be insulted. She’s likeable, don’t get me wrong, but if this were an American cartoon, it would be one of the Censored 11. She runs around on all fours, uses her nose like a blood hound, is a “Natural runner,” and there’s an entire episode dedicated to her running around school in a tribal uniform, worshipping a totem god and painting everyone’s faces. There’s also a lot of lame jokes, such as the gimmick of a trio of hijackers, and… Okay, honestly, the whole episode that began the University Satellite arc kinda sucked.
It’s second biggest problem, right behind the racism issue, is the availability of the series. I mean, the lack thereof. Battle Athletes victory was available from Pioneer, which would eventually become Geneon, which would eventually go out of business. It’s been out of print for almost 20 years, and I can’t find any information about anybody trying to rescue it. If that’s not bad enough, the DVDs that it’s actually available on are pieces of shit, dated in all the worst ways. First of all, as I mentioned before, you only get the opening once per disk. That’s because it uses Dragonball Z’s marathon feature, only it’s not a feature, you don’t have a choice. Opening, three to four back-to-back episodes, closing. And the dubbers plastered white text over the opening instead of trying to avoid blocking the visuals. You can find these DVDs for fairly cheap online, and if you’re trying to get all 8 of them, you may even get lucky with a fifty dollar bundle on Ebay. The original OVA is also available stateside, but the manga is not. but seriously, if you’re reading this and actually have the right connections, PLEASE get this series rereleased. Discotek’s been into that kind of thing lately.
It’s not often that you hear about an anime changing someone’s life. They can turn you off from violence, help you to overcome prejudices, change your attitude towards your own life, make you appreciate your loved ones in new ways… Battle Athletes victory is a series that literally, tangibly changed my life, and I’m pretty sure I’d have lost my job and a significant portion of my livelihood without it. I won’t BS you by calling it a masterpiece, that’s not true… The visual quality is inconsistent, the logic isn’t always sound, it’s only black character is too much like Rob Schneider from The Animal, but if you’re able to get past all of that, this series is beautiful. It’s full of heart, has an undeniable passion for athletics and competition, and it’s always finding new ways to make you cry, without having to rely on any cliché modern day tragedy porn. There’s nothing manipulative about it, just genuine emotion and sincere sportsmanship. The sci-fi elements are also a blast, and while the final stretch may have jumped the shark a little too far… Even I’ll admit that… It’s very rarely unenjoyable, even then. It’s an obscure title, but it’s well worth the effort it’ll take to find it. I give Battle Athletes Victory an 8/10.
9: Generator Gawl
MAL Score: 6.89
Ryo, Gawl and Koji are 3 young boys who travel back into the past with only 1 objective: change history. In their time they discover that their country, Kubere, uses genetically enhanced persons called generators as a military tool. These generators are the cause for the Third War which kills most of the human population. Now Koji, Ryo and Gawl are there to change all the events.
I was very surprised by this anime with how deep the plot was in only twelve episodes. Many of the twists I didn’t see coming. Generator Gawl’s story starts out slow but it was fast enough to keep you interesting in what was going to happen next. My two problems with this series are firstly that the first half of the series could have had a bit more plot development than it did rather than a monster of the week show. Secondly the School Festival episode was entirely useless. It had a little plot development but it could have been spread between the first half of the series, thus making the first half more plot based. I also didn’t get the ending of this series, I just didn’t get it. It was a very scifi ending and I didn’t see it coming, but it just felt like it wrapped everything up rather conveniently. Nevertheless, it was at least a good ending that didn’t have me needing a sequel.
I loved the dialogue in this series. It was all very fun and added much comedy. Their explanations of time travel and the science of the series made sense without the characters going into too much depth.
When it came to animation, this show took no shortcuts. Almost all movements were smooth. The battle scenes were active and didn’t have moments of just screaming how powerful you were to your opponent with a lined background to somehow make it look cool. It got right down to the attacking with little or no exhibition. This show is practically on par with most of the modernly made anime in its quality, particularly in its realistic character designs.
The characters were good when it came to appearance, noticeable their eyes were not typical anime eyes and their faces were very organic looking. The Generators, though, are where the real creativity went. They were all very detailed and interesting, until later in the series when some of them look just like humans with some putty plastered on them. Generator Gawl in my mind was always the coolest in appearance. The main bone I have to pick is with Natsume’s hair. What was with that? The way her hair was shaped was very distracting and honestly creepy. And I never got used to them. She was the only human who looked entirely unbelievable.
The background of this future set anime was realistic! Most anime set in the future (2007 in this case) take society to a ridiculous level. This show didn’t. We still had cars, cell phones, and schools, and we still dressed like human beings who need a sense of self expression. Thus it made the future seem to be a believable existence.
The art for the background was not fantastic but they did do the job and at times was quite beautiful.
Sound: 7 (dub)
The music is where this show really lacks in. The tracks really aren’t that great and from most scenes are absent entirely, and with the lack of background noise it was even worse making it seem like you are listening to a silent void.
I didn’t like the opening at all to start out with but it oddly grew on me. I still can’t say it’s great but it is a good opening. The ending has a sort of catchy tune that is pleasant to listen to and was comedic, a good thing for a show that otherwise has a serious plot.
The voice acting was the best part. Both Vic Mignogna (Gawl) and Monica Rial (Natsume) did excellently in their roles. They obviously showed less experience but I think this added to the performance, especially Gawl who sounded very snarky. Rozie Curtis, who voiced Masami was perfect at being bossy and sassy towards Gawl. It really is a shame she has barely voiced in anything else.
Gawl would have to be hands down my favourite character as well as the best written. His personality was very deep and intriguing. Not to say that the others weren’t also well made and all of fit into their roles. Gawl and Masami helped keep the mood light with their antics. Without it the series would have been very dark overall. The villains were also well made and I felt I had come to know them through the writing, very impressed.
Scifi, action, suspense, mystery, and a tiny bit of romance make this “sort of” mecha series the right to be considered a classic. Unfortunately it seems the Otaku world has forgotten this series, which is a real crying shame. ADV going out of business didn’t help either.
Frankly this is an amazing anime that everyone needs to check out, if you are lucky enough to find it that is. I just happened to have a copy at the local library, the rest of you, good luck. It had me interested from beginning to end and I am definitely considering owning this series because I could watch it over and over.
-Lots of monster blood.
-There is a public bath shown in one of the episodes. Gawl stands up in the bath but thankfully it was cleverly censored.
-There is a female generator who appears to be naked in her human form but the body tattoo mostly omits this and how the animation is done. Similar to Mystique or one of the other characters in X-men.
-The terms stalker and flasher are used, but neither situation come to fruition.
8: Lost Universe
Japanese: ロスト ユニバース
MAL Score: 7.01
Millie Nocturne has one great goal in life: to be the best in the universe – at absolutely everything! But when she tries her hand at being the “best detective,” she ends up an unwilling partner with two people who will change her life forever: Kane Blueriver, the psi-blade-wielding master of the starship Swordbreaker, and Canal, the smart-mouthed holographic image of the ship’s computer.
Join this unlikely trio on their adventures as they hurtle through space facing off against intergalactic crime lords, rogue starships, and hijackers dressed as chickens… and that’s just the tip of the asteroid!
Lost universe is not related to slayers, that is, except for name similarities and personality parallels.
This show is a comical space adventure revolving around three characters who are mercenaries more or less. In the show they are called Contractors i believe, they go around taking jobs so they can feed themselves.
There isn’t really a plot in the beginning but as you get into more, secrets are revealed and plot comes out. dont expect a wowing plot, this show is for entertainment and a good time.
The animation is very good, and the use of CGI mixed in is done very well. The style is very typical anime.
Unfortunately i have only seen the dub version, but the voices are actually well matched and they did a good job. Although Millie can get annoying at times.
The characters are all very likable, they will definitely grow on you and you get some depth out of them, but not a whole lot. The farther in you go, the more serious things get from tone to actually story, but there is always room for the comic relief.
The ideas and concepts of the show are all very cool and interesting, the show just doesn’t utilize them for an epic space show. despite that, this show is very good, if you liked slayers, you will definitely like this.
This actually does take place in a similar (if not the same) universe as Slayers, with most of the voice cast also being the same. Not surprisingly, a lot of the humor style was the same but there was a lot more emphasis on an underlying story which is emphasized more later. It reminded me a bit of a Slayers Next style where bits and pieces are planted here and there while hijicks run awry…at least until near the end. One thing Lost Universe does better than Slayers though is it shows more sides to the characters.
The main characters are pretty well rounded out, except Millie but most of what you need to know happens later anyway. You start feeling for some of the characters though, and by the end of the series I starting getting kind of attached to some of the characters. The antagonists on the other hand range from dull to pretty messed up.
One big determining factor of how much a series impacts me is the ending. Lost Universe does a great job cleaning up all the loose ends and making the story and characters make sense. The ending is very bittersweet, while leaves questions, they’re not ones that you need answers to. It’s nice to see series that doesn’t make you wonder if there might be a sequel or not.
What bugs me if anything is the art. The art is pretty rough, similar to Slayers but sometimes felt inconsistent. Sometimes I can’t tell if there’s more Yashigani than just ep. 4. I might just be bothered by the way the eyes are drawn. Of course, the CG sequences are dated, but can’t be helped.
Another annoying factor is the voice acting, particularly for Kain. He sounds like a choked chicken and at times it gets grating to the ears, especially how many times he yells throughout the series.
Little nitpicks aside, I very much enjoyed the series. Check it out especially if you’ve seen and enjoyed Slayers Next and Try.
Soon they will became friends and companions while defeat the enemy on board a spaceship, more less in a similar way, the plot is repetitive and predictable some times.
The anime tries to make the relationship between the characters deeper but it fails. In the end the interaction between the characters is childish.
The ships design isn’t so bad but nothing special, scenery is really bad but since most of the time you won’t notice the background it’s OK, the bad dynamics of the vehicles made me difficult to really get absorbed by the story.
There are also good things I like not feeling stupid for not understand a new philosophy based on the thoughts of one of the characters, and I almost forgot it make me cough. No, not cough! laugh.
I enjoyed because I like adventure anime, because… I will never hold the controls of a space ship; not to mention in the presence of a goddess and a cute blondie fighting with me facing the future, writing my own destiny bla bla bla
That’s all Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to Swordbreaker airlines, Captain Suso and the crew members hope you have a pleasant flight. Please don’t forget to put your seats in the upright position and fasten your seat belt; there is no need of live jackets in a spaceship but if you need one below your seat please feel free to ask cabin personal and you’ll get your dose of sleeping pills. Thanks again for flying with us.
I hope you enjoy as much as I do
7: Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
Japanese: バブルガムクライシス TOKYO2040
MAL Score: 7.09
After a mysterious eathquake levels Tokyo, Genom becomes a powerful influence providing their artificial organic lifeforms called Boomers to rebuild and act as a labor class to humanity. However, some of them ocasionally run amok, and even the specially created AD Police are at a loss to stop them. Lina Yamazaki travels to Tokyo for employment but also hopes to join a vigilante force called the Knight Sabers, who pilot powered suits to destroy these rogue Boomers.
2040 is an indirect sequel to the original Bubblegum Crisis (sometimes with the additional "2032" or just "OVA" thrown at the end there). They’re alternate versions of each other therefore nothing is really connected, other than the fact that they’re different stories with some of the same characters in the same setting and whatnot. Because of this I’ll make a few comparisons here and there between the two. The biggest difference between them is that the OVA was mainly episodic based and 2040 is not, containing more of a single overarching plot.
STORY: The year is obviously 2040 where Tokyo has been reborn after a devastating earthquake that took out the majority of the city, to rebuild such a complex place once again humans needed something to help them. A powerful company by the name of Genom comes into play here and introduces the "Boomers", humanoid mech’s built with the sole ideal to help rebuild and restore the most technological advanced city in the world, in which they ended up calling Mega Tokyo. These Boomers came in many packages, some would look like giant trackers of sorts that handled construction, while others would look totally identical to human beings, handling jobs such as a receptionist and whatnot. However being built in such haste the Boomers were not without their fault and at times, went berserk causing chaos and destruction throughout the city, but Genom had such a strong hold on Mega Tokyo that nobody could bring about the end of the Boomers construction. In an attempt to stop these outbreaks the Advance Police Forces, or AD Police for short, was born. Genom ends up taking things even further by diving into illegal trade and develops combat Boomers and various other things, eventually becoming quite an issue. Can the AD Police alone stop this crisis?
In comes Sylia Stingray, daughter of the infamous Dr. Stingray who helped build the foundation of the Boomers in the first place. However, she wants nothing more than to see the end of their production and very existence for unknown reasons. She is an incredibly wealthy billionaire with a close friend Nigel whom is an incredibly skilled engineer and mechanic. She gives birth to the powerful mobile armor dubbed "Knight Sabers" that can only be worn by a very select few women. Fate eventually brings all these girls together in an effort to fight against the Boomers. Originally it was nothing but a friendly competition between the AD Police and the Knight Sabers, but eventually things start to go deeper. What really caused the earthquake that happened many years ago? Is their a source to all the Boomer outbreaks? Where exactly do the Knight Saber suits come from? What is Sylia’s true motive? All these questions eventually come into play as the story becomes more than just straight up action against Boomers.
But that’s also where the series slightly derails, about a 3rd or 4th of the way in they throw the philosophical card at you and the show ends up trying to be "deep". Luckily, it doesn’t seem to go too over the top with this and doesn’t try to shove tons of silly ideas or anything down your neck. The ideals and questions presented are nothing that’ll really make you scratch your head over, but at the same time they shouldn’t completely bore you out of your mind either. Regardless I clearly believe they could’ve taken a different route and thrown out the last arc of the story here for something much better. The main thing I got out of these last parts was the emphasis on self discovery.
CHARACTER: The character development is definitely a huge improvement compared to the OVA and overall done very nicely. However (I’ll blame the last story arc), you are kind of left wanting to see them develop a little more towards the end, like they were just a little unfinished or something. But anyways, each main character here definitely has their own traits: Priss is the rogue whom does as she pleases and doesn’t like people holding her back, Lina comes off as the strong willed girl who will do anything to get to the top, Nene is the odd and spunky younger one that should never be underestimated when it comes to the technical stuff, and Sylia is the cheerful yet oh so mysterious leader whom might leave you in the dark at times, but you’ll get your answers eventually. Okay, so they all don’t sound incredibly interesting on paper here but they certainly do change throughout the series mainly for the better and the odd bunch does manage to eventually cope together very well, they make an excellent team. At first the series focuses entirely on the rookie Lina and I actually liked this direction, however the focus later shifts back to Priss and is handled pretty smoothly, but it’s almost annoying that in the end Lina is the one character that you’re kind of left wanting to know more about, not to mention she ends up being "alone" unlike the rest of the crew. Also I have to stress the fact that while Priss may seem like the typical ignorant "I don’t speak to you because I don’t care" kind of character done way too much in anime, she does soften up a bit and let out emotions, she does develop and change. Also, every character got a makeover and in all honesty I prefer them all over the originals, just simply put I guess. Though yeah, Lina’s headband was awesome.
