Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Mar 24th 2007
Beet the Vandel Buster
Beet is a spunky, generic boy who idolizes a group of warriors led by the charismatic Zenon. Zenon and friends are Vandal Busters, super-powered human warriors who fight evil demons called Vandals with weapons made from their very souls. Among their many superpowers is the ability to reduce themselves to one-word sentai stereotypes such as the Strong One, the Quiet One, and the Hot-Headed One. Unfortunately, this is of no help whatsoever when a powerful Vandal confronts them outside the gate of Beet's village, and they disappear in the battle's aftermath. Following in his heroes' footsteps, Beet decides that destroying the Vandals will bring Peace and Justice to humanity, since of course humans never commit evil or injustice on their own.
Do you ever feel the need for a reference book on the clichés used in shounen action shows? Well, get a volume of Beet the Vandal Buster and keep it on hand. If you spot something in another show that you suspect of being a hoary cliché, then pop Beet in. If it shows up anywhere in Beet, then sure enough, it's a cliché old enough to attract flies, since Beet is constructed entirely of muck dredged from the lowest depths of a very filthy pond of stagnant shounen clichés. Of course, shounen action is something that thrives on clichés, but Beet manages to hammer them all in the clumsiest, silliest possible manner, all without any of the visual panache, quirky humor, or—heaven forbid—emotional involvement that makes for successful shounen fodder.
The disc starts off with perhaps the single most brain-fryingly, blood-curdlingly awful five minutes to ever curse a series opening. Viewers are treated to the sight of Beet arriving at the last minute to save a fallen mother and child from the fireball of a maniacally laughing—and laughably drawn—Vandal who then conveniently informs us all that he is a Three-Star, I repeat, a Three-Star Vandal. Beet pulls from his soul the Excellion, a Vandal-busting sword of such saintly virtue that it not only has "Excel" in its name, but is also constructed from white metal feathers. Beet then demonstrates his awesome skills, which we know are awesome because the camera pans over him three times in quick succession each time he does them. And that's just the beginning. Add to that a spunky childhood friend cum romantic interest who expresses her affection via violence, at least one "he might actually really truly become the best Vandal Buster of all time" speech per episode, plenty of weepy "don't do this for my sake" battlefield sacrifice, character designs so bland that they border on parody, and villains whose crimes against aesthetics should be forbidden by the Geneva Convention. The animation is also embarrassingly cheap, the action a lifeless mishmash of common shortcuts, and the music befouled with so much trumpeting that you expect John Wayne and the Cavalry to come thundering around the corner at any moment.
That brand new US licensing company Illumitoon chose this lump of shounen dung as one of their flagship titles means that either they were really hard up, or they forgot the importance of making a good early impression. Unfortunately, the evidence leans towards the latter. Especially the subtitles, which are word-for-word replicas of the dub script, complete with subtitles for stretches of show where no one says a word in the Japanese, obviously altered dialogue, and parenthetical descriptions of voiced sound effects. There are also no breaks between sentences voiced by different characters during the same subtitle screen and the awful timing of the sentence breaks makes reading a chore. To polish it off, the subtitle font is monstrous and stacks up three lines at a time, sometimes covering nearly half of the screen. The last time subtitles this awful appeared stateside was when Toei eighty-sixed such bankable properties as Air Master and Slam Dunk. Not a good sign.
The dub also makes some bad decisions. Not in the casting or acting; those are both fine. Or as fine as they can be given the abysmal source material. The entire thing is terribly overacted, but the show demands it. The veteran cast does its professional best with the material given them, but I swear I can hear Colleen Clinkenbeard laughing during some of Beet's stupider lines. No, the real problem is the script. While turning the characters into sarcastic wisecrackers is understandable given the leaden dullness of the original dialogue, the insertion of entirely fabricated lines of explanatory dialogue into moments of silence is simply insulting. The dub also replaces the entire soundtrack with newly composed wannabe Lord of the Rings orchestral themes and alt-rock guitar riffs that—while different—are just as uninspired as those they replace. The opening and closing songs are likewise redone, leading to one of anime's greatest unintentional jokes when the opening artist growls about standing up for Justice and being strong in the face of adversity with the tortured, strangled vocals and doom-laden guitar of Korn-era nu-metal.
The original Kanji opening and closing sequences are the only extras included on this disc.
Even as downright terrible as their handling of this release is, one can't help feeling sorry for Illumitoon for being saddled with Beet, a show whose shounen clichés are so dead that even their maggots have hatched and flown off to greener pastures. Maybe their next releases will be better produced, but what they need most is a better show to expend that effort on.
Overall (dub) : F+
Overall (sub) : F
Story : F
Animation : D-
Art : D-
Music : D
+ Unintentionally hilarious English opening song.
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