The co-founder of last year's rocky Japan Expo 1st Impact talks about all the dramatic changes to this year's event, what went wrong last time and what to expect from this year's show at the San Mateo Event Center.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 15th 2006
Kai disappears, only to find himself in a complex under Father Ghibelline's cathedral, where he discovers several child psychics being raised as “angels” and trained to defend "Paradise." A violent encounter with Maxim causes Kai to consider his motivations, but Shen-Long and Shen-Lu, among others, independently seek out Kai for their own reasons. Are there things that Kai simply isn't remembering, or is it Shen-Lu who's different?
Meanwhile two young girls with great psychic potential draw attention. Hikaru's power finally manifests in a destructive way, while both Maria and others seek out Asuka for the unrealized power she isn't yet aware she has.
After an initial set-up which established the setting and brought Kai to live and work with Yuuki and Asuka, E’s Otherwise descended into a job-of-the-week format with only a bit of vague plot development going on in the background. As the series forges on through its second half the plot development steps up somewhat as the story strives to confront some deeper questions: do psychics have any value other than as tools and weapons, and is the brainwashing which is part of Ashurum's training and power enhancement for its Esses members messing with the memories and personalities of its team members? The Sacrament of Calvaria also pops up again, although no one (including the viewer) has yet to figure out what it is or what it has to do with anything. Although these developments try to increase the intrigue level and do finally show signs of becoming interesting, the story still suffers from what has always been its biggest problem: a lack of focus and cohesion.
The main problem with E’s Otherwise results from the fact that its story continues to be a polyglot of elements lifted from innumerable other comic books and anime series, resulting in a concept and story which lies somewhere between the American comic X-Men and the anime series s-CRY-ed. Apparently the creators hoped that the “cool” factor would hide the story inadequacies, but that has not turned out to be the case so far. With 18 episodes packed away by the end of this volume and only eight left to go, the plotting lacks serious tension or a clear sense of direction. That isn't a Good Sign. Enough interesting things are going on to keep a dedicated fan watching, but there isn't a great sense of urgency or a feeling of the story building towards a climax. It's like the story is just creeping towards its midpoint rather than racing towards its conclusion.
The source of the problem is the writing. Dialogue isn't as smooth as it should be, characters make statements that are just mindless adaptations of lines from other series, characterizations aren't fresh (Yuki's mildly interesting, but that's about it), and the plot is going nowhere. Although some action scenes are staged, they aren't as dynamic as they should be given the powers involved. Overall the series lacks energy, style, zest, and interesting characters, the four key elements which turned its less-pretty predecessor s-CRY-ed into a vastly more fun and entertaining product.
The one area where E’s Otherwise does do well is with its character designs. Although a couple of characters are a bit generic or otherwise unappealing, most are both well-drawn and eye-pleasing, whether it's Asuka's endearing lolicon look, the cuteness of the kid psychics, the bishonen designs for Kai and Maxim, or the superb balance of colors between hair, skin tone, and clothing which makes Maria look so pretty. Costuming is also consistently done well, especially Shen-long's uniform and Shen-Lu's sharp street clothes/hairdo ensemble. Those looking for fan service won't find it here, as all the female characters have proper body proportions beyond their eyes and none wear anything revealing. Background art is also generally good, with a color scheme that favors a brighter look. Some problems do show up in the integration of background and animated art, where the distinction between the two is sometimes too easily discernible. The animation is otherwise respectable, giving a good sense of character movement when slo-mo and typical fight scene shortcuts aren't being used.
The other major positive point for the series is its musical score, which varies its style a lot but always gracefully flows from one piece to another; no jarring transitions here! It even throws in an unexpected J-pop song in the middle of one episode. Its only negative is a tendency to play up the drama so much it almost pushes some scenes into melodrama. The energetic opener is a respectable tune almost drowned out by overkill sound effects, while the closer is more forgettable. The eyecatch music, which in most series is also forgettable, sound like something ripped off from Bubblegum Crisis 2040.
ADV's dubbing effort, initially a problem for the series, has improved significantly since the first volume. Some may still quibble over the appropriateness of some casting choices, but the voice acting is now on par with the original Japanese vocals, with one exception: Kira Vincent Davis, who voices Shen-Lu, can't sing anywhere near as well as her seiyuu counterpart. (This apparently inspired Chris Patton to insert a snide comment about it in a place where Kai originally had no dialogue, a comment distinctly out of character for Kai. It's the kind of thing that one would normally expect to hear in an outtake clip rather than the official production.) Aside from the song lyrics, the English script is also more accurate than it was in the early going, although it still favors using equivalent statements over more exact wording.
Uncharacteristically for ADV releases in 2005, this volume does not have a Next Volume preview. It does have a clean opener and closer and production sketches, the latter of which include some characters and settings which do not appear in this volume. The most distinctive extra is its Actor Psi Profiles, which include pictures, not-always-serious bio data, and “psi ratings” for some of the more prominent English VAs featured in the series.
Being flashy and good looking isn't enough to create a quality super-powered action series, as this series has steadily proven. Despite hints of plot development, the writing in this volume still is not where it needs to be to make a compelling or fully entertaining series.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Appealing character designs, solid musical scoring.
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