Monday, September 2, 2013

Anime Review: Mushi-Uta

I remember when crunchyroll added this to their catalog a few years back, it was unusual since it wasn't a simulcast but a completed title (which was obviously passed over by American licensors for a physical release) and it sounded like a really cool work of fantasy and I always meant to see it. Cleaning up my queue recently I found it again and realized that I had never seen anyone actually review it which meant two things, one either it was a hidden gem or that it was absolutely terrible (there's a reason people don't talk about some works of fiction after all) and that if I did I'd probably get a fair number of views on my post. And I'll admit it, that's an appealing thought so I jumped into the show and then realized that this one sadly wasn't going to turn out to be a hidden gem*.


Summary: In a small city winter is coming and while most people are concerned with Christmas that's not the case for government group SEPB and the rebel group Mushibane. Ten years ago some people started having their dreams turned into literal, physical insects with strange powers that eat off their hosts dreams and if things progress too far can kill them. SEPB tracks down these people and offers them a choice, join them or have their insect killed and live out the rest of their lives as mindless drones in a secret facility, Mushibane tries to rescue as many people as they can from that fate but it's not an easy task. SEPB's top operative, Daisuke has just received an odd mission though, to enter a high school and sit tight waiting for more details, and in the meantime meets some characters whose roles he could have never guessed but plays right into the SEPB's hands. 

The Good: Alright, this show did one thing very well and it was it's female characters**. Rina and Shiika are both main characters without a doubt, get more fleshed out than Daisuke (although I have a theory on that in the section below), and while part of their stories do revolve around falling in love with him and the resulting accidental love triangle that's far from being their only character traits. They become close friends which is a bit of a rarity in a non-shojo story, and stay friends once they realize that they're part of a love triangle, and really balance each other out by showing that you can find strength in your convictions, it doesn't matter if your instincts are to fight and willingly walk into traps or to try and avoid conflicts even if would be so easy for you to win a fight. They meet and connect around the middle of the story and honestly that period, between the halfway and two-thirds mark was the best part of the story by far.

The Bad: As to my theory why Daisuke got much less development than Rina and Shiika, this is actually based off of a series of light novels (still ongoing I believe and it looks like a long one too) so his probably came later since he's supposed to be The Main Character. However, this also means that the show ends on a total non-ending, there's a major character death and the actions leading up to it I thought undermined what the character has been doing and changing up to that point and the other two characters come back practically from the brink of death (with no explanation for how for either of them, going by what the show had previously explained they should be dead). Also, the true conflict of the show is only hinted at in later episodes, Daisuke's goal to kill off the original three who create the insects, heck a side character mentions that if he told some of the others about his plan they would help (a group of rather over-powered, cliched side characters who pop up for a couple of episodes and then vanish again which was so aggravating) but that doesn't happen. Normally I don't get as frustrated by "go read the original material to find out the rest!" stories but this one got under my skin, it's the worst example of "introduce the real plot and then not advance it at all" which makes the entire show feel like a waste and like you just wasted your time watching it. Plus, I've described the plot of this show and it's a bit hard to take a show seriously that involves people having insects which eat their dreams which they fight with like pokemon, the show plays this completely straight and tries to be "grimdark" which made it even harder to take seriously, it's such an out there concept and takes so long to explain that this show really failed to be an engaging story.

The Production Values: I was a little curious why the show chose to translate nearly everyone's insect code name (cicada, winter firefly, ladybird) except Daisuke's, guess that Crunchyroll correctly guessed that no one would be able to take a main character with the name "cockroach" seriously (although since it actually explains a few things about his powers I would have liked it if they had chosen to translate it). They also didn't translate either the opening or ending songs so, while pretty, I have no idea what either of them meant. Voice acting wise, only one thing stood out to me which was Daisuke whose voice changes so much in his different roles that I actually did doubt at first that it was the same character. Which is both good and bad, bad since it did make me wonder how I was supposed to believe that a highschooler would have that range but for once there was a reasonable reason for why the other characters didn't catch onto the charade. As for the art, it's a Studio Deen work from 2007 and while they've started making some pretty works in the past year this was when their stuff looked rather generic and boring, it probably doesn't help that I've grown so accustomed to watching shows in HD that watching a show in standard definition didn't help it either.

I'm giving this show a two out of five for having a few characters that turned out much better than I expected but failing in just about every other aspect of the series which means I can't recommend it either. If you like bad anime and want to watch a full 12 episode series then go for it, it's on crunchyroll and I'm sure you could even make a great drinking game to go with it and I do slightly regret not live-tweeting this show on tumblr because it does provide plenty of material for over the top reactions as well.

*something I figured out as soon as the title screen appeared and I saw what the show's subtitle was, Dreamer's Hopeless and Intense Desire and "dreamer" is often shorthand for my handle "wandering-dreamer
**which makes me go "really the one thing you did well, when everything else was terrible, was one thing that so many shows CAN'T do well? I don't get you at all" and makes me more frustrated at everything it did wrong.

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