Review

by Bamboo Dong, Feb 4th 2004

Melty Lancer

DVD 2: Omega

Synopsis:
Melty Lancer DVD 2
The Meltylancer girls get split up just when things are looking to get worse. Melvina is struggling vainly to decipher the secret behind Iyonesco by herself while the other girls are trying to pin down Defiant. To make things tougher, they're strapped on with the new task of saving the entire Federation when someone starts messing with space itself. Can the girls save the world, or will it be swallowed up by an artificial black hole?
Review:
If you went to all the anime studio cutting rooms in Japan and sifted through their trash bins for discarded storyboards and character designs, you'd get the cornerstones for Meltylancer. At any given scene, you have what could potentially be an intriguing storyline, but instead, the story has the attention span of a young child. Simply put, it tries to be too many things at once. The volume starts off with two of the girls tracking down a terrorist group named Defiant. The group is working under the sinister eye of Iyonesco, collecting genes from different species and also trying to materialize mass out of space. Before the audience is aware of what's going on, the story has completely changed. Iyonesco turns out to be some creepy little girl and before that angle gets fully developed, the story changes again. This hectic pattern continues for 90… whole… minutes. Though in its defense, it's hard to expect much out of a series based on a video game that isn't popular enough to have online walkthroughs (Mary Kate and Ashley's Magical Mystery Mall has walkthroughs).

All flash and no substance, Meltylancer combines every genre under the sun and tries to cram it into one short series. With elements of space operas, body armor mecha shows, psychological thrillers, and horror/suspense flicks, it sags under its own weight and gets lost in its own complexity. What it ends up with is a messy story with even messier characters. The different personas that dot the show feel like cameo appearances from other series, and it's almost half the fun just pointing out the character they're carbon copies of. There's your Bubblegum Crisis armored girl, your average magical girl that transforms into her 16-year old counterpart, your Gendo Ikari look-alike, and your typical God-loving priestess. Not bothering to nurture any character growth at all, whatever character archetype they manage to fit is what they remain as until the end. Add in the jumble of genres and the mixture of spliced storylines and Meltylancer pans off as one huge parody that takes itself way too seriously.

Like the rest of the production, the voice acting comes as a grab bag of mediocrity. Armed with a set of predefined stock characters, the voice actresses fit their respective stereotypes well. Complete with voices suited for prima donna perfection, banshee whining, and emotionless babbling, the actors are all textbook examples of a high school acting class. None of the actors bother to put any passion into their roles, though truthfully, the best acting in the world wouldn't be enough to save this production from the quicksand of blasé-ness. The English voice actors are a bit of a let down though. Traditionally, Bandai arms its dubs with stellar voices, but Meltylancer must have slipped through somehow. The actors lack any oomph, and it's more than unnerving hearing many of the “tough girls” saddled with butch, biker-chick personalities. For some bizarre reason, they even decided to dub over Mou-Mou, a fuzzy animal that makes cute mewing sounds. Another surprise from Bandai is the shady translating job that was done for the script. Normally the writers are able to produce impeccably translated scripts that match the original in both content and emotion. Alas, Meltylancer is left with a script that often changes the meanings of the scenes. The overall story is still there, but it's hard not to notice a death threat on a character when the original script only called for a light reprimand.

Of course, it can't be said that Bandai didn't try. They just didn't have much to work with. Even with the shoddy series though, the US release is something to admire. The discs come with reversible covers, one side featuring a metallic shot of the characters posing for the cameraman. The flipside comes with another group shot, except with the Japanese logo in the forefront. To make up for the confusion of the episodes, Bandai has also included two helpful extra features on the DVD, the first being a glossary for all the terms used by the characters explaining some of the places and organizations and extraneous stuff. There's also a guide to all the mecha in the show that is helpful for keeping all the different ships organized in viewers' heads.

Despite the mess of the episodes though, there is one thing left to appreciate, and that is the music. With amiable J-pop tunes for the opening and ending, the vocals are absolutely delightful. They may be a tad generic, but they serve their purposes well and viewers would be hard pressed to not attempt to sing along with the lyrics. Completing the friendly ambience set by the theme songs, the background music for the series is equally enjoyable. Setting the stage with thumping battle music, cute gigues, and light piano ballads, there is always a piece for every occasion. In fact, that's the one aspect of the production that is truly commendable.

Such glowing praise can only be partially carried over to the art and animation, though. Since most of the characters look like idols anyway, it's no surprise that the character design is pretty and easy on the eyes. Some of the little girly characters are indistinguishable, but everything else in the show is aesthetically pleasing. The one exception to this is the CGI art. At times, it looks incompletely rendered as though it was lifted from a cheap video game. This contrasts with the 2D animation, but it's really only noticeable when the various spaceships are being featured. Noteworthy though, is the camera work. From the focusing effects to the panning effects, it makes the smooth 2D animation look all the more slick and reflective of the characters' occasional first-person points of view.

As part of a big picture, Meltylancer is not all that bad. The main problem is that it suffers from too much ambition, resulting in one heaping load of mediocrity. It set out trying to combine every character archetype ever created with every genre ever produced, and we all know that if you mix every beautiful color in the world, you get brown. And that's what happened. Under these circumstances, even scenes like deaths and painful personal flashbacks come out completely boring and anticlimactic. If you want to see a group of pretty girls, this might be a fun watch for you, but that's all that this series will ever amount to.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A

+ Wonderful soundtrack and vocal themes
Ends up as a melting pot of too many genres

Director:Takeshi Mori
Script:Hiroshi Yamaguchi
Storyboard:
Tomohiro Hirata
Shoichi Masuo
Takeshi Mori
Kazuo Nogami
Unit Director:
Tomohiro Hirata
Shoichi Masuo
Seiji Mizushima
Kazuo Nogami
Music:Masamichi Amano
Original creator:Tenky
Character Design:Tomohiro Hirata
Art Director:
Masanori Kikuchi
Kazuo Ogura
Animation Director:
Tomohiro Hirata
Satoru Isono
Minoru Murao
Mechanical design:
Kanetake Ebikawa
Tomohiro Kawahara
Shoichi Masuo
Producer:
Shinji Nakashima
Masamichi Umezawa
Shigeru Watanabe

Full encyclopedia details about
Melty Lancer (OAV)

Release information about
Melty Lancer - Omega (DVD 2)

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