Monday, February 17, 2014

Anime Review: Neppu Kairiku Bushi Road

Back when the winter charts were first coming out (so, October-ish) I was rather excited with the premise for this one and was sad to hear that it was just going to be some sort of tv special in early January instead of a full tv show. And then I found out that it had been in development hell since 2003 which was holy crap longer than I have been an anime fan, and by several years even! Heck it's original creator died in the intern, the author of the original Trinity Blood light novels, although it sounds like that was actually the cause of the delay since he was supposed to be heavily involved in it. I knew that the TB series was left technically unfinished with his death, so I guess I should be happy that this story at least finally got made. I believe I've heard rumors that they want to retool it for a theatrical release later down the road so maybe this project isn't finished yet.

Neppu Kairiku Bushi Road

At some point in the future, mankind came under attack by fearsome creatures that seem to be made of smoke instead of flesh and bone called Shinobi and humanity was powerless to stop them. They fled and created a great weapon, the Holy Weapon Giga Road, to one day be used against them. Ame holds the key to it and is tracking down it down to try and end all the suffering she's seen caused by the Shinobi once and for all.

I do wonder what state Sunao Yoshida left the story because this frankly was a mess and could have either used a few more edits to make it work as a 90 minute story or just needed to be a full tv series and flesh things out more (I'll note that while I was checking a few names on tvtropes I found the premise for the story which revealed a lot more than I saw actually explained in show). The whole thing felt awkward, the characters move from place to place so quickly it's hard for the viewer to connect with the story and become emotionally invested in the characters, or even understand why the character's do care. At one point Ame is explaining why she wants to use a potentially world destroying weapon to wipe out the Shinbu and she says that they've caused so much suffering for the world that she's willing to take that chance. Obviously we're supposed to sympathize with her and her choice except, well, we haven't actually seen any evidence of that. Sure there was that one village which thought that human sacrifice was a good idea, and then didn't appreciate our heros for saving their lives, but that certainly wasn't enough to make the audience understand Ame's plight.

One other thing that stuck out to me, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing, is that the whole story felt just a little bit old school. I had a hard time articulating this feeling when it cropped up in Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East and The Unlimited: Hyoubu Kyousuke but basically each of these stories just felt like would have fit in well with the shows 10 years ago, which in this case actually makes sense. I don't want to make it sound like all of storytelling in anime has changed in ten years but the fact is that this is a bit of a simple story and it's one that people have seen a lot in the past ten years, and even longer, so what might have been an engaging tale back then just isn't now. Earlier today I even saw one of Anime New Network's writers talking on twitter about this, that there's so much out there today that your execution HAS to make you stand out if you want to be remembered and today such a simple story just won't. It did stand out to me how it avoided some of the usual tropes I see today (guy stumbles in on half dressed girl, guy angsts a lot, lots of bouncing boobs all around) but that's more a comment of what I've gotten used to rather than a comment on why this movie was good or not. 

I will admit however that despite how bad the rest of this OVA was, it did have a pretty awesome theme song that played over the credits. Like the rest of the story, it was wonderfuly old-school and after hearing it just once I've already gotten it stuck in my head