Aside from this a handful of other characters return like the mysterious villain Mason, Sylia’s younger brother with a lost past, and most noticeably the head of AD Police, big shot Leon whom loves to hate the Knight Sabers. Just like the rest of the main chicks here, Leon’s character gets fleshed out a lot more here than it did in the OVA and even in the spinoff AD Police Files. There’s actually a lot of humor revolved around him and Nene’s interactions (with her being a AD Police operator of sorts). Just don’t call him "Leon-chan"! And overall, you can expect some great humorous moments throughout the show. Some might be really cheesy at times, but they never feel too tacky or pointlessly thrown in. Along with this you can also expect some romances though the scenes with these elements are a hit or miss, some worked, and some just felt really awkward.
ART/ANIMATION: In all honesty I was really impressed with the animation here and the character designs mainly for its time and for being a full length normal series. I really don’t think there’s a lot of late 90’s early 00’s releases that faired too well in the art/animation department. This was the time when some companies were trying new things, some were throwing in horrendous CG (at the time especially), a lot of the hand drawn detail was being lost, but none of that is really the case with 2040 here. They did an excellent job with the fight scenes, never throwing in some of those annoying panning images, or repeating scenes relentlessly, and this isn’t an older show where you’ll get the characters mixed up or anything like that, I’m sure we’ve all seen some of those?
Being a cyberpunk series one should definitely expect a darker, futuristic, more downbeat, gritty setting and they definitely nailed that aspect pretty well. The atmosphere is easily there. Overall though, it’s not quite as inspired and incredibly detailed like the original OVA. I’m assuming it could be because of budget differences with this being a longer series or just the fact that, a lot of older cyberpunk shows are superior when it comes to the art and detail even compared to newer releases, a lot more hand drawn stuff when into them. If you’re expecting some epic Blade Runner-esque influences here, well you’ll see some here and there, but influences are not nearly as prominent as they were in the OVA and other older cyberpunk anime. All in all, the series manages to give off a great darker and even sometimes depressing vibe, which is good enough.
Boomers/Mech Design: Unfortunately this is another slight downfall when compared to the original. The Boomer designs in this one were really not that inspiring at all and rather generic, even when they got bigger and more powerful, they weren’t that detailed or interesting as the stuff you’d see in the OVA. In the OVA there was typically a single super powerful Boomer per episode and they were always incredibly detailed and really creative, but here you could almost classify all the enemies as just "typical robots" or whatever. After watching the OVA and then this afterwards, this was probably one of my biggest disappointments actually. The same can be said about the Knight Sabers second suits that they end up getting here towards the end of the show… not to mention the way they had to put them on, was just downright weird.
MUSIC: Everyone who knows anything about the Bubblegum Crisis OVA series knows that it was pretty infamous for having a rockin’ big hair styled metal soundtrack with tons of vocal tracks that, while aged and so "totally 80’s", really gave the series a lot of its charm and character. Sadly, this is where 2040 suffers quite a bit. Fans of the original going in expecting anything to match up to "Hurricane Tonight" or whatnot will probably be very disappointed. Yes, Priss does have a few vocal tracks here and there and while they’re certainly fun, they don’t stand out very much on their own unlike a lot of the tracks from the original OVA.
The actual background OST here is mainly a mixed bag. I thought some of the darker and slower tracks typically played at more dramatic, mysterious, or emotional segments fit the mood pretty well, but there’s really nothing offered here in this department that manages to be really memorable when it’s all said and done. It’s certainly not bad but, after something like Bubblegum Crisis’ OVA you’d surely expect to find a top notch OST here and sadly that’s not really the case.
MAIN ISSUE? At times the show probably could’ve taken itself a little more seriously and done well, instead I thought there was an issue with a few scenes that just ended up being anticlimatic. This happened a lot during difficult situations or when the Knight Sabers took on incredibly powerful Boomers, when you think all was lost, they sometimes end up doing something that seems so incredibly simple you’ll wonder why they didn’t do so in the first place. But hey, overall this is really just one of those fun laid back shows that’s all about the action, the quirky characters and odd humor, and the cool setting. So I wouldn’t say that’s a huge deal if you go in with a cool head here.
OVERALL: Bubblegum Crisis 2040 was again, a really great break from the norm with some solid production value to back it up. If you’re a sci-fi buff that likes a lot of action, especially when it’s women kicking some ass, with a fairly straightforward plot that won’t make you think too much, then you should definitely be in for a treat here. If you liked the original OVA any bit at all I highly recommend watching this series as well to compare the two. They both have their ups and down when you pit them together but if you liked one at all, chances are you’d get some enjoyment out of the other. Bubblegum Crisis and its sequel are excellent series that surely inspired other cyberpunk anime that followed them, not to mention several spinoffs including stories revolved around the AD Police and Parasite Dolls stemmed from here, while both aren’t groundbreaking in anyway, it does go to show how successful the OVA and 2040 were. Good ol’ sci-fi anime.
The story takes place in a post earthquake Tokyo where robots are used in mass amounts to assist with everything from being waiters to construction workers. Of course these robots dont always do what they’re told, and its up to the knight sabers to step in.
The characters in this show are all amazingly created and very distinct from each other. The four main girls are have very different personalities which makes for great character interaction not only in battles but in everyday life.
the story starts off as some "vigilantes" beating up some robots but the story stretches very far beyond that to tell what becomes a very epic sci fi/action tale that for the most part has a serious tone to it, the more the show goes on, the darker things get.
The battles are usually pretty cool to watch, especially with all the neat things that the knight sabers can do. The overall art work is done exceptionall well, it has a very clean look to it, and everything has details.
the sound experience is pretty good, everything from the mechanical noises to the rockin soundtrack helps enhance the show.
This show will keep you watching until the end, and its a great ride all the way there.
And for those wondering wtf the title has to do with anything, a bubblegum crisis is a problem that starts off small but gets bigger and bigger like a bubblegum bubble until it bursts and all hell breaks loose, which is a very fitting title for the show.
The year is 1998. Bubblegum Crisis 2040 was made into a 26 episode show presumably after AIC won the whole legal rights debacle by slicing the head of their former co-producers and absorbing their powers. Priss and the gang are back. Although obviously looking a bit different time around. They’re still fighting boomers. And they still aren’t exactly fans of the shady mega corporation Genom. That’s the familiar core brought back.
A lot of the characters have changed though. With 26 episodes to work with there’s no shortage of time to characterize them all. Unlike the original who only really bothered to characterize Priss and Nene properly. In this adaptation those two are more or less the same as the original. Priss being the cool and somewhat detached ace and Nene being the cutesy hacker working as their inside man in the AD Police. Linna actually gets to have a character this time around! Not only that but the show starts it’s very first episode from her perspective as the idealistic small town girl going to Tokyo to get the most cyberpunk job of all. A shitty office job. High tech low life indeed. Still she wants to join the Knight Sabers that she heard about on the internet. As the devious Genom makes sure that the news don’t report to them they’re just a rumor. Sylia is given a new lease on life as a more mysterious ( with a mystery that’s actually clearly explained this time around ) and tortured character with a seemingly personal vendetta towards boomers that plays a big part into the story. Yes! You heard me right. Story! This show actually tells a complete story from beginning to end unlike the original. Now I absolutely don’t want to spoil any of it because it’s quite a ride once it’s set everything up. Although if you’re at all familiar with the works of Chiaki Konaka who had a hand with the script of this series you can probably guess that it occasionally goes in some weird and dark directions. Not only that but they finally finished reading the “world building 101” book that they only briefly looked at in the original by actually showing the boomer working class that was so critical to the rebuilding efforts this time around ( although Crash did show some worker boomers as well ). Showing the general disdain that regular people seem to have towards boomers. Additionally Genom and Mason’s motivations are a little more clear this time around too instead of just infinite resources to throw at anything and zero strategy other than being shady and shadowy for the sake of it. The story and characters is the one place where the remake clearly and unequivocally beats the original as it actually bothers to explain itself and expand on things rather than just bringing things up and then forgetting about it such as Priss’ hatred for the AD Police for example.
Even though now AIC is way too busy coasting on it’s former glories and IPs to make new and original shows. A fate that is tragically too common with old school studios. Back then at least it seems the studio had some smarts and probably knew they couldn’t make this show as ultra stylish as the original, and instead playing to it’s strength in the writing department. After all the OVA had months in between episodes to perfect its Blade Runner worshiping aesthetic instead of a TV schedule to deal with for one. If they tried I have no doubt it would’ve failed completely. Instead they settle for the tried and true classic 90’s realism for their character designs. Although your mileage may vary when it comes to the redesign of the classic characters. I think the Priss redesign with the kind of spiky hair and sharper eyes captures the rebellious spirit of the original fairly well. The boomer designs are also more creative than the bootleg Terminators hidden in Genom secret service types that the original was so fond of. Everything from waitress boomers to Metal Gear style military boomers go mad. As they go mad they also grow monstrous and even eldritch looking at times. Liquid metal. I guess they updated from Terminator to Terminator 2 now that I think about it. Just because it’s nowhere near as stylish as the original doesn’t mean it looks bad. I prefer the 80’s aesthetic of the old show and it’s more detailed and alive looking take on the city. But it’s certainly not without it’s visually striking moments however. Though they mostly save those for around the end. The show is at it’s most stylish when it’s visually darker and shadowy in an almost horror-like manner. Perfectly complementing the monstrous boomers and making the Knight Sabers’ opponents much more intimidating. Besides everyone knows sunlight and good lighting are the most un-cyberpunk thing in the world. It’s animated well enough and fairly consistent. I only noticed one very odd slip up with Genom’s chairman occasionally not moving his lips while talking for some strange reason. I guess Genom works in mysterious ways. Otherwise it’s clear that care, polish and talent went into the series.
For the soundtrack you’re getting served up some rock music. Just in case episode titles such as “Are You Experienced” “We Built This City” and “Shock Treatment” didn’t clue you in. Although more alt rock and even sometimes industrial than the dad rock that the titles would suggest, some of them even being dad rock back in 98′. But atleast they didn’t reference REO Speedwagon. I’m pretty sure it was mandated by international law to downtune your guitar in the 90’s so you’re getting a lot of that. For garnish you might get some acid bleeps and bloops that sounds like they came straight from a 303. Since Priss is still in a rock band she gets to play some songs too. But here I have to absolutely stress that you’re not getting some sort of Konya Wa Hurricane showstoppers or even sequences where she gets to play a whole song while other stuff happens in some sort of montage. And even though I find the soundtrack to this show to have some good songs and it fits the tone of the show quite well ( I really like the OP song Y’know. The suspiciously sampled drums are delicious ) it comes up painfully and even embarrassingly short when compared to the lavish soundtrack of the original where the hits just kept on coming. AIC was probably aware of this and made the soundtrack more low key than the 80’s excess original to avoid comparisons. Although I doubt it helped their case all that much. Priss’ preformances are instead kept very short, presumably just as some sort of lipservice to the original. Or maybe to show that she has a hobby other than riding her officially mandated red cyberpunk motorcycle and being aloof.
I did love this show though. I was very fascinated by the mysteries that the series set up very early on. Such as Sylia’s past and her volatile reaction and emotions towards boomers. And that even almost 10 years later Nene is still best girl. Of all things they even gave an explanations for why the Knight Sabers are all female, y’know besides the fact that they’re more marketable that way. It’s pacing is kind of deliberate in the beginning . And it keeps some of it’s cards close to it’s chest until the very end. But it all leads up to something special let’s just put it that way.
As much as I love 80’s anime aesthetic. And I know there’s a lot of people out there that does too ( although they’re not really to be found on great numbers on MAL ) keep in mind that not everything has to be made exactly like they did back then. There’s joy to be had in exploring the different takes of different eras has on genres. It’s a beauty that all mediums hold, not just anime. Ignorant nu schoolers that only watch seasonal stuff should definitely go back and watch the classics to actually get some sort of basic understanding of the medium they claim to love and it’s rich history that might be lost if the community keeps going the way it is right now. And bitter old schoolers obviously needs to stop the Miyazaki style rambling and actually watch some good shows instead of just cherry picking the high school slice of shlock shows as examples. Unless they’re mech-heads ofcourse then I’ll pass them a 40′ and bow my head with them in remembrance of when Sunrise used to be good studio.
6: Saber Marionette J to X
Japanese: セイバーマリオネットJ to X
MAL Score: 7.29
Taking place mere months after the Saber Marionette J OVA series, this newest installment in the Saber Marionette line follows the continuing adventures of Otaru and his clan of selfless, obsessive marionette girls. This time, the evil Faust is back, and again toying with Marionette technology that was never meant to be explored. The Saber Dolls are back, and torn between their newfound love for Otaru and their undying loyalty to Faust; Will Otaru, Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry be able to stop Faust again, or are they all headed for the scrap heap?
First off for those that plan to watch the show, the plot synopsis is rather glaringly wrong. Faust is not an enemy in this series and the saber dolls do not fall in love with Otaru.
Now the first thing one would ask when watching a sequel is whether or not it measures up to it’s prequel. In my opinion it is not as good as the prequel, but there is still a lot to like. The music and sound have improved since the start, which may appeal to some. The fight scenes aren’t spectacular but get the job done, giving the sense of strength that the marionettes possess. It’s where character and story become involved that things get iffy.
Shows like this aren’t exactly known for their deep plots full of betrayal and woe, so where story goes you have to look at it in a certain light. The story wasn’t bad, but at times felt painfully obvious. In all honesty though the show did really grip me in the key points and I really enjoyed it. The main problem I had was that it really chugged at points, making me lose all interest. When the show picked up it was good but pushing through was difficult for me at times. The show had a great ending that had originality (as far as I know, anyway) and really made me want more episodes, so even though it was slow at times it did have really good moments as well.
