I just watched this out of curiosity to see what they would do with a Marvel anime film instead of a series. I shouldn’t have bothered.
After the Punisher disrupts a secret S.H.I.E.L.D mission, the agency forces him to team up with Black Widow to fight Leviathan, a terrorist organisation selling stolen S.H.I.E.L.D tech. The vigilante and hero will have to put their differences aside to save the world.
Action, action, and more action constitute Avengers Confidential’s runtime. There’s a fight between the Punisher and Black Widow, a fight against some thugs, another fight between the Punisher and Black Widow, a fight against the generic weapons scientist enemy, and, of course, yet more combat between the two leads. Honestly, these two fight each other more than they do enemies.
The action is so repetitive as well. How many times do they hit fist to fist? It must be at least once per fight. Avengers Confidential has no mystery or suspense to keep you watching. It has as much content as an episode from the Marvel series anime. There is no substance here, no character and little story to speak of. I wonder how this anime would look from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about these characters. Would such an audience have any sense for whom these characters are and for what they are meant to stand?
There’s nothing more to say other than don’t waste your time as I did with this incredibly boring film. It’s made to look even worse should you come at it from Marvel’s Hollywood movies.
And with that, I am done with Marvel’s foray into anime, unless they try again with something better at a later date. Overall, I am not impressed with these Marvel anime. X-Men had good qualities, but the rest…I doubt people will even remember which characters received adaptations in a few years.
Art – Medium
Avengers Confidential is well animated, though the anatomy looks off at times, particularly faces, as if two studios worked on separate scenes independently.
Sound – Low
The acting is decent with little to say while the music sounds like royalty-free rock.
Story – Low
The Punisher and Black Widow team up to defeat Leviathan, a terrorist organisation looking to sell S.H.I.E.L.D technology to super villains. You need more than straightforward action to have a good story.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Avoid it. Watch any Avengers animated series instead, or you have a hundred more engaging action anime than Avenger Confidential.
I didn’t expect this. In this season of revivals and forgotten sequels, I didn’t expect Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These to be one of the better titles. I am amazed this reboot didn’t try to cram 110 episodes into 12. No lies, my expectations were barely above the quality of The Last Airbender movie. Imagine my surprise when Die Neue These (German: The New Thesis) got me with that grand opening, a fleet of ships soaring to the heavens as a spine-tingling aria lifts hope itself.
Even after that good impression, my expectations remained tepid. It looked and sounded good, but story and character matter above all else to me – and when it involves some of my favourite characters in the best story anime has created, no amount of visual flair and evocative music can distract me from what matters.
Like the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the story is about a clash of ideologies. Democracy stands on one side – chaotic, corrupt, and idealistic, but free and with great potential. On the other side stands an absolute monarchy, where the people’s quality of life is dependent on the decisions of a single person – prosperity one generation doesn’t prevent utter despair the next. We follow Reinhard, a young commander in the Galactic Empire’s fleet on a steep upward trajectory to greatness, and the thorn in his side, Yang Wen Li, master tactician of the Free Planets Alliance.
One fascinating thing about seeing the same story – any good story – adapted multiple times, is in how it demonstrates that idea and premise alone aren’t enough, that execution matters most. Pride & Prejudice is my favourite classic story, with numerous adaptions over decades of cinema. Despite my love of the story, most of these adaptations aren’t good. Not because they aren’t faithful, but because they aren’t engaging. Give 10 directors the same book to adapt and you will likely see 10 different stories of varying quality.
In the case of Die Neue These, it does a good job of creating an engaging story with interesting characters and tense action. The execution is solid, in essence. However, this anime is in a precarious situation, for it is reinventing one of the giants. Comparisons to the original are inevitable, just as everyone will compare any version of Pride & Prejudice to the BBC’s 1995 miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.
Die Neue These does have the advantage of releasing two decades after the original’s conclusion. This is long enough for it to have a potential new audience, particularly one that has no interest (at their own loss) of visiting such an old anime. Legend of the Galactic Heroes looks old to the new anime generation. Die Neue These took the idea of the original and brought it forward with all new bodywork and shiny paint, slick against the wind.
Storywise, the largest change is a streamlining of the dialogue-heavy scenes of old and the significant increase in action shots (I suspect the original would have had more action had they the budget for animation). When I talked of execution earlier, the dialogue was one of the original’s key elements to success, so to have it lessened should spell doom for the series.
At its core, this is the same story full of scheming, smart strategy, questionable decisions, grey characters, and losses on both sides. Yang is still Yang and Reinhard is still Reinhard. Sure, it’s not as good – not even in the same planetary system – yet it isn’t a disaster. Able to let go of comparisons to the original, I enjoyed this. Honestly, I think the fact that it wasn’t terrible allowed me to relax and go along for the ride. I looked forward to my nightly episode.
