Tag Archives: GetBackers

GetBackers / Kiddy Grade / Witchblade – Quick Thoughts

GetBackers

Genre: Supernatural Action Comedy Science Fiction

Length: 49 episodes

Today theme of quick reviews is action anime I liked at one point, yet haven’t seen in a long time and haven’t reviewed. When I did my “Watched but Not Reviewed” list (missing quite a few titles, in hindsight), it brought many anime back to my attention that simmered to the surface until I had the urge to check them out again. Are they as I remember?

We start with GetBackers, my favourite of the three in the past. It even featured an honourable mention in my “Former Favourite Anime” list, so this was important to me. I need to say this right away though: GetBackers does not live up to my memory whatsoever. The art is super budget for this super powered series. The animation is far more of a slideshow than I remember and the characters have little detail, though their designs are unique so clarity isn’t an issue. I swear it looked better in my head.

GetBackers is set in an alternate Earth where some people have superpowers akin to The X-Men (each can do their one thing) and most of these superhumans work as either Retrievers, Transporters, or Bodyguards at odds with one another. It’s like John Wick – you have to accept this is how the world works or we aren’t going anywhere. Main duo Ban and Ginji work as Retrievers, the GetBackers, guaranteeing satisfaction no matter how small or impossible the request. Unfortunately, they are horrendous with money even after a big payday and so live in squalor.

To give a few positives, the main duo is good fun and the humour is successful, for the most part. GetBackers also feature the best – the best – use of chibification in all of anime. If I will forever remember one element of GetBackers for the rest of my life, it will be the chibification perfection. I still laugh whenever Ginji turns into a scared chibi after realising he’s alone with Dr Jackal.

Now for a dose of memory versus reality. I remember GetBackers as an awesome action series with cool powers, varied characters, and a mysterious plot. In reality, we have repetitive action, cool though limited powers, varied but one-note characters, and puddle-deep mystery. It astonishes me how different this is from memory.

GetBackers was in the early years of when I really got into anime and when one is at that early stage, everything is so much more impressive. I believe this was my first super power variety anime (saw Scryed later). I can imagine past me having a conversation with present me, gushing about how cool the powers are and how there are so many, how unique it is, only for present me to pull out 30 anime that do the same and often better. Conversation over.

It’s why I don’t blame newcomers for thinking everything is amazing. Everyone has been there. Every anime is a 10 when you have only seen seven of them. As one’s mental library builds, the flaws start to come out when a superior example is available.

A key detail I never noticed was the repetition. Nowadays, repetition almost guarantees to kill my interest, never mind rewatching the series, as I did several times with GetBackers in its heyday. Ban has the power to make people see illusions for one minute after eye contact. Let me tell you, no word of a lie, that this resolves every case. I love illusion powers and I thought this was the coolest thing ever, but man is it the same resolution every time. A common scene is to have the villain kill the heroes, immediately vocalise his plan/list of compatriots, and then for Ban to say “Just one minute”, revealing it was all an illusion. This is no Sharingan level of cool.

On rewatch now, GetBackers was okay for the first few cases. Once they enter the Infinite Fortress – a labyrinthine slum filled with superpowers – it loses the fun. The anime also didn’t adapt the biggest reveal of the story, which would have explained why people have these powers and why the Infinite Fortress matters. Knowing the twist, however, I’m not sure I entirely disagree with cutting it.

I tried the dub for the first time (none of these anime had a dub at the time) and holy Pokéballs, Shinji, is it not good. It isn’t “they recorded random people on the street” levels of bad. These are clearly actors, just not voice actors. This is a great example of a professional dub that studios thought were fine once upon a time, which thankfully doesn’t fly anymore (at least, I hope not). The lack of energy in the voices, the stiff reads, the monotones, bloody hell, what a disaster. The acting starts bad and only gets worse with each new character introduced. It’s hard to believe the likes of Cowboy Bebop managed a perfect dub when this was normal.

Almost forgot – the OP song may just be the worst I’ve heard in anime. If you want to know my taste in music, then take this and imagine the opposite.