Character development is also a rather large hurdle this show tripped on. The marionettes have mostly grown their maiden circuits to the max from the first series and did not change much from that end on. The first series had a strong plot foundation for development that tried to stretch into this show as well, but in my opinion did a lackluster job of it. That being said, while the characters did not do much developing, I still enjoyed their varied personalities a great deal and really enjoyed the show.
Nothing showstopping. Really just stretching the material for another season, but for those who enjoyed the first, a great continuation with a stellar ending that made me sad it was over and wanting more episodes, and really what more can you ask for?
5: Yuusha-Ou GaoGaiGar
English: King of Braves GaoGaiGar
MAL Score: 7.82
In the year 2005, a race of alien monsters called Zonders emerge from underground and launch a series of attacks on the city of Tokyo. The only defense against these creatures is the secret agency known as the Gutsy Geoid Guard (or 3G) and their ultimate weapon, the awesome giant robot GaoGaiGar. GaoGaiGar’s pilot, Guy Shishio, is a former astronaut who was nearly killed two years before when the Zonders first crashed to earth. Guy’s life was spared when a mysterious robot lion called Galeon pulled him from the burning shuttle and brought him to Earth. Guy’s father, Leo, then used Galeon’s technology to rebuild his shattered son as a cyborg, in the hopes that he could stop the aliens when they appear. Now, with Galeon as its core, GaoGaiGar fights to protect Earth. He is aided by a team of transforming robots and by a young boy named Mamoru, who has the power to purify the Zonders’ cores, and seems to be connected to the mysterious Galeon.
The over-the-top characters play a big part in this. Guy Shishio is a badass without even trying. He’s a man’s man, who’ll never give up, no matter how difficult the odds. While this kind of character is a staple for super robot shows, Guy takes hot-blooded to new levels with his ridiculous screaming, speeches, and Zonder-breaking. He’s a static character, but he’s so likable that you don’t really mind. I don’t usually faun over voice actors, but Nobuyuki Hiyama (you’ll know him as Viral from TTGL and Link from the Zelda games) does an excellent job. His yells and dramatic speeches have real weight behind them-they’ll blow you away. Guy’s English voice, Michael Sinterhisnameistoocomplicatedtospell does a very commendable job filling out Guy’s shoes-I’d send him a bottle of throat spray if I could.
The rest of the human characters are relatively stock as well, but none of them are forgettable-especially Taiga, the Commander of the Gutsy Geroid Guard’s Japanese branch. You owe it to yourself to watch this show, if only to see his dramatic pointing. Really, that guy can point. Despite the male-oriented nature of the show, there are plenty of strong female characters who play their part in the GGG epic, and aren’t just fanservice, either. Guy’s girlfriend and technical support also plays a role that you won’t expect. One of the few characters that gets some decent development is the magical boy protagonist Mamoru-a refugee from an alien civilization that is the key to victory on more than one occasion. I can hear you groaning already, but trust me-you’ll learn to love him more than you ever thought you would.
Like Transformers before it, the robot members of the GGG (you’re going to see that letter a lot, so get used to it) are characters as well. They’re sentient, and have distinct (and cheesy) personalities, from the ninja police car intelligence agent Volfogg (yes, this is an amazing combination, and unlike vodka and soy milk, it will not give you a headache) to the American-made rock-and-roll bard-class bot Mic Sounders XIII. Even though they’re stock characters and, well, robots, you end up feeling for them.
The titular robot, while not sentient itself (or is it), has a character all its own. In the beginning of the show, GaoGaiGar moves like a creaky, slapped together bucket of bolts-it’s been hastily built to defend the earth from the approaching threat from space, and it shows. The signature combination sequence barely works, and the finishing move, Hell and Heaven, damages GaoGaiGar and is slowly killing its pilot. Even until the end, GaoGaiGar cannot handily defeat any enemy without the help of the other members of the team, and the clever way the writers find a way for it to win despite its limitations serve as a handy way to break up the monotony that usually plagues shows like this.
The silly-looking design aesthetic that permeates GGG (the robot) and the show doesn’t detract from how brutal it can be. GaoGaiGar breaks its enemies in the most literal fashion every episode. Even with the over-the-top antics, the show separates itself from other super robot shows, and the other Yuusha/Brave series by grounding it with a sense of plausibility and strict continuity that you don’t see in a lot of anime. One look at the gorgeously animated stock transformation sequence is proof of the ridiculous attention to detail in GaoGaiGar. While most super robots are known for their “unpossible” transformations, GaoGaiGar is covered in tiny vents, treads, panels and blinking lights that you’ll only catch for a glimpse. Even the inside was completely drawn out in the concept art, and you can see the mechanical designs (even for a pink VW van!), along with fictional specifications in the eyecatches. All of this comes to a frothy, delicious head with the few plot twists and “keys to victory” scattered through the series. When you see some of them, you’ll gasp, and want to go back and look for them in every episode. It gets even more ridiculous when a seemingly useless and innocuous prop becomes the key to victory in the spectacular OVA GaoGaiGar Final! (Seriously, you’ll shit a brick.)
The music is nothing short of a triumph. There’s an amazing leitmotif going throughout, from the “Final Fusion” gattai scene to the GGG’s theme, and of course, Mic Sounder’s amazing power up songs. You’ll be humming them on the way to work or school.
All of the pieces of the show coalesce into something both familiar and wonderful. You know a series is worth watching when you wonder what you ever did before you’d seen it, and GGG is one of the rare anime titles that I’d put up on that lofty pedestal. It’s a true labor of love, filled with fanservice for every stripe. Like the show itself, the message of courage and perseverance might seem cheesy at first, but it not only grows on you, but envelops you, in a way that few other shows can.
It’s must see for super robot fans, and I’d encourage everyone to buy the DVDs. If you know me well, you know that I don’t like paying for anime. Fuck Luffy, I’m the true Pirate King. If you see an anime DVD on my shelf, then you know I think it’s not only worth the money, but one worth celebrating. It’s probably the highest praise I can give any series.
Any effort this grand deserves to be compensated for. I highly recommend it.
When I first began to watch the show I was pretty dissapointed. The early episodes of this series aren’t exactly bad, but they sure are mediocore. The biggest problem in GaoGaiGar is the pacing. The first 25 episodes are barely worth watching, they’re meant to introduce the cast characters I’m sure, but story wise not much happens. Its really formuliac stuff, kinda like you’d expect out of a 70’s super robot show. Each episode follows the same grind of a monster appearing, GaoGaiGar swoops in to save the day and uses a new move.
I wouldn’t blame anyone for missing out these episodes all together. You won’t miss anything, and after episode 25 the story becomes much more fast paced and interesing. Still, the series never quite shakes this monster of the week formula, and if that isn’t your thing GaoGaiGar probably isn’t for you, unless you have a whole lot of dedication.
I was initially put off by the designs in this series. The character designs are very basic, especially the many annoying kid characters, who all look like they’ve stumbled into the wrong show. The mecha designs are something you’ll either love or hate. Their done by Kunio Okawara, who’s well known for doing the designs for most of the Brave series. His designs aren’t anything new, very blocky, and have more of a resemblence to Transformers than the works of Go Nagai like most SR shows have. The titular GaoGaiGar has a nice design, but the rest, especially the villains, were a bit basic for my tastes.
The animation itself isn’t terrible, the best of it ussually saved for those truly epic scenes every now and then, but there is an overeliance of re-used animation. Towards the end of the series I was becoming really bored of seeing the same damn attacks over and over again! I realise that this is common in mecha, but there have been plenty of SR shows which didn’t rely on stock footage nearly as heavily as this series.
They’re isn’t much to write home about in this department. The OP itself is brilliant, but other than that it was pretty bland. Still I can’t say anything harmed my senses.
The biggest annoyance in this categorie were the child characters. They were supposed to be cute, but Mamoru and his friends often come off as more annoying than that. By the end of the series these characters do mature a bit, but they still got way too much screentime throughout the series.
The rest of the cast was pretty mixed. The protaganists are nothing you wouldn’t expect out of a super robot series, and neither are the villains. I only wish they’d spent more time fleshing out some of the more interesting members of GGG, rather than just Guy and Mamoru all the time. Towards the end of the series I found myself appreciating some of the characters more, but over all it was a pretty bland cast.
Obviously, I went into GaoGaiGar with high expectations and was dissapointed. Its not the worst Super Robot show, but its by no means the best. There are moments greatness in this series. The last ten episodes especially are filled with everything I could want out of a series like this, tension, outlandish battles, manly speaches and heroic sacrafice.
But that doesn’t make up for the huge amounts of filler in this show, and the blandness of some of the characters and mecha. Its a fairly enjoyable series, worthy of its place in the super robot pantheon, just be sure to realise that it might not be worth ALL the praise it gets.
The best way to watch this show is in small chunks, on a saturday morning, turning your brain off and just enjoying the many manly screams of
The story is a basic Super Robot anime. It revolves around the members of Gusty Geoid Guard, Or GGG for short, as they deal with attacks from the Zonders, who are an alien machine race. The first 25 episodes are pretty standard monster of week, which mostly serve as a way to slowly introduce new characters and weapons for GGG. Please be aware that this show was meant to sell toys. After that though, the series begins to grow and the real plot begins to unfold, and that is where it really shines.
The Art is very well done for a show done in the late 90’s. It has well defined lines and bright vivid colors which create very crisp visuals. Everything in this show has its own identity and nothing blurs together.
Oh, this is what makes a super robot go from good to fantastic. GaoGaiGar has some of the best sounds and OST in any anime I have watched; and I have heard stuff from aldnoah.zero and Attack On Titan. Every sound from Golion’s roar to the G stone charging up is uniquely its own. I especially liked the sound they use for the machine noises when robots are combining. GaoGiaGar also has a great OST. Evey character has his or her theme song to go with them; the most memorable being GaoGaiGar Final Fusion theme. The voice work in GaoGaiGar is top notch with Hiyama Nobuyuki voicing Guy. I just loved hearing him yell out, “HIKARI NI NARA!!”
With every Super Robot anime the selling point is the robots and GaoGaiGar delivers it in tenfolds. The hero of this story is a cyborg named Guy who is a man’s man boiling to the brim with courage and bravery who is also a symbol of hope to everyone else. Guy is also accompanied by fellow brave robots, the twin rescue brothers HyoRyu, who claim collective and his hothead brother EnRyu who is a shoot first ask questions kind of person. There is also the Ninja Police Intelligence Officer Volfogg. On the human side the most predominate would be Mamoru. Hes a kid with the unlikely ability to purify the Zondar cores. There are many more but you get the idea, its a colorful cast of robots and people that you can’t help but love.
Overall, I really did enjoy GaoGaiGar. It delivers on everything that a Super Robot Show should. Yeah, there are faults. Namely, it takes time to build up to its main plot point. If you can’t stand monster of the week formula, it probably won’t do much for you, but if you enjoy over-the-top crazy robot fights with yelling and more courage than you can handle, this is the show for you.
Gutsy Geoid Guard, Mobilize!
4: Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star
English: Outlaw Star
MAL Score: 7.86
Gene Starwind has always dreamed of piloting his own ship out into the vast sea of stars. Unfortunately, not all dreams come true, as he spends his days working odd jobs alongside his partner, James Hawking, on the small planet Sentinel III instead. However, this all takes a turn when the duo takes on a job from Rachel Sweet who, unbeknownst to them, is actually a treasure-hunting outlaw. Tasked with protecting a mysterious girl known as Melfina, the meeting irrevocably changes the pair’s lives as they are sent out into the great unknown aboard the highly advanced ship, Outlaw Star.
Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star follows Gene and his ragtag crew as they brave the final frontier, navigating the stars in search of answers to the mysteries surrounding Melfina. Encountering dangerous bounty hunters, space pirates, Taoist mages, and even catgirls, there is sure to be an exhilarating adventure around every corner.
Each of the major charachters were written and portrayed perfectly. Gene, seemingly a selfish and arrogant ass, surprises you again and again with displays of his softer side, especially when it comes to Melfina. Jim, while only 11 often seems more mature than Gene, and tends to be the voice of reason trying to keep Gene’s impulsive nature under control, yet despite that still has a lot of growing up to do, and was my favourite charachter in the show. The charachter of Melfina mostly remains undeveloped until the final few episodes, as her lack of knowledge of who she is is essential to the plot, yet it is not a bad thing that for most of the series she remains the nervous and innocent girl who only wants to find out who or what she is, as this brings out a lot of the hidden qualities of Gene and Jim. Finally, Gilliam, the Outlaw Star’s computer, who one would expect to just be a functional machine, stands out as a charachter in his own right, showing bonds with Gene, Jim and Melfina that one wouldn’t expect from a machine, and sometimes a hint of sarcasm in his voice as he complies with Gene’s “brilliant” orders.
The story itself moves at a decent pace, never too fast to keep up, yet in places does have the occaisional filler episode, which either serves to entertain in breaks in the serious plot, or to highlight a certain plot point. While the series would be no worse without them, they were entertaining and enjoyable, and the two that spring to mind both provide background information to the universe that wasn’t necessary, but still interesting to know. The universe is a wildly varied setting perfect for such an adventure, with a combination of science fiction technology and ancient eastern mysticism. The technology never gets in the way of the plot, and the mystic powers driving some events keep the show from becoming hardcore science fiction. Combined with Gene’s very down to earth way of dealing with the unknown, this mix keeps the plot moving rather than letting it get bogged down in pointless explanation. That’s not to say that nothing is explained, everything relevant to the plot is, but in an interesting way that doesn’t just becoming a drone of dull facts, technobabble and nonsense that can often be the downfall of science fiction.
Overall, this show is incredibly enjoyable and has something for everyone. It’s an adventure of the kind you used to dream of as a kid, yet it also asks what makes us human. It has it’s funny moments, and also it’s touching moments. It combines human (/alien/bio-mechanoid/machine/etc) drama with awesome space battles and gunfights, and even leaves this fan of explosions and lasers unsure which he enjoyed more. Watch it, you will not be disappointed.
I just recently found Outlaw again and decided to rewatch the series again, since it had been years since I watched it last.
It was not as good as I had remembered… it was 10x better! I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and I wasn’t bored… once. And if your able to keep my attention for 26 episodes straight, then your doing something right.
I’ll start with the story. It was very enjoyable, and something that pretty much anyone could jump into, anime fan or not. It has a straight forward story but still manages to be deep and meaningful. If I were trying to get someone into anime, this would be the anime I would hand them.
The art was also very good. The animation (particularly the action scenes) flow very nicely and isn’t choppy or glitchy at any point. There were a few times that I noticed that Gene was missing some details, but this is easily forgivable and not very noticeable.
