Gonzo may have cornered the market when it comes to messing up manga adaptations, but a quick look at Xebec’s catalogue indicates that they may not be the only studio who has problems adapting a series from page to screen (let us not forget the Negima fiasco). Do their original works make up for it, or is Xebec just an unremarkable studio in a sea of better offerings?
Fafner in the Azure
The illegitimate offspring of RahXephon and Evangelion (with elements that make just as little sense on close inspection as certain parts of those two series), Fafner is nonetheless one of the more enjoyable mecha series out there. With its top notch animation, excellent soundtrack and intriguing storyline, Fafner creates a world so appealing that viewers cannot help but be drawn in despite its flaws. It may be more a case of presentation and potential than what the series actually delivers, but Fafner should not be overlooked.
Memorable moments: “Kazuki!!”, “Soushi!!”
Martian Successor Nadesico
Another series that remained entertaining whilst being far from perfect, Nadesico was one of the series I watched back when I was an anime novice, and it remains a good starter series for fans even to this day. Despite a slide into weakness into its last few episodes, Nadesico was a decent example of light entertainment that gave the mecha genre a much needed ribbing.
Memorable moments: Akito being one of the very few mecha pilots to have to deal with inertia.
Dai-Guard parodied the retro robot series of yore, which, combined with the premise of office workers saving the world, was a recipe for mild success. If nothing special, the series could at least be counted on for a healthy dose of light entertainment that belied its simplistic and sometimes budget saving animation.
Memorable moments: Dai-Guard losing an arm in various battles.
Many people deride EG for ruining the manga storyline, but whilst I cannot exactly justify calling it a hit, I do quite enjoy it for its enjoyable simplicity and brightly coloured character designs. The story may be hideously flawed and often generic, and the animation is clearly on a drive to save as much money as possible, but there’s still that essential ‘easy watching’ quality to it.
For a series made to sell toys, the early seasons of Zoids not only attempted to have some sort of plot, but followed the almost universal trend of offering a measure of light entertainment. And I have to admit that it did influence me to buy some of the toys, so its mission was accomplished.
Once, Busou Renkin seemed like just another generic Shounen Jump series, but as we soon came to learn, it was worse than that, for it also had copious amounts of crude jokes and so-called ‘manservice’. For anyone lacking a fetish for men in revealing swimwear, Busou Renkin held little first watch value, let alone replay value- even I watched it primarily for the parody angle.
I was drawn to DNAngel because of the character designs, but unfortunately it failed me when it came to actually giving me some kind of plot. Despite my continual hopes that a darker main story would kick in ‘next episode’, the series blundered along its lightweight fashion throughout, offering tediously unfunny ‘comedy’, pointless and irritating characters and far more vacation episodes than it ever needed. A thoroughly disappointing case of squandered potential.
Ah, Love Hina, how could I forget a show that sapped so many irreplaceable brain cells? A hideously repetitive cycle of Keitaro continually messing up and upsetting Naru every time she seemed to be warming up to him, Love Hina could have been a touching slice of life tale, but instead it chose to go down the path of crazy humour and overused jokes. Four episodes was manageable, twenty-four was far too many.
MegaMan NT Warrior
I have to admit I have only seen the edited English dub of this, but while it may well be a classic in original form, I somehow doubt that it will be much more than a simplistically animated shounen tale of one boy and his destined computer program fighting other boys and their less destined computer programs.
As Shounen Jump series go, Shaman King actually didn’t seem too bad at first- a mixture of light entertainment and mystical battles. Unfortunately, it all went horribly wrong when the shaman tournament properly began, with a fillerific journey to first find where it was being held, followed by pointless fights such as one against a group of shaman wearing tight wetsuits. A tournament arc in an anime is one thing, but making an entire series out of a tournament probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
A series so dull and forgettable I even forgot to write about it in the Annual Round-Up, The Third’s generic characters and giant insects ensured that it did not last for long in the viewing schedule- and by the time the last few episodes rolled around, even the animation quality had gone downhill.
With the possible exception of Fafner, Xebec has yet to produce anything truly worthy and memorable, with their strength lying in light entertainment, and their weakness stemming from pretty much anything involving a manga adaptation. Is this general level of mediocrity all the studio has to offer, or can this season’s Heroic Age possibly be the exception to the rule?