Sunday, May 30, 2010

Anime Review: Dragonaut




So here we are with another edition of Beta’s Anime Review, where I try to recreate my once powerful love for Japanese Animation. For those keeping score I’ve been watching shows I’ve never seen and have so far tackled The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. One was decent enough and the other was really great; so far it’s been a well worthwhile experiment. Today I add Dragonaut:The Resonance to the pile. Did it live up to the standard of the others or have I found my first bomb?

Just so you know this show is a Giant Robot series. Kind of. And yes, if you were wondering, the main characters in the show are something close to “Astronauts Using Dragons” hence the title. First aired in 2007 and it was brought over to America late 2009 by Funimation, presumably because it’s now their goal to bring every single anime ever made to the country. To think these are the same guys who raped brought us Dragon Ball Z in the 90s. If you’ve seen trailers for this show on any other DVD that the company put out you’ll have to ignore it. The trailer implies a comedy, maybe even a parody (We’ll get into the Gag Boobs later). This is a lie to make you watch this show.

WARNING: This review contains some spoilers.

She's the super powered one, yet she's always captured

Years before our story beings Pluto is destroyed by an asteroid designated “Thanatos”. For the next twenty years it does…nothing. Our story proper focuses on Jin Kamishina, an18-year old student who two years ago lost his entire family in a shuttle accident. Today (And by “Today” I mean “THE FUTURE”) he lives a solitary life as he broods about being alone. One day he comes across a monster of some sort apparently eating some woman in an alley and the creature immediately decides to eat him instead. However he is saved by a beautiful yet mysterious girl named Toa, armed with superpowers but no pants, who seems strangely drawn to him. Soon Jin is forced into the middle of war between government controlled weapons called Dragons, and what seems to be the creatures’ original origin: Thanatos. Love appears to be the only thing that can make things right.

I guess I need to say some good things about this show, right? Okay let’s see…the artwork was pretty alright. The style was inoffensive, if nothing to write home about. I didn’t notice any real dip in quality for sure. The music was pretty good too; a lot of the incidental music was a good as any other show I’ve seen. At best it reminded me of some of the music used during scenes involving the EVAs in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Speaking of similarities with that show I do want to comment that the mechanics of the “robots” is one of the more original I’ve seen in anime, something Eva also can lay claim to. Basically they can take on human form and interact with human beings perfectly. Not your typical weapon of destruction as they’re more friends than say a Gundam (But they still have cockpits, don’t be mistaken). In fact it’s closer to compare the dragons in this show to Pokémon than anything else, except these monsters can actually have conversations with their masters. Also the show’s attempted main theme, on whether dragons are more than just tools to be used by a master, is an interesting one to explore. Finally the English voice cast was pretty good. If there’s any indication that the modern dubbed anime is taken more seriously than back in the old 80s’/early 90s era then it’s this show. Plus I heard somewhere it’s something of an All-Star Cast, not that I’d know.

On the other hand…THIS ANIME SUCKS!!!


DAMN YOU, JAPAN!!!

The initial premise aside there’s almost nothing good about this show. Frankly it’s extremely dull. Why is it dull? Because the characters are dull. That is the source here: this is one of the least interesting ensembles I’ve ever seen. As a result nothing in this show works. The story drifts in strange ways because characters constantly make terribly stupid decisions and the plot is dry because the people we’re watching fail to captivate the viewer. I’m not sure exactly why this is but a large part is their motivations. Most of them have none at all and when they do it’s superficial and/or unrealistic. The only character who is even remotely decent is Gio, a dragon (And badass) who goes rogue early on. He tends not to do anything particularly annoying, which is a major plus compared to the rest of the cast. He’s solely motivated by his desire to protect Toa and while he doesn’t understand why he’s compelled this way at least he’s aware that it doesn’t make sense. Plus he is only the reason the plot is able to move forward since our protagonist is completely unable to do anything on his own. Speaking of Jin he is a pile of everything I hate about a main character in anime. He’s a pretty angst filled guy; his family was killed after all but still that’s not usually a trait I like with the fellow I have to watch for however long. He’s also creepily obsessed with Toa. He meets her exactly once before he’s ready to sacrifice everything for her and fight anyone, including his best friend, to be with her. He whines constantly about not being with her but is incredibly incapable of doing anything to achieve his goal. It is only by the grace of Gio, who lets Jin help him in his mission, that he is allowed to even participate in the story. Had Gio decided that Jin was useless (Which he is) or even a hindrance then our designated hero would have spent the show crying in the corner of a coffee shop, possibly writing poetry.

