From the creator of One-Punch Man comes the strikingly similar Mob Psycho 100 – a socially repressed, bored, supernatural guy with more power than sense tries to hide from conflict. The difference here is the focus on comedy. Mob Psycho uses a zany comedy style in the vein of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K as Mob works with a psychic fraud performing exorcisms.
I don’t recall the names of the spirits, though I do remember their characteristics thanks to the strong visual style. There’s Balls on Chin. There’s Fart Cloud, and there’s even Car Ghost, the spirit meets exhaust pipes hybrid. They’re a fun time. My favourite episode has a spirit create the cult of LOL, where laughter truly is the best medicine – medicine straight to a frontal lobotomy! He controls everyone by forcing them to smile and feel good in perpetuity. But Mob, being a socially inept kid with zero appeal, wouldn’t know how to have fun even if you played him a marathon of Monty Python’s greatest hits, so the power has no effect on him. He’s too dumb for fun. The face-off that ensues is brilliant comedy.
Mob has to contend with more than just spirits, however, as other psychics exploit their abilities. And unlike Reigen, Mob’s hack fraud of a psychic mentor, they have genuine power. The main opponent among them is Mob’s brother, Ritsu, which leads us into the second half of the series that becomes action heavy. Ritsu was always jealous of Mob’s abilities. He shuffles around bitter at being the lesser son, especially in the face of a brother who doesn’t wish to use his power and finds it an annoyance at times. Imagine the jealousy of having a famous sibling adored by all while you are in the corner, invisible and worthless to the world. Now replace that Hollywood acting career with superpowers and the jealousy increases ten-fold.
The dilemma reminds me of a question posed to me by a reader regarding living with any anime character for a year. Would you choose someone magical to go on adventures with or an interesting but ordinary human? If you go with the magical being, sure, you’ll have adventures you could only dream of for a year, but after that, you have to contend with the rest of your life never living up to that greatness again. It would probably depress me forever. So I can understand where Ritsu is coming from. He makes for a sympathetic villain.
The other psychics and thugs Mob fights aren’t anywhere near as interesting and the comedy takes a hit in the process. The action is good, mind you, and Mob’s mechanic of going into rage mode when his emotions hit 100% (hence the title) looks cool as hell. I still would have preferred the comedy go longer and keep action episodes only related to the brother.
Lastly, I love this recent trend of having shorter seasons but of a higher quality over the budget-stretched seasons of old. Mob Psycho 100 won’t make it to my favourites list or be a must watch recommendation, but it’s a short and sweet experience that respected my time and entertained me to the end.
Art – High
Mob Psycho 100 sports fluid animation and a cool style, though the character colouring is a tad poor. The energy effects and environmental destruction look cool.
Sound – High
The dub is good for those who prefer it, though I find the original Japanese to be more on the money with Mob’s dulcet tones and the crazy villains.
Story – High
A psychic child suppresses his powers to contain the destruction he could unleash if gone unchecked, but his naiveté allows a psychic fraud to take advantage of him to perform exorcisms. A mix of One-Punch Man action and Disastrous Life of Saiki K comedy results in the successful Mob Psycho 100.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: For action comedy fans. As long as you aren’t averse to the hectic and out there comedy style of Mob Psycho 100, you will have a great time with this one.
Ixion Saga DT is another in the endless line of “different world” anime where some kid goes from the real world into a fantasy game. Except…it’s a parody, which instantly reignites my interest in the show. And you know what? It ain’t terrible.
There is some story involving the protagonist Kon “DT” Hokaze serving a princess alongside her other warriors in the world of Mira. The conflict centres on the magical energy called Alma. None of this is truly relevant. The story is merely in service to the comedy. I get the impression that the writer was watching the twelfth fantasy game anime of the season and started riffing on it. Figuring he could make more money from his riff track if it accompanied a story, he turned it into an anime – or so I assume.
That said, the story does have more elements and players in the proverbial game than most other anime of the genre, so if you do require something to drive the narrative, Ixion Saga DT has enough there.
The comedy hits its stride early with a great series of nut jokes at the expense of the enemy commander Erecpyle “ED” Dukakis. When in a fight, DT isn’t afraid of going for the cheap shot (many fantasy protagonists could learn from this guy), so naturally when in a fight against a trained swordsman, he goes for the nuts – spiky dragon boot right in the junk. Erecpyle wakes to the news that one of his nuts had to be removed. Next episode, he loses the second, and the ball puns that follow from his squad when trying to cheer him up after the loss are great. “We have more than enough balls to take on anything.” “They’d have to be nuts to think…” “We’ll crush every one of them nutsos.” Furthermore, his newfound ability to take a hit as no man can earns him the title of Fullmetal Ballchemist. And just wait until you see how the ball rolls to a stop at the end of his arc. I lost it!
