The horrors of criticism

October 30th, 2009

It’s the Halloween season, which means it’s time to think about loading up on candy, dressing up during what could be called Unofficial National Cosplay Recognition Day and thinking about all the things in pop culture that fill us with a sense of horror and dread.

In the spirit of the season, we could have done a Halloween post based around normal garden-variety Japanese horror franchises – Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Ju-On, the Ringu series, Hell Girl and all like-minded series that feature divine retribution of some sort, stuff like that. But this Halloween, we wanted to do a different take on horror — namely, the most horrific series we’ve ever seen in our careers as otaku reviewers. Brace yourselves for the horrors within. And if you should happen to see them out in the wild, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Di Gi Charat: Dejiko’s Champion Cup Theatre (Studio Ironcat manga, 2003): America first met Gamers mascot Dejiko, her sidekicks Puchiko and Gema, and “rival” Rabi-en-Rose in 2003, when Viz brought out a series of manga. It made no sense because (a) an accompanying anime that would have made things make more sense hadn’t been licensed yet and (b) aside from the hardest of hard-core fans, no one knew what a Gamers store was in the first place. Undaunted, Studio Ironcat plunged into the fray with their DGC book, Champion Cup Theatre.

And it made even less sense.

We know Dejiko’s an alien princess catgirl dressed in a maid outfit and huge ear-bells. She is a very cute character in that outfit. Why the Ironcat translation/localization team looked at that and decided, “Hey! Let’s make Dejiko speak all thug-life gangsta!” has been forever lost in time (mostly because the publisher shut down two years later). Imagine trying to read an entire book full of this kind of dialogue:

Technically, shouldn't she be saying "Nyo nyo nyo"?

Umm, yeah. Sure. At least the translation/localization team didn’t make Rabi-en-Rose speak in valley girl slang …

Like, gag me with a spoon 'n' some junk.

… never mind.

Eiken (Media Blasters manga, 2005-2008): Because any time you try to remember what a series was about and all you can remember is that (a) the female characters had impractically large breasts and (b) there were many panty shots, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. You might recall that I mentioned Eiken in my Cel Shaded column a few days ago, and for good reason: It really is that bad, among the worst (if not the worst) things I’ve ever read.  The first volume of this series was purchased in the “if it’s manga, and someone took the time to bring it over, it has to be good, right?” phase of my early anime/manga reviewing career … and unloaded without comment a few days later. Why no review of this anywhere in Cel Shaded or Drawn & Quartered until now? Let’s face it — any review that pretty much amounts to “Look! Basketball-sized boobies!” isn’t exactly suitable for a family-friendly publication.

Final Fantasy Unlimited (ADV anime, 2003-04): Wilma tackled this one, and here’s what she wrote about it: Anime and movies based on the “Final Fantasy” video game series haven’t had much luck — yes, I’m one of those who didn’t care much for “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” — and the “Final Fantasy: Unlimited” series also flops along that star-crossed path. One night, strange seismic occurences create a so-called Pillar of Darkness and an opening to “Wonderland.” Two scientists make several visits to the world of Wonderland and write a best-selling book on what they find there. On one trip, however, they fail to return. Twelve years later, their twin children, Ai and Yu, head into Wonderland to find their missing parents — and find a lot more than they expect.

The anime gets painfully repetitive within just the first few episodes, with main “mystery man” Kaze releasing his special powers far more often than seems necessary — all with practically the same animation, to boot! — and Ai displaying her whiny brattiness and ultra-suspiciousness from the start. It was Ai’s stupidity and up-close-and-personal mistrust (there are literally shots of her pout-twisted face that fill the entire screen) more than anything that made me turn off the first DVD in disgust before I could finish all four episodes on the disc.

"D" = dreadful, disappointing, disgusting ...Initial D (Tokyopop anime, 2003-2005): No. Just … no. We’d like to take this moment to thank Funimation for not only performing a license rescue, but also promising to restore this anime ride to its original factory standard and removing all of those wince-worthy “tricked out” modifications. It’s like sticking a spoiler on the back of this car — there are some things you just don’t do.

Puni Puni Poemy (ADV anime, 2004): Ahhhh, Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe. Before Puni Puni Poemy, you gave us Excel Saga, which delightfully skewered all sorts of anime conventions and added a fresh take on Koshi Rikdo’s manga. After Puni Puni Poemy, you gave us Nerima Daikon Brothers, arguably the funniest musical anime about a family of daikon farmers aspiring to be entertainers. And Puni Puni Poemy itself … well, at least you gave us Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers.

To be fair, Excel Saga was great and wacky and all, but I wasn’t too fond of episode 26, “Going Too Far,” where the production staff indeed went too far in creating a too-hot-for-Japanese-broadcast-TV episode that smothered the humor in favor of numerous shots of naked (yet still tastefully covered) women, Hyatt bleeding all over the place and shots of implied sex. Take a small plot point from Excel Saga — specifically, an episode where Pedro’s young son, Sandora, becomes an animator in the U.S. on a series called, yes, Puni Puni Poemy — and toss in a heaping helping of that “Going Too Far” mentality, and you have the 60-minute, straight-to-video Puni Puni Poemy anime.

WARNING: Subjects in picture may be raunchier than they appear.Chaotic? Absolutely. Cute? Yes, for a little while … the running joke about Poemi being so wastefully energetic that she even refers to herself by her real-life voice actress’ name, Kobayashi, has its charms. But this production just feels like Excel Saga episode 26 version 2.0, with jokes that straddle the fence of good taste, music cues recycled from Excel Saga, and a level of hyperactivity that I can only presume is meant to cover up the lack of content. There may be more to it than we can see from ADV’s translation, but since this release didn’t get the same AD-Vid Notes treatment as Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers, we’ll never know.

Twilight (Yen Press manga, 20??): Just kidding. Maybe. Depends how you feel about the Twilight franchise.

Want a few more horrors? Have a look at some classic clunkers.

One Response to “The horrors of criticism”

  1. Otaku Ohana » Blog Archive » Petite manga love for the holidays:

    [...] but then that would include Eiken and Dejiko’s Champion Cup Theater, and you already know how I feel about those manga. Fifty must-read manga throughout history? That would be the Rough Guide to Manga. Perhaps [...]

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