This Week: Vampire Wars, Psychic Wars, Dog Solider: Shadows of the Past, and Debutante Detective Corps.
As we’re now in the awkward period between seasons, this was a week of one-offs and other frivolous nonsense. Most of it from the sludge and schlock pile.
Vampire Wars (Vampire Sensou)
An entirely reasonably average film. The animation is punching above its weight, sound design is on target, action scenes are snappy, and it moves at a consistent pace that never lost me. Most of the dub is even quite good, especially given the number of European accents flying around. Our main character is a hardboiled character type with a bulk of the lines, and he’s thankfully pretty solid to listen to. Lamia, the female lead, has likely the weakest voice, but she doesn’t get to talk too often and it’s possible her mispronunciations were an intentional direction decision due to the character’s rich movie star background.
If anything, I’m actually disappointed that the film doesn’t want to do more with itself and its universe. It’s under an hour, and I wouldn’t have minded an extra thirty minutes to expand more. When you give me vampire background lore like the one present here (Warring Space Vampire Tribes From Space who want a movie star’s blood to help awaken a godly powerful entity. Which is also a Space Vampire.), I’m a person who nods their head going “OK, let’s do this.” The ball has been passed, and I want to see someone run with it. But there’s just no payoff, and pretty much all the action is a human playing cat and mouse while capping human government agents.
This could have been crazy awesome, but ends up being merely a not terrible action flick.
Psychic Wars (Soujuu Senshi Psychic Wars)
There’s a reliable if clichéd story about defeating the coming of a dark prophecy and fighting for love in here somewhere, but it’s terribly clunky and really scared of showing it to the viewer. Quite literally to a certain extent; it spends a lot of effort showing as few instances of characters having animated mouth movements as possible. It wouldn’t even surprise me if the entire reason for the whole “psychic” thing in the original production pitch (which it doesn’t really get much traction out of otherwise) was to avoid animating many mouths. Lips are tricky things.
Interestingly, the animation actually improved over the course of this otherwise forgettable piece rather than the other way around. Not consistently from scene to scene, but on a line graph, it would chart as gradually upwards with dips back down. It even gives itself a little artistically flourished sex scene. Usually one would expect the reverse, as budget tends to be blown earlier in these kinds of one shot OVA works to get an early defining scene out and they’re left scrambling for frames and money by the end. But the team may literally have just gotten better at making it over the course of production.
Dog Soldier: Shadows of the Past
Dog Soldier is the kind of abysmal 50 minutes of utter rubbish that doing some sort of extensive scene-by-scene write up would do it better justice than any actual attempt to sum it up here. It’s not so bad it’s good, or so bad it’s funny, it’s just wholly How Did This Ever Get Out The Door Even In Cash Flooded 1980’s Japan kind of thing.
It uses an extensive amount of its own material as repeated stock footage, zooming and panning shots are the general order of the day, and it has the barest of minimum numbers of frames when it tries being animated. Characters have elementary school theatre levels of scene blocking and positioning in regard to moving around one another, and the primary driving force of our plot is a vector of using the AIDS virus as a weaponized international warfare agent (which itself is ludicrous, given the time it takes to develop).
And a love triangle between a death merchant and a Rambo proxy over their childhood friend. And conspiracies about the United States scientific research goals. And conspiracies about international relations. And terrorism. And economic poverty. And an ending song about things like someone’s childhood heart being crushed in their backpack (which they can’t afford, because, you know, poverty) entitled “The Sissy On The Roof.”
…it’s not a very well written and directed little OVA, folks.
Debutante Detective Corps (Ojou-sama Sousamou)
Despite this being a Gainax and Studio 4°C production, this worms its way into the drudgery pile for good reason.
The only productions that rate on MAL worse than this for Studio 4°C are a music video, a three minute short, a Toyota ad, and a series of one minute shorts for Sony’s pet robotic dog Aibo. For Gainax, this is their worst rated product on MAL. Everything under it either isn’t out or hasn’t been seen by enough folks to qualify for a score at the time of this writing.
It takes roughly seven minutes (of thirty) to introduce the team, as it gives each of them a character defining entrance scene complete with freeze-frame and a massive gob of on screen biographical data in gratuitous Engrish. It’s really more of a character parade than show. So, here are the handy dandy character biography screencaps for folks to peruse.
The viewer is told each of their names again, but the production does this by methodically presenting a full screen of each character’s chest and reciting some of their info. They are wearing clothes, but still. This is the level of show we’re operating at here.
Of all the infernal things, this is actually in-universe with the Graduation series (some characters make a cameo), which was one of the only English translated and commercially released visual novels of the 1990’s. Which has its own OVA. Which has character relations in Sailor Victory. And a sequel called Marriage. And an alternative all boys school version where they need to put on a production of the play Little Women.
And all of that is more interesting than the plot to Debutante Detective Corps.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.