Die Neue These does have its share of problems, even on its own merits. The most glaring issue is the speed at which some scenarios resolve. I’m not talking of how the original took its time to go in depth with every character and every thread of its complex political web, while the new trims that down to focus only on major characters. No – you get the sense that an extra episode on a conflict here or there could have fleshed out the strategies and politics employed. And it’s not as though they were rushing to hit a perfect story beat for episode 12, the season finale. Episode 12 doesn’t feel like a point where one would think to leave the audience wanting more. A “down swing” episode is an odd choice on which to end.
I won’t pretend that I love Die Neue These. Most of the great experiences I had towards this series were reminders of watching the original for the first time. I cannot erase the original in my mind.
But this isn’t an anime for fans of the old series, like me. Do you know what people like me do when we want Legend of the Galactic Heroes? We go to the original. I’ve said it many times before: there’s no point in doing the exact same thing again. Look at Psycho’s remake. Take a risk. It probably won’t be as good, but who knows, it may provide something different and interesting. An adaptation doesn’t affect the original either.
I need more seasons (story’s barely started at 12 episodes) before I can give final judgement on Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. I’ve enjoyed it so far. Pleasantly surprised.
Art – High
Die Neue These can do the one thing the original could not – animate everything. As such, we have a lot more action scenes this time. They look good, the spaceships’ CG blends in almost all the time, and the scenes fit the younger, higher energy of this series. I still prefer the refined character designs and classic look of the original, though I have little problem with the art direction here.
Sound – High
With many of the original actors no longer with us or retired, the team decided to go with a completely new cast. I am too used to the originals to prefer the new, but they do a good job. Different this time around is the inclusion of a dub (the original never crossed the ocean). I could get used to a dub easier than I could a changed Japanese cast, as it would be a new experience. However, I can’t say I agree with several of the casting choices. Reinhard in particular doesn’t sound right in English without that calm commanding presence befitting his character. I suppose that if the dub is your first viewing it may be fine. Love the music!
Story – High
An alliance of free planets battles to hold onto their freedom against the Galactic Empire as ideologies clash and heroes rise. This streamlined adaptation of a classic has nothing on the original, but seen on its own targeted at a new generation makes for a solid anime.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: If you don’t find the original series engaging because of its dialogue-heavy nature and old visuals, then I do recommend Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These. You’ll be missing several key qualities, but you won’t know what they are, so no harm there.
The original Full Metal Panic concluded without need for a sequel, followed by the pure comedy spin-off Fumoffu, until Full Metal Panic:The Second Raid reopened the story a few years later with the introduction of new villain Leonard, brother to Tessa, young captain of the anti-terrorist Mithril organisation. TSR took a darker tone as it pushed Sargent Sagara of Mithril to the edge in a satisfying conflict. However, Leonard evaded capture and it seemed the franchise would stop there, leaving us in limbo for 13 years.
Full Metal Panic is a franchise I never expected to see more of (please, Twelve Kingdoms, please come back). After a few years of silence, the finality of the situation sets in and there’s no point wasting hope anymore.
So, it’s back! And what a letdown it is.
Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory isn’t bad – in fact, it’s rather decent, when seen from a distance. Sadly, we return to that old enemy of art, disappointment, the worst enemy, perhaps only second to that other evil called boring. As a continuation of the series, Invisible Victory brings so little to the table.
It picks up shortly after TSR, with Mithril in conflict against Amalgam, Leonard’s organisation, as it launches an attack on Mithril HQ. The start is strong with a series of high stakes conflicts and added tension by being much closer to home than usual. Sagara’s work has caught up with his personal life.
Leonard points out that Sagara has killed over 100 people so far, yet pretends to live life as though he isn’t a killer. Sagara’s reaction to this fact reflected against him is perfect. I love this wrinkle to his arc. It is ripe with conflict opportunities and consequences that could cost him everything. For instance, while dragging Chidori out of harm’s way from Amalgam, he uses a grenade to destroy a pursuing robot, but injures a passing student in the process. Sagara coldly abandons the kid against Chidori’s protests.
The problem with the story is what happens next.
