Review

by Theron Martin, Apr 26th 2011

Needless

DVD Collection 2

Synopsis:
Needless - Collection 2
Just when things look like they couldn't get any worse for Cruz and crew in the training room brawl, Saten, one of Adam Arklight's Four Great Ones, steps in. Strangely, though, he seems to “accidentally” help Cruz and crew, allowing the good guys to reclaim Eve and get Adam back on his feet. Further rounds of battle ensue against the Pretty Girls Squadron, Saten, and the masked Great One (who turns out to be Cruz's older sister) before Adam Arklight himself finally steps in and leads the combatants elsewhere while idol singers distract the crowd outside. While the old Simeon corporate heads scheme behind the scenes and Saten tried to play a dangerous little game of his own, Adam Arklight tries to bring about the ultimate end of the Adam Project - essentially, becoming a god - and it is up to Cruz and friends to stop him once and for all.
Review:

In episode 8 of the first disc, Adam Blade and crew entered a training room in the Simeon building which resembled a giant-sized bedroom. They don't ultimately leave that room until episode 19, which mean that a full half of the series is spent in one room locked in one progressive combat sequence. Granted, a couple of episodes in that period are character background-establishing flashbacks and the bad guys cycle through several different combatants during that time, but that should also give you a good idea about how little plot this series actually has in its 24 episodes. These are just two of the many deep problems the second half of this series faces.

The overall plot is a basic one. We knew from the first collection that Adam Blade and Adam Arklight were both part of some kind of cloning experiment, and this volume clarifies that Eve was part of a closely-related project (makes sense, giving the naming conventions used). None of the details of that, when delved into during a two episode flashback late in the series, are a surprise, though exactly why Adam Blade and Eve aren't cognizant of that fact, and who Saten really is and what game he's playing, may be. The revelation that Cruz's assumed-dead sister is the fourth of the Four Great Ones (which can't really count as a spoiler since she's plastered over the back DVD cover and the menu screen for one of the disks with her mask in hand), and why she's working for the bad guys, is the other surprise that these episodes dish out.

Beyond those elements, though, the entirety of the content is really just a succession of flashy battles and power displays, including the training room sequence where the good guys must cycle through waves of bad guys with the flashback sequences used as action breaks. As energetic and inventive in power use as the battles try to be, they can get repetitive and even tiresome after a while, especially when all of the good-guy fighters beyond Adam and Eve are effectively just cannon fodder and sources for power-copying for most of this run. (Think Krillin, Yamcha, and Tienshan through most of Dragon Ball Z.) Even Eve, who stood toe-to-toe with Adam as one of the most effective, interesting, and dangerous fighters in the first half, gets relegated to noncombatant status for long stretches in the second half.

That is just a symptom of the greater problems with the writing, though. Moreso than most recent shonen action series, this one embodies the stretch-it-out spirit of DBZ despite operating in a vastly more limited time, which leaves the series very little room for character development beyond lengthy flashbacks jammed in amongst dramatic events. While the series can be commended for meticulously explaining all of the scheming and how all of the powers work, it does this to a fault and in an awkward manner, as battles either suddenly halt or go into an off-screen pause while one character or another (usually Disc but sometimes Cruz or certain bad guys) explains something. While Saten fits into the picture in a somewhat interesting manner, the corporate bosses behind everything turn out to be just generic throw-aways, and while Cruz's strategizing (predictably) proves critical to the ultimate outcome, the episodes leading up to it give little justification why his allies would be so unquestioningly faithful in Cruz's ability to come up with a solve-it-all plan. In short, the writing stumbles on flow, freshness, repetitiveness, lack of adequate character development, logic, and poor use of resources. The writing does work in some occasional good jokes - a completely random bit about a weight limit on an elevator is actually one of the funniest moments in the entire series and a scene where a particularly powerful hallucinogenic technique backfires against Adam Blade is a classic - but that isn't enough.