The sound was good. The soundtrack wasn’t anything memorable, but wasn’t bad by any means. Not much to say other than that.
The characters were extremely fun and diverse, which I like in a cast. You got the main protagonist; Gene Starwind, an outlaw and womanizer. You then have Jim Hawking (kid sidekick), Melfina (a bio-android with an unkown propose), Aisha Clanclan (catgirl and comic relief), Suzuka (badass assassin chick), and the best fictional computer ever, Gilliam II. You can’t help but fall in love with all these characters as the show goes on.
The villains were all pretty cool, but I wish we could’ve seen some more development with them. Like Lord Hazanko and his unit The Anten Seven. You really don’t see much of them until the last few episodes. The MacDougall brothers were pretty cool (Ron especially since we share somewhat of a resemblance >_>)
Overall, this is one of the best anime’s I’ve ever seen. There’s ton’s of fun to be had here, and the rewatch value is very high with this one (which is a major plus on my end). If you enjoy Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Blade Runner, and just Sci Fi in general- no, if you just enjoy fun movies in general, I HIGHLY recommend this series. You won’t regret it….
The story is interesting for what it could be not for what it is, after the 4th episode, the story is put aside and it turns to be an episodic anime, where it leads to nowhere and they live to pay their debts by making jobs that aren’t interesting not even for Gene, but he does anyways if the sum is high or if he needs money fast, then the story sort of continues 2 eps. in the middle then again episodic, and in the last 3 eps. the story finally gets somewhere and is really good and i thought if every episode was like this, the story could be amazing but it was mediocre.
The art style looked good at the beginning but in every episode the drawing was inconsistent and got worse and the characters face looked different, the animation in the fight scenes were bad, almost always, even for that time there were better animations, and because of this i couldn’t like or relate to the characters, a mediocre art style.
The sound was the best of the anime, very good voice acting, great OP song, i wasn’t bored because the VA, or the sound overall, there are 2 ED songs which are melodic, they are good, but i didn’t felt it was fitting for the anime, the sound effects were good, overall was very good.
Well the characters were normal, nothing special, just Hilda, 4 eps. and she was the best, is a shame what happens to her, she easily could be the MC, I didn’t felt Gene was well developed, not even his backround, Jim was kind of interesting, i felt sorry for him in ep. 20 because he never knew what he did, it was sad, Aisha was likeable but annoying too and Suzuka wasn’t interesting, she was there because… i don’t know, they never got a backround, mediocre character development.
For some reason i enjoyed the anime, i wasn’t bored, i think i couldn’t handle the animation, the filler episodes weren’t bad but didn’t add anything to the story, maybe i enjoyed it because the setting was in the space but anyways i got a good enjoyment.
3: Serial Experiments Lain
English: Serial Experiments Lain
MAL Score: 8.05
Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain’s life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. Strange men called the Men in Black begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.
Written by Chiaki J. Konaka, whose other works include Texhnolyze, Serial Experiments Lain is a psychological avant-garde mystery series that follows Lain as she makes crucial choices that will affect both the real world and the Wired. In closing one world and opening another, only Lain will realize the significance of their presence.
Introduction: I find myself typing this review thinking more about the conceptualization of existence, than the anime itself. Above all, there are two standards I hold true for anime. There are anime that simply entertain for the sake of enjoyment, and there are anime that stretches the boundary of human imagination. Serial Experiments Lain falls in the latter category and for this reason Serial Experiments Lain stands out as a true classic. Serial Experiments Lain pushes the envelope of what the perceived notion of what can be done with television as a medium. The show doesn’t just provide entertainment; it provides insight, and profound views and beliefs about technology and the role it plays in society. With that said it’s time to get on with the review.
Story: Given that Lain’s story progression is very disjointed, if the execution were to be even off by the slightest, the show would have been ridden with plot holes. Lain however doesn’t need worry about plot and story in the same sense as other anime, but instead relies on the atmosphere and the characters to tell the story. What little plot Lain does have, the show works with it fabulously. Now some may argue that Lain is completely plot driven, but to each his own. Personally I believe that Lain strays as far as it can from bland episodic story telling, and in essence is similar to Citizen Kane in the aspect that the story has little to do with the show. Lain above all is a character study, and the plot only moves forward under the characters.
Art: Despite the art being off center in terms of traditional anime, it hardly deters from the overall enjoyment of the series. It is important to note that the series actually benefits from the unique art style presented in Lain. Art is not a big pulling factor for Lain, so if you are a fan of high quality art, you may be in for a rough ride.
Sound: The series relies on a minimalist approach to sound and music. Dialogue is sparse, but very profound. Sound effects are seldom used but with brevity, and has a lasting impact on the viewer. Once again, this lack of a quality that would normally be detrimental to an anime’s enjoyment, but becomes one of Lain’s strengths. The sound of the electricity running through power lines, the empty sound of Lain typing on her keyboard, and the scarce use of music. These are all memorable pieces of sound effects that adds to the overall impact of the show.
Character: Now this is where Lain shines brightest. In a vast wasteland of mundane same-old, Lain sticks out as an anime that takes its characters to a level that most anime can only dream of achieving. The character of Lain is perhaps the most deep and relevant characters in anime today. To explain upon this point, one would have to watch the series and comprehend the various themes and motif’s on one’s own. But in order to be brief, Lain’s character can be summarized as ascending from human status, to near God like power through the prowess of the internet. Ahem, I mean, “The Wired.” It’s a simple concept and seems like it has been done before, giving credit to the argument, and it probably has. But the beauty here is the cast of side characters that surround Lain. Her sister, her father, mother, and friends, are all extremely deep characters, that although don’t appear to be, are actually extremely poignant in their own right.
Enjoyment & Closing: If watched with an open mind, Lain will do more than simply entertain. It is truly revolutionary anime for its time, and the amount of depth in the show is utterly staggering. Never in my years of watching anime have I seen a show as thought provoking as Lain. If one were so inclined to contact me, we could talk for hours upon hours of the religious symbols, and religious references that run about the shows course. We could then change the subject to comparing Lain’s character to that of philosophy of the Jungian Shadow. We could converse and discover deeper and more universal meanings as time progressed. Lain is such a show that the viewer doesn’t just watch it. The viewer must be pushed to think, and who doesn’t want to do a bit a of thinking once in a while?
Serial Experiments Lain is a paragon of many dimensions, and completely unparalleled in many more. It’s a masterpiece of intellectuality, and utterly unparalleled in providing a mind-warping trip into extreme psychological and philosophical themes whose impact lingers and haunts like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
This is going without saying that Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most inaccessible creations of art to grace the medium of Animation, and it is difficult to even describe its complexity. There is a broad range of ideas, all of which have massive depth in their facets, which could all be focused on as a main point. Generally, these themes involve technologies impact on society, thorough deconstruction of the internet, the psychology of an impersonal god, Etcetera. In addition, the massive breadth of theoretical possibilities to many of the open-ended points in Serial Experiments Lain’s plot and themes is without limit.
There is more things to breakdown and go into detail than could ever be summed in a simple article, especially considering the more subjective aspects. What I will going into is the realistic nature of the setting and plot of Lain, the mechanics of the show, and ultimately to the madness that lies within the later themes of Serial Experiments Lain.
**Section 1: Exposition Methods & Related Devices**
Concerning the plot of the first half of the show, the delivery is extremely cryptic and mysterious. There is little aspects of the plot structure in which one definitive point is summed up, rather it’s ever-evolving, chapter-less, and amorphous. Points are conveyed not through clear, upfront events, but through innumerable small details continuously revealed throughout the course of each episode. Everything is a puzzle made up of tiny little fragments of information, the bonding of each piece comprising of the viewer’s continuous contemplation and theorization of what is going on, and what is next. Eventually, through no clear, definitive point, but over a general expanse of time, the big picture clicks into place.
The latter half of the show, starting somewhere in the 6th episode or so, is an even higher dimension of intellectual exposition. In the first half, the themes involved with each small detail conveyed would be mentioned some way or another. The philosophical notions and ideas, as well as most of the psychological aspects, are found entirely through the viewer’s own questioning. This side of the plot, which holds some of most powerful ideas and content of its genre that I’ve ever witnessed, are never expressed in any moment through the face-value of events that occur, but entirely through the varying levels of connotations. There are no narratives, clear explanations, or dialogue, only the viewer’s ability to string together the numerous implications of events into powerful, complex systems of ideas.
The methods listed places Serial Experiments Lain on a level of intellectual sophistication that is, as of this day, unrivalled. Common tropes of exposition found in mainstream Japanese animation usually involve not only singular points of very direct narratives or dialogue, but outright illogical halts to events taking place in way for spoon-feeding the audience information to degree’s that outright kill immersion, or even break the 4th wall. Serial Experiments Lain is the absolute anti-thesis of this. Through the constant connotation-heavy, cryptic exposition, almost the entire burden of figuring out what is happening is placed on the intellect of the viewer.
In tandem with the exposition method is the pacing of the events that occur. Particularly in the first half of the show, the pacing for the most part is slow, drawn out, and takes it’s time with every detail presented. It’s true that it goes over-board in this regard at some points, however, it’s inextricable to success of the shows exposition method, which I will demonstrate in an analogy: If I were to present a person with a puzzle, demand it to be pieced together quickly, and then toss all pieces in the person’s face, said person wouldn’t make heads or tails of the puzzle. A puzzle is formulated and solved one piece at a time until the bigger picture is revealed.
This illustrates the key function of the slow pacing in the show. The significance of each bit of information presented is only designated by how each scene takes its time in revealing said information. If the show were to completely scrap this pacing in way for a faster speed, nothing would be able to serve as a cue to the importance of a bit of information versus an irrelevant bit. The viewer wouldn’t be able to register enough information to form a bigger picture, and the exposition as a whole would simply fail. In order for the cryptic nature of the exposition to not fall into incoherency, lengthiness of time must be utilized.
*Section 2: Realism – Part I*
Suspension of Disbelief is a critical aspect of Serial Experiments Lain. That is, the complete lack of any cause for disbelief what so ever. Before I go on about how Serial Experiments Lain achieves a grounded sense of tangible realism, and why it’s so relevant later on in the anime, I’ll first explain a few things about disbelief, and what too much suspension of disbelief can do to the emotional impact of an art piece.
Disbelief is what naturally arises when a viewer witnesses something that is extra-ordinary, fundamentally different, or super-natural in relation to the real world the viewer lives in. Disbelief isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if there is plenty of aspects of the show that are congruent with our own reality, or that the extra-ordinary premises are developed into some kind of sensible system I.E. if you can present a sufficient amount of science or logic behind what’s happening. However, regardless if it affects the show negatively in an immediate sense, which it can very much do, inundating a viewer with material that requires vast suspension of disbelief changes the nature of the effect.
Take a show like Naruto for example, where the characterizations are almost nonsensically dramatic and flamboyant. It’s true that it’s very entertaining to watch, but in reality, no one is going to spontaneously pass out at the sight of a tasty bowl of noodle soup, or yell at someone with so much force that they are lifted off their feet and fly ten blocks away, let alone survive.
An even better example, which highlights the negative aspects of what disbelief can do, is any sort of prelude or interlude you might find in a standard Shonen anime Ala. Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, or Soul Eater. In these scenes, usually, each side spends inordinate amounts of time explaining things. These explanations can be either totally nonsensical in the context (a villain explaining every fighting move he uses to the protagonist, or vis versa), or reach eye-rolling lengths (rants that go tens of minutes in length with no real reason why fighting isn’t happening. (I know it’s called filler material, and I don’t care))
The primary flaw in a consistent need for the viewer to suspend their disbelief is that the long-term impact of the show is lessened in proportion. While suspending one’s disbelief opens you up to the realm of the ridiculous and the fantastic, it also increases the emotional distance from the show and the real world. A viewer might get swept off their feet by a story about forest spirits and cosmic gods, but once we return to our daily lives, “real world” begins to over-write and obscure the emotions lingering from the experience. This is because the premises we are subjected to outside of the show have nothing in common with reality. In this regard, Serial Experiments Lain is incredible in a sense that not many show’s I’ve seen have achieved.
This quality, which is the utter lack of any cause for disbelief, is facilitated in two key ways, the first being the characterizations of the show. Just like the qualities of the expositions method (and by extension the existence of the entire plot), this is also an inaccessible part of the show. The characterizations of the show are, for lack of more interesting words, straight-forward, serious, and extremely mundane in a very “real life” way. This may seem like the shows biggest down fall, due to it lacking any sort of conventional values of humor, drama, goofy/silliness, or any sort of distinctly Japanese flavor of ‘wacky’. However, these issues are only skin deep, as they, just like the plot, serve to ground the viewer in a sense of absolute realism when the later half of the show begins to take off. That is, in the moments of absolute madness, there is no point in which the idea that “this could happen to real people, or people I actually know” falters.
The second key point is the plot. Speaking of which…
*Section 3: The Setting, and The Wired*
The plot elements involving the first half of Serial Experiments Lain are absolutely crucial to formulating the basis of, as well as a sense of logic and realism to, the second half of the show, which is where the truly transcendental madness lies. In particular, the plot concerning who and what Lain Iwakura is, what The Wired is and it’s functions, and what it’s relationship with humanity and Lain is. It’s important to note that The Wired’s relationship to Lain and the rest of the Human race are drastically different. However, due to the fact that the progressions of the plot lines aren’t found in singular events, but arrays of small details scattered through out each episode, there is a sort of vagueness to the origin of each idea presented in the show. This makes the subject extremely complex and difficult to even approach.
The initial setting of the show centers around a junior high schooler named Lain Iwakura. Lain is a very shy, distant, and extremely detached individual. She has a group of female friends which act typical in whatever ways junior high schoolers act, and they occasionally spice up there lives by going to an underground nightclub. It’s all extremely mundane and normal, until things take a turn into the unknown when strange occurrences revolving around something called “The Wired” begin to happen.
Initially, the appearance of The Wired seems to be the show’s equivalent to the internet, both technologically and sociologically. However, the nature of The Wired is revealed to have drastically different dimensions, mainly in the distinguishability between itself and the ‘real world’. This is illustrated through quite a few events that happen through out the first 4 episodes.
