The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Buddy Complex

Jan 7th 2014

Bamboo Dong

Rating: 3  (out of 5)

Review:

If Buddy Complex has any tricks up its sleeve or any explanations for its actions, it's certainly not letting the cat out of the bag now. From start to finish, it's a jumble of vagueries and hints, designed to make viewers scratch their heads and wonder what's going on. It even borrows the ol' trick where one of the characters says something incredibly cryptic, but instead of clarifying their message, they just repeat it. It's frustrating, but one can't really deny that, after all hands have been wrung, it kind of works.

From the get go, we know that something's up. The quiet, dark-haired girl who's assigned to sit next to protagonist Aoba is acting weird, and can't stop staring at him. Meanwhile, some mysterious dude in a giant robo is trying to hunt him down, launching an all-out surprise assault on the school. Luckily, Aoba is saved by the dark-haired girl, but the only information she can offer is that she and the bad guy are from the future, and that no matter what happens, Aoba needs to get in touch with someone named Dio. As if that's not enough of a jumble, Aoba gets pulled into a space-and-time portal, is whisked into the future, and wakes up in a mysterious robot.

If you're not simultaneously frustrated yet intrigued, then you weren't watching the same show. It's the classic "I can't tell you anything except drop weird hints, but wait 'til you find out!!!" switcheroo, only with time travel, giant mechs, and a main character so big-hearted and good, his best friend makes a point of talking about how big-hearted and good he is. Here's an extra nugget of intrigue—we're led to believe that both Bad Guy and Dark-Haired Girl die as they plummet through the portal, but considering they're in every promo shot of the series, we know that can't be true. So what gives? Ah, but you'll just have to wait and see.

Of course, for viewers who aren't tantalized by the lure of open-ended questions, it's possible to tune in just for the mechs, too. Produced by Sunrise, who's built an empire from robot shows, Buddy Complex is teeming with great mecha fight scenes, although the more elegant aerial dog-fighting of the past has been replaced with quick cut, close-up action shots. It's a little hectic for my personal tastes, but considering the show is looking to be 90% robots, that may have the opportunity to change,

Despite all the questions and hints (or because of), the first episode of Buddy Complex feels like a throwaway episode. We meet three main characters, witness two battles, and have time travel rammed in our faces, but nothing is quite explained or introduced, and likely won't be until the second episode. Still, I'm curious to see what the new environment is like, and am willing to stay on the line until then.

Buddy Complex is available streaming at Funimation.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3  (out of 5)

Review:

Watase Aoba is your basic nice guy – he has friends, he likes to cut it as close as possible when getting to school, he tries to be nice to the girl who just returned to Japan. None of this really prepares him for a giant mech to come from the future gunning for his life, of course, or for that girl previously mentioned to come not from overseas, but rather from the future. Aoba's life is officially about to be turned upside down.

While there is plenty here that screams “typical mecha show,” Buddy Complex also manages to keep things engaging despite the clichés. We see right off the bat that Aoba isn't just a blank slate, and he's clearly loyal to his friends, shoving them out of the way of the murderous mecha. He's a bit too willing to trust, as Hina (the aforementioned girl) remarks when he instantly agrees to go along with her, and this combination of traits makes it easy for us to see how something could go as disastrously wrong as his relationship with the future pilot will, as “trust + loyalty” can look a whole lot like “stupid” to someone on the outside. It also helps that once the action starts, it doesn't stop, careening towards the closing credits at a breakneck pace. As Aoba finds himself suddenly thrust into a future full of mechanized warfare it is easy to feel overwhelmed along with him. At this point, my impression is more Majestic Prince than Insert Name Here Gundam.

As far as the designs go, the robots are fairly typical looking, from their exteriors to the computer screens that pop up throughout. Clearly there's going to be some sort of pilot compatibility system that the systems facilitate, since the final scene shows that Aoba has a “nice coupling” rating with one of the other pilots, but we don't yet know how that will actually work. Presumably it will make things easier on our hero, who has just been dumped into a war that he knows absolutely nothing about. Characters are all quite solid looking, although there is something about Aoba's face that looks strange to me, but I could not put my finger on what that is. Otherwise people are all unremarkable and serviceable, and from the open credits, there are going to be a lot of them.

Apart from my moment of immature snickering over “nice coupling,” there was nothing particularly remarkable about Buddy Complex in either the pros or the cons. Whether or not later episodes do anything to distinguish the show from its brethren, this opening salvo was decently enjoyable and firmly middle of the road.

Buddy Complex is available streaming at Funimation.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 4

Review: I can't help myself. I have to ask. What kind of complex is a “Buddy Complex?” A compulsive need to be everyone's friend? A friendship-based sexual fetish? Is this something Freud should have known about? Seriously, has a hard-hooking mecha actioner ever had a worse name? (Don't answer that.)