*     *     *     *     *

 

Kiddy Grade

Genre: Ecchi Action Science Fiction

Length: 24 episodes

Next we have Kiddy Grade, an anime similar to GetBackers with a variety of super powered pairs facing off, but in a heavy sci-fi setting. Our leading ladies are Éclair and Lumière, agents of the Galactic Organisation of Trade and Tariffs. While the organisation’s name implies involvement only in commerce, it actually has fingers in every space pie (everything comes back to money if you look far enough).

This is a spy thriller with Éclair donning a number of disguises, undercover missions, and gadgets for every conundrum. It explores several “what if” questions from the setting and sci-fi concepts for drama. Even the powers have sci-fi roots. Lumière can talk to computers, for example, and Éclair’s strength comes from body modification. There is effort in the world building.

After the stark difference between memory and reality with GetBackers, Kiddy Grade is about as I recall. I should note that this anime came to me later in the experience track and that I didn’t love it at the time, just enjoyed it enough for a rewatch (when you didn’t have much variety, rewatches were common). My opinion of it has fallen – I lost interest by the end of act one this time – as this is a case where once you’ve seen so many better versions of this story, this setting, this idea, you can’t help but wish for something else. Also, my distaste for lolis has only increased, of which there are too many here.

The similarities between Kiddy Grade and the previous anime are uncanny, right down to espousing the same basic morality lessons – “Being evil is bad.” “Don’t kick puppies.” I never put the two together until this rewatch.

However, Kiddy Grade works better than GetBackers by having more variety, more effort in the narrative through line, and significantly better art. Without looking it up, I want you to guess how far apart these anime released.

Five years? Three years? Three months? Try five days apart. Kiddy Grade is better representative of how standard anime looked in the early 2000s. The production holds up from studio GONZO and the dub is so much better than GetBackers that you’d never guess they came from the same year. It’s fascinating to see.

*     *     *     *     *

Witchblade

Genre: Action Science Fiction

Length: 24 episodes

And finally, we have Witchblade, based on the American comic series of the same name and the anime I had watched last of the three. By the time I got to this, I had seen plenty of anime, so I was under no illusions towards its quality. The question is whether my slightly favourable memories are too kind or too harsh.

This is a more mature series than the other two. A sci-fi action series like the others, except hyper sexualised in the ass kicking. Kiddy Grade has panty shots; Witchblade has death by snu snu. If the shot in the OP of the protagonist wiping streaks of blood across her bare arse, vagina blade in full view, isn’t enough to tell you what this anime is going for, then no one can help. Witchblade is about tall, leggy, busty women in scant armour beating the life out of one another (toned down from the comics, if you can believe it). The Witchblade lusts for battle – literally – as combat turns it on to orgasmic peaks.

And if it were in the hands of a worse team, that’s all Witchblade would be. However, this anime has more to it, for at its heart is the story of Masane doing everything she can to give her daughter Rihoko a better life. Their relationship, not the action, is the spine of Witchblade. In fact, of these three anime, Witchblade has the least action with far more time spent on character and relationships. Furthermore, despite being more sexual than the others by leagues, it is the most mature (and certainly less creepy than Kiddy Grade). It has a surprising romance that doesn’t forget Masane’s status as a single mother. Long before the end of the story, I care for this woman and her daughter. I feel for the struggles they go through as a child welfare agency wants to separate them. And I appreciate how grown up the romance is without changing the tone into a heavy drama.

Should action be your main draw, then Witchblade also delivers. It isn’t repetitive, unlike the other two, nor does it drag beyond its welcome and doesn’t pause to exposit on how the powers work every fight. This isn’t some spectacular anime, of course – more lore, a darker mystery, and more development to the antagonists wouldn’t have gone amiss. It engaged me to the end, however, and that is worth something.

I also like the scientific approach to the Witchblade. If you supposed this device and its power was real, how would scientists approach it? Masane ends up working for a corporation doing such research (they pay her to kill rabid mutants and machines on the streets) and the antagonists come from a rival corporation developing other Witchblades, exploring the genetics of it all. They are trying to make it work with men as well (the device only functions on women).

So much to my surprise after this trio revisit, Witchblade turns out to be the best of the three, no contest. The production quality is also the highest, though it is newest. When considering my opinion of these three at the time I first watched them, Witchblade was the lowest. Now, it’s the best.