In the details of the first episode, one of Lain’s classmates commits suicide. A period of time after Lain Iwakura discovers this, Lain starts receiving emails from her dead class-mate which claim that “she crossed over into The Wired”. These emails show, somehow, that her conciousness still exists. Another series of events involve depictions of people undergoing strange hallucinations in episode 4. One of which particularly involved a teenage boy who seems to be undergoing what, on the surface, seems to be a severe hallucination of being trapped in some kind of dungeon-based video game. Ultimately, the boy ends up killing a girl he believed to be some sort of dungeon monster… What follows this is very crucial, and has vast implications.
After the event, Lain is shown gathering details on the incident, and what is gathered is that the boy had desired to play a video game (called Phantoma) with in The Wired. After this bit of detail, Lain’s father approaches her and engages in a dialogue, saying that Lain must remember that the only function of The Wired is to contain and transfer information, and that it’s not to be confused with the real world. Lain responds with a denial of this, stating that the difference between The Wired and reality isn’t clear at all. This dialogue, coupled with how the incidences involving people playing video games in The Wired, which resulted in experiences that completely blended with their perception and sense of reality, begin to point toward the nature of The Wired as something that is able to manipulate the conciousness of those who are connected to it.
In the episode 5, through the fragmented dialogues involving Lain and a variety of floating puppets, it’s revealed that external reality is a “Hologram” of the information contained within The Wired. Everything that ‘exists’ is simply centralized projections of the collective information that The Wired contains. The final progression is wrapped through two key events. The first is Lain’s sister, Mika, getting into a car crash. Through some freak accident involving her connection to The Wired, Mika’s mind gets duplicated into two separate instances, both of which begin to have their own experiences and become their own individuals. The second point comes much later in the show, where the exposition on the origin of The Wired, and its purpose, takes place. This exposition shows that later in the development on the technology behind The Wired, a scientist named Masami Eiri began to implement the ability for The Wired to become permanently connected to people on an unconsciousness level. The scope of this implementation was not just singular targets, but everyone on Earth. This is what is referred to as “The 7th Protocol of The Wired”.
So… What does it all mean? What exactly is The Wired, ultimately? It is two-fold: technological, and metaphysical. Concerning the technology behind The Wired, it’s some kind of global array of devices which, through some means, fundamentally affect the psyche of everyone on the planet. Through out the show, Physicalistic Mind-philosophy is a position taken as true, specifically that the human mind is electrical impulses in the brain, which can be affected and manipulated like any other electrical system. This presumably involves some sort of machinery that can wirelessly interface with, and therefore manipulate, human brains. However, there is another side to the technology, and that is the digitalization of conciousness itself. To put it more in the semantics used in the show, the complete translation of the human mind into a construct of information contained completely within The Wired, which can exist independent of any brain or body. This seems to be largely the case for most people later in the show, and is actually what happened to Lain’s classmate who killed herself in the beginning of the show, so it’s safe to presume that this is the universal case.
The second dimension of The Wired is metaphysical. To a universal, omniscient perspective which theoretically isn’t connected to The Wired, The Wired is simply psyche-affecting technology. However, given the truth explained about how mind’s who are connected to The Wired are completely integrated into The Wired, the meaning of The Wired when considering limited, human observers is absolutely fundamental. As explained in Episode 5, everything experienced by someone who is connected to The Wired are projections, or ‘holograms’, of information stored within The Wired. Given the fact that all of humanity is connected to The Wired, this logically means that the entirety of all experience-able and observable reality is The Wired, and any other conceivable basis for reality is equivalent to non-existence, due to how minds contained within The Wired having no means of experiencing something outside The Wired.
It doesn’t stop there. The Wired’s fundamental link to all observable phenomena goes beyond what is external to the human observer, but actually extends to the mind of each human observer itself. Not only is external phenomena projections of information in The Wired, but every level of mental phenomena that make up concious beings are simply autonomous constructs of information as well. This key fact serves as the basis for how everything, including the minds of human beings, can be manipulated, created, or erased in any way or means. This ties in with who Lain Iwakura is.
*Section 4: Lain Iwakura*
To preface, Lain Iwakura is an extremely detached individual. Lain is detached not just in a social way, but in a completely fundamental way: She seems to not really ‘connect’ with the entirety of her own reality, as if something were very subtly… wrong. Coupled with this is how utterly lost she is with in here own mind. I find this very intriguing and relatable because of how similar this behaviour is to my own, due to some aspects of my own mind. I often have my attention detracted into ‘clouds’ of mental noise that are usually extremely ungrounded in reality, at times bordering on out right craziness. This psychology is quite similar to Lain’s own kind of wanderings with in herself.
However, in exactly the same sense of how The Wired has unfathomably vaster facets to itself than its initial appearance, there is too more to Lain Iwakura than meets the eye. Actually, what is met by the eye at all would be closer to outright deception. Firstly, the name “Lain Iwakura” doesn’t actually refer to one particular person, but more accurately describes multiple beings…
From the get go, Lain Iwakura’s exact identity, in terms of it being singularly defined, is brought into confusion in the first few episodes, particularly when she visits the local nightclub. In scattered dialogues she has with various people that enjoy the night club scene, Lain Iwakura is talked about as if she is two different people. At one point a boy flirts with her, asking her to come back when she is her “wild side”. Another point is when the DJ of the club makes some sort of inquiry to her, only to dismiss her because “she wants to play her shy kid side”. During a few brief incidents, particularly involving a person who actually commits suicide in the night club via shooting himself, Lain is shown abruptly switching to a much more assertive, aggressive demeanour.
At first it simply seems to be the inklings of a Split Personality Disorder. However, episode 6 through 7 add a dimension to the problem. In episode six, Lain Iwakura is shown wondering through projected landscapes of data in The Wired (different from the projections that make up of Tokyo), attempting to find a certain scientist who worked on the technological prototypes of The Wired. In these scenes, she is entirely in her “aggressive” persona. In the beginning of episode 7, Lain speaks with her computer, expounding that there is a Lain in The Wired different from the shy Lain Iwakura, which is who she sees as herself. I feel it’s important to consider the occurrences shown in episode 5, involving Lain’s sister Mika. As discussed on what the implications of those events were, Mind duplication is possible in The Wired, and considering this, the dialogue at the beginning of Episode 7 begins to point toward the problems with Lain’s identity going beyond mere Split Personality Disorder.
There is another aspect of who, or more appropriately, what Lain Iwakura is, and this ties directly into the identity crisis that is about to come to a boil. Specifically, what is Lain’s relationship with The Wired…
Inklings of Lain Iwakura possessing some sort of great power of some nature are littered throughout the first 7 episodes. Lain is usually mentioned in almost all the dialogues describing the nature of The Wired, as well as the existence of some sort of ‘omnipresences’ or ‘god’ within The Wired. Whenever she is mentioned, she is described as carrying some immense power, or that her will is somehow crucially important.
Two particular incidents should be considered. The final scene of Episode 2 involves Lain Iwakura and her normal group of friends hanging out in the night club. At one point, a man shoots and kills a random female. Everyone begins to clear out of the club, but Lain stands transfixed. The man recognizes her for some reason, insinuates that Lain is somehow forcing him to the actions of homicide against his own will, and referred to her as a “scattered god” (At least in my version of the Japanese to English subtitles). The second incident is around the middle of Episode 6, where Lain Iwakura is interrogating the scientist behind the prototypes in which the technology behind The Wired was based off of. Shortly before the end of the discussion, the scientist claims that Lain is extremely important to The Wired, and that she has unspeakable potential.
This finally leads us to the smoking gun: Episode 8. Around the beginning, Lain is confronted by her normal group of friends. Her closest friend, Arisu, begins to ask if Lain is guilty of something, though Arisu fails to specify what this exact something is. After repeated questioning, Arisu drops the accusation and wanders off. From this point, Lain has some rather vivid panic attacks involving quandaries about her other “me” in The Wired, worrying about what that “other Lain” did, and confused on the matter of who she is.
At the 14 minute mark on, things become clear. Arisu is shown, in her bedroom, sexually stimulating herself to a fantasy of one of her teachers, which is obvious by his imaginary figure standing over her. All of the sudden, from the corner of Arisu’s eye, Lain is seen sneering at her from Arisu’s bed, tangibly and physically. With a persona clearly different than the ‘Shy’ Lain Iwakura, the ‘pervert’ Lain beginnings to mock Arisu for her fantasy, and laugh in response to Arisu’s accusation of Lain spreading rumours of her perverse desires, which sends Arisu into an emotional fit. To fill in the rest of the context, Arisu was initially suspecting that the ‘shy’ Lain started a rumour about her fantasies about this specific teacher, when the ‘pervert’ Lain actually caused the initial rumors.
Simultaneous to this event, the ‘shy’ Lain is shown, physically and tangibly, lying in her own bed in a fit of panic. What follows can only be described as a artistically surrealistic depiction of a mental breakdown, which involves a conflict between the ‘aggressive’ Lain and the ‘pervert’ Lain on who each of them are, or who the “real” Lain is, and, to her distress, the ‘shy’ Lain is forced to endure.
Following this is a scene somewhere outside the projections making up Tokyo, the ‘aggressive’ Lain is seen talking with a concious being in the form of a shape-shifting sliver blob, who actually turns out to be Masami Eiri, the scientist who implemented the “7th protocol of The Wired”. This time, it’s flat out stated that Lain is an omnipresent being within The Wired. After a series of denials, Lain concludes that if what Eiri said is true, she could simply “delete” all the information involving the nasty rumours spread by Lain about Arisu. Information, in this case, meaning everyone’s memory. Eiri agrees and asks her to try it…
… And then Lain succeeds in doing exactly that, proving Eiri true. After a scene simply showing the word “deleting…”, the ‘Shy’ Lain Iwakura is shown walking to school, when her group of friends greet her in a very chipper fashion. As they run to her, Lain deduces that she actually did what is equivalent to ‘erasing’ the events surrounding the rumours from existence, as no one remembers it: She deleted all memory of it from The Wired. Just as Lain attempts to return their greeting, another Lain tangibly manifests itself from ‘shy’ Lain’s position, greeting her friends in a very socially engaging way clearly different from the ‘Shy’ Lain Iwakura. All this occurs as if the ‘Shy’ Lain were some sort of imperceptible ghost to the event, as no one actually senses her presence. Lain is left in denial, saying “Stop it! I am me; I’m over here”. In a state of shock, she watches her group of friends leave with the other Lain, when she is suddenly confronted with the ‘pervert’ Lain. She says “Lain is Lain, I am Me”, and the whole scene fades to white. The episode ends with the ‘Shy’ Lain asking her computer to affirm whether “I am me, and that there is no other me than me”, clearly in an inescapable quandary of the nature of her fundamental existence…
So what is Lain? Lain is the ‘admin’ of The Wired. Lain is a being capably of creating, erasing, or changing any and all information in The Wired at her will, and capable of existing and moving to any point and place within said information. In other words, Lain is the omnipresent, impersonal god of the entire universe in which humanity exists, as she can freely change all aspects of reality at will. The good question is WHO exactly is Lain Iwakura? Frankly, that’s clearly an open-ended question, but from the perspective of the ‘shy’ Lain Iwakura, Lain Iwakura is a multitude of persons, all of which are also “admins” of The Wired. As to who the initial or real one is, this is impossible to answer, as each one Lain Iwakura fundamentally interferes with all the social and external functions of every other Lain Iwakura, as well as the possibility that every Lain Iwakura can create or destroy other Lains, meaning any one Lain could have been the first.
*Section 6: Realism – Part II*
Everything said so far has paved the way to what is the crown jewel of what Serial Experiments Lain offers: the philosophical themes and psychological contexts, which I’ve somewhat touched upon already. However, before we finally journey into said madness, I feel there must be some final precepts that have to be covered.
In philosophy, particularly in the abstract and fundamental categories such as metaphysics or ontology, proper and convincing execution of any idea is an easy performance to fail. The logic behind a particular conclusion can wane to many unjustified leaps and gaps, tend toward insubstantially tangential pseudo-intellectuality, or degrade into nonsense. Generally speaking, the most common instances of anything resembling abstract philosophy in modern media is either wildly exaggerated poor critical thinking, or entirely based upon “what ifs” and unexamined presumption. It is a shame that this is so because abstract and existential philosophy can create some of the most profound experiences that can be conveyed, if done right.
It is from this aforementioned point that Serial Experiments Lain draws its greatest virtue: despite the utterly extreme degrees it achieves, everything is grounded with in what can be reasonably deduced or implied from the premises of the plot concerning the world, Lain Iwakura, The Wired, and its effect on humanity. Despite its venture into solipsistic-esque notions and profoundly Lovecraftian epistemological themes, not once is there a vast gap in the substance that spawned such extreme quandaries. Unlike most artistic creations concerning extremely disturbing abstract philosophy, Serial Experiments Lain actually provides a satisfying sense of logic to a degree that completely dissuades any doubt. Not only is the logic of such extreme notions solid, but the premises making up said logic are realistic and scientifically feasible.
Most of what happens in terms of philosophical and psychological horror is completely based in highly advanced levels of wireless technology, an absolute understanding of how conciousness works in the brain, which allows for its manipulation, and global-scale virtual reality. True it might be that these extreme levels of technology are offset by innumerable distances of scientific advances that we have yet to uncover, none of the notions present seem so far off that I would begin to disbelieve them. The ‘fiction’ part of the Science Fiction behind Serial Experiments Lain is highly questionable in whether it truly strays from reality. On good example: I am not quite convinced that conciousness manipulation via electronic interfacing with a brain qualifies as outright fictitiousness.
This key point, that the ‘fiction’ behind the philosophical themes might not be all that fictitious; that there is consistent feasibility, solid logical progression, and realism leading up to, and present within, the incomprehensible fringes that Serial Experiments Lains shots for, is the crux of its unforgettably haunting and traumatic effect. These notions aren’t something that can just be dismissed as wildly pseudo-intellectual propaganda, nor as emotional drivel. No… This could actually become a reality one day.
*Section 7: Metaphysics, Ontology, and Mind*
… and so we finally arrive at the monolith of unspeakable magnitude that is the philosophical and psychological contexts of Serial Experiments Lain.
The philosophical ideas and themes, and all accompanying psychological contexts that the show ultimately centralizes on, deal with the abstract categories of thought on a comprehensive scale: Philosophy of mind, free will, the concept of the self, reality, metaphysics, and even epistemology-esque notions. This is to say that Serial Experiments Lain attacks all angles of how we conceptualize the true nature of the reality that the psychological self must function in. The direction of horror selects every aspect of how we think and feel about existence itself, which, by virtue of these feelings and thoughts being the basis in which we mentally interact about the world, totally affects one’s feelings and thoughts on anything conceivable. The structure of the philosophy is also of great merit. The way the notions are presented, and how they connect, is as if one were approaching a vast web of complexity with no clear point of beginning nor end. Every idea presented is either a seamless progression from, directly tied to, or a direct implication of, another idea.