A few episodes in after a devastating attack, we find Sagara on his own in a foreign land partaking in mech pit fights. For two episodes, we have no idea what he’s doing and it takes too long to get to the point, unengaging all the while. Furthermore, it introduces us to an entirely new cast of characters, none of which are memorable and at the expense of the core cast, who don’t do much this series. FMP did this before in season one with the four-part arc in Helmajistan, Sagara’s home country, to stop the sale of a nuke. The difference there was three fold. One: it didn’t waste our time wondering why he was there, away from the regular team. Two: the new characters were interesting for their short stay. Three: it was four episodes and not the focus of the season. To see that scenario imitated in Invisible Victory and done without excitement is disappointing. Some may argue that I shouldn’t compare it so much to the old, that this should be judged on its own. That’s not how direct sequels work, especially if one were to watch all seasons in succession now without the 13-year gap.
The most irritating fact of IV is how little it matters by the end. Leonard, who was the only incomplete thread from TSR, is still at large after having done little to nothing yet again. We are on the hook yet again to wait for another season, of which we have no confirmation.
One final aspect I must touch on is the use of CG for mechs and vehicles. It is undeniably rushed. FMP has used CG on occasion successfully – one of the few series to manage it. So to see Invisible Victory look worse than The Second Raid from thirteen years ago is baffling. It’s particularly noticeable when switching from a 2D close-up, detailed with battle wear, dents, and minor plays on light and shadow, to a CG long shot where the mechs no longer have detail. The models are too smooth, too clean. I understand why they resorted to CG. IV has a lot of mecha action, which would take time and effort to animate, and these fights have excellent choreography. The action is fast, fluid, and to the point. Sagara executes his opponents with the efficiency befitting his reputation. One skirmish in the suburbs between Sagara and several enemy mechs is particularly good.
I understand why. Yet, other series have managed to deliver a better product in similar situations – Studio Trigger regularly puts out great animation and Production I.G. often nails the CG used for vehicles in its titles. Full Metal Panic isn’t some small, untested franchise that can’t risk a larger budget. Why did this go to Xebec, a quick-and-cheap studio? It feels as though whoever was in charge didn’t care enough about the series, as if he had this forced upon him and just wanted it done, out of the way.
Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory is a wasted opportunity above all else. The good elements of Sagara’s emotional arc, the fight choreography, and moments of surprising grit pale under the weight of disappointment.
Art – Medium
Looks fine, outside of the CG during action scenes.
Sound – High
The voice acting and music is still strong. Go with the original Japanese like in past seasons.
Story – Medium
Sagara’s story continues as the enemy attacks and takes Chidori. With little progress made in the plot and a dull second act, Invisible Victory doesn’t carry the momentum of its predecessor.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For Full Metal Panic fans only. You will feel lost if you haven’t seen the other series, though I highly recommend starting this franchise. Invisible Victory wasn’t worth the wait, however.
“Is Darling in the FranXX better than Evangelion?” someone asked me. “Studio Trigger is Gainax 2.0, so have they finally surpassed their past?” Better than Eva? Darling in the FranXX isn’t even better than Guilty Crown – forget Evangelion.
Darling in the FranXX feels like Trigger’s attempt at stepping out of Gainax’s shadow. That’s not how you distinguish yourself from your predecessors. You do so by forging your own path, your own identity, which they were well in the process of doing with the likes of Kill la Kill and the great Little Witch Academia. Now, people will start thinking that Trigger is possibly stuck in the past.
This story, like all others of its kind, is about humanity on the brink of extinction and the only thing saving them from the evil Klaxosaur is a bunch of inexperienced teenagers piloting mechs – or FranXX, as they are known here. Each FranXX requires one boy and one girl in harmony to function. Hiro is part of the latest batch to become pilots, when he fails in his tests and looks set to return to the lab, that is, until the half-human half-Klaxosaur Zero Two invites him to join her on the battlefield in humanity’s last stand. Though she is the best pilot, she also has a reputation for killing her partners after a mere three fights. How long will Hiro last?
Before I dissect the story and characters, let’s address the fan service. I make no secret of my dislike for fan service, as it often comes at the expense of other, better elements. However, most fan service in good anime doesn’t much matter. It’s generally reserved for the low end of the scale.
FranXX was made for fan service first, everything else second. Seemingly every scene has an eye for titillation. When characters get dressed, which is before each fight, they have to wear special underwear (why?) and the camera has to give a close up every time. The “ass shot” camera angle is the director’s favourite. Girls fondle each other despite having no knowledge of anything sex-related (even kissing is alien to them). Zero Two is fan service cancer. Her introduction has her get naked for a swim in front of Hiro, catch a fish with her mouth, and then leap out of the water like a dolphin, boobs almost slapping him in the chin. Does this serve any purpose? No.
The beach episode makes an appearance, of course. One would imagine that a beach episode in a series about sheltered and repressed children would be different, but it isn’t.