Pictured: Who should have been the lead character

Not that Toa is any better. As part of her origin her reason for being here among us is that she’s on a specific mission, but instead of doing her job she apparently stalks Jin for TWO YEARS! Oh good! In addition it is heavily implied that her feelings for Jin are a manufactured side effect of a plot device called “Resonance” and not real love. While the two claim late in the series that is not the case, it’s pretty much the only thing that makes their bizarre relationship work and is supported by other characters’ connections. It doesn’t help that she has no personality outside of “I’m in Love With Jin” and everything she does in the series is based on that. This romantic plot is getting dangerously Twilight-like.

Proof that abusive relationships are awesome

However by far the worst character in this show is Kazuki Tachibana. Starting off the show as Jin’s best friend he soon degrades into an unintended comical avatar of misaimed vengeance. Basically Gio was created to be Kazuki’s partner but, due to reasons that are never explicitly explained, the dragon clearly could sense his inner doucebag and rebelled and instead teams up with Jin in order to “Protect Toa”. Exactly five seconds later Kazuki declares that Jin, again his supposed best friend in the world, has stolen Gio from him and swears to kill him in revenge and take his dragon back by force. Wait, what? How in the hell did that happen? How did we go from “Best Buddy” to “I’LL RIP YOUR HEART OUT” that quickly? He acts like Jin stole his girlfriend, which says a lot more about himself than anything else. Heck it’s actually implied later on that Kazuki may have actually had feelings for Jin, so if anything he should be mad at Gio. Anyway he spends almost the whole show trying to be “The Rival” while being as effective as Team Rocket. Ultimately he [SPOILER ALERT] comes back around late in the series just as quickly as he turned on his former friend in the first place. I suspect he may suffer from manic depression.

I'M NOT GAY!!!!

I love you, Jin

Also I’d like to make special mention of one character. I noticed a couple of what I consider to be nods and winks to Eva; somewhat subtle references. Sieglinde Baumgard, however, is a loudmouthed little German girl who graduated college super early and has a crush on the main character but lacks the emotional tools to do anything about it. Sound familiar? Not a criticism or anything, just something I noticed.

Someone better cut Soryu Asuka Langley a damn check!

Aside from terrible players the story also suffers from some dumb plot holes. Now a lot of this is just unexplained plot points, such as what exactly caused Gio to be connected to Toa, why exactly is Thanatos and the Erath at war, etc. But a few are just blatant and insulting. The main one I recall is what happens to a dragon that loses its human partner. At some point one of the characters is killed and their dragon turn into a crazed and violent monster; it is flat-out stated that this happens to any dragon who loses its human connection. Without their partner they can no longer maintain that semblance of humanity. Except that Widow, a dragon who aides Kazuki in his retarded quest for revenge, lost her partner before the show even started and she never once shows sign of having lost her human-side. Is she immune? Is she special? They never say! Her loss is a major aspect of her character so this isn’t just a minor glitch. There were some other, similar, things but that was my major one.

I mentioned the artwork being okay, but the character design is a complete failure. Everyone looks like their wearing futuristic clothes with bells and whistles (Not literally. That’d be weird) that just looks strange, as opposed to functional. Everyone wears the same set of clothes all the time, which I suppose is pretty common with animation but after a [SPOILER ALERT] one year time skip during the series no one so much as gets a different hair cut. Come on Jin, at least be a little taller. But the really weird thing was that this show is full of boobs. We're talking comically huuuge breast (This show is not a comedy). So big that nearly every female character must have terrible back pain. They are unrealistically large and mainly serve as fan service, but ultimately it is incredibly distracting.

And to add insult to injury the action scenes are boring as hell. How in the world do you mess up in a Giant Robot series when it comes to action? Take a giant robot and have it fight other giant robots or giant monsters! Instead we have robot dragons more or less ramming into each other and little more than that. My robot blood lust demands more, damn you!!!!

Uninteresting characters, dull plot, BOOBS unnerving character designs and noticeable inconstancies with the science of their world. This series was bad. The fact is this show has no saving grace. The Third: Girl With the Blue Eye managed to get its rating because despite its downside it had several good points to balance out the bad. Dragonauts has NOTHING. It’s not the worse anime I’ve ever seen but it’s the first in this grand experiment that I almost stopped watching because of how much I disliked it. If I’m only finishing a show so I can give it a fair and balanced review then I would consider it failure and so should you. I really can’t think of any circumstance where you might enjoy it.

Well maybe if you like tits more than women

I give this anime 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas. Dragonaut: The Resonance should be avoided.


Pros

-More or less decent presentation of animation and music

-Good English dub

Cons

-Terrible characters, especially Kazuki who make Ryoga Hibiki from Ranma ½ look reasonable

- Plot holes that can fit a truck

- Where the hell’s the damn action?

-Some character designs that are a little more than disgusting caricatures of what real women look like BOOOOOOOOBS

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