Normally time travel is a pet peeve of mine. So often it's cheap and poorly thought-out, a narrative convenience or a source of annoying paradoxes. But Buddy Complex (snort!) has a novel use for the gimmick. It uses it, yes, to transport its protagonist to a world of sci-fi warfare, but also as a fiendishly effective form of foreshadowing. To explain: We begin in 2014 with normal Japanese teen Aoba Watase. Aoba is targeted one day by a very out-of-its-time mecha and its clearly disturbed pilot. He is rescued by classmate Hina Yumihara, who has her own mech. In the fallout, Aoba ends up in the future, his would-be assassin ends up dead, and Hina ends up… gone.

Now here's the fiendish part. Because of how events unfold, we know that Aoba and Hina meet in the future, that she is sent back in time, and that Aoba makes a very, very bad enemy in the meantime. We don't know who the enemy is. We don't know what Aoba did to him. We don't know how Aoba and Hina will meet, or part. We don't know what their relationship is. And damn, do we want to know. Of course the wanting-to-know part has nothing to do with the gimmick and everything to do with Aoba and Hina's powerfully immediate chemistry (and the drama hinted at by the enemy pilot's psychotic hatred) but it's the time-tripping that lets us know that we want to know. Throw in Sunrise's usual mecha fan-service and we are well and truly on the hook. Well played Buddy Complex (hyuk!). Well played.

Buddy Complex is available streaming at Funimation.com.



Theron Martin



Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Review:
Watase Aoba is a highly athletic but otherwise ordinary high schooler who, on the first day of second semester, happens to score a seat by pretty transfer student Hina Yumihara, who seems nervous around him. Not long after he finds himself getting attached by a mecha which has come through a singularity, apparently from the future, and it seems to be targeting him specifically. He gets even more shocked when Hina suddenly shows up in a mecha of her own to fight the newcomer off. He soon learns that she is from the same future and came back specifically to prevent this from happening. Before all is said and done, they have to head back through the singularity to deal with the attacker, which causes Hina to disappear and Watase to appear in a new mecha on the fringe of a battle scene, only knowing what Hina told him: that “Dio needs you.”

So starts this original mecha series, which looks like it is going to involve pilots who synch with each other in pairs (hence the title of the series, presumably); how exactly Hina is going to fit into this going forward is entirely unclear, given the way the first episode ends, but she figures too prominently into the opener for this to be a one-shot appearance. Though led by a first-time director, this Sunrise project has a vaguely Gundamesque look and feel about it, but it lacks the stiff style and pretentiousness all too commonly seen in series from that franchise. Instead its presentation is more natural and fluid, with an emphasis on character development in its establishing early scenes before getting into the heavier-duty mecha battling in the second half. While none of this is especially innovative – in fact, the first episode shows little for creativity – the execution is solid; the content is well-paced, throws just enough mysteries out to keep viewers enticed, and is accompanied by good technical merits, especially its musical score.

Some series clearly aim to subsist primarily on thrill factor. This one looks like it is aiming for a steadier, more restrained approach, and if the first episode is any indication, it just may be able to pull it off.

Buddy Complex is currently streaming on Funimation.com.

Hope Chapman


Rating: 2.5

Review:
Every buddy in Buddy Complex really wants a piece of Watase Aoba, a seemingly normal high school student who likes playing basketball, riding bikes and just being an all-around swell guy. Something he's done in his mech-battle-heavy future, however, has tweaked the wrong people, as giant robots from decades beyond 2014 come spewing out of a singularity in the sky to execute or save Watase Aoba. As he runs and quite comically bicycles for his life from giant robots, many questions are raised about how such a totally normal teenager could have gotten involved in all this giant robot warfare. But the answers are yet to be seen.

This is yet another original totally-not-Gundam idea from Sunrise's Committee of People Who Like Making Money, this time featuring a time-travel gimmick and presumably a device involving blood brother robots, hence the title Buddy Complex. The premise isn't terrible, and props where they're due for raising the stakes early and raising them high as Aoba finds himself distressed and alone with a million questions on his mind by episode's end. But unfortunately, a few familiar gimmicks aren't enough to make this show stand out amidst its hundreds of colorful clones. It's not the best-looking Sunrise show, in fact it's definitely the most generic and unimpressive thing they've put out in recent memory. Our hero is pure and unflappable to the point of being completely uninteresting, and because of the premise, everyone else we meet is washed away by the sands of time by episode's end. They too were cardboard smiles spouting bald exposition, so the loss is felt as just a pinprick. Put simply, nothing about Buddy Complex is particularly interesting.

Valvrave the Liberator, a show considered ghastly by most, had stronger, stupider gimmicks as a bungee point, and was welcomed by viewers with disparate reactions of scorn and cheers. There's nothing to really react to in Buddy Complex, though. The most ghastly crime in entertainment is being boring, and while there is promise in its premise, the execution one episode in is too bland to be encouraging. Skip this for a while until it's had some time-testing in lieu of anything more interesting.

Buddy Complex is available streaming at
Funimation.com.

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