This Week: Sadamitsu the Destroyer (Hakaima Sadamitsu)
It’s a Koichi Ohata show.
I could drop the mic and walk off stage after that, as it tells you mostly everything pertinent to your enjoyment. But that wouldn’t really be any fun for anyone.
For reference, Koichi Ohata is one of my favorite directors.
Not because he is necessarily any kind of superb storyteller, mind you. If anything, my constant mental image of him is this sort of eternal young boy, smashing around action figures, powered armor, and pictures of girls. A guy who gets to direct things like M.D. Geist, and despite it being renowned as a terrible production on every technical level it eventually did so consistently well internationally in sales and rentals for several years back in the day that its U.S. distributor Central Park Media financed a sequel OVA with its own money. He has had a very privileged career in turn, who essentially achieves animation directing success goals beyond his wildest dreams by falling through consumable schlock, and I rewatch one of his works every now and again to bask in that particular glow of his. The last time I did this was with Burst Angel, which was his second ever television series.
Sadamitsu the Destroyer, meanwhile, was his first.
In content, this ten episode adaptation of a manga series certainly is perfect for retaining his favored elements. Our leading man is a juvenile delinquent gang leadertype, so he gets to make swell poses and overblown statements others get frustrated by, and he gets a suit of powered armor from space . There is a female character who can kick pretty much everyone’s butts into next Tuesday. There are invading alien criminals coming to Earth from across the universe whose butts need kicking, because we need to justify the fighting somehow. Sometimes gore happens (though a lot less than Ohata’s OVA work, for sure). Ohata gets really focused on pumping up certain elements with his more one track mind directing style, like really wanting to shove an old western style soundtrack full of harmonicas, castanets, and acoustic guitars everywhere he possibly can here for style points. Sometimes he wants to try fancy animation tricks for a few seconds just for the hell of it.
He is slapping together what he hopes to be A Cool Thing.
When accounting for things like general event progression, scene staging, the length of the series, etc, this may well be one of if not the best directed of his works.
Now, that does not mean I would use Sadamitsu the Destroyer to showcase his actual capabilities (that would be Genocyber). Rather, it is more of a recognition that the series has fewer glaring structural issues than much of his other output. The actual story as presented definitely has problems, like any attempt it makes at drama or romance between sections of alien jaw kicking. But this is like handing dry ice to a pyromaniac: Ohata only knows how to work a very particular set of specialty levers, and anything outside of that does not jive with how he handles material. He would prefer to get back to something with a much more hot blooded nature and corresponding high level of property damage. You hire him because you want things to blow up. But the general chain of events, how the scenes play into and transition into other scenes, that I feel works.
I was never at a loss for what was going on and why, which is more than one can sometimes say about Ohata’s directing output.
Keenly, the series does not go on too long. Ten episodes is a tight frame, but with the first half being monster of the week battles and the second being a finale arc, it works for this kind of show. It may not reach for the stars, but is functional at what it does and aims to be without feeling bloated. It’s wholly competent, basically. Which might sound damning with faint praise, but you need to remember who is running the show here.
On top of that, I watched it with the English dub track, because outside of script comparisons I see no reason to ever watch anything Ohata has commanded any other way. I do not watch M.D. Geist or Genocyber in Japanese, I do not watch his seasons of Ikki Tousen to keep up on my reading. The adaptation here is almost entirely faithful outside of some language punch-ups for a little added verbal impact spice. And if you are watching a show about a fiery juvenile delinquent and his deadpanning robot helmet that gives him Kamen Rider armor, some curse words are more than fine as you kick back.
I was not watching this show because I was looking for some kind of subtext. I wanted to have some less invested simple popcorn fun where there is a whole lot of yelling, some explosions , and some comedy, and the English cast certainly was having a blast at that.
Really, the two most jarring performances go to two of the more forward female characters, one being the generally icy class representative type Mitsuko and other other the even colder transfer student Yayoi.
They seem like they are holding back jumping in more actively a lot, not just due to character archetype but in terms of the kinds of dialogue they often need to respond to. Like everyone is having a good time, and you really want to maybe laugh or remark a certain way, but your character so demands otherwise yet a more natural reaction it is still kind of trying to bubble up in places. But that is true on either side of the language track though; it is just the way this show is put together, unfortunately for them.
Miss Chieko, the female nurse from school who is often involved in our gangs misadventures gets to have a whole lot more fun at least, and gets to holler just as well as the rest of the male cast.
What it comes down to is this is Ohata’s clearest attempt to endearingly mimic and/or blatantly steal from the Osamu Dezaki playbook.
Lots of panning shots, the “postcard memories” high detail still frames , emphasis on character positioning to sell a scene even if little is moving, and all the rest. Then run that through an alien battling powered armor suit filter as the main course, with some slapstick as one side dish and such a haphazardly handled helping of drama/romance bit as another where if that part was actually food Ohata would have burned out the pan in the process.
But when the show is about a guy in a robot suit that talks back to him and punching alien mantis guys in the face or chasing an underwear monster, it does its job well enough. And there are some amusing jokes and physical comedy at points. And you watch it in English because a Koichi Ohata protagonist is not one interested in reading, and neither should you when it comes to consuming their antics. The attempts at more serious interpersonal character stuff never gets off the ground, but that is mostly in the second half of the show when it tries to maybe have a compelling narrative point.
It’s a Koichi Ohata show. He may never know how to do that.
But he can at times make a reasonably OK animated series out of his other sandbox action figure smashing abilities.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime 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.