The humour is juvenile, crude, not for kids, and quite funny. It works, granted you go in with tempered expectations.
Everything is a joke in Ixion Saga DT. The protagonist’s nickname of “DT” is a jab at the genre’s clichéd protagonists, which is shorthand for the Japanese word doutei, meaning “male virgin”. If you hadn’t noticed, Erecpyle’s initials stand for “erectile dysfunction”. Even attacks are a parody with names in the vein of “something attack” and “whatever beam” yelled at the top of their lungs for no reason.
The humour also turns to the meta when, before the final battle, DT prevents his comrades from making speeches and giving heroic lines because that is a sure sign they will die. There is even an attempt at peace through blasting Imagine by John Lennon across the battlefield. Ridiculous? Yes, but hilarious.
Ixion Saga DT isn’t a great anime, but it differentiates itself in an overcrowded genre by parodying the competition with surprisingly successful comedy. Had this been of a higher quality, yet without the humour, it would bore me into numbness – another Sword Art Online clone from the seas of Kamino. Going for a different angle was the correct move.
Art – Low
Low budget. Characters lack detail and poor quality control led to inconsistent body proportions. The designs themselves look near the levels of the “OC, don’t steal my DeviantArt” type.
Sound – Medium
Several actors are regulars to the otome genre – an interesting coincidence after Diabolik Lovers. The script is snappy from one gag to the next ball gag.
Story – Low
A kid from the real world works as a knight to a princess in the fantasy world of Mira. The story of Ixion Saga DT merely serves as a device to deliver the humour.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: For anime parody fans. If you’re sick of seeing the same fantasy game anime each year, Ixion Saga DT will give you reason to laugh at them again.
Vandread was the other anime from my ‘Watched but Not Reviewed’ list that I was tempted to revisit. Though unlike Scryed, which I surmised would still be good, Vandread was certain to be trash. But is it glorious trash?
In the future as presented by Vandread, men and women live on separate planets, able to reproduce through cloning to fuel the endless war between the two. Women are monsters who eat men, say the men! Men are savage barbarians, say the women! Generations of no in-person contact have led to the growth of demonising myths about the opposing sides. At the launch of the men’s new Vanguard battleship, low-class labourer Hibiki sneaks aboard to steal a mech, but finds himself captured by pirate women in a surprise attack. Oh no, they’re going to eat him! However, the battle created a wormhole, sucking the Vanguard and pirate ship into distant space, where the men and women must work together to survive.
These women aren’t part of female society anymore. The vanity war between women on their home planet made them strike out on their own to become something better. As for the men, Hibiki had no status on his world, the doctor wants to help others regardless of faction, and the Vanguard pilot finally has a purpose. An easy bond forms between the groups. The core theme of becoming something greater than your birth persists throughout every character arc.
Vandread is light-hearted – I mean, an episode is all about setting up the Christmas party – so set expectations to low.
The screen time alternates between space battles and comedy. The battles are terrible – don’t just mean the visuals – and aren’t worth paying attention to. The comedy largely plays on basic gender stereotypes in a fun manner. Main girl Dita is obsessed by aliens and calls Hibiki ‘Alien-san’ as she stalks him around the ship – she wants to confirm if rumours about men having a hose between their legs is true. Conveniently for her, his mech functions better with both of them inside yet has a single seat, forcing her to sit on his lap.
This isn’t a harem, surprisingly. I am amazed they resisted the temptation with a 5-to-1 ratio of men to women in the cast all aboard a single ship. That one choice makes Vandread much more enjoyable as a bad anime.
Vandread is as silly as it sounds. I used to like this show when I had seen a handful of anime. Now? The silliness is still fun in a bad way, but I find myself unable to care once the second season starts. A single season is enough. It looks like arse too, which tests the tolerance of your eyes.
Art – Very Low
All the CG for the ships and mechs looks awful. Character designs suck – the protagonist is a walking cliché of the era. He has many shounen anime clones.
Sound – Low
The script is rubbish and the voice work is average, yet is fun because no one takes the material seriously.
