Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Feb 3rd 2003
DVD 1: Alpha
Team MeltyLancer, a team of the top-rated policewomen in the Galaxy Police Organization, has been disbanded. Something's not right in the galaxy, though, and a band of space pirates have been stealing endangered species from across the universe and thieving their DNA. Their purpose is unknown, but since several members of the MeltyLancer team are considered “special” specimens, they're in serious danger of becoming part of a most nefarious science experiment!
MeltyLancer was a big project for Bandai about three years ago. They released a video game and this OVA series, titled “MeltyLancer: The Animation.” Both incarnations enjoyed modest success in Japan, but never really caught on in America with fans. It's fairly easy to see why; MeltyLancer is routine, unimpressive, and in the end, downright lame.
As a general rule, anime series that are based on video games are disappointing. The various Street Fighter and Vampire Saviour anime series available have been met with disdain from fans of both the games and anime in general. Since MeltyLancer isn't based on a long-running, credible video game franchise, it comes across as being horrifyingly generic. The cast of characters, assembled seemingly at random, consists entirely of hyper-competent, intelligent girls and a few inept and/or evil men. The female cast, obviously the focus of the series, is entirely forgettable. There's practically no fanservice in the series, which is highly uncommon for a show that's based on a game and focuses entirely on a cast of cute girls. It's as if the screenwriter didn't know he had crafted six utterly uninteresting characters, and then wrote a screenplay that focused on the bland personalities of these characters instead of giving the intended audience what they probably wanted, which was cheesecake.
The plotline is pretty basic: a team of hyper-talented female cops, each with a different specialty, is called together to defeat a band of space pirates that's been stealing DNA from endangered species. Science fiction is a genre in anime that's been mutated a thousand times, and this series seems like the long-lost cousin of the unpopular and forgotten Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko. But it lacks the creativity and mild entertainment that even Yamamoto provided. It's difficult to describe just how generic this series is. The design of the mecha, the space ships, the cursory characters, the costume design--everything is utterly forgettable and looks like it was lifted out of several similar-looking anime titles. There's even a magic-using girl whose costume seems to have been dug out of the dumpster after the production of Saber Marionette J; she shoots down enemies with rainbows from her magic wand. There's also a requisite catigrl, a character type that's apparently required by law in any Japanese video game that features anime-style characters. The villain, a showboating, bratty redhead, looks exactly like Tira from Bakuretsu Hunters. In short, there is nothing in this series that hasn't been done a hundred thousand times before in nearly every other science-fiction anime available on the market. Nearly all anime is derivative, but most other series inject at least a modicum of creativity and attempt to look like more than an amalgamation of other popular shows.
That isn't to say that MeltyLancer is completely devoid of quality. It's an OVA series, animated by Gonzo on a very high budget, and the result is visually impressive. Despite the generally dull look of the show, the animation itself is fluid and very well done. The CG work isn't bad either; consider this show is pushing four years of age, and CG work has only improved in those four years. The DVD transfer is undeniably crisp and presented beautifully. Despite the generic production design, there is a considerable amount of eye candy to be had here, and if you're a fan of Gonzo, you may want to give this title a rent just to see them at their best when backed by a colossal budget. The dub is serviceable, but as with many dubs, it's hard to tell the females apart when they're speaking off-screen. You can't blame the voice actresses for that, since almost every anime female in every series is around 17 to 25, and there are only so many voice styles to go around. The two younger females in the cast sound like the same obnoxiously high-pitched woman in her late 20's who's struggling to sound like a little girl is voicing them. It's nearly impossible to tell them apart.
In the end, MeltyLancer is a completely forgettable piece of animation. The DVD provides all the usual special features that come on an anime DVD: a textless opening and closing, a list of terms, some mechanical designs, and a special video segment. Bandai hasn't announced any plans to bring the video game to America, and after watching this series, I can't imagine it being worth playing. There's plenty of good science fiction anime available now; there's no reason to watch this.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D+
Animation : A+
Art : C
Music : B
+ Beautiful animation; fans of the Japanese game will no doubt enjoy it
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