Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 8th 2004
DVD 6: Won't You Join the Dance?
Ryo's endless ARMS battle continues. Having barely survived his fight with Volf, next on the battle roster is Kyklops, an incredibly dangerous combatant with laser vision! Ryo's in for the fight of his life, facing down not one, not two, but three opponents, including the deadly Twister Carol and the leader of Ex Armis, The Devil Cliff! It's an all-out battle for total supremacy, and Ryo will do anything it takes to stand victorious.
People like to watch guys with super powers beat each other up. It's a permanent facet of the human condition, something so ingrained in our culture that you simply cannot escape it. Project ARMS, a particularly dark entry into the ‘super powered guys beat each other up’ genre, continues its endless fight with volume six (of seventeen – thanks, Viz, for three episodes per disc. Seems like a really safe bet for a 52-episode series nobody seemed to care much about in the first place). Here, we see Ryo take on three more paranormal badasses. One of them is a guy with laser eyes, the other is a little girl who can twist stuff with her mind, and the other is some guy who can… oh, does it even matter?
Basically, if you're a big comic book fan or just love endless super-powered fighting, Project ARMS is right up your alley. The show quietly checks off everything on the list of clichés this genre maintains:
1. Ridiculous, over-the-top supervillain who spends all his time proclaiming himself the most powerful man in existence but rarely backs it up with anything more than a stream of declaratory statements about his amazing abilities
2. Each combatant is more powerful than the last and can exploit one of the hero's weaknesses but doesn't account for one of his strengths, which leads to his or her downfall
3. Every time anyone does anything in a fight, someone who's watching the fight looks shocked at what happens and then recaps the last minute for us through expository dialogue we didn't need to hear
Volume six maintains all of these devices in fine form, and it's not a stretch to say that it's probably foolish to expect much in the way of major storyline changes within the next couple of volumes.
The characters aren't much to write home about, although the show does go out of its way to develop them, which is something of a rarity in fighting shows like this one. Ryo is suitably tortured and angsty, which is interesting to watch for a while and makes you wonder what he writes in his Internet diary at night. The good guys are, as a general rule, more interesting than the bad guys are, which is the opposite of most other fighting shows. The supervillain for this particular set of episodes is Cliff, a name that strikes fear in the hearts of men everywhere. He walks around in brown Italian loafers and a stylin' purple suit. Terrifying, right? His henchmen aren't much to write home about either (although I think the ADR scriptwriters should have renamed at least one of them Norm). Once Ryo figures out how to take them down, they disappear one right after the other. It's sort of amusing to see what power the next one will have, but the fun stops once the real fight begins.
From a production standpoint, Project ARMS isn't half bad. The animation is about the best 2001's television schedule had to offer. It isn't top quality, but it certainly isn't horrible. The show is going for a very dark look and pulls it off well. Character designs are, in some cases, unconventional and, in others, completely by-the-numbers. The character designs for the villains are particularly uninspired, which is a shame. Mostly they look like normal people, except with red glasses or long hair or an umbrella or something else equally mundane. Ryo's demonic counterpart, Jabberwock, looks like crab-handed He-Man villain Clawful had been sleeping on a futon and woke up with bed head. Not exactly the stuff of nightmares.
The dub is fine in some spots and hilariously overwrought in others. Cliff's voice actor can't seem to decide just how over-the-top he wants the character to sound, so the voice changes a lot, fluctuating between a high-pitched cackle and a low, “dangerous” voice. The actors didn't have much to work with, so it's hard to blame them for how silly they sound. Here's a sample exchange:
“Time to rise and shine, guys, the doo-doo has hit the fan!”
“Oh, thanks, captain obvious!”
“Besides, if he hadn't transformed, The Devil Cliff would be using his nuts for cufflinks right now!”
“Earth to dumbass! Do you have ANY idea what it means if he turns in to Jabberwock?!”
Watch these scenes and try your hardest not to giggle at how hilariously awful the dialogue is. Most of the show is like that. Cliff has to come up with new ways to describe how much he desires power (he refers to it as “delicious” at one point), since that's his favorite thing to talk about. In fact, everyone in the show seems to enjoy standing around talking about how powerful someone is, but none more than Cliff. If they had a tournament to determine who could stand around talking about power levels the longest, Cliff would make the state championships easily. Ryo shouts a lot, falling back on the old anime dub standby expression for shounen heroes, “Nnnnngggghhh!” If there were ever a Project ARMS drinking game, you'd have to drink every time Ryo said, “Nnnnnnnggghh!”
If you dig the super-powered fighting tournament series, Project ARMS might be your sort of thing, provided you can stomach paying 29.98 for 3 episodes of a 52-episode series (you might find yourself saying, “Nnnnnnngh!” every time you open your wallet for this one). Viz really screwed up this release, giving the Japanese production staff (you know, the guys who do most of the work for the series) very little credit at the end. They don't even credit the Japanese voice cast, choosing instead to highlight their own subtitle and translation teams rather than the people who actually made the show. It's bad form, and one would hope that after six volumes they'd have learned from their mistakes, but you can't win 'em all.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C
+ Decent animation, hilarious dub
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