Monday, March 18, 2013

Anime Review: Needless

So funny story (but not so much funny “haha”): I was watching an anime called Chrome Shelled Regios on Netflix a few months back that I was fully intending to review for the blog so I can get more of that sweet, sweet anime fandom traffic on the blog. It wasn’t exactly a great show, and I had a hell of a lot of stuff to say about it, but it was pretty decent. Then out of nowhere Neflix removed something like thirty-five anime titles off their online streaming service. Why? I have no goddamn clue, but as a result I suddenly didn’t have access to the show I was watching despite being in the last five episodes of the series. To make matters worse I tried to rent the DVD from Netflix’s mail service but they didn’t have the last DVD of the series, the only DVD I needed, in stock (they had the rest of the series though). You f**ked me, Netflix.

So Chrome Shelled Regios was off the table, as was the vast majority of the shows I was planning on getting around to at some point. But as luck would have it I came across Needless. In fact I actually started watching Chrome Shelled Regios on accident because I thought I was watching Needless (I got their cover art mixed up). So maybe I got f**ked but, at the time, I figured it would all work out the way it was meant to.

We’ll get to how well that worked out in just a minute.

In any event Needless is based on a manga by Kami Imai. It was adapted into an anime by Madhouse in 2009 and licensed for North America in 2011 by our pals at Sentai Filmworks. Like most of the anime I review I knew pretty much nothing about this show going into it. It’s been referred to as “s-CRY-ed meets Gurren Lagann” and those are two of my favorite anime ever. That’s a good sign, right? Right? Hello?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There are some spoilers in this review so read at your own risk]



Our "heroes" so long as you use a loose definition of the word
Our story begins in the future. Fifty years prior World War III erupted resulted in Japan being attacked by nuclear warheads that lay waste to Tokyo, leaving a wasteland known as The Black Spot. It’s inhabited by the Needless, individuals with incredible super powers. Cruz Schild is a young member of a Resistance movement within the Black Spot. They come into conflict with the cruel organization Simeon but are wiped out save for Cruz and his older sister, who subsequently sacrifices herself to allow her brother to escape. Alone and hunted by Simeon’s robots Cruz is rescued by an incredibly strong man dressed as a priest. The man calls himself Adam Blade and he hasn’t even showed a fraction of what he’s capable of.

If I had to name one aspect of this show as being the best it would easily be its first opening theme song “Modern Strange Cowboy” by GRANRODEO. I loved this song and it was always the highlight of watching any given episode (until they changed about halfway through). Interestingly I despised both ending songs, which are a far cry from the fast paced J-Metal of the opening.

Everything else was pretty terrible.

Let’s start by talking about the plot. It’s not particularly original; the whole “In the future Japan will have superpowers” scenario has been done before though technically so long as it was done well that wouldn’t be a huge issue. However Needless does not succeed at that. In fact it flat-out fails. First of all this show is an over-the-top comedy but really just comes off as unfunny and juvenile. As far as it’s story about as deep as a flatbread pizza as the premise is flimsy and has a ton of holes. Worst yet it drags so f**king much. Yeah I know; this is a fighting anime and that’s pretty common but Needless is only 24 episodes, way less than something like Soul Eater (or Dragon Ball Z, or One-Piece, or Naruto, or Bleach) and long ass fighting takes up a lot of episodes. For example the longest fight in the show is easily Blade taking on the Girl Squad in a giant room that lasts TEN EPISODES which is a huge chunk for a show of this length. Now granted a huge amount of characters jump in and out of the battle during this so it’s not just the same four people going back and forth but it’s still the same fight in the same exact location for more than a third of the series. That’s a lot of time we could have used to, oh I don’t know, DEVELOP THE F**KING CHARACTERS!

Cruz, who spends most of the show narrating to his dead sister
Speaking of characters it should be no surprise that a show with a very weak plot also has a really goddamn unlikable cast. Part of this is because of the nature of the show; it values comedy and laughs with zany action above character development so as a result almost all the cast are dull, one dimensional jokes. The three main characters are better than this but they still didn’t have enough going for them to carry a show with this many episodes. Cruz Schild is alright as the young everyman but he doesn’t do that much most of the time and his narration at the beginning of every episode got really annoying really fast. Eve Neuschwanstein was actually not too bad as the female lead as her inability to remember anyone’s name was amusing and she was portrayed as being a legitimately dangerous fighter (which is rare for a female character in this genre). However two things bugged me: 1) the sheer amount of fan service she was involved in was waaaaaaay too distracting (we’ll get into that later) and 2) the fact that so much of the show revolves around her being kidnapped. If it was just once I wouldn’t be too miffed but twice? Really?

However Adam Blade is a terrible main character. He’s not particularly heroic but also doesn’t have the right combination of swagger and likability to work as an anti-hero lead. He’s portrayed pretty much from the beginning as an unstoppable and unkillable badass (think Wolverine from X-Men meets Sylar from Heroes) so a lot of the show lacks tension. He’s not particularly deep, just like the rest of the cast, and there’s just not a whole lot to like about him. Oh and also he’s a pedophile. Yeah, you read that right: the main character of Needless is a fucking pedophile. It’s established that his attraction to underage girls is “his only weakness” and it’s always played for laughs but the fact is he repeatedly fawns over and occasionally fondles various younger women in the show, including one that is no older than twelve (or at least looks and acts no older than that)! It’s gross and the fact the cartoon just turns it into a joke really bothered me. How the hell can I get behind a protagonist if he wants to have sex with a nine to twelve year old? That’s like trying to have a superhero comic where the title character is a serial rapist; I don’t give a shit how many people he saved from that burning building, he’s still a goddamn serial rapist!