Story – Very Low
In a universe where men and women live on different planets, female space pirates capture three men and find themselves teaming up to combat forces from all sides. Vandread is stupid in every facet in the right way to make it fun.
Overall Quality – Very Low
Recommendation: For fans of bad anime. If you don’t want to think and need to veg out, Vandread is the perfect remedy with its silliness.
Hunter x Hunter is purported to be different from other shounen battle anime. Let’s start by dispelling this notion, as it only sets up false expectations and ultimate disappointment.
Like all battle anime, Hunter x Hunter (don’t pronounce the x) is about a kid with big dreams. This time, we follow Gon Freecss, a boy in search of the father that abandoned him and his mother. To that end, he must become a hunter like his father before him in the belief that the profession will open new avenues of investigation.
Naturally, the story starts with Gon taking the exam to become a hunter. And here we hit the first brick wall. The Hunter Exam is tunnel-through-the-mountain boring! The exam is just one fake out after another.
Gon lives on an island, so must travel by ship to the mainland. Little does he know that the crossing is part of the test. Once ashore, he asks for directions to the exam, except the false directions are also part of the test. Then it’s an old lady with riddles, followed by a secret password into the exam site. But wait, that isn’t the site. We have to run a marathon first to get there! Watching people run, how riveting. Alright, are we done yet? No, we need to cook some barbeque. (Just kill me now.) And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, (did I mention the recap episode halfway?), and on, and on…and on it goes for 21 episodes of boring task after boring task. This exam is every idea the author came up with dragged on for eternity. Why not pick the best three ideas and make something engaging of them? It serves no purpose other than to introduce characters, which could have happened naturally later had the exam be removed (and most introductions don’t matter anyway – more on that later).
Could a 21-episode exam work? Certainly, if interesting. Narutomanaged it with the chunin exam using secret ninja techniques called “character development”, “meaningful conflict”, and “story progression”. Had the first episode of HxH been after this arc, all we would need is the narrator telling us, “This is Gon. He’s a hunter.” Twenty-one episodes saved. It’s the worst start to a shounen anime I’ve seen, barring the ones that had no potential to begin with. The arc isn’t filler, but it may as well be.
The plot next moves into a tournament arc, another common element of the genre. Gon and Killua have to fight to the top of a battle tower with hundreds of floors and millions in prize money. Matters get serious from the 200th floor onwards. Thankfully, we don’t have to watch all 200 floors – good performance leapfrogs contestants up faster.
The downfall of the tournament arc is the training sessions that eat up too much time between fights. HxH has a massive problem with over explaining its concepts and making them unnecessarily convoluted. This anime uses auras. If you’ve seen anything with aura powers before, you’ll get the point in a minute. HxH deems you too stupid to grasp it in less than hours of lectures. You can bet your savings that it will pause every fight for some long-winded explanation of X character’s power and strategy.
Training episodes suck because they have no plot nor any internal character growth. It isn’t a problem exclusive to this anime, yet these are particularly boring. Off the top of my head, only Bleach does them worse.
The first great moment occurs in episode 31 when Gon faces Hisoka, an interesting Pierrot-like villain, who values the challenge above all else and will go to extreme lengths for the greatest challenges, such as saving heroes with potential to contest him in future. He takes a keen interest in Gon. The exam introduced us to him and his villainy, but it all repeats here anyway. His power is a malleable aura compared to bubblegum that can manipulate targets with puppet strings, among other magician-type tricks. He’s a theatrical fighter that loves to put on a show.
Hisoka belongs to a villain group known as the Phantom Troupe, which leads into the next and best arc of the series. Gon and friends head to the big city to earn big bucks so they may buy a video game that will lead to his father. The Phantom Troupe arc succeeds where the others fail because it is all plot relevant and gives all main characters something to do, rather than forgetting half the team (more on that later). It also helps to have several interesting villains that pose a real threat. A highlight is the fight between Kurapika, the guy I confused for a girl in the artwork, and a villain. He is the revenge guy of the series, as there must be one in every shounen. Despite sharing much with others of his archetype, he works thanks to an interesting ability that cleverly explains how he can hope to match such powerful villains, but without overpowering him for the rest of the series. Shounens usually have to pull some convoluted nonsense to backpedal the power, such as Bleach with its moronic power resets.
At the end of this arc, 58 episodes in, I’m not blown away, yet it has been on an upward trajectory and I am convinced it’s only the good stuff from here.
Boy was I wrong.
