Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review: The Third - The Girl with the Blue Eye

Anime and I go back a long way, as I have demonstrated in the past. Basically I used to be really into it when I was a kid but got burnt out on it during my time as president of my college’s anime club and I never really recovered. Too much of a good thing apparently makes you realize it’s actually mostly mediocre. I’m trying to get back into it though, slowly but surely. So when I came across an anime I never heard of I figured that be a great way to start fresh with the whole “genre”. Did it live up to expectations or did it justify my self-imposed anime embargo?
The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye came out in Japan in 2006 but didn’t make its way stateside until 2007. Like with Slayers and the fairly recent and popular The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya The Third was based on a series of Light Novels. For those not in the know Light Novels are a Japanese style of book which is generally longer than a novella but shorter than a full sized novel (Though it varies) and are usually aimed at a Junior High and High School demographic. Sometimes this can result in adaptation into animation like with manga. Anyway the fact that the plot is based on a book becomes pretty obvious fairly soon into the cartoon.
Honoka is a 17-year old swordswoman, a jack-of-all-trades who tries to make a living in a world torn to shreds many years after a devastating war. Known as the “Sword Dancer” she has earned herself a reputation for being extremely skilled with a blade. The humans of the world are under the rule The Third, an enigmatic race of three-eyed humanoids who claim to want to prevent the repeat of war by limiting the amount of technology the Average Joe gets to own; sometimes violently. One day, while out in the desert with her AI/tank/partner/primary mode of transportation Bogie, Honoka comes across a mysterious young man wandering by himself. After rescuing him from giant ants (Armored giant ants, in fact) the man, calling himself Iks, asks to join her on her journey as he would like to see this world through her eyes which she agrees to.
From the description of Honoka you might think that this is a fighting anime. Add to the fact that she and a few other characters can sense and manipulate chi you’d expecting all sorts of martial arts action, but this isn’t the case. Oh sure our Honoka gets into plenty of fights over the course of the series but they’re mainly her fighting against robots and giant bugs and the number of real opponent to fight on her level is surprising low (As opposed to s-CRY-ed, for example). Robots, you say? Sure, in addition to tanks, swords and firearms Honoka also utilizes a fighting robot, but doesn’t use it nearly enough for me to give it the Giant Robot stamp. Even though there’s an obvious chemistry (Or whatever passes for such in anime) between the two main characters I wouldn’t call this a romance story either since, well, they don’t really do anything particularly romantic the entire series other than just talk friendly to each other.
"Do you want to make-out?"
"Nah. I'd rather dance around the issue for 24 episodes."
It seems that this show can’t really decide what it wants to be as it blends action, comedy, drama, and a dab of romance. At first I wanted to mark it down for this but as the show went on I realized that the anime had something of an episodic nature to it. The show lacks a larger underlying plot for the most part and instead seems to be a series of shorter adventures of varying episode length. As these are based on novels I assumed that perhaps they were pulled from different novels, but unfortunately I was unable to get confirmation of this. Regardless this almost feels like a Slice of Life story, assuming the life we’re taking a slice out of is filled with pseudo-aliens, robots and giant ants. Aside from the initial confusing the element blend became almost unnoticeable by the time I finished the series.
The artwork in this cartoon is absolutely sub-par. Most of the show is more or less average; mostly okay character design but sometimes with background images resembling something I’d draw...when I was six. Aside from that there are a few episodes where the animation takes a huge dip in quality leading to shockingly dreadful results. One episode, about half-way through the series, was such garbage art wise that I almost stopped watching the show altogether. The next episode things were back to normal. What happened? Were they over budget and needed to spare a few yen for to finish the show so they cut back on the animation? Like I said it happens a few times in the show so, along with general animation that wasn’t so wonderful to begin with, I found myself unimpressed with the visuals.
Aw man, that's the lead character I wanted
Characters are a mixed bag. Easily the most interesting character is Honoka. She starts off as a typical hot-headed (And hot-blooded) tomboy but as the series progresses she demonstrates an incredible capacity for empathy. She’s also a warrior poet, spending most of the series quoting poems. She even has a pretty irresponsible side to her as she likes to spend large amounts of her pay on guns and ammo. Not because she needs them but because guns are cool. She is layered and dynamic figure who doesn’t fit any one archetype. The only problem with her was that the character's flaws we see in the beginning kind of disappear by about a quarter of the way, making a few callbacks but otherwise being replaced by a saintly, almost preachy, figure who can do no wrong. I would have preferred to see more of that tomboy with a temper who also happens to be well armed.