Worst of all is the piloting. The boys control the FranXX by steering the girls arse (right after she orgasms from the connection “going in”). I don’t know why Trigger stopped there. Why not just be honest and have them naked in doggy-style for fights? The boys already come equipped with a gear stick.
A key point to remember throughout this is that unlike Kill la Kill where the titillation served some satirical and comedic purposes, Darling in the FranXX wants you to take all of this seriously. And to make it even worse, if you can imagine, it thinks itself clever.
Zero Two is wish fulfilment for sad otaku when she falls in love and drapes herself over a guy of no talent or interesting quality. Every line out of her is “Darling” this and “Darling” that. Far from endearing, this quickly grows irritating. It’s akin to “onii-chan” and all that guff from harem anime.
Relationships and romance are a core theme of FranXX. However, these are the shallowest elements of the series. Society forces these kids to couple up, which makes the relationships inorganic though not a problem just yet, if as a mere starting point. But the organic relationship growth never blooms. When one couple swears undying love, all I hear is the order from above to be “in love”. There is an attempt at relationship drama with the inclusion of another girl that likes Hiro (don’t ask me what she sees in him), but her involvement is irrelevant.
It tries by having love mechanics in the cockpit, whereby a couple’s combat prowess turns flaccid if they don’t trust and “love” each other. This just doesn’t succeed.
The cast consists on an equally bland assortment of characters. The tsundere, the bro, the one fat guy (in a dying world), the shy girl, the reserved chick, the childhood friendzone girl – you know them all already. I keep waiting for a reason to care about any of these people (see the relationship problems above for why). I never get the sense that thought went into developing them. It’s almost as if they knew viewers would draw parallels between them and their counterparts in Evangelion and Gurren Lagann, doing the work for the writers. The closest I got to caring for these characters was when the boys and girls declared war on each other in their dormitory, reminiscent and accurate to boarding school life shenanigans. Wish there was more elsewhere.
The world building is similar – zero effort. Humanity lives in mobile fortresses called Plantations, hinting at a full society, yet we barely glimpse it. The most we have is a quick pass through a city and the grand council sitting around expositing. SEELE was dull in Evangelion and is duller here. The world doesn’t justify itself for being this way because we never explore it. You want the audience to be asking questions, to know more as you unveil the world and characters piece by piece until the big finish (don’t answer every little thing, mind you – leave them pondering small mysteries). FranXX never made me ask the right questions because it never cared enough to show me something worth investigating.
Even the Klaxosaurs aren’t compelling. Yes, there is a little story behind them, but as enemies, they have no character.
Lastly, we come to the story. Well, take Eva but give it Gurren Lagann’s third act, ending included, and you have FranXX’s full story. Oh, and remove anything engaging you may find in those other anime, of course.
For much of the series, the action goes like this: Klaxosaur spotted, send out the FranXX except for Zero Two because she’s a loose cannon and dangerous to her partner, scrub pilots get stomped, forced to send Zero Two and darling Hiro, they annihilate the enemy with ease, Hiro comes back wounded though without lasting damage, other kids hate Zero Two, and repeat. Why even bother with a team of pilots?
Zero Two monopolises the action. Her weakness is supposed to be that she will consume a trained pilot after every three fights, and these pilots don’t just grow on trees, yet once Hiro enters the picture, that weakness become irrelevant. When he reaches the point of death, he magically gets better and that’s that, problem solved. With such little effort I am astonished, astonished I tell you, they even bothered to include the weakness at all.
Also, she can’t go anywhere without an armed guard due to her rogue nature, yet they give her an all access key to go where the other kids can’t? It bites them an episode later. Shocker.
What cracks me up are the commanders. Despite humanity’s existence hanging in the balance, the command crew consists of two or three people. That’s it? I thought we were all about to die.
By now, I am asking myself if there is anything good about Darling in the FranXX. The art is good, as usual from Trigger. It’s likely what’s stopping me from dumping this anime straight into the bottom tier. I don’t want to rely on impulse with this viewing so fresh in my mind, so I will err on the side of caution for now and ruminate on it. And it all could be worse, even in the face of so many faults. Some of the small character moments and interactions are fun, as seen in the dormitory war, for example. The mobile fortresses as humanity’s last homes is also an interesting idea – if only they had explored them!
If only they had explored anything.
Art – High
You can rely on Studio Trigger to do a good job with the art and animation, though this isn’t on the level of Kill la Kill or Little Witch Academia. FranXX designs are so damn silly.
Sound – Medium
The voice acting is fine, as is the music. The protagonist in English sounds like a middle-aged man.
