Saturday, August 13, 2011

Video Backlog: "The Mars Daybreak (Kenran Butohsai)"

Publisher: Bandai Entertainment (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English dub and English Subtitles
Length: 26 Episodes x 23 minutes
Production Date: 2004
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

A couple of years ago, I decided to buy up the Bandai Entertainment titles that I didn’t own as a lot of their stuff was going out of print. It was mostly the stuff I was mildly interested in and stuff I had half bought (curse you volume one + box era!). Sometimes I wish I had been a bit more selective with the stuff I bought. This is one such occasion.

It’s not a bad show by any means, but it is rather mediocre. It’s almost what I’d describe as a “paint by numbers” show. The basic premise is interesting enough. The show is set on Mars several centuries in the future, where a severe economic downturn has taken place. You have the main character, Gram, who ends up being an accomplice to smugglers when he tries to stop a boy under his care from helping them. In the meantime a pirate ship, the Ship of Aurora, invades the port and Gram ends up in the ocean. Here he manages to find a Round Buckler, a robot designed to operate in Mars’ oceans. He soon finds himself joining the crew of the Ship of Aurora after a battle with the military who are attempting to capture the pirate ship.

In addition to this, Vess, Gram’s old childhood friend, is now a member of the military and is determined to set him on the right path. Naturally a romance blossoms between the two. We also have the sub plot where Gram is linked to the aboriginal tribes of Mars through a pendant he wears. So, there are a number of problems with this show. First problem is the characters, in particular, Vess. There isn’t much history between Vess and Gram shown to the audience. Vess is a military woman through and through, but also very self-centred and thoughtless. It was pretty much impossible to sympathise with her. There was also Enora Taft, a teenage rich girl whom the pirates inadvertently save from a group of inept kidnappers. Her inclusion in the show was rather pointless and added nothing to the show at all nor added tension to Vess and Gram’s relationship, which I think was the point of her inclusion. The character designs where quite bland and some of the secondary designs where just plain awful, especially in the hands of bad animators. A lot of the characters where just plain caricatures and had no depth or were developed at all.

The mecha too wasn’t all that spectacular. Adequate is how I’d describe the designs. The show was animated by Bones and I noticed that the robots looked awfully similar to those in “RahXephon”. I could not believe the amount of filler episodes in the show, probably about half a dozen. Yet another major problem with the show is the lack of explanation of many of the aspects to Mars’ culture. Yeah we have talking cats and porpoises as well as “Naval Witches”, but what the fuck are they and where did they come from? At least the ancestors of Mars’ first inhabitants are explained, but they neglect to explain Gram’s connection with them or his Round Buckler. The show was the product of a computer game company, so I probably shouldn’t have expected too much. On the positive side, some of the animation was rather exceptional and the plot wasn’t too bad. It was fairly engaging and I do like strong non-stereotypical female characters which had in the form of the pirate ship’s captain. But in the end it was kind of mediocre, 6 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 24 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

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