Number of Episodes: 13
Production Company: TMS Entertainment
Brief Overview: Jin lives underneath a bridge with his grandfather, poor but happy. One day he comes home only to find that his grandfather has been brutally murdered. Unbeknownst to him, he may be the next intended victim. In this story, two versions of justice meet, only to face-off against a greater evil.
Episode 1 Summary: Jin is a homeless child with a strong sense of justice, who lives with his grandfather in a makeshift home near the river. His grandfather tries to teach him to achieve justice without violence, a lesson that Jin has yet to learn completely. One day Jin helps rescue a woman from a group of thugs, a deed for which she rewards him a hundred dollars. Jin's happiness is short-lived, however; when he returns home, he finds his grandfather nearly dead in a pool of blood. The rest of his neighbors have met a similar fate.
Jin seems headed for foster care, until the woman he rescued earlier, Akemi, offers to let him stay with her. She soon discovers that Jin has a very weak understanding of death. After a day of shopping to buy some new things for Jin, the two are confronted by a monster who's responsible for a string of murders in town, including that of Jin's grandfather. As they fight, Jin exhibits a strong power that drains his strength. After he awakens in the hospital, Jin is reunited with Akemi.
Thoughts: I always do a little bit of research before watching a series I'm not familiar with, and while it wouldn't have been obvious to me otherwise (and it didn't really affect my impression of the episode either way), it appears as if quite a bit of back-story from the manga was condensed and altered in order to cram it into the first episode. I didn't find this problematic, primarily because the origin story of the hero here isn't anywhere near original and to dwell on his childhood angst would be obnoxious. The downside, though, is that the entire episode covers a lot of ground without also establishing the viewer's emotional connection with the story and characters. The way that Jin tries to take his grandfather to the doctor by carrying his lifeless body around in a shopping cart is tragic, but the gravity of the man's death is lacking simply because he was on screen living and breathing for an extremely short period of time.
I think one of the most striking things about this episode is the way that it's animated. I've read other reviews that are critical of this animation style, labeling it "sloppy" or "unrefined," but I prefer to reserve that kind of terminology for series that are actually lacking in style and finesse. For the most part this series has "typical" seinen character designs with chiseled features and more realistic proportions than typical otaku anime. What stands out are the battle scenes, which, while not fluidly-animated, are incredibly dynamic due to the strong emphasis on distortion and use of thick, bold outlines to convey the type of movement that the budget might not otherwise allow. In my opinion, that use of visual style, as rough as it may seem, is much more interesting to watch than the animation in series which can claim more fluidity and a higher budget.
It's a good thing that the show has some artistic merit, because its other traits don't stand out very much. The basic premise, a tale of genetic mutants and corrupt scientific research, doesn't really bring much to the table as far as intrigue is concerned. It's a typical comic-book setup that leaves enough room for monsters, villains, and heroes with cool powers, but doesn't stand up very well to more intense analysis. Not that it necessarily needs to have a lot of depth to be entertaining, but the path it treads feels well-worn and predictable, even at this early stage.
I watched another three episodes of this series, which continues to be nothing groundbreaking, but is still entertaining albeit predictable. There are some problematic elements, including the fact one of the female characters is seemingly killed in front of the protagonist simply to provoke a reaction from him (*sigh* this old storytelling device again?), but most of its major issues are drawn from the fact that it's trying really hard to mimic Batman (or some other similarly dark comic-book tale) but only scraping the surface of what makes that story interesting to read.
The second episode fills in a bit of the story surrounding Kouga, Jin's childhood acquaintance and the heir to a large fortune. His sense of justice is such that he and Jin still butt heads occasionally; Kouga believes that helping people is its own reward, whereas Jin likes a little something for his trouble. In this way, Kouga almost comes across as cartoonish and his access to and use of the family inventions are so similar to that of Bruce Wayne that it's almost funny. His na�ve idealism is really laughable, in the way one might laugh at a, and it will be interesting to see him come to blows with Jin more often as the series goes on.
While the overall animation quality stays steady throughout these episodes, I did notice that the fight scenes featured in later ones just don't have the same pizazz as those earlier on. This makes it more difficult for me to stay motivated to watch the show, especially since my primary reason for sticking around past episode one was the fact that it was fun to watch large beastly men pummel one-another in stylish ways. It's not a complete bore by any means, but I feel less and less interested as the episodes tick by (the fourth of which I probably only watched because Hulu auto-loaded it before I could cancel and I was too lazy to stop it. Yes, sometimes I'm that lazy). The show is decently entertaining, but it's not something I look forward to with great anticipation every week. Instead, it's more of a "palate cleanser" for lazy Saturday nights when there's nothing more worthy of my time than watching superhuman warriors duke it out.
- The visual style differs from many of this anime's contemporaries, and there's a modicum of style in some of the action scenes.
- The show's tropey-ness is welcoming to viewers looking for some casual action and mayhem.
- The characterization can be cartoonish and certain production realities make it difficult to connect with some of the characters.
- Some story elements seem like direct rip-offs of certain Western comic-book properties.
Recommended? I don't feel very enthusiastic about this series to the point where I'd want to attach my name to it. It's my kind of dumb fun, but it's not made very well and I have no delusions that it's some high-quality, worthwhile production.