Thursday, July 25, 2013

Anime Review: IGPX

Back when Toonami was on tv (no not as the Adult Swim-esque midnight slot, when it was actually on tv at the time it's target audience was supposed to be watching tv) I remember seeing some ads for it on tv but dismissed it since I thought it would just be weird racing every episode without any changes. I know I've said similar things about other shows before which should really tell you what my general opinion of American cartoons from my childhood was. In any case, the revived Toonami was able to obtain the rights to broadcast the show again (probably because even though the show was put on DVD by Bandai it's actually a co-production between Cartoon Network and Production IG, weirdly enough this happened two years after the initial idea was rejected and they had Bee Train make a series of 5 minute pilots which apparently are more than a bit different) which got me excited until I realized the broadcast time was at 2am. Thankfully I have some friends who liked the show and were able to loan me their DVDs, silly people who think they'll get good ratings for shows aired at 2am. Although, that's what killed the show actually, half the show was broadcast in the Toonami slot mid-afternoon and the second half was broadcast around midnight where it did poorly and was canceled, sadly this kind of weird scheduling isn't that uncommon in American shows either.


Summary: In the future a new sport has captured the world's attention, speed skating mechs that go hundreds of miles an hour and compete in three person teams. Each year some of the best teams move up in the division and this year Team Satomi has just moved into the pro league. But as it's members, Takeshi, Liz, Amy and Luca, quickly see for themselves it won't be as easy to become champions and they've got their work cut out for them.

The Good: Let me just say that even though the show was technically canceled from what I've heard it actually ends in a really good place, I suspect (and only suspect, I don't actually know) the show was planned to be either 13 or 26 episodes from the start and it just wasn't renewed considering how it ties up  a lot of things rather neatly (although it's still sad since the pacing was perfect for those last four or six episodes, I couldn't finish the series fast enough!). As for what was produced it's got a lot more heart than I expected, by the end all of the major cast and a lot of the supporting cast has had some development/insight given and Takeshi really is a better leader halfway through the show than he was at the beginning, even with his fluctuations (although I then have a hard time buying how they even got to the top racing group with such dysfunction in the first place). And by the end I got the impression that everyone was really having fun with the dialogue, there was just a liveliness and banter to it that not every show has. It was a fun show, not exactly a sports show and not really a character driven show either but I had fun watching it and I think I probably would have enjoyed it back in high school too.

The Bad: As I mentioned earlier, I had a bit of a hard time buying that Takeshi could have ever been the leader of Team Satomi given where he starts and I'm also always torn about characters who yo-yo in character development during a series, realistic portrayal of teenagers or lazy way of reintroducing conflict into the series? Also, this show left a few details unexplained that bothered me, such as if the pilots of the mechs can hear the other teams while racing or not. I assume not but the dialogue made it unclear, heck it's not until the very last episode that it's made explicitly clear that the rest of the team couldn't hear Luca, Amy's co-pilot cat which again I wasn't sure about since the characters seemed to talk and react like they could (actually, they didn't explain that idea immediately either so for the first few episodes I thought Amy was nuts for bringing her cat along and that people were just humoring her). Those could have been problems that came about from the dub presumably having to rewrite the script a bit to match lip flaps or that could have been a problem in both languages. This is a bit of a minor quibble considering this is just a detail, but considering how often the show has races and how much that changes the interactions in them it's a detail that came up to bother me quite often.

The Production Values: This show looks exactly what I expect a show from the mid-aughts to look like, letter-boxed, color scheme slightly muted (I think that shows become at least 5% more colorful with each passing year), completely obvious CGI (which they don't show with traditional animation in the same cut which makes it better), and simply nothing stunning. It all works, although I thin I'm actually more forgiving of CGI at this point than some so when I say it doesn't bother me it still undoubtedly bothers some people. What's really interesting about the show is the English dub cast, it's a mixture of people who never work in anime for the main three and a combination of anime regulars and people who voice American cartoons but again not anime for the supporting cast, it's a really strange mix. Actually, the DVDs I borrowed were a combination of the first box set and four singles for the second half, the set didn't have an option for the Japanese dub and doesn't have the Japanese opener and closer on it (it was only when those appeared in the second half that I realized there was in fact a Japanese dub). I have no idea if all of the singles had the dual audio option and both of the sets didn't or if they only added that on to all of the later episode DVDs but it's certainly odd, especially since you can't tell me there were fears of reverse importation for this show.

So I'm giving this show a 3.5 out of 5 for being fun and possibly worth a rewatch although I know of quite a few shows that used various elements of it better.

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