Technical, musical, and artistic merits stay consistent with the first half of the series. The emphasis remains far more on flash, fan service, and stylized renditions than on actual animation or artistic merit, so viewers will get to see plenty of dramatic power use but little else of merit. Several new character designs do pop up, but they are just further typical researchers, old men, pretty girl, or super-powered bad-ass stereotypes. The Ikki Tousen “clothes get destroyed in battle” shtick remains in effect but does not come up as often or prominently; panty shots and revealing costumes are more the fan service staples here. Contrarily, the level of graphic violence is a bit higher through this stretch. The musical score continues to use the same themes and with the same level of effectiveness, though the opener and closer change with episode 13; the replacement opener is a toss-up with the original on quality, while the sexy, heavily fan service-focused original closer is replaced by a sillier, cutesier one.

The English dub through this run has the same strengths and weaknesses that the dub did through the first half, except that Luci Christian's Cruz voice stays more consistent and actors suddenly start having an unusual level of difficulty correctly pronouncing Japanese names. Amongst the newcomers, Rozie Curtis gives an awkward-sounding performance as Kasumi (a researcher from Dr. Rikudo's days working on the Adam Project), but others are fine. Amongst recurring roles, Adam Love's bombast as Adam Blade is still the star performance and Serena Gonzalez's Disc is still the weakest.

While the anime content may have its problems, Sentai Filmworks tries to make up for that by giving the release a full boat of Extras. Included on the first of two disks are clean versions of the new opener and closer and a collection of production sketches set to series theme music. The second disk has six more installments of the “St. Lily's Academy” two-minute omake episodes, which are, of course, heavily fan service-laden as they continue the story of Cruz's cross-dressing infiltration of the school to find his lost sister. Also present is a second installment of “Needless Information,” which details translation decisions made during the production of the subtitles and English dub – and there are a lot of tricky calls required, too, since Eve spends a good chunk of one episode mangling common adages. A Blu-Ray version is also available.

The second half of Needless is not quite a total disaster but it is definitely a disappointment. It struggles too much to overcome its deep writing and pacing deficiencies for its action, bombast, humor, and attitude to carry the day.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B

+ Lots of super-powered action, DVD Extras.
Pervasive problems with writing and pacing, rushed resolution.

Director:Masayuki Sakoi
Series Composition:Satoru Nishizono
Screenplay:
Yuki Enatsu
Satoru Nishizono
Storyboard:
Tsutomu Murakami
Shuku Nagao
Seiya Numata
Ryōshō Ōba
Akira Ōtani
Masayuki Sakoi
Yusaku Saotome
Hiroyuki Shimazu
Jun Shishido
Yoshifumi Sueda
Nobuhiro Takagi
Nobuhiro Takamoto
Kazuo Takigawa
Tomokazu Tokoro
Tsutomu Yabuki
Episode Director:
Hiroshi Ishiodori
Keiji Kawakubo
Shinjirō Kusano
Seiya Numata
Hajime Ohtani
Yūsuke Onoda
Masayuki Sakoi
Yusaku Saotome
Makoto Shinohara
Jun Shishido
Hidefumi Takagi
Music:
Masaaki Iizuka
Tatsuya Katou
Original creator:Kami Imai
Character Design:Hiromi Kato
Art Director:Yuka Okamoto
Chief Animation Director:
Yoshio Kosakai
Kazuo Watanabe
Animation Director:
Kanako Abe
Shūichi Fukushige
Tomoko Hirota
Hiroyoshi Iida
Yoshikatsu Inoue
Min-Ho Jang
Yoshio Kosakai
Min Bae Lee
Si Min Lee
Midori Otsuka
Kyuta Sakai
Michio Satô
Shin'ya Segawa
Kimiko Tamai
Fumiaki Usui
Kazuo Watanabe
Hiroyuki Yoshii
Sound Director:Hajime Takakuwa
Director of Photography:Shinya Matsui
Executive producer:
Shunji Inoue
Yasuteru Iwase
Hiroyuki Ooizumi
Seiji Yabe
Producer:
Hitoshi Kawamura
Yukiko Ninokata
Kanji Ogo
Yuka Sakurai

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Needless (TV)

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