Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Apr 3rd 2003
DVD 3: Seeds of Death
After having obtained the Animus Flower, the Betterman team discovers that the flowers need human sacrifices to grow and thrive. They also enable Betterman to transform; can this duality be allowed to exist? Furthermore, what exactly is going on at the BPL facility? As Miyako discovers, there's a lot more than advertised. BPL is supposed to be researching new food sources for the human race, but instead, they're breeding monsters! To top it all off, something new has appeared…why does it look exactly like Betterman?!
Bandai's release of the ambitious 1999 TV series Betterman continues with volume three. One of the first TV anime series to be presented in widescreen, Betterman proved to be a modest success in Japan, garnering a small fanbase. Little word of the series reached American shores, and the show remained obscure until Bandai decided to give it a bells-and-whistles DVD release, with prismatic covers and extra features and so forth. The show even ran on TechTV's Anime Unleashed programming block, but none of these measures were enough to boost Betterman's popularity. Why is that? Well, for starters, this show is so flat-out bizarre, it's a wonder it even caught on in Japan.
For newcomers to the Betterman series, you'd best start out at volume one, since volume three barely makes sense even if you've been following the series up to this point. The plotline here is fairly convoluted and doesn't really offer any immediate answers. There's a line that some anime series cross; it's a threshold between being mysterious and being confusing. Some cerebral mecha series, like Gasaraki, not only cross that line, they smash it into little pieces. The result is a nigh-incomprehensible series that won't catch on because nobody really knows what the hell is going on. Betterman isn't quite that bad, nor is it as thought-heavy as Gasaraki, but there are enough characters, organizations, plot twists and major events in every episode to really twist your head around. The show is also heavy on technobabble, and for a series that supposedly takes place on modern-day Earth, there isn't a whole lot of explanation as to what exactly is happening. Everyone stands around and discusses with great importance the goings-on in the series, and everyone seems clued in except the one person that really needs to know what's happening: the viewer. In brief: the show needs a lot more exposition.
Animation wise, Betterman is a strange duck. The show seems like it was filmed with a grain filter on; there are no solid colors. Everything is interrupted by a light grain, giving the show an atmosphere that it's older than it actually is. At first glance, Betterman looks like theatrical animation produced in 1995. It's dark, murky, and grainy, but the animation is very fluid and the framerate is high. Betterman could have used a slightly brighter color palette, but since the show's art director clearly wanted blurry and murky, this is what we get.
Muscially, the show is standard. There's nothing overly interesting about the background music, and the opening is nothing to write home about. The dub is uniformly mediocre and seems heavily exaggerated, as though the actors were told to act as though they were in a campy 1960's-era sci-fi film. It doesn't seem appropriate. As for the episodes on this volume, there isn't a lot to say. It's confusing and misleading. The recap information at the start of every episode does absolutely nothing to clear things up.
If you're the type of person who will watch something again and again hoping to decipher what's going on, Betterman will probably appeal to you. Otherwise, you may want to choose a show that has sensible writing.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : A
Art : B
Music : B
+ Excellent animation, high production values
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