The first theme that develops is the basic metaphysical and ontological thought surrounding The Wired. As I have explained in the sections on The Wired & Lain Iwakura, the definition of The Wired and the “real world” blend until they are absolutely indistinguishable. Minds which connect to The Wired are transformed into digital information in the process. This means that The Wired isn’t merely a virtual reality overlaying one’s sense perceptions, as that would mean that the mind of the observer would be rooted in another “reality” beyond the virtual reality: There is clear ontological difference. When a connection takes place, the mind of the observer becomes apart of The Wired itself, making The Wired the only reality there is, and thus the ultimate reality.
From many different instances in the show, this notion is progressively frayed into a complex network of more specific, sinister ideas. Much of the thought following the aforementioned basic notions blend into Epistemology and further reflections of what reality is to a human observer within The Wired. Serial Experiments Lain introspects deeply upon what it means for something in reality to exist, or specifically, for something in the past to have actually occurred, and meditates on how humans can know of such existences of objects. The entirety of the events in episode 8, where Lain was revealed to be a group of impersonal gods to humanity, as well as many dialogues preceding and follow that episode, show case one ontological idea on the being of events and objects: The basis on which any happening occurs, or pn which any object exists, is human memory. Tamper with the collective memory, and reality is warped, or even destroyed.
Further illustrations which will disambiguate this idea are present in the 8th and 13th episode. As gone over before on episode 8, Lain is capable of removing information from human minds on a vast scale. In episode 13, after a traumatic bout of events which lead to a climatic moment of distress for Lain, involving Arisu’s sanity snapping under the weight of said traumatic events (watch the episodes to find out why), Lain Iwakura erase all memory and records of The Wired, by extension any memory of herself, from existence.
Carefully examining the outcomes of these two crucial events poses a tremendous quandary with an answer of dreadful undercurrents: This would be the fragile dependence upon the human psyche in order for an object or event to exist. If, somehow, any physical trace of an event were to be erased, say, a persons existence, an important part of someone’s life, or a discovery that brought change of monumental magnitude to society, and then following that, the annihilation of all records which preserved the information regarding the subject, could it still be affirmed that it actually happened? If, given these conditions, all memories and mental information surrounding said subject were made void, and any awareness of such removal of information, that is, awareness of one’s own ignorance, were permanently removed, how would one be able to say if something existed or not? To the human observer, what would be the difference between these conditions surrounding an object or event, and said object or event never even existing?
In the omniscient, transcending perspective I am addressing this issue in, this seems inconsequential. However, to the human observer connected to The Wired, with the fallibility and limited scope of perception the comes with our human brains, what then would be the situation? What would be the outcome to someone who not only has their knowledge limited to the information that exists within The Wired, which would include the bundles of information that comprises their mind & conciousness, but also has their scope of awareness, particularly in terms of their own ignorance, limited to said information as well? The answer, with all its terrible implications, is that a comprehensive annihilation of all records and human memory would result in a state indistinguishable from not only the non-existence of said object or event, but a permanent state of unawareness from all of humankind in regards to the subject. It would literally be as if it had never even been conceived before…
From here on is when things get far more complexly intertwined, splitting into two main aspects. When taking into account the events of episode 8 and 13, as well as the fact that minds that exist in The Wired are just as much projections & constructs of information as the objects that make up the world of The Wired, the undercurrent of the previously described Epistemological notions bubbles up into another tremendous quagmire.
*Section 8: Quagmires at the Fringes of Comprehension*
The apposite observation that should be made in light of all these mind-numbing thoughts is the subtle Lovecraftian tone. That is, a tonality that, somehow, a humans sense of reality is frighteningly sheltered: Fragile and insignificant in relation to an un-meditatably vaster nature of reality, whose inklings might all but shatter any sense of sanity or well-being. It is a theme that slowly creeps into one’s mind at the unravelling of each idea spoken of so far. I feel the final nails in the coffin lie within in the epitome of these ideas. Enter the boundaries of Free Will, and its implications on the concept of The Self.
Return one final time to climaxes of the 8th episode. It was shown that Lain was able to erase events from reality due to the ontological nature that the existences of events can only be facilitated by the memory records of human minds… But what did the events of that episode truly imply about what a psyche is? The notion that it is bundles of information with an unspecified level of complexity has been tossed about, but a human psyche of this nature would find a ghastly truth to their existence.
This truth is on the ontology behind what ultimately constructs a person’s mind, which is the experiences that make up their lives. Specifically, that the construction is ontologically sourced from Lain’s being(s), and ultimately her whims. Take a moment and reflect on what built any ideal one might hold in life? Experiences with abuse leading to a desire for compassion in society? A certain sort of wisdom that might lead you from acting upon selfishness and hate, perhaps? Or reflect on any accomplishments one has had? Graduation? A person you were meaningfully intimate with: A mother, best friend, or partner of some sort? How exactly do these things exist to you, and how do they shape your mind? These, ineluctably, are based in memory records. Everything that has happened to us is memory, and therefore, everything that not only dictates our behaviours, but dictates self-image, concepts of who we are, and ways of thinking, are fated entirely from memory.
… And so, with a flick of Lain’s fingers, any comprehension of an ideal would be gone. In the instance of a whim, your warmest memory’s of your mothers love, your best friends companionship, or of all the good deed’s one has done, would turn to nil. The most mind-splitting notion is that any alterations or annihilations of the facets of one’s mind would go utterly unnoticed; The change itself becoming erased by the ignorance of such. You could be morphed from a loving saint to blood-thirsty psychopath, or have one’s mind revert back to an infantile state with the previous life all but erased, and you wouldn’t even know there was a difference. Any sense of there being an independent will, choice, or even freedom of thought, is just an illusion at the consequence of Lain’s prolonged absence. An illusion which can be shattered at any moment of her meddling.
This shattering of the illusion of a free psyche spells an insanity: That you can not escape this ontology, because the nature of your mind binds you to it, and the only alternative is the nothing of non-being. However, the most horrible disillusionment is not for those of human observers, but for the impersonal god herself, Lain. The Lovecraftian flavors of this ontology of The Wired is a double edged sword, with the show climaxing at the blow dealt to Lain… The realization of a near perfect Solipsism.
An underlying instinct of our human nature is that we exist in a world external to us. In order for something to become significant for us, the consequences of it must be outside the meer of mental whims. Engrained within the logical route to instances of meaningful events is that of their independence from us, less they be absolute delusion. Our minds must rely on there being something, or else everything that happens is simply an absurd form of nothing. There has to be a line in the sand between what has happened, and hasn’t happened, and the notion of independence of objects is that which draws that line.
It is this fundamental nature – this line in the sand – that Lain slowly finds herself bereft of. Each time Lain Iwakura alters the environment and history of The Wired, something wanes. At each demonstration on the ontological nature of the events that the Lain Iwakura cares about, there is a scream. A cry that can not be audibly sensed, nor sourced by any visual perception, for it comes from the breaking of a mind: An unfathomable, terrible wailing of a thousand leagues of the void, drowning all paths to meaning. It is the realization that, upon gazing at the truth of her reality, there is no real distinguishing between Lain’s own imagination, and the supposed ‘world’ around her.
This is finely represented in the last episode of the series. In the final confrontation between Lain and Masami Eiri, an incident occured: Arisu witnessing said events. After what must have lead to some abject realization of what the world around her really was, Arisu descended into an unintelligible state of maddening wails. Despite Lain’s attempts at placation, Arisu slipped into to catatonia under the weight of such inescapable truths. In absolute desperation to fix the only thing she really cared for, Lain wished everything back to the point were The Wired didn’t exist….
Once again, reality followed her wish. All memories of Lain’s existence were erased, and Masami Eiri was fired before he ever instigated the 7th Protocol of The Wired (which created the ‘admin of The Wired’: Lain). It seemed as if everything were back to normal, and it appeared as if The Wired was no more, except for one slight discrepancy… Lain still existed.
Now in what seems to be some sort of Limbo in the form of Tokyo, all falsehoods resolve. The entire world in which Lain cared about, in particular, all the minds in which she had a relationship with, are merely bundles of information which exist solely at her word. There are no ‘others’, nor objects. There is no ontological substance to having ‘friends’, ‘family’, ‘people’, or any sort of conception which would lead to a meaningful life. Any configuration of The Wired would net the same result: All possible experiences are equivalent to imagined illusions of Lain’s mind, which are held in only an inescapable nothing. From this, Lain’s mind cracks as the finality of her Solipsism-esque existence is disclosed.
That is, until she visited by God, or some other being that is actually independent of Lain Iwakura’s will.
Whatever happened after Lain’s mind snapped, the series closes on something jarringly absurd. Lain finally realizes the true ‘depth’ of her omni-presence, which is that the ontology of time itself based in memory and current awareness of the environment around human observers, both of which are malleable by Lain’s commands. This is shown by her meeting her old friend Arisu, who is now grown up and married, of and completely unaware of the events she had with Lain in her teenage years. They briefly exchange words, with Arisu befuddled with the familiarity of Lain’s visage. As they part, Arisu remarks that she’s sure they will meet again. Lain agrees: They will meet again. ‘Anywhere, Anytime’…
That is, until she visited by God, or some other being that is actually independent of Lain Iwakura’s will.
Whatever happened after Lain’s mind snapped, the series closes on something jarringly absurd. Lain finally realizes the true ‘depth’ of her omni-presence, which is that the ontology of time itself based in memory and current awareness of the environment around human observers, both of which are malleable by Lain’s commands. This is shown by her meeting her old friend Arisu, who is now grown up and married, and completely unaware of the events she had with Lain in her teenage years. They briefly exchange words, with Arisu befuddled with the familiarity of Lain’s visage. As they part, Arisu remarks that she’s sure they will meet again. Lain agrees: They will meet again. ‘Anywhere, Anytime’…
What the ending of Serial Experiments Lain means is possible the most thought provoking aspect of it all. The final thoughts that I am left with is are on how the ‘Shy’ Lain originally came into existence? What does the existence of the ‘other’ Lain’s mean? Perhaps the original ‘Lain’ who was birthed the beginning of the 7th protocol simply saw no meaning or motivation in anything due to her completely blank mind, and the creation of the “Lain of the flesh”, which is what the ‘shy’ Lain has been refereed to, was a means understanding what ‘human’ emotion and meaning was all about. What was the nature of the God-like being who visited Lain? Was he a figment of Lain’s imagination? Are there other levels to The Wired that haven’t been explored yet; Levels which Lain is ignorant of? Perhaps there are many parallel Wired’s, each with a similar being like Lain, outside of which higher beings oversee, and perhaps enjoy, letting these Lain’s play out their existence? These are but a few ideas which are inspired but the absurd, open-ended cliff-hanger that the series concludes on…
The entirety of the experience that makes up Serial Experiments Lain is completely nonpareil. Not simply unparalleled in terms of any mere genre, but of any medium across the board. It is as such because Serial Experiments Lain is a journey, not simply of a character in a show, but for the mind of the viewer itself. It is fall into a monolithic black-hole of completely unimaginable insanity, and a plunge beyond the absolute fringes of existential madness. It is gloriously epiphanous, yet strikes paralysing, abject horror deep into my soul. It is utterly awe-inspiring, yet haunts me to the bone weeks after the mere mention of its name.
In The Wired, we are all connected as one, and there is no escape…
Serial Experiments Lain is not your average show, and definitely not something you run into every day. It is a unique piece of entertainment that completely transcends its genre, and presents itself as a work of art. An avant-garde show, not restraining itself to the boundaries of traditional storytelling and plot building, creating a completely unique and revolutionary piece of media.
This anime series is NOT for everyone. One of the reasons this show is popular even now, two decades after its initial release, is because its plot is still not completely figured out. The story is told in a rather convoluted fashion, which makes the already complex plot even harder to interpret.
Lain is one of those shows that require the viewer to pay full attention to every detail, and challenging them to put all the pieces together to grasp the content of the story. The theme portrayal in this series only becomes more relevant even now, that the use of technology and internet is becoming larger. A nearly prophetic story of what will happen if the lines of reality and virtual world start to blur.
Not only does the show do an excellent job at connecting its elements with its heavy commentary on psychology, sociology and technology, but it also has a very striking approach to the themes of human connection and loneliness, and overall an exploration the existential self in relation to the world. it raises a series of very thought provoking and intellectual questions about identity, existentialism, and religion. The show is also very famous for its mind-bending thoughts about reality, evolution and the existence of God.
Lain’s narrative is rather cryptic, meaning that nothing is told to the viewer directly, but rather gives them the undertone hints and pieces that, combined, make the story. The story is devoided of any dialogue or character’s inner monologue, not allowing the viewer to know more than they should, giving them a strange sensation of being lost, and forcing them to search for answers. Due to the absence of dialogues, the show relies heavily on its visual presentation. It tells its story through massive, yet subtle use of symbolism and visual keys. The series is rich of surreal and expressive imagery, with commonly metaphorical content.
In terms of characters, there are just the two worth mentioning, with one being far more relevant than the other: Lain and her best friend, Alice. They represent the two sides of the same coin, or, in this particular show, a physical world, and the virtual one. Lain is a lonely, shy, and seemingly depressed middle-school girl, who also suffers from a split personality disorder. She is used to portray most of the show’s themes, one of them being a demonstration of the internet’s ability to split ones personality, creating a whole different person online. Alice, on the other hand, is much more down-to-Earth, realistic and communicative. Her character is used to resemble reality, and common sense in general, but she is also the key trigger in Lain’s development.
Also, even though other characters have an important role in the story, and are used as a symbolical representation of a certain element the show portrays, they aren’t as significant as the two aforementioned are.
What i think is the strongest point of SEL’s characters is the manner in which their characterization is done. As a fairly good compensation to show’s lack of dialogue, Lain’s characters aren’t defined through cheesy lines or forced exposition conversations, but rather through their very actions. The show can clearly depict the character with little to no dialogue, only through visual presentation of characters reactions, movement and behavior. In an essence, ‘show’ is of a far greater value than ‘tell’ in visual media, and SEL follows that rule in a nearly flawless manner.
From the technical sides, even tho the show lacks budget and doesn’t have as much production value as most of the shows nowadays do, it still managed to use this in its advantage.