The Greed Island arc that follows is somehow worse than the exam. Greed Island is the video game Gon seeks on his father’s trail. Players enter the game world and fight using cards with abilities. That’s right, we are in Yu-Gi-Oh now! It’s as dumb as it sounds. This arc was just an excuse for the author to cram in more convoluted mechanics and hours of idiots explaining how they work. If you want to see some of the worst pacing and exposition anime has to offer, watch the dodgeball game in this arc. Only masters of Zen can handle such trash.
The main villain for this period, a punk that blows people up with the power of cards, is pathetically dull. Much like the exam, this arc amounts to little more than wasting 17 episodes of your time. If I didn’t know better, I would believe this to be a filler arc.
Finally we come to the Chimera Ant arc, the longest at 61 episodes long, which tells of a species of dangerous human-creature hybrids that soon develop aura powers. The Hunter Association dispatches many hunters to deal with the threat.
The story has now gone from a big city, to a video game, and reached a monster slaying fantasy. Hunter x Hunter lacks focus. This review is so long because I feel as though I am reviewing three different anime at once. Watching this series gives the impression that the author had too many ideas and wanted them all to be in one story, jumping impatiently from one to the next. Remember the Big Bad Phantom Troupe? They’re barely relevant after their arc. That Yu-Gi-Oh garbage? Forget it ever existed. Arc after arc seems to wipe the relevance of the story that came previous. None suffer more than HxH’s characters.
Each arc dumps a boatload of new character on your lap for you to care about, only to take them away as soon as the arc ends. “What happened to that guy?” I kept asking myself. At the start, HxH presents a core group of four characters. Remember Kurapika of central importance against the Troupe? He’s barely in this. Oh yeah, there’s some guy called Leorio – you’ll know him as the tall guy you see on most cover art who receives enough attention for a major character. Well, he has as much screen time as a minor character. Only Killua with the white hair has the screen time to match his relevance alongside Gon.
So when we come to the Chimera Ant arc, it is no surprise to have over 50 – yes, 50 – new characters thrown at the story. A story, I might add, that isn’t directly relevant to the main plot even with 61 episodes. Interestingly, however, it’s a good arc. It starts slow (could have fit in half the number of episodes), though once the main villain emerges in act two it shows promise, until it finishes with a strong third act. The heart of the story is the Chimera King villain that questions life, morality, and meaning.
This arc gives fans a reason to call HxH dark, “the darkest shounen anime”. It isn’t really. It’s only dark if you haven’t seen what a proper dark story looks like. A villain killing random civilians isn’t dark – it’s just meaningless. There are a couple of dark moments, but it’s nowhere near enough to call the series dark. What Itachi does in Naruto is darker, yet I wouldn’t call that anime dark either. That said, a false reputation doesn’t take away from the strength of its third act. It’s a shame the arc has to be part of this anime. Both this arc and HxH would have benefited from separation. The Chimera Ant arc works as a standalone story similar to From the New World and with its removal, HxH can refocus on the plot. There is a main story consequence resulting from the Ants, but that could have come just as easily from the Phantom Troupe.
What HxH boasts in the end is two good arcs, which still need work, and a mixture of decent and utter trash for the remainder of the time. I haven’t covered half the problems with HxH in this already too-long review.
A common note you will hear of this anime is that it is the best of the battle shounen. It has the smartest fights, greatest characters, best villains, and most complex stories, they will tell you. Does it? Not really. There are smarter fights, greater characters, and better villains in other shounen anime. Nor is HxH different from the norm. You have the same types of arcs, the same cast of characters, yelling for power, energy attacks, poor explanations, and there is even a Super Saiyan mode (I won’t give it away, but it is the goofiest super mode I have ever witnessed). It does do one better than the rest – no unofficial filler, though that doesn’t save it from other pacing issues, including a narrator that repeats everything we just saw.
Many of these problems are common to most entries in the genre though. Would I recommend another battle anime over this? I don’t know. No matter which you pick, you have to tolerate a lot of garbage.
Is HxH better than most of the genre? Sure, why not. With such a low bar, it isn’t difficult to hit single digit ranks, though that is still low when looking at anime as a whole. If coming from Dragon Ball Z, as this did with the 90s manga release, it would seem mind blowing to have any strategy to fights, character development, and a story that’s more than “punch the bad guy”.