Pictured: The best characters in this show
Too bad dick all is done with them
The rest of the cast is woefully uninteresting. The secondary characters are so underdeveloped that I didn’t even bother to remember their names. They are one note jokes and little more than that. Hell, when the fighting starts they usually get beaten up badly within the first few minutes and have to rely on Blade to save them. I will say that the characters Seto, who can control gravity, and Solva, who wields magnetism, had a lot of potential that the show wastes. They show up a ways in the show with a baddass entrance, fairly cool character designs, an interesting background, quirky but entertaining personalities and immense power you think would make them two of the most powerful beings on Earth. So of course they end up being downgraded IMMEDIATELY after arriving and are nothing more than cannon fodder for the rest of the show. Seriously, these two could have been the main characters of this anime and it would have been 1000% more fun than what we got and the fact that the creators decided to simply shove them to the side with only a token effort to develop them suggests an insane lack of foresight on their part! I mean come on: they control two of the fundamental elements of physics so WHY ARE THEY JUST AS WEAK AS THE ASSHOLE WHO SHOOTS OUT FIRE?!?!?!?

As for villains...meh. The main antagonist Adam Arclight is a mustache twirling stereotype with lame motivation and most of his underlings are little better. Saten was the sole exception partly because of the fact he was cool and the plot twist near the end made him a much more interesting enemy than Arclight…but then the show zigs when it should have zagged and blows it by killing him off without a true resolution to his plot. Great. [NOTE: Saten’s plot twist is anime only and doesn’t seem to appear in the original manga].

A cool looking villain with a sympathetic back story?
Better kill him off!
The artwork is in flux throughout the series but at its best it’s “pretty ugly” and at its worst it “really goddamn terrible” so in that regard it’s a wash. There’s also a tremendous amount of fan service in this show. It’s not the worst amount I’ve ever seen in an anime but it’s occurs so much that it’s impossible to simply ignore it. Most of the female characters seem to be there just to serve as cheesecake and even Blade’s pedophilia comes off as an excuse to look at young girls’ panties (which says far more about the creators of the show and the people they made it for than the fictional character). It’s extremely distracting to the show in general and, since I’m not into it, gave me a whole of crap I had zero interest in seeing.

Oh, it gets so much worse
The greatest tragedy of this show, besides Seta and Solva not being the two lead characters and Saten their antagonist, is that every time they do a flashback episode (such as when Seto and Blade were partners and Blade and Eve’s two part origin story) the show is great. The tone is always usually much less over the top, there’s actual character development, and the comedy is MUCH better balanced with the rest of the show. It’s proof that the guys behind this were capable of making an entertaining show…but instead CHOSE to give us this garbage. You unbelievable dicks.

This is the kind of show that explains why so many people look down on anime fans. If I had never seen a Japanese cartoon before watching this one I’d think pretty little of the industry and the people who feed it. The fact is that this series lacks pretty much any redeeming qualities and the few times it succeeds at anything it ruins it by going a different route making us hopeful that things could potentially get better but in fact they never do. In that regard watching this show felt like being in an abusive relationship (which is why it took me so many months to watch it). A lot of people favorably compare Needless to Gurren Lagann but the latter show had a great (main) cast, a good balance between action and comedy, an exciting plot and a style that accentuated these positives and made you forget about its many flaws. Needless has…a good theme song (and even then only for half the show) and nothing else. It’s not in Gurren Lagann’s league and is easily the worst anime I’ve ever reviewed. Okay, maybe it can be viewed as parody but it’s not particularly well done parody and doesn’t really say or deconstruct anything. I was going to sneak in a passing grade but after writing this review I think we all know what it has coming.

Fathers, lock up your daughters (for their own safety)
 I give Needless 1 Adorable Panda out of 5.


Pros 

-Has a good opening song 

-Some characters were actually pretty cool (if horrifyingly underused) 

Cons 

-Has an enormously unlikable protagonist 

-The rest of the cast is flat and uninteresting 

-Bad visuals 

-A very weak plot 

-Has a constant stream of fan service 

-Completely wastes it potential at every available point 


Well that sucked. Thanks for nothing, Netflix. If you have any anime you’d like to me to review or just a suggestion of what to check out next shoot me an e-mail at betaisdead@gmail.com or send me a tweet. The next time I'll review an anime it will be one that's been requested of me for a long, long time.

5 comments:

  1. Yeah, one of the things I've liked the least about my Netflix subscription so far is the amount of shows that have expired that I had in my queue just in the past three months. Their anime selection is so slim right now that it's almost laughable for them to have a category just for anime.

    I think this show was gone before I started my membership, but at least it doesn't look like I missed out on anything.

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  2. Whoops, just saw that it's still there, just not in my queue. It's so sad that it's barely even necessary to scroll through their anime catalog.

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    1. Yeah, it's getting to the point where I'm seriously considering watching Crunchyroll to watch anime but I have a list of reasons that make me hesitant.

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    2. I've been having a lot of problems with Crunchyroll since December 2012, so I'm not too fond of them myself at the moment. I've been considering trying FUNimation's streaming service.

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    3. Netflix annoyed me with their changes too, but they got on my good side with all the cartoon network shows (nostalgia). I've run into this problem of them removing a show I was watching before but I was able to find it on Hulu or Funimation's website. I've recently got into watching a lot of anime on Crunchyroll and haven't had problems so far.

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