Jason checks out Manga 2.5, a new service offering fully-voiced and kind-of-animated manga series including Detective Loki and Otogi Soushi.
VHS Vol. 6-7
Volume 6 Synopsis: "The villian's clutches are squeezing tighter. Kain must act fast to prevent total destruction of the universe. He'll need all the help he can get. Unfortunately, Kali has taken over the Universal Guardians, Rail is on the run, and Millie maqy be rawing a little too close to the Dark Seeder. The valiant Troubleshooter will just have to face his worst fear all alone. Will he be able to overcome his terror and reduce the bad guys to space dust? Surely Kain will come out on top as he always has. There's no such thing as an invincible villain. Is there?"
Volume 7 Synopsis: "The Nightmare Syndicate has done some pretty rotten things in their day. They've created an intricate web of mafias and crime organizations that rob the galaxy blind. They've unleashed their pirates on an unsuspecting population. And they've infiltrated the very highest levels of the galaxy's last hope: The Universal Guardians. But all of these crimes pale in comparison to what they did to Kain's grandma. As far as he's concerned, it's payback time, and he won't rest until he's cleaned out the whole operation. With Millie and Canal distracted by Rail's problems, he'll have to go it alone, but a real Trouble Shooter wouldn't have it any other way."
Trapped on an ice planet, with an armada of powerful enemies in orbit overhead, what are poor Kain and Canal to do? Bury their Lost Ship "Swordbreaker" under ice to let it repair itself! But things don't turn out very well for Kain; robots have been dropped on the planet and are homing in on both him and the Swordbreaker...
Hajime Kanzaka, creator of Slayers, also dipped his hand in Lost Universe. Unfortunately, many traits that his series may share are "lost" in the English translation of this series. Lost Universe isn't a "bad" title, per se, but it certainly lacks strong points. A dead-pan English dub, a middling plot, and animation quality that occasionally dips as low as the original Slayers TV series all shout "mediocracy", killing a potentially decent series before it even has a chance to shine.
Kain, the hero of Lost Universe, unfortunately has one of the least enjoyable voices I have heard in a while. Portrayed as little more than a bratty teenager with incredible skills, his voice takes quite a while to get used to. On the other hand, even the best voice actor, Jessica Schwartz (Canal), only brings a touch of personality to the character, and fails to strongly grasp any single concept about Canal to let it develop. At times, the dub throws in humorous background dialog, but background voices shouldn't have to replace the main actors for quality lines.
The plot isn't much better; like Slayers Try, much of the series is spent following secondary plotlines while slowly moving towards a single ultimate goal. While it can be said a single plotline exists, it's incredibly easy to lose track of while the "good guys" run off to accomplish a secondary goal. Unfortunately, these dips into side stories often fail to develop characters, and are used to establish the history of this new universe instead of letting it develop naturally over a longer period of time.
In fact, the animation quality of Lost Universe is rather lacking. Once again, placed against Kanzaka's earlier Slayers Try, Lost Universe fails to stack up. Instead of rich backgrounds and detailed characters, Lost Universe flounders in the sea of stars and its technological gizmos. Low-quality computer graphics fail to inspire even the least bit of emotion and leave the audience with a rather tasteless impression of the sci-fi world around them. It's no wonder that Kanzaka's latest work, Invincible King Tri-Zenon, occurs back on firm ground with a technology level more fitting to his earlier works.
If Lost Universe had a little bit better quality checking, or perhaps a few different voice actors and a slightly better plot, it would be a series worthy of recommendation. The Japanese dub, consisting of the same cast from Slayers, is slightly better, but unless you're really interested in Slayers and are willing to put up with a less-than-spectacular anime series, it might be better just to rent this title.
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