Story – Low
Boys and girls paired as couples fight in mechs to protect humanity from Dinobots. The boy pilots by manoeuvring the girl’s arse – that is the least of this anime’s problems.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Skip it. The memes are better than Darling in the FranXX.
Now for a completely different take on superheroes, Tiger & Bunny is here! To succeed as a superhero in the city of Stern Bild City, a hero needs sponsors. After all, who’s going to pay for all the damage from a battle? The channel Hero TV follows these superheroes on the streets as they fight crime, everything filmed and performed with an eye for entertainment and, above all, a responsibility to the sponsors. You thought superhero work was about catching bad guys? Amateur.
This is a brilliant premise (and a clever way to insert the anime’s sponsors into the series). If you think about it, should a superhero ever exist in the real world, sponsors would be on their doorstep within the hour. Can you imagine how much Coca Cola would pay to have the superhero take a sip of Coke after a successful arrest broadcast to the world?
Our principal corporate patsy in this case is Kotetsu a.k.a. Wild Tiger, a has-been hero that fails to score arrests for points on Hero TV, outstripped by the popular heroes such as the flying Sky High and the young idol Blue Rose (sponsored by Pepsi). The Wild Tiger trading card is worthless. He can’t even give it away! He hits rock bottom when a larger corporation buys out his contract and pairs him with the newer, shinier hero model sponsored by Amazon and Bandai in Barnaby, who has the same power as Tiger – five minutes of super strength and speed. Together, they are Tiger & Bunny (named by Kotetsu).
This anime immediately reminded of a favourite old movie of mine called Mystery Men, which spoofed superheroes to an extreme degree. One hero’s superpower was the ability to shovel very well. The strongest hero was Captain Amazing, plastered with sponsor patches like an F1 driver. There is a strong Western influence in Tiger & Bunny, including a Joker and Harley Quinn-like villain duo.
When Tiger is about to catch a criminal fleeing aboard the monorail, Hero TV’s showrunner tells him to hold off on the capture as they must cut to commercial on a cliffhanger. Tiger & Bunny had me from that moment. As evident by the premise, this is a fun anime. I love the makeup of the world with its reality TV obsession and the un-super superheroes.
Tiger & Bunny does do more than comedy by expanding the major characters. Kotetsu is trying to balance hero life with his responsibilities as the single father to a daughter, who doesn’t know of his alter ego. He makes promises he can’t keep. It goes into lives of washed up heroes, saviours fallen from grace. What happens in retirement? What if forced to retire? Blue Rose, on the other hand, hates doing hero work when she just wishes to be a singer.
The most conflict goes to Barnaby, though. Despite outward appearances of a young hero on top of life, the death of his parents during childhood torments him to this day. His thread, which properly kicks in during the second half, is the best of the series. Until the midpoint, episodes are just “heroes doing hero things” without much story. Fun, sure, but lacking depth. Barnaby’s story and the villain he confronts elevated the anime.
It’s a shame then that the quality slouches back to basic hero vs. villain for the finale. Tiger & Bunny doesn’t quite grab all of its potential and run with it. Greatest fumble of all is the handling of the vigilante Lunatic that incinerates heroes and villains alike he deems unworthy. He comes into the story early on and makes several appearances that both aid and hinder the protagonists, but by the end, his story arc goes unexplored except for his origin story. You could suppose that they saved him for a sequel series, if meant for anything at all, yet even so, you can’t bring in such a significant element and seemingly forget about him by the end. It would be akin to forgetting Two-Face’s story in The Dark Knight. I need a little more of that conflict sauce. Give it to me!
Despite the fumbles, I had a blast with Tiger & Bunny and I can easily recommend it to anyone. The premise alone is worth your time. Let’s hope My Hero Academia, which I am watching at a snail’s pace, is at least half as inventive as this anime.
Art – Medium
The glitzy metropolis design is a pleasure, as are the sponsor-plastered heroes. CG for several of the armoured characters isn’t as bad as it could have been.
Sound – Medium
The acting is strong in Japanese and English. They managed to capture the goofiness of the heroes in this weird world quite well. The music, however, isn’t “superhero” enough. It doesn’t have the fanfare you would expect (WWE wrestlers get it right).
Story – Medium
In a world of superheroes sponsored by big corporations for profits, a has-been hero finds himself paired with the new, handsome hero to perform for the crowd while catching criminals. The fun concept of Tiger & Bunny elevates it above a generic superhero anime.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Try it. Tiger & Bunny has such a wacky idea that even if you have grown tired of superhero stories, this could refresh your interest. Do note that most episodes have an after credit scene that is necessary viewing to avoid small confusion.