Monday, August 9, 2010

Bus Gamer

A quickie. That's probably the best way to describe this lightweight, seeing as it's only composed of three episodes. It was produced in 2008 by Studio Izena, based on a manga of the same name by Kazuya Minekura. As even the manga is blatantly unfinished (as in no one bothered to keep drawing it), I'm surprised that this anime even got past the stage where the producers were brainstorming for ideas. So what is Bus Gamer about? Well, the premise is that there's this set of companies who engage in a kind of high stakes gamble where they have teams of three get together to fight each other for disks containing corporate secrets. The main characters have been gathered to form a team, and must work together in order to win a whole lot of money (never mind that no one explains why anyone in the cast needs the cash). One would think this idea might have at least some promise, but sadly, such expectations immediately fell flat. But let's quit stalling and dig in so we can move on to something else. Thank goodness this is going to be a short one.

As far as story is concerned, the immediate indication from the first episode is that this was originally meant to be a story you'd be following for the long haul. The main cast is gathered in the first episode, wherein you learn what the stakes are, sort of, and a little bit about the characters (and when I say a little bit in this anime, I mean virtually nothing, like we don't even get a hint about what these guys do outside of being Bus Gamers until the third episode). The three protagonists seem to be made up of three common anime character stereotypes. There's Toki Mishiba, the determined martial arts guy. You've got Nobuto Nakujyo, the hardened street-fighter, and finally there's Kazuo Saitoh, the warm and friendly guy who will apparently be the really healthy technical guy in the group who excels at nothing else (though it's hard to say since we only get one demonstration of his technical knowhow). You know something is wrong when you find yourself bored the moment the opening credits end. It was almost like they knew they weren't going to to get a finished product, and so they didn't bother telling anyone anything. You basically just got them sitting at a table together forming the group after being hired (Hey nice to meet you, we're calling ourselves "No Name", and we only communicate for work, now get lost.) then they go a few rounds of street-fighting against other teams with them eating lunch together a couple of times in between. There are some marginally funny interludes with this random police chick, who really doesn't seem to be much more then you're stereotypical tomboy hotheaded female who's apparently got a drinking problem (though once again, there's so little information there, it's hard to tell). While I will admit that I was kind of starting to warm up to Kazuo Saito's character by the end of the third episode (he's the only one who actually seems to develop in any sense of the word), that was where the story ends, so there's nothing left to invest in afterwards. So you may only really care about one or two characters, and you find that the end is left hanging.

Furthermore, this anime suffers from glaring information issues in other areas. Who are these zaibatsu-type companies? All we get of these guys is some weird pasty fellow playing around with his computer in the shadows while talking to some rich guy. Why do they gamble with their secrets when any successful entrepreneur worth his salt understands you have to guard your recipes, blueprints, and programs more closely than Scrooge McDuck guards his gold? (And no, being gamblers who like to play with the lives of the country's lowly serfs is not a sufficient answer here.) And how powerful are these companies if they are to the point where they can keep the police quiet long enough to have their games? Furthermore, why should we care? Perhaps the writer of the manga thought these things could be dealt with later, but that only works for the anime if the material actually existed, and it clearly doesn't.

So does this anime have any good points? Well I will admit there are a couple. The artwork is kind of nice, in that it falls a lot closer to realism on the art scale than most. Sure there are a couple of weird hairstyles in the mix (like what's with Nobuto's hair here? Granted by most anime standards it's pretty tame, but still, that hair seems like it would be a hindrance for a street fighter), but that's part of anime's charm for some folks. The opening and ending themes are also kind of catchy, but as far as I'm concerned, neither of these are enough to save this anime.

My final impressions of Bus Gamer are as follows. While I did think it had the potential to turn into an interesting series if the writers dealt with the information problem (and actually bothered to write a complete story), in its current form, it makes promises but gives no payoff. No payoff, means there's no point, and no point, means it isn't worth wasting an hour and a half to watch it. And that's the tiger's two cents.

Images taken from Bus Gamer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dangerous Characters: Lina Inverse

Welcome to the second installment of Dangerous Characters. Today's blurb showcases a character that is very near and dear to the heart of many an anime fan, and at the same time, seemed like a pretty obvious choice for the list. With nicknames like "Bandit killer" and "Dragon Spooker" (Indicating that even dragons will fly away from her in sheer revulsion and terror), it may even be hard to imagine a character who was more suited to the list. (Well, I guess there's always Vash the Stampede, but we can look at him next month.)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lina Inverse, she's one of the main characters from the fantasy anime series, "Slayers", based on the light novels by Hajime Kanzaka. (You can find the anime licensed by Funimation in the U.S.A.) A short young lady who is very sensitive about her appearance, without the outfit she wears, you might not guess she could be a threat. But don't let her size fool you. She's also a very gifted sorceress who is known for her ability to unleash obscenely powerful spells that have a reputation for destroying just about everything in their path. In the case of some of her more explosive spells such as the Dragon Slave, there's usually evidence of the resulting blast radius for several miles. In her monster killing, and treasure hunting expeditions she regularly employs this spell along with fireballs, lightning strikes, and all sorts of wrath-of-god type magic to achieve her goals. (In fact, much of her magic is derived from various gods and monsters, such as the demon Shabranigdo, and the Lord of Nightmares.) However, even if she uses some restraint in populated areas, there have still been instances where entire towns have ended up as little more than craters while in her presence. This has apparently happened often enough with witnesses remaining that her reputation precedes her in many places and many normal people get nervous when they learn who she is. With fiery red hair, and an even more fiery temper, she's definitely a dangerous girl to be around (even for some epic level characters). So if you're a bandit, or just an ordinary towns-person, if you may want to consider taking a vacation if you hear that Lina's on her way and in a bad mood. You'll just have to hope your hideout or village won't be extra crispy upon your return.

Image taken from Slayers Try.