Sunday, September 30, 2012

Anime Review: Lost Universe

Well, here is a doozy. Lost Universe, made in the early 90s, I believe, where finding anime was a task for the truly dedicated, and localization companies had no idea that hiring people with talent usually yields a better product. To make matters worse Lost Universe is a series written by the same guy behind Slayers and he seems to take the same approach to Sci-fi as he does to fantasy. This might be painful.

Our Heroes ladies and gentlemen...
In space, in the future, in some undisclosed corner of the universe, mankind explores the stars and has found ships of immense power. With a nearly limitless energy source, and the ability to break every law of physics known to man, these "Lost Ships" have been at the center of most every conflict, with different forces trying to get their hands on such powerful technology. Needless to say, if there is a Lost Ship involved, there will be trouble. Unfortunately, "trouble" is a part of Kane Blueriver's job description. The owner of the Lost Ship; The Swordbreaker, Kane goes from planet to planet, taking odd jobs from nearly anybody and everybody to help pay for such an expensive (and bossy) piece of hardware. Joining him is Canal, the AI construct of the ship's computer (and hardlight hologram apparently), and Millie, an expert marksmen aiming at being the best in the universe... at everything. But what's a guy to do when he not only has to please two selfish ladies (one of them being his own ship), take on jobs that could get himself killed, but also have a shadowy organization hunting him down and trying to discover more Lost Ships to take over the universe. Can't a guy catch a break?

I know Kane gets flack for it but come on, capes are cool.
What's good about Lost Universe is kind of hard to describe. Unlike Slayers, Lost Universe doesn't really poke fun at the conventions of the sci-fi genre, instead the comedy seems to come from the characters just being plain silly. Sometimes this gets very grading, as Millie is almost always going on about being the best in the universe at whatever she wants to be during that episode, Kane getting pissy because someone didn't respect the cape, or Canal being stingy when it comes to their finances (Which one could understand since the ship's cook detonates something every time she prepares a meal). However, there are some genuinely funny moments in the series and oddly enough they only rarely rely on the quirkiness of the characters. Much like Slayers, there is some fun to be had, but unfortunately it's very VERY few and way too far between.

First things first, watch the series with the Japanese dub, the English language version just SUCKS. The series also tries really hard to be dramatic and serious but anyone who has seen Slayers knows that as soon as they turn dramatic the entertainment quality drops. It's much worse in Lost Universe, where not only do they stop trying to be funny for the most part, but also to increase dramatic tension they pull out every single cliche they know in order to try to delude us into thinking the shit has just hit the fan. The entire latter part of the series devolves into a sequence contrivances and Deus Ex Machinas, all of which just becomes more silly than even the most ridiculous of comedic episodes in the series. And finally, the animation quality of the series is a rollercoster ride. For several outer space shots, Lost Universe tries to employ CGI which in addition to not being well done, is so horribly integrated into the show that it is jarring when they shift from traditional animation to CGI. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had kept it consistent, but not all of the outer space shots are CGI. Some of it is traditional animation, and to make it worse, the animated stuff looked far better than any of the CGI. However, not even the traditional animation looked all that great overall. There are times where the lip sync was way off, even in the Japanese dub, and some actions went into slowmo without dramatic reason other than they run out of budget. I mean, sometimes I don't even know what happened in an action scene because the animators took way too many shortcuts with freeze frames and action lines making up for a lack of time and money.

If you've seen Slayers than you pretty much know what to expect from Lost Universe; however, Lost Universe is clearly the inferior of the two. The humor missed more often than not, or was just not present, there was no sense of parody, and when things got serious the number of contrivances increased to ludicrous levels. It's really hard to like the series due to way too many missteps. If you liked Slayers (and I mean really liked) you might enjoy Lost Universe. But it's only worth it if you can watch it for cheap. Limited Recommendation.

Until next time.

-Crescent, You look like an evil Gourry... Or a normal David Bowie.

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