The other characters are…varying degrees of success. Millie, a young girl who looks up to Honoka as a sister, is pretty decent in the “little sister role”. What we see of The Third is interesting; they have very advanced technology, strange powers based around their third eye, and apparently fundamentally different from humans. And that’s the extent we get from them. We learn almost nothing about these guys over the course of the show. They’re not even the villains, despite the fact that it seemed that way in the first few episodes. They just kind of...stand there. Their origin is never outright explained nor is their obsession with protecting humanity which is lame considering the show is named after them. Iks more or less was pretty good as the male lead, though his constant cheerful attitude and absolute lack of disclosure about himself is annoying. This is done for a reason because we find out very early on that Iks is here to observe humanity and not to interfere, but even so it’s hard to like a character that I don’t get to know at all.
And yet Iks is much better at his job than this moron
Paifu, a supposed school nurse who is also a pistol wielding stalker with a sexual interest in the underage Honoka, is by far my most hated cast member. Not only does she possess an unpleasant attitude (Among the other things she deeply hates men but never explains why) but she also seems to possess mind control powers that are implied that she uses to take advantage of girls who catch her fancy. And she’s one of the damn heroes! So this serial rapist forces her way into Honoka’s group, no one ever thinking to say “no”, but does not one bloody thing to add to the plot. She does NOTHING FOR THE WHOLE SHOW except act like a badass but it’s clear she is outclassed by her jailbait object of affection almost immediate after she’s introduced. Plus it’s implied that she has a checkered and intriguing past but it is never explored to any real extent. Why is she here then? Fan service? Homophobia? Both?
The narrator is also pretty annoying, even though he’s not a real character. Listening to him is like listening to someone read a novel, which makes sense this being based on one. However his narrations are so melodramatic and superfluous that he acts more as a distracter rather than someone giving me exposition. It’s kind of like this:
Beta struggled to find the words to type into his blog. What were his feelings? What were his true feelings? He didn’t have an answer to that. That night, as he stared at the glowing screen of his computer illuminating his office, he realized that the empty feeling he was experiencing was not just a loss of words; it was a void of the heart.
Jesus Christ, shut the hell up already! The narrator spends a ton of time describing scene that we are currently watching and telling us what the characters are thinking and feeling. SHOW ME, DON’T TELL ME!
Pictured: A show with a worse narrator
The English dub (The only one I got to hear) was all-around decent except with Paifu who sounded like the actress playing her, Carol Jacobanis, wasn’t exactly sure how she was supposed to play her. As I mentioned before the show has no real connection plot outside of who Iks may be and what his purpose might be, which doesn’t get answered until the very, very end (And even then its implied, not outright stated). Instead we have several episodic story arcs. This format works for the show and, even if some arcs are more interesting than others, the overall tone of the show and the strength of the protagonist makes it a fun ride. The big problem is with the final arc. I won’t spoil the ending, but the “climax” comes at the viewer with no build-up and in the end felt extremely rushed. One would assume that if they had a few extra episodes the problem would have solve itself, but alas the show had 24 episodes rather than the usual 26. Someone screwed the pooch here, whether it was the writers, producers or the network; there was no reason for this series to end the way it did. It felt more like the show just stopped rather than reached its finale.
I hoped this show might feature a little girl shooting guys. Wrong again !
All in all this show is decent, but not great. Honoka calls herself a jack-of-all-trades which can also be said of this anime. The problem is that when you try to include many types of genre in your story you’re unable to master any one. Still the series is worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Trigun as the show has a similar setting and shares similar themes. It’s a fun way to spend an evening; not especially fulfilling but something I may want to watch again.
I give this series 3 out 5 Adorable Pandas

-The blend of genre works well with the episodic nature of the show
-Honoka is a pretty cool protagonist, even if she leans a bit on the “Mary Sue” side of things
-Many characters are underdeveloped; especially the title characters “The Third”
-The ending comes out of nowhere and is resolved much too quickly
-Paifu is a stalker and probably a rapist but no one seems to care
-Although I didn’t mention it earlier the show could stand to have a bit more action

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