The main male protagonist with his awesome ride.
The second review of this year is for the first challenger of last year’s Anime of the Year title holder, the unconventional beach episode Highschool of the Dead OVA, for Sacred Seven. This anime has its own beach episode on its own too (a given considering that this anime is a shounen title) but this anime is more (in)famous because of its main male protagonist’s similarity with a certain video game’s main protagonist. After watching this series, I do see why comparisons are made, but not in the way you think it is.
Our aloof, anti-social and greatly misunderstood high schooler main male protagonist prefers to suppress the pain in his heart by collecting rocks at the creek behind his hut. But the sudden appearance of two mysterious people into his life gives him headaches, and he screamed in anguish as the painful memories of his disturbed past comes back to haunt him. He doesn’t have any choice but to break through his shell though when he realized that someone important to him is being drawn towards danger…
For the purpose of this review, I’ll divide this 12-episode series into three parts. The first part consists of the first three episodes, the second part consists of the next 5 episodes and the final four episodes will make up the final part. This division is made based on the varying quality of the plots throughout the series. In the first part, this anime started so well with plenty of action and a plot that is actually interesting; I started to wonder what is with all those negative impressions for this anime. Then the second part comes and I started to see the reason for all those negative impressions; examples includes the bland beach episode (when compared to the HotD OVA), that awful episode 8 and the Naruto-esque retconning of the crystals’ origins. Equally damaging, if not more, is the characters in this anime too, and I will touch on that issue below.
This anime recovers somewhat during the final part, but it is unable to reach the heights achieved during the early parts in the series. Looking at the ending, it is obvious that the writer tried to ‘think different’ when writing the ending when he/she makes a certain useless character the final boss instead of the main antagonist, but the attempt fails flat on its face. Plus, I think it is contradictory to do such a thing because the earlier parts of the series the writer subscribed to Sunrise’s ‘play-it-safe’ strategy that sink Gundam SEED Destiny to oblivion back then. There is another factor that makes the ending looks bad, literally, and I will also comment on that later below.
As for the presentation, the series sure has a thing for scene transition problems, especially in the first and final parts of the anime. In the early parts of the anime, this problem happens within episodes as those episodes have faster pacing pacing than latter ones, causing some details to be skimped when going between events. An example of this can be seen in the second episode in event that lead up to the battle over the ocean. In the final part of the anime, the problem manifested itself differently, where there is clear disconnect between episodes. An example of this can be seen between episode 10 and 11, where the tax-evasion investigation springs itself out from nowhere at the start of episode 11. A competent writer would have written that one into the end of episode 10, essentially building out the suspense before the next week’s episode was aired. Amazingly, the bad second part of this anime doesn’t have this scene transition problem at all. And as I have implied above, the pacing in this anime is uneven; the pacing of the first part of the anime is faster than it is in the latter two parts.
The quiet and aloof main male protagonist is slowly changing his ways because of love…
Now we arrive at the character development parts of this anime, which is incidentally the main part of this review. As I mentioned before, this anime is (in)famous because allegedly the main male protagonist is similar to his counterpart in the Square Enix JRPG title Final Fantasy VIII, Squall Leonhart. Apparently, people thinks that is a bad thing, but I disagree. Now look at how I divide the storyline in the first place; part one being the first 3 episodes of the series, part two being the next five episodes and the remaining episodes making up the final part of the series.
During the first part of the storyline, which definitely is the best part of this anime, the comparisons between this anime’s aloof and unsociable main protagonist and the aloof and unsociable Squall Leonhart is truly merited. The only difference between them, apart from looks of course, is that the latter has no qualms whatsoever when it comes to rejecting hot women. As this anime’s quality problems emerged during the start of the second part, it can be said that the regressions in character development for the main male protagonist also contribute to the cause.
When I say regressions, I meant that this anime’s main male protagonist has stopped being a Squal Leonhart-lookalike and instead the writer developed his character to become more like Orimura Ichika of Infinite Stratos. The second part of this anime would have been more palatable if the main protagonist stay in Squall mode during that period. When gg fansub group substituted the main male protagonist’s name with Squall’s, I exclaimed to myself that they are already 4 episodes too late when doing so. Unlike the anime that somewhat recovered in the final part of the series, the main male protagonist stuck firmly in Ichika mode until the end and never recovers from that. That reason is also one of the factors why the final part never become as good as the first part is.
The main female protagonist sure is similar with a certain FF8 character that has equally weird hair that can send you into raptures!
Some of the other characters in this anime did not escape comparison with other Final Fantasy VIII characters. For example, the main female protagonist has been compared to her counterpart in the game, Rinoa Heartilly. Personally, I think that comparison is wrong because for me, she is more similar to Selphie Tilmitt than to Rinoa. The character in this anime that is most similar to Rinoa is actually the president of the rock collector club instead, and she is definitely the best character in this series despite her low airtime. And when I say ‘someone important to him’ in the first paragraph above, I really talking about her instead of the main female protagonist. The only good thing about this anime-Final Fantasy VIII comparisons here is that the romance in this anime isn’t really overt, if it exists at all.
Character designs in this anime is not that different really from the previous anime reviewed here before; this anime being your standard shounen mecha power suit title. Rare black hairs, big eyes et. al. But one factor that makes the ending even less appealing is the designs of the last boss and also the final form for the main male protagonist. The latter for example, the final form’s design is worse than his previous white form and the original rampaging penis-like red armor suit. And the less said about the facepalm.jpg-like form for the final boss, the better. Only the final form of the other Seifer-like character is better than his previous design.
Just like Sora no Otoshimono, this anime did not perform anything above the average in this department. There is no outstanding voice actors at work in this series.
At this point of the series, the main male protagonist's transformation into Orimura Ichika has been completed.
The OST for this anime is decent, but not so for the OP and ED themes. Even the troll OP track inserted by gg fansub group is better than the original theme.
The animation quality in this series is good, even in fast-paced scenes. One point is docked from this anime final evaluation for using the blurry animation technique that blighted many new action anime titles nowadays. Choreography in this anime is quite good actually, with some decent battle scenes like the one between Seifer and the SP girl. While the director may not be able to do anything about the storyline, and maybe the final mecha suit designs, he/she should at least be blamed for the presentation problems.
6 out of 10. A 15-minute beach episode OVA still reigns as the best 2011 anime title I have watched to date. Need to watch more anime then, if I have the time…
During this cliche-laden scene, I'm actually wondering WTF is the main antagonist doing behind their backs. The main antagonist sure need to read this website.
thnaks for sharing
Before you waste any more time on another battle anime(perhaps Ben-To) and end up calling it cliche, then let the HOTD OVA reign as you anime of 2011, pick up a true story anime or a thematic anime like Ano Hana or Wandering Son, maybe even Steins;Gates or [C]. I do believe it’d be a better use of your time than Fractales or Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne
Ano Hana and Wandering Son is not in my queue, therefore it will be a very long time before I ever think of watching them. Stein;Gate is in my list, but it is my understanding that I have to watch Chaos;Head before Stein;Gate, therefore unless you see Chaos;Head being reviewed here first, a Stein;Gate review will not come before it.
[C] in the other hand, is also in my list, and has the highest probability of being watched in the near future, after all, I want to watch a few more 2011 titles for the time being. The 2012 audition will come up shortly after all.
As my thanks for commenting here, I want to inform you that I am currently watching another 2011 title from Sunrise, and that one is indeed really really good, kinda like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Good enough to unseat HotD OVA (that has hips that moves on on its own)? You will have to wait and see.