The character designs are much more realistic and humanoid than most of the series. They are devoided of any abstract, but very commonly seen elements, such as weird and unique hair styles, unnatural hair colors, huge eyes and so on. This is due to the fact that the show wanted to make itself closer to the viewer and make them project themselves to the characters easier, but also to set a certain border of reality. In a show where so many surrealistic things happen there must be a certain sense of realism so the viewer can actually see what the paranormal happening is.
Also, due to the lack of budget, the backgrounds in the scene have minimal amounts of details, and a somewhat inconsistent animation. This allows the author to literally point out elements the viewer should pay attention to.
The show also uses lots of repetitive sequences, like the cityscape scene from the beginning of each episode. This is also used quite well, combined with new monologue each episode that really help a lot in the theme exploration. The show uses a very murky color pallet, with two different sets of colors: the deep blue tone, and a thick yellow and nearly sepia tone. This is not only used to locate the time of the happening, which is usually at night or twilight, but also used to switch tones and suggest a certain mood change in a scene.
It is very noticeable that the show lacks music, probably due to the lack of budget. In this certain show, this is by no means a flaw.
For a such a cryptic and mysterious show such as SEL, the absence of music creates a very unique atmosphere. The over-present silence and sometimes a quiet, but sharp techno sound absorbs the viewer in a world shrouded in absolute mystery, creating an atmosphere that perfectly complements the viewer’s feel of being lost.
But also, surprisingly enough, such lack of music and creating an absorbing ambient can be use very well when invoking drama. For example, a sudden hard techno bass after a long period of silence can help in creating a sense of tension, and also signifying to the viewer that he should pay attention to the plot point. This can also work the other way around, when the omnipresent background musing is rashly interrupted by silence, creating a very clear tone contrast.
Serial Experiments Lain is one of the greatest anime shows ever made, and a personal favorite of mine. It takes an absolute focus on singularity, developing its themes beyond the limits, and pulls the maximum out of its platform for storytelling. It has some of the most aggressive and infinitely deep theme explorations ever put in any sort of media. Its story is complex, intriguing, and somewhat immersive, with thousands of plot-twist, fascinating narrative style, and unparalleled and grounded thematic side. A thoughtful and unique 13-episode experience that can only be described as an onslaught of brutal mindfucks, digging deep into the core of your brain. A perspective-changing brain-basher introducing a completely new look onto this so called “reality”.
Close the world
Open the next
MAL Score: 8.22
Vash the Stampede is the man with a $$60,000,000,000 bounty on his head. The reason: he’s a merciless villain who lays waste to all those that oppose him and flattens entire cities for fun, garnering him the title “The Humanoid Typhoon.” He leaves a trail of death and destruction wherever he goes, and anyone can count themselves dead if they so much as make eye contact—or so the rumors say. In actuality, Vash is a huge softie who claims to have never taken a life and avoids violence at all costs.
With his crazy doughnut obsession and buffoonish attitude in tow, Vash traverses the wasteland of the planet Gunsmoke, all the while followed by two insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who attempt to minimize his impact on the public. But soon, their misadventures evolve into life-or-death situations as a group of legendary assassins are summoned to bring about suffering to the trio. Vash’s agonizing past will be unraveled and his morality and principles pushed to the breaking point.
As if Vash wasn’t enough for this show, they thought it might be a good idea to throw in a fantastic music score too. Tsuneo Imahori really hit the nail on the head with his work here. Great opening, great ending, and great background music throughout the show. I like some tracks so much that I often listen to them while exercising.
Wolfwood, Meril, and Milly are great supporting characters. The constant bickering between them will trigger plenty of laughter. Not a ton of detail goes into their pasts, but enough is presented to satisfy the viewer.
Animation is from the late 90’s, so it’s nothing crazy. It’s great for the time period though.
Overall, one of my favorite anime shows. Worth a watch no matter what type of series interests you.
[Synopsis]: Vash the Stampede (Onosaka, Masaya) is a legendary gunslinger with a $60,000,000,000 bounty on his head who has attained the additional title of the ‘humanoid typhoon’ due to the way he leaves a path of destruction in his wake wherever he travels. Because of this rampant devastation, the Bernardelli Insurance Society tasks Meryl Stryfe (Tsuru, Hiromi) and Milly Thompson (Yukino, Satsuki) to find Vash in order to evaluate insurance claims and attempt to minimize the damage. The story follows these characters across a desert wasteland as it quickly becomes apparent that Vash is more than a simple outlaw.
Vash the Stampede, while an absolute ace in every category when concerning marksmanship, is also quite a carefree and kindhearted character. From the get-go it is revealed that the destruction that is attributed to him is actually the fault of the countless bounty hunters chasing after the reward for his head. With this in mind, he is perfectly capable of dealing out major damage with his signature revolver however perhaps his biggest character trait is that he always avoids killing his enemies – opting to disarm or at worst cripple them instead. This mindset, while at first a character quirk, becomes very central to the shows primary story after a turn in what could be described as the conflict of naivety. Vash occupies an odd dichotomy of personalities where he can be both silly and comical but gravely serious the next second. Vash’s past and the reasons for his preservation of life are explored fairly extensively and as the story progresses.
Joining Vash on his journeys in the anime are the two insurance girls Meryl and Milly. While Meryl at first doesn’t believe Vash to be the legitimate ‘Vash the Stampede’ she eventually is convinced wheres Milly is much more certain after their first meeting. The two girls serve primarily as comedic characters throughout the show and their exaggerated reactions (mostly Meryl) are the source of a good deal of the shows comedy along with Vash’s antics. They are fairly flat characters and while they have emotions and serious scenes they feel fairly stunted on the development front. As the show grows more serious in the later episodes and the silliness of things is slightly phased out, they continue to tag along but seem to lack purpose.
Lastly, Vash and company encounter a priest by the name of Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Hayami, Show) on their travels who at first fades in and out of the story intermittently but later becomes a more primary character. I would say that Wolfwood’s appearance is a marked improvement to the show as he is more complex and action-oriented than Meryl or Milly. He shares some qualities with Vash, comedic and otherwise, but is overall of the more serious characters in the cast.
As Trigun hails from the late 90’s period of anime it’s art and animation leave a decent amount to be desired in comparison to more modern shows. This aside, the character designs, primarily of Vash and his enemies, are very exaggerated however they don’t feel out of place in the world. The animation itself varies from episode to episode and naturally the more important action scenes are shown a little more love than others but overall Trigun is par for the course. The setting for almost all of the story is a desert wasteland and so there isn’t too much exciting to work with in that regard.
One of my major issues with the show actually concerns its art and animation as I have a problem with how it presents both guns and bullets in the show. Because dancing around bullets is both a good source of comedy and also a clear way to show somebody’s speed of movement in an action scene – a good deal of bullets end up missing… a lot of them. This is highly apparent in that Vash goes more or less unscathed for a good portion of the early episodes – both a sign of his skill but hardly an episode goes by in Trigun where Vash doesn’t dart around screaming comically as a whole troop of enemies looses fire at him. So the problem arises in the over-prevalence of guns and the countless number of scenes where bullets seemingly accomplish nothing. When the show relies greatly on the threat of a gun in someones face (which happens multiple times episodically) it somewhat damages the tension and gravity of things when we are conditioned to think that the guns and bullets ultimately don’t mean much.
The show starts out feeling fairly episodic in nature – Vash travels to a city, he is pursued by bounty hunters or encounters a problem already in the city, action and comedy ensue and he moves on. This formula is used for the first 10 or so episodes and so Trigun can feel a bit slow to get into at first. The show picks up pace more than you would initially think it would and it also gets reasonably dark in comparison to its early far more comedic episodes.
At the end of the day, Trigun is less concerned with with actual progression of a plot and more with the moral dilemmas associated with Vash’s lifestyle. Why does Vash cherish life so – and to what lengths will he go to uphold his near-pacifist ideals? The show attempts to drum up a discussion of morals by presenting us with a heroic figure who will stop at nothing to protect and help those in need but who will not take the life of his enemy. This very quickly becomes problematic for Vash and only becomes more so as the show continues – eventually becoming the main focus of the show within the ‘primary plot’. Trigun claims to harbor a moral message but in my opinion its a bit lost and unfounded amongst the action and comedy of the show – it pays close attention to Vash’s own morality but fails to bring up points for one cause or another with any real conviction; it is a little flaky in this regard.
The music of the show fits the setting well enough but isn’t anything I would go listen to again after the show ended. As the setting of the show features primarily sand and frontier towns the music is evocative of a wild west environment but there is some sci-fi influence as well.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
I think that ones enjoyment of the show will rely heavily on whether or not one thinks that the show explored Vash’s moral dilemma adequately or not. The show has decent comedy in the beginning and reasonably interesting plot developments later in the show however because the show’s main focus becomes a moral one I think it should be held to that standard first and foremost. I would say without that moral intrigue, the show’s comedy and action would rarely outstrip anything else in those respective genres and so additionally so, Trigun relies importantly on its messages.
I will preface that my rating of this show is bias in that I am no great lover of the Sci-Fi western setting and that a more avid fan of that genre would be quick to give it a 6 or even as high as an 8 if they could overlook some of my more nit-picky qualms listed. The show falls short for me because as I have stated above, because it does not do anything exceptionally well and because its animation (by nature of its time period) is not actively beneficial to it, it appears overly reliant on what I would consider an ill-conceived or half-baked moral question.
I think that anyone that jumps at the premise of a Sci-Fi western should certainly investigate this show as its setting and characters support the genre well. I would also recommend this show to anyone wanting to explore the more ‘classic’ anime as Trigun is very much one of the more storied shows in medium and is the point of many a conversation. To action fans looking for good gun-slinging fight scenes I would recommend this however admit that other shows probably hold greater potential in this aspect. Lastly, to those interested in the shows comedy – it has decent gag comedy at the beginning but because the show eventually discards many of these gags in favor of a more serious tone I would recommend a different show unless your willing to stick around after the tonal shift.
The first half of the series introduces the characters, and may turn some people off by its silliness, but it makes sense throughout the second half. If the entire thing was completely serious, Vash’s character development wouldn’t have the same effect.
The music is very subtle and gets the job done. It’s not overly noticeable, and compliments the scenes quite well. I heard one of the members of the band Black Mages composed the music. The music is very recognizable and memorable for how simple it is.
The characters are extremely well developed and human. Vash the stampede is one of the most multi-dimensional characters created in anime. You may be constantly asking yourself questions about him. So is he a womanizer or a gentleman? Is he a killer or a pacifist? A goofball or a serious, stern person? All of it is very well developed and lets you know that Vash doesn’t have just one side to him. His friend Wolfwood is also very multi-dimensional and developed.
The animation and drawings in Trigun are not so great. They are in fact very mediocre, which is a shame. Many of the lines are drawn poorly, unevenly and the movement is often very choppy and of a low frame-rate (some of the episodes don’t suffer from this, however). The lower quality animation is probably a budget issue, so it’s a little easier to forgive. It must be extremely difficult to craft such a great series under so much pressure.
However, it’s definitely one of the greatest moral dramatic comedies I’ve ever seen. The last few episodes left an impression on me; the show has a very clear and valuable message that has staying power. If you are up for a nice 26 episode series to laugh and cry with, give Trigun a whirl.
1: Cowboy Bebop
English: Cowboy Bebop
MAL Score: 8.77
In the year 2071, humanity has colonized several of the planets and moons of the solar system leaving the now uninhabitable surface of planet Earth behind. The Inter Solar System Police attempts to keep peace in the galaxy, aided in part by outlaw bounty hunters, referred to as “Cowboys.” The ragtag team aboard the spaceship Bebop are two such individuals.
Mellow and carefree Spike Spiegel is balanced by his boisterous, pragmatic partner Jet Black as the pair makes a living chasing bounties and collecting rewards. Thrown off course by the addition of new members that they meet in their travels—Ein, a genetically engineered, highly intelligent Welsh Corgi; femme fatale Faye Valentine, an enigmatic trickster with memory loss; and the strange computer whiz kid Edward Wong—the crew embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member’s dark and mysterious past little by little.
Well-balanced with high density action and light-hearted comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a space Western classic and an homage to the smooth and improvised music it is named after.
The story is set in a space western setting – a genre and setting I’m loving more and more for each show I watch that falls under the genre. We follow two bounty hunters, Spike and Jet, who own a ship called the Bebop. They travel the Solar system, chasing wanted criminals to earn money. Along the way, they also pick up two women; the debt-laden Faye Valentine and the playful kid and computer genius Edward (yes, Ed’s a girl).
Each episode brings about a new bounty which they chase after, and while that doesn’t sound too exciting to watch 26 episodes in a row, you’ll end up loving the show. All the different events makes for a certain degree of unpredictability, and you’ll sometimes wonder how things will end. However, that alone is not enough to give the story the rating I’ve given it. So why have I given that rating? Let’s continue…
One of the things that elevate the show a bit above the rest is the manner in which the main cast’s pasts are explored. It’s not like one flashback episode and you understand everything about how they are today. In one episode you might get one piece, and then the next one in another episode, and it’s not until the final three episodes of the show that everything falls in place. This way of executing it makes you want to watch another episode, so that you can find out more about the characters (some may say that this falls in under "Character", but the manner in which the pasts are explored are more "Story" than "Character", IMO). Now, that’s so far a 9 for the story. Why did it deserve a 10?
The answer is easy: the way they executed many scenes in the show. The contrasts which you get to see between, music, the setting of scenes and what’s really happening just gives the story that extra edge deserving of a perfect score.
The characters are all really good and interesting fellows. Though they every now and then reminded me of characters from other shows, they preserved that originality which gave a feel that they were, if not completely, then at least a little bit more real than most characters out there. The way their pasts intertwine with the future and how everything ends with them confronting and settling open ends from their pasts is also something that’s impressive to watch. I don’t really have anything more to say than "perfect".
The animation is, for a 90s anime, stunningly good. The detail put into backgrounds and surroundings is really good, and I also love how good lighting effects and shading are at times. All of Ed’s strange movements are animated really nicely too. If there’s something negative, it’s the somewhat dull coloring (compared to today’s standards), as well as poor effects when traveling in hyperspace.
The soundtrack is also astounding! The music used for the show is so incredibly varied, and while keeping mostly to the more jazzy tunes, the soundtrack visits so many genres that it’s hard to not like at least a few pieces. What I also loved is the way the music was used not only as a medium to go with and amplify the mood, but also as a contrast to what’s happening in several scenes. All in all, it’s really amazing. Don’t have anything to say against voice acting and other sound effects either.