Recommendation: I recommend Witchblade – I give it a medium rating, with a low for the other two, which I don’t recommend. GetBackers is too dated, too repetitive, and too long for me to justify, while Kiddy Grade is somewhere in the middle. There is simply so much better these days. If you do want similar from that era, go with Scryed. Witchblade’s focus on a much older protagonist than usual with an older relationship too makes it stand out from the crowd.

(Request reviews here.)

Watched but Not Reviewed

For most of this site’s early reviews, I revisited anime I had already seen to build a solid foundation. However, rewatching so many episodes was time-consuming and in the end, I had to skip a number of series that were either too long or not interesting enough to warrant a review.

This article will be a list of brief reviews, of sorts, from memory as I consider whether it’s worth going back to any for full review. (I’ve likely forgotten a dozen more titles.)

Agent Aika

Agent Aika is the sole anime that’s honest about panty visibility with the length of anime skirts. Finding a safe for work image for this article was a challenge (the secret was in the camera angle…). Aika is some Charlie’s Angel-type working as a salvager and has a magical transformation – if you can call being molested to near nudity a magical transformation (too weird for words) – to fight off other groups. It’s a garbage show with more panty shots than sense, story, and substance combined.

Argento Soma

This is a weird one. I remember Argento Soma being similar to the animated film The Iron Giant, except that the giant is an alien and one girl falls in love with it (I think). The protagonist is some emo, which created this slow and depressing atmosphere that bored me. I barely remember Argento Soma.

Beyblade

Spinning top battles. The Japanese can turn any idea into an anime. Interestingly enough, Beyblade isn’t as out there as you would imagine. The Japanese play a spinning top duel game called Beigoma, which you can see here on Begin Japanology (love this show). Of course, you can’t issue commands to your Beyblade top as they can in the anime. Beyblade is about a collective people sharing in a delusion that you can yell at a spinning top to turn on the ‘Eye of the Tiger’, calling upon a spirit inside the top. This anime sucks. I ended up watching every episode in broken chunks each morning because of my younger brother.

Black Cat

A friend of mine was obsessed with Black Cat – ‘best anime ever’ obsessed. In the face of such obsession, I had to watch it. And…I still don’t get it a decade later. Why did he love Black Cat so much? Why? I never got a clear answer. This bounty hunter anime is bland, forgettable, with no reason for recommendation. All I properly remember of the story is one moment in the finale when a character transforms into a hideous blimp of a woman – literally a blimp – and a girl looks up and says, “Wow, so beautiful!” Still makes me laugh.

Blassreiter

The art style for Blassreiter drew my initial interest, but it was worth nothing in the end. The plot is similar to Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress with the protagonist infected by the cybernetic enemies, but in control of himself and his powers. Belongs in the slush pile.

Bleach

What a crapfest… No anime knows how to pad the story better than Bleach does. For those who haven’t seen this, the plot maintains momentum for two arcs ending in the reveal of the true villain, and what follows is nearly 300 episodes of padding. The filler is filler. The canon is filler. Everything is filler in Bleach. It throws one enemy after the other at Ichigo and company amid power resets every few seasons. Very Low rating.

Burn Up Scramble

Burn Up Scramble is a bad version of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040.

Cardcaptor Sakura

Of all the anime on this list, Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the better titles. The first season is a typical monster-of-the-week format with Sakura capturing spirits for her card deck, but the second season goes into a proper story that works. Young girls will love Cardcaptor Sakura in particular.

Chobits

Another CLAMP title. A boy finds an abandoned android assistant, but unlike the other ‘Persocoms’, she seems to have consciousness. Despite powering on the android by going to second base, Chobits is a timid romance that meanders to no payoff. Typical shallow anime romance.

Crest of the Stars & Banner of the Stars

I liked this one. Crest of the Stars is a mix of Martian Successor Nadesico and Escaflowne following a human and an alien elf princess on the run amid a war between their peoples. I won’t revisit this because apart from having too many episodes, a dozen other anime do a better job today. Maybe if the visuals were appealing I would make the effort.

Devil May Cry

Where is Dante’s charm? Play the game instead.