The difficulty I have with justifying a recommendation to watch Hunter x Hunter is in its 148-episode length. Consider how many other better anime you could finish in that time. And you have to factor in that no one has any idea when or even if this will ever receive a conclusion. If you love shounen, you will love this – I don’t doubt it. But if you don’t love shounen, then I can’t recommend it.
Art – Medium
What is with these character designs? Everyone looks like a bootleg knock off from other anime with no thought to theme or cohesion. There’s a reason these characters feature so little in aesthetic contests. Like all long anime, the budget has to cover too much ground. However, unlike other battle anime, HxH doesn’t drop in quality for action scenes – quite the opposite. A pleasant surprise.
Sound – High
The acting is the strongest area of HxH and the music is solid, though lacks variety for such a long series.
Story – Medium
A kid becomes a hunter in a quest to find his father, but will have to overcome many trials and foes before the end. The short version: Phantom Troupe and Chimera Ant arcs are good, and I wouldn’t bother with the rest.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For battle shounen fans only. Hunter x Hunter doesn’t have the crossover appeal to go beyond its demographic. For those who do start, note that the series is incomplete with no continuation in sight.
When a reader requested Giant Robo for review, I made a joke about how on the nose the title was. Easy to guess what that anime is about! Well guess what? It ain’t about a giant robot! What…?
Yeah, the robot is barely in it and even when on screen, usually does nothing. Oh sure, the robot can cry, but need it to fight more than a few times in six hours of film? No robot for you!
Not only is the robot barely in Giant Robo, the robot isn’t even needed! (Don’t even mention the other robots teased in the introduction.)
An evil organisation called Big Fire (…) wants to destroy the source of Earth’s renewable energy, Shizuma Drives, and return humanity to the dark ages. The International Police Force fights back with special warriors from around the globe, capable of immense feats and super powers, alongside Daisaku, the 12-year-old kid in control of Giant Robo.
The warriors are the reason for Giant Robo’s superfluous nature. They are so powerful – super strength, teleportation, god weapons, immortality, and more – that I have to question why there are giant robots at all. Characters often describe Giant Robo as a trump card against Big Fire, but these warriors don’t need the help and certainly not from a kid. Daisaku is more useless than his robot. Each episode opens to an introduction of the story, pressing us with the importance of Giant Robo and its amazing young pilot, Daisuke! He has no combat abilities, though conveniently for his purpose in the plot has the watch that controls Robo.
Normally I would chalk Daisuke up to the need for a kid protagonist in a story for kids. However, my understanding is that Giant Robo is a loose adaptation of the source material that tries bringing pieces from every corner of the mangaka’s work, so I assume Daisuke feels more a protagonist in his manga.
The production team had two options to make this work. They either cut Daisuke (or make him a side character if they have to keep him) or give him something to do and lower the strength of the warriors. Currently, his job is to ask whiny questions while waiting for his cue on the next Robo appearance.
As for the warriors, the stars of the show, they aren’t memorable owing to their lack of distinction. They don’t have personalities as much as they have a thing. One’s thing is to be cool and brooding. Another’s is be a joker. You remember these people by power, not by character. Most of Giant Robo is action. When it isn’t action, it’s talking about the previous plot point and getting to the next plot point. Little time passes on character development. We don’t see character moments. Because this is for kids, characters spend too much time telling about their motivations, about the lessons they learned, and making sure that the kids get it.
Seen in the context of an old anime, there is enjoyment to find in Giant Robo. It looks great, even today, and the orchestral soundtrack is beautiful. The classic feel and maniacal villains that remind of Tin Tin’s foes are fun, but you cannot divorce Giant Robo from the modern day and the advancements in anime that come with it. This story hasn’t aged well. If you don’t have the nostalgia bug, these story problems will get in the way.
Art – High
The visuals are a mix of Metropolis and Lupin the Third and still hold up today. I like the style and the attention to detail with the parallax scrolling backgrounds.
Sound – Medium
Giant Robo has two dubs – one by Manga Entertainment and the other by Media Blasters. The latter is better, though Daisaku’s voice sounds too much like a girl, so the Japanese might be a better choice. The orchestral soundtrack is suitably world ending.
Story – Low
An international group of super powered warriors fight against an evil that wants to return humanity to the dark ages. A show called Giant Robo that isn’t about a giant robot, which has an extraneous protagonist, and an ending revelation that beggars belief doesn’t make for great story.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For old anime fans only. I can only see enjoyment for those going into Giant Robo as a nostalgia trip. For the love of anime, don’t believe the title!