Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
In a futuristic coastal city, fifteen-year-old Maia is set on joining the prestigious Ocean Agency. She's already made plans to move house once the Agency accepts her, but when she's unexpectedly rejected, Maia suddenly finds herself homeless, jobless, and helpless. Just when things couldn't get any worse, she's mugged on the streets, and then two gun-toting women come to her aid and bring Maia to the Nereids Help Agency headquarters. Dressed in barely-there, gravity-defying outfits, the Nereids carry out a myriad of services like money collecting, crime prevention and even pet rescue. With nowhere else to go, Maia agrees to join their team, but just as she's getting the hang of things, another Nereid returns to the agency and tries to reclaim her place as the leader.
Daphne in the Brilliant Blue reminds us of a very important rule in anime: if it isn't teenagers who are going to save the world, then it's busty women in skintight bodysuits. Modeling itself after eye-candy action shows like Dirty Pair and Najica Blitz Tactics, Daphne is a barrage of explosions, chases, and gratuitous fanservice. The futuristic, ocean-centered setting leads to some unique backdrops, but the basic idea and characters are all too familiar. And where exactly is the "Daphne" in this series?
Most people expect the first episode in a series to be a basic introduction, but Daphne takes an ambitious approach and extends the origin story, "Maia's Longest Day," into a two-episode saga. The next episode after that is also thickly plotted, with several unrelated events coming together to form a dramatic ending. Although there's plenty of story to tell and a strong flow from scene to scene, it's hampered by the fact that you can easily predict what happens next: Nereids go out in search of criminal. Chases and gunfights ensue. Next case, please. The basic theme of "hot women with guns" is one that's been done over and over and the show's only real claim to originality is that it's never before been done with quite so little clothing.
A predictable premise calls for predictable characters, and the cast of Daphne is no exception. Maia is the typical clumsy, wide-eyed rookie, although her wild ride from academic pride to homelessness to the Nereids agency wins a lot of sympathy. The other women, meanwhile, are so cardboard that it's easy to forget their names: Rena is the redhead who runs the place, and Shizuka is the one with glasses who can't aim a gun to save her life. Even the arrival of Gloria in Episode 4 just adds another stereotype to the list: the one who's obsessed with money. As stock characters on a fighting team, don't except them to change or develop over the course of the series, but who knows? Maybe Maia will develop her skills and have a run-in with the Ocean Agency later, which could result in some exciting conflicts.
If there's one thing people are going to notice about Daphne's visual style, it's that the battle outfits are really, REALLY revealing—even by anime standards. Sure, you could talk about the unique blend of tropical greenery and utopian architecture in the backgrounds, or the fluid animation that supports the action scenes, but eventually it comes back to those ridiculous outfits. Who knew that wearing a scrap of plastic over your privates could be a viable option in urban combat? The character designs are certainly conducive to fanservice, featuring leggy, mature women that could kick the average schoolgirl into next week. The large eyes and triangular chins may be off-putting to some, but that's hardly a concern compared to the abundance of bare butts and jiggling breasts. Cosplayers, please think twice before doing a costume from this series.
With impossibly endowed women prancing around in cheesecake outfits, it seems appropriate that most of the action scenes are backed up by electronically produced, beat-heavy music. However, this strip club soundtrack isn't the only theme in the show; the more relaxed moments feature pleasant, laid-back acoustic guitar riffs that emphasize the city's tropical background. Put all these tracks together and the result is a strange, inconsistent score that jumps between the intensely acoustic and the intensely computerized.
Geneon's English dub of Daphne is fairly competent, with veteran voice actresses Wendee Lee and Michelle Ruff handling the roles of Rena and Shizuka. Their confident, mature delivery suits these twentysomething women well, while Carrie Savage's performance as Maia captures her naïveté—although it's a voice that's turned up too high at times. The well-timed dialogue also adheres closely to the original translation. The DVD is particularly sparse on extras: just some previews and a clean opening, with no character profiles or art gallery to be found (I'm sure all you guys are really disappointed).
It should be no surprise that J.C. Staff, the studio behind Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, also produced everyone's favorite schoolyard Breast Fest™, Ikki Tousen. Once again they prove that if you want to get your anime on the air, all you need is barely-dressed women and a whole lot of fighting. Don't expect any originality with this premise, although the story-packed episodes and unusual setting do have their appeal. Some folks will take an interest in the Nereids' futuristic capers, but most everyone else will be too busy gawking at their outfits and wondering how in the world they keep everything on.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : C
+ Smooth animation and a unique, picturesque setting.
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