Dragon Ball Z

I am not watching this behemoth again. I saw Dragon Ball Z more times than most in my teen years, but it has been many years since I’ve had anything good to say about this repetitive, plodding battle shounen. Goku ranks among the worst characters in fiction. The future Trunks standalone movie is good, being the only Dragon Ball Z story with consequences and no filler. I recommend that piece.

Geneshaft

Gunbuster is bad. Geneshaft is the same anime, yet somehow worse.

GetBackers

I have seen GetBackers two or three times already, so this should receive a full review, no? Well, I may have enjoyed it plenty an eon ago, but I can predict what I would think of it now. In this world, super powered humans work in pairs for various professions, (thieves, bounty hunters, bodyguards, typical shady jobs) clashing with other duos on every assignment. The powers are cool – glasses guy can force illusions upon others akin to Sharingan, which is a favourite power type of mine – the action is decent, and I recall hilarious comedy. Unfortunately, after several mission-of-the-week episodes, everyone enters a cyberpunk slum monolith controlled by an emo kid with tech powers, at which point it becomes boring. GetBackers does have the accolade of best use of sudden chibi art for protagonist Ginji.

Green Green

This belongs on the worst anime list. An all-boy school pervs on an all-girl school after they merge for ‘psychological stimuli’. I thought Green Green was hilarious in high school. I was also an idiot. Hey, at least the main relationship has more progress than most anime romances.

.hack//Sign

.hack was the original Sword Art Online. Except it wasn’t. An anime about a no-life kid trapped in a VR MMO with a Guardian item that destroys anyone who tries to attack him should be an action, intrigue, and wonder filled romp, a slam-dunk success. What we have instead is a bunch of noobs sitting around chatting about nothing. .hack is the most boring anime ever made. You’ll be a puddle of ooze by the end. That said, the soundtrack – the soundtrack! – oh boy, let me tell you about the soundtrack. 10 out of 10. Phenomenal. It deserves a better anime.

Kiddy Grade

Kiddy Grade is GetBackers but with lolis instead of men and without the comedy or charm. The main girl can create a whip by drawing with her lipstick – creative, to be sure, though not enough.

Maburaho

Garbage harem. A bunch of girls wants to shag harem protagonist guy because his special mayonnaise, when ingested vaginally, will produce powerful magical kids.

Maria Watches Over Us

Maria Watches Over Us started the yuritopia craze – anime set in all-girl schools (often Catholic, because, you know, all love a repressed girl gone naughty) where everyone is a lesbian and conflict doesn’t exist. As the yuritopia moniker suggests, these anime are snorefests. Neither sexy nor deep, neither engaging nor fun, Maria Watches Over Us has nothing going for it.

My-Hime

What an ugly anime. Clichés and a terrible protagonist destroy any appeal, even once you get past the art.

Noir

The early 2000s had many anime sporting girls/women with guns, usually with a sombre, psychological tone about their traumatised states of mind from all the killing. Noir, like its sister series, doesn’t quite hit the mark. It wallows too much in self-pity. Twenty-six episodes is too long for a story so thin on content.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva

I love the Layton games. Their charm, quirky characters, storybook art, mysteries, and puzzles make them a delight. Eternal Diva doesn’t succeed in many of these qualities. It looks like the games, but not much more. The mystery doesn’t engage as it should and the puzzle element feels clumsy. It’s okay, at most.

Read or Die TV

Three bookish sisters can control paper, which is one cool power and what attracted me to Read or Die. I wish it had substance and that the sisters had more than their one defining trait. I’m told the OVA prequel is superior. I may check that out.