All in all Cowboy Bebop is an anime that’s in the top tier on the greatness scale, and a show I believe every anime fan should give a try.
To ‘Not ‘ voters (and you ” voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)
Cowboy bebop borrows much from western media and pop culture in general. his show pays homage to or references, subtly and overtly, things as disparate as Antonio Banderas, Bruce Lee, John Woo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Convoy, Biggie Smalls, Donald Duck, various mythologies and folktales, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bill Evans, Stray Cats, Alien, blaxploitation films, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Queen, George Clooney, Led Zeppelin, Django and other spaghetti westerns, Herbie Hancock, American and Japanese professional baseball, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jean-Luc Godard, Batman, B.B. King, Beverly Hills 90210, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, The Unabomber, Heaven’s Gate and Marshall Applewhite, Kiss, film noir, The Beatles, Sleeping Beauty, Bonny & Clyde, Ziggy Stardust, Charlie Parker, Woody Allen, Star Trek, Cool Hand Luke, and Taxi Driver. I kid you not. And that’s not a complete list. References in character design and dialogue are forgivable, but when it straight up copies scenes and plots then I think it can be held against the show. I feel like I’ve seen Cowboy Bebop before, it’s just been packed into a pretty package. I enjoyed a lot of these homages, but that does not excuse the marked lack of creativity. The mere evocation of a masterpiece does not make a masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino is an example of someone who uses pastiche and cultural references well, and most importantly, his references and homages don’t make up his entire videography. There is far too little originality in Cowboy Bebop.
The fact is that Cowboy Bebop is the epitome of style over substance. I can appreciate it for its audiovisuals, but, to me, a show needs more than that to be a true masterpiece. Make no mistake though, it does have some of the best audiovisuals I’ve ever seen, and could arguably be considered a must-watch for that alone. The OST is good (despite also being a tad overrated,) the art is great, and the animation is extremely fluid. It should also be noted that Cowboy Bebop is one of the few anime that holds the distinction of having an English dub superior to the original Japanese. The atmosphere that the audiovisuals achieve is their greatest quality, and is distinct in almost every different setting. This is not done well in most space travel anime, and I have to applaud Cowboy Bebop for that achievement at least.
The main storyline consists of about 5 episodes, the rest of them being episodic individual stories. This wouldn’t be a huge problem, but the episodic stories were hit or miss, and they never measured up to the main plot. Some of the non-main episodes focus on a character and their past, and this is good, but most of them are completely pointless and could be removed without anybody noticing. One of them was about fighting an alien-fungus-fridge-monster, it was an interesting and silly parody of Alien, but it contributed nothing to plot or character development. Considering how character driven this show is, that’s a problem. There was also an entire episode paying homage to blaxploitation. Seeing as the allusion was presented in a more original way, and the episode showed a lot about Ed’s character, that one was not only forgivable, but it was one of my favorite episodes. Like I said, hit or miss. There is an episode about catching a super-dog. There is an episode about a virus that turns people into monkeys. There is an episode where they chase a bomber (Woody Allen) with some help from a transsexual looking trucker. At least 4 episodes were easily 10s, but more of them were closer to 5s. The first 4 episodes were particularly weak, which is a huge problem in a 2 cour anime. The anime may have had a good conclusion, but the sub-par exposition cannot be ignored.
The main crew was made up of interesting and entertaining characters, and they prevented the episodic nature of the show from being a complete flop, although there were some unanswered questions about Faye’s past in particular. Actually, strangely enough, the unanswered questions contributed to the splendid atmosphere. Everything had a rich backstory, but few flashbacks and no infodumps. This helped give the show its characteristic nostalgic atmosphere. One complaint I would have is that the main antagonist is simply not compelling, his motivations are somewhat unclear, and he’s just one dimensional. He also uses a katana, even though it’s the future, and somehow still manages to kick ass. He’s just very cliché and lame. The antagonist in the movie was very well done with his depth, motives, and parallels to Spike, and that makes me wish Vicious got the same treatment, as it would fit his character far better, and his character is far more important.
One thing you should understand is that the characters are often good examples of clichés done well. Jet, for instance, is the typical hard-boiled former cop, but he is also the most empathetic of the crew. He is a foil to Spike and is hard working, but they also parallel in many ways. Ed is the teen genius/tomboy and hacker with little depth, but she also serves as a foil to Spike and many of his views on life. Faye is like a mix of all of the other characters’ worst traits in terms of personality, but she still manages to be a sympathetic character. In fact, even though she keeps up her unpleasant exterior and despite her being the anime’s main source of fanservice, she arguably experiences more development than any other character. Still, they lack any sort of real innovation, in anime or otherwise.
Despite all my criticisms, Cowboy Bebop is cool. It’s very cool. The characters and aesthetics were compelling (for the most part) to the point where I even enjoyed some of the admittedly weaker episodes. I can’t give it a 10, it’s simply not a masterpiece. I can’t give it a 9, it’s not truly great. I can’t give it an 8, it’s too flawed and unoriginal. I don’t want to give it a 7, it was just too inconsistent. I have to settle on a 6.7 or so, which could be rounded either way. That said, an average of my story, art, sound, and character scores did give me around a 7.2.
Cowboy Bebop is enjoyable and it has wide appeal; I would probably recommend it to just about anybody. It was up and down in terms of quality, and it was similar to a slice-of-life in its episodic and relaxed nature and its lack of an explosive climax, but it was good. I liked how the anime takes place after the “important part” of the main characters’ lives is over, and nostalgia becomes a huge theme, seeing as it was the first anime I ever watched and it thus evokes a huge sense of nostalgia for me anyway. I loved the laid back atmosphere. The problem is that after looking through all of the episodes and rating them individually, I realized that the majority of it was nothing special. With a little restraint and reworking, Cowboy Bebop could have been the masterpiece that it is widely regarded as, and it does hold a special place in my heart regardless, even if that is only due to it being my first anime. That bias is probably why I choose to round the score to 7, rather than to 6, despite the fact that the latter is typically the better practice.
I am always willing to defend and justify my scores so leave me a comment if you disagree, and tell me why I’m wrong. I say that because this does seem to be a pretty uncommon score, even among those whose opinions I have great respect for. Keep in mind that a 7 is a generous and good score in any case.
“Fuck you! Cowboy Bebop is a classic! You’re not allowed to criticize it!”
The more astute viewers will note that I scored the series a 6, but the movie a 9. I kind of like Cowboy Bebop. It does do some things very right. It had the potential to be one of the greatest franchises ever. Alas, while its production values are unmatched, the writing . . . doesn’t always match up with the production. Because of this, the series ended up being a style-over-substance experience for me, but why was that?
The premise of CB is that in the late 21st century, mankind has started living in places in the solar system besides Earth. In this future are bounty hunters known as Cowboys. Cowboys do whatever they can to make cash to keep the food stockpile stocked and their spaceships running. The show follows one such group of Cowboys who pilot a ship called the Bebop. In the beginning, we meet Spike Spiegel, a former gangster, and Jet Black, a former cop. As the series progresses, the Bebop also has Ein, a super smart dog, Faye Valentine, a woman on the run, and Edward, a really, really, REALLY weird hacker girl. Cowboy Bebop has been described as a series that has a continuous plot, and has standalone episodes at the same time. Having seen the series, I can tell you that technically, most of the episodes aren’t standalone, but many of them are only connected by the core characters.
Here’s where one of my problems lie. When Cowboy Bebop is good, it’s really good. The setting is very mature; it never condescends to the audience. The action scenes are superbly well done, the dialog is believable (though cheesy at times), and the atmosphere really pulls you in. How many episodes are actually really good? Seven. If you count the movie as an episode, that brings it up to eight. Eight out of twenty-seven episodes were good. The rest were not.
The problem with most of the episodes is one of two things: one, it’s really boring, or, two, it’s so clichéd, you will be able to predict exactly what happens by the end after the first two minutes, or both. I have to be honest, a lot of the episodes of CB are just plain boring. If this wasn’t a “classic” and a more ordinary anime series, a lot of them would be branded as what they truly are; filler episodes. And if it’s not boring filler, it’s hackneyed.
Watanabe is known for being a huge fan of American cinema, and that’s obvious in CB. Unfortunately, he ripped off a lot of American movies virtually piecemeal. Now, you may not suspect it, but I am more knowledgeable of American cinema than I am Japanese animation. To describe it as best I can without spoiling, if you have seen at least one movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, John Woo, and Michael Mann, then you have already seen Cowboy Bebop in another format. This is actually a clever trick though; most anime fans reject Western pop culture, and may not notice this when watching CB, so they’ll think it’s “fresh” and “original”, when it’s fact, it’s actually MORE clichéd then most anime. But hey, when CB is exciting and isn’t (too) blatantly ripping off Hollywood, it’s worth watching.
At least, when the worthwhile characters are onscreen. I like the main character Spike a lot. He is the embodiment of cool, like a 21st century version of Steve McQueen. He’s cool, but he’s very human too. He’s reckless, he makes mistakes, but he knows how to charm people, and he also knows how to beat his targets. I also like Jet. He’s a constant worrywart, which is a funny contrast to his rough appearance. Some of the incidental characters are memorable too, (but usually only in the good episodes and movie). Something else I liked was the Bebop crew was not always a stable group, or nakama you could say. In most anime, when the heroes band together, nothing ever separates them. That doesn’t happen in CB. Sometimes, the crew gets in arguments, and sometimes, one of them will leave the Bebop for a time, and so on. It’s a touch of realism I appreciate.
However, some of the characters didn’t click with me. I never really cared for Faye. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t really care for her either. Edward is amusing, but she feels out of place in a series like this. The incidental characters in the less memorable episodes are just that, unmemorable. However, what I’m about to print in the next paragraph will anger thousands, possibly millions. (And maybe make hundreds say “Right on!”) Mind you, it’s just my opinion. Everything I print in these reviews is just my opinion; you don’t have to take it personally, but the following opinion of mine needs to be said:
Vicious is one of the lamest villains ever.
The main antagonist is a man known as Vicious, someone who’s still a part of the gang Spike came from. He’s cunning, ruthless . . . and is absolutely lame. What’s his motive? Does he just want power, or to mess with people? Even if so, why is he so boring to watch? The villain from the movie was a lot more interesting. Overall, you got two really good protagonists, some interesting chemistry between the protagonists, one-shot characters who are either interesting or not, and a forgettable antagonist. Yay.
And I haven’t even touched upon the ending yet! Short version, I don’t like CB’s ending. (More flames incoming! Duck and cover!) Now, the ending is not quite as bad as the ending for, say, Akira, or the anime version of Chobits. It does have a sense of finality to it, something most anime endings don’t have. However, I did not find it “legendary.” I found it disappointing. First of all, the ending is extremely predictable. It’s virtually telegraphed to you before it even happens. Not only that, when I saw it, my reaction was, ” . . . that’s it? Seriously, that’s IT?”
But I better move on to CB’s technical aspects before I get too letdown. Its artistry leaves no complaints. CB is probably the best-looking pre-digital anime I’ve ever seen. Even if you were to remake the series with digital enhancements, I doubt you could make it look better than it already is. Sumptuous backgrounds, top-notch character art, animation that ranges from above-average to really good, no off-model shots, this is a visual feast. The movie looks even better. It’s obvious a lot of care was put into the visuals of CB. My only being the primitive CGI, but you get used to it.
And now we touch upon CB’s greatest aspect; its soundtrack. It’s the sort of the soundtrack that makes you go, “Ah yeah, baby!” This is why you watch CB, the music. The music is the magnum opus of Yoko Kanno. A combination of jazz, blues, and rock, but it isn’t just any old jazz, blues, and rock, it’s GOOD jazz, blues, and rock. Everything from the opening, to the incidental music, to the endings, you get music that will set your soul on fire. The only anime I’ve seen whose soundtrack could rival CB’s is Death Note’s. Something I noticed about CB’s soundtrack is the music sounds more like music from albums rather than typical soundtrack music. Another smart move; most people are accustomed to listening to music from CD and MP3 albums as opposed to soundtracks, so when they hear CB’s music, it’ll be more familiar-sounding than most other anime soundtracks. Regardless, even if you hate CB, you gotta score this music.
CB is also famous for having what is perhaps the oldest English dub for an anime series that is considered god-like. I saw this on Adult Swim, and I can safely say, this is another masterpiece from Bandai and Bang Zoom. Every character sounds like how you would imagine them to, and the voices are neither wooden nor over-acted. All the different accents the characters have sound really cool too. I did sample the Japanese dub on the movie, and I will say, Spike and Jet sound really good in both Japanese and English, but I will never get used to Faye’s Japanese voice. Yeah, this is one you gotta see in English. (Though in retrospect, the Japanese performances aren’t bad, it just doesn’t click like the English dub)
While CB is still often regarded as a classic, I’m not the first to criticize it like so. There has been some backlash against CB in recent years. Some people complain it’s not “Japanese-y” enough, that it’s too Western. I mentioned that earlier, but there is another anime I’ve seen, Baccano, which is also very similar to American movies, but it was consistently entertaining, and not as predictable as CB, so I did not mind. Others have mentioned the same things I have, that it’s boring, the plot isn’t strong enough, it’s style over substance. This isn’t a disaster by any means, but I do have to say that, outside of the production values, CB is one of the most overrated anime I’ve seen. It’s not one of the worst, certainly not, but it’s not quite the experience I was promised either. To put it in other words, there were some episodes that I would score a 4 out of 10. And yet, there are some episodes, including the movie, that I would score a 9 out of 10. The 6 overall is just from mixing the good episodes with the bad.
I like to imagine that in an alternate dimension, CB was an OVA series instead of a tv series. All the episodes I do like, (# 2, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, and 22) were released on separate OVAs, as well as a few others to bridge the plot gaps. Then a theatrical came out (Knocking on Heaven’s Door), and then another to end it all (The Real Folk Blues, albeit with a revised conclusion), and it would be grandiose. Alas, I don’t live in that universe. Hey, Shinichiro Watanabe likes drawing influence from Hollywood, right? What’s something it’s doing a lot of right now? Continuity reboots? He could still do that. I can dream, can’t I?
EDIT: This review was revised on 9/17/2015 to be less awkward to read.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Cowboy Bebop
3. Serial Experiments Lain
4. Seihou Bukyou Outlaw Star
5. Yuusha-Ou GaoGaiGar
6. Saber Marionette J to X
7. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
8. Lost Universe
9. Generator Gawl
10. Battle Athletess Daiundoukai (TV)