Scrapped Princess

I went into Scrapped Princess thinking it was an adventure similar to Orphen or Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s not. Two warrior siblings escort their outcast younger sister on a rather dull adventure. I mostly remember the twist for the final act, which was a good idea, though the poor build up weakened its impact.

s-CRY-ed

s-CRY-ed, now this was my jam! I loved this anime. I don’t remember much of the plot. I think it was like Marvel’s Civil War, where anyone with powers must work for the government while rebel supernaturals live in a lawless zone, or some such. Regardless, the action was where it mattered. s-CRY-ed is wall-to-wall crazy action and ridiculous characters, to the best of my memory. With a title like s-CRY-ed it had better be. You know, I think I’ll give this a full review. It may shatter my fond memories, but perhaps it might be just as fun as I remember. (Since been reviewed here)

Searching for the Full Moon

This was in the top 10 on some anime database a decade ago, so of course I had to watch it. Gee willikers, I was in for a great time! Only 52 episodes? Give me more! … A few episodes in, I wanted to end it all in a hail of bullets. Searching for the Full Moon is about a little girl with throat cancer whose dream is to be a popstar. Lucky for her, the shinigami that come to collect her soul instead decide to transform her into a 16 year old so she can sing. Apart from embodying the usual emotionally manipulative schlock of its genre, Searching for the Full Moon teaches awful morals to little girls, the target audience. Forget hard work, effort and merit – if you wish hard enough, everything will be okay! Watch Kodocha instead.

Stellvia of the Universe

Geneshaft but with a slice of life leaning, Stellvia of the Universe is a sleeping drug – a mercy, if you ask me, with that character design. This anime should have had that ‘cosy’ feeling I love from the likes of Gundam SEED. It doesn’t.

Suzuka

Suzuka was the first anime I streamed online. Back then, studios would put entire series on YouTube to watch for free. The ease of access made me watch all 26 episodes in a day, even though it was your average high school drama. Worst part? It’s incomplete. You have to read the manga, which I’ve heard takes all sorts of dramatic turns.

Vandread

I’m fairly certain Vandread was in the first 10 anime I watched. I’m not sure why I chose this above all other great titles available. Must have been a random choice. I completed both seasons in quick succession because it was anime. I don’t know what I would think of Vandread today. The premise screams of trash. Men and women have lived on separate planets for generations (they reproduce through cloning, if I recall), becoming alien to each other to the point of going to war. An incident forces a crew of men onto the same ship as a crew of women for some comedy hijinks. Perhaps I’ll revisit Vandread when bored. (Update: Reviewed)

Witchblade

Yes, Witchblade is based on the American comics featuring a woman with the minimum amount of coverage not to fall in the ‘nude’ category. Unlike Agent Aika however, Witchblade is a decent anime. It has a solid protagonist in the mother doing all she can for her daughter as they stay on the run from the government and evil organisations. She can transform into the Witchblade, which makes her a target. This is worth your time if you want some fun action with an older protagonist that is easy on the eyes. Medium rating.

Wolverine

Marvel licensed out several properties for anime conversion at one time. They are all straightforward adaptations without any surprises, incorporating Japan as the location, to forgettable success. These Marvel anime are too generic. Except for Blade – that’s straight trash.

You’re Under Arrest

This police comedy comes from the same author as Ah! My Goddess. It’s very much a comedy of its time, the 90s. Leave it in the archives unless you love that era.

Yu-Gi-Oh!

It’s time to duel! Alright, here’s what you do: watch a season or just a few episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh to get a feel for its ludicrous world of a children’s card game. Then, go watch Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series. That fan series made by one guy is comedy gold up to the conclusion of the main story. As for the anime, it is goofy fun designed to sell you on the real card game. I’m unsure if the overdramatic duels are intentionally or accidentally hilarious.

Zoids

I have reviewed Zoids: New Century Zero, a fun battle anime about 3-on-3 duels with robot dinosaurs. Zoids proper features an ongoing adventure story instead of the battle format. Typically, that’s a good idea…if you have a good story and likeable characters. Zoids is a forgettable shounen you should forgo in favour of New Century for some genuine fun.

 

So, that’s the list, excepting Neon Genesis Evangelion, whose review is on the way out now. Only the insanity of s-CRY-ed (review) tempts me to go back, and perhaps Vandread (review)– that premise must result in a so-bad-its-good anime, surely. As for the rest, I’d rather venture into new territory than retread old ground I probably wouldn’t have much fun with today. My ‘plan to watch’ list is long enough as it is. Speaking of, I’m devising a technique to clear a large chunk of the backlog in a month or so once my current work is complete. Having 200 titles waiting in line makes me anxious. I need a leap in progress. And soon.