The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Review: Nothing good ever comes out of a multidimensional portal. A giant black bubble forms in some metropolitan center and out comes a skyscraper-sized monster or a swarm of human-annihilating supernatural invaders. Just once, why can't the big black bubble expand across Tokyo, terrified citizens fleeing as its margins overtake them, and then pop, leaving the puzzled fleers piled with fluffy teddy bears? Or maybe the bubble opens up and an army of happy kittens marches out? Needless to say, when the bubble forms in Z/X Ignition, it's the slaughtering supernatural army that emerges. Because if there's one thing you can bank on, it's that of all the options available to Z/X at any given moment, it will always opt for the most cruelly uninteresting one.
Exhibit one: The premise. The show is based off of a collectible card game. Will the show, a) Ignore its origins and create an original story that plays with the characters in a new context; b) Create a parody that pokes fun at card-games-turned-anime-series; or c) Throw together some gobbledygook about invading baddies being fought off by teenagers with “card devices” that allow them to play partner-monsters like, well, collectible cards? (Answer: Who are we kidding?). Exhibit two: The main character. There are five characters involved in the monster rumble that opens the episode. Is the main character, a) The sadistic child riding a T-Rex; b) The hard-eyed girl who figures out the true purpose of the rumble; or c) The guy with no personality whose angelic sidekick is in love with him? (Answer: Who needs a personality?) Exhibit three: The bad guy. The bad guy is a scheming megalomaniac in glasses. When he meets the hero will he, a) Kill him; b) Usurp his place as main character; or c) Try to recruit him because he's obviously super-powerful and popular with the ladies? (Answer: Please god, make it stop.)
Z/X Ignition is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Review: And now, an excerpt from Z/X Ignition!
Smug Dude with Glasses: "It seems the White World has abandoned this town."
Hapless Bishounen: "Gasp! The White World has abandoned this town?! ... What does that mean?"
HB's Magical Angel Guardian: "I don't know myself."
Nice of this show to sum itself up for everyone. This is yet another game-based anime about kids saving Japan by summoning partner monsters a la Digimon or Devil Survivor 2. (The design aesthetic is similar too, with gaudy, overdesigned creatures whose names are references to dozens of different mashed-up mythologies.) But unlike those series, which use their limited budget to focus on character interactions for the majority of an episode and save a pocket of three minutes or so for fight scenes, Z/X Ignition jumps headfirst into incomprehensible nonsense.
The first five minutes or so of the episode is extended narration about a gate to somewhere unleashing something and bringing the world to the brink of destruction. After that, the scene shifts completely to kids and teens using their various weird monsters to beat each other up with horrible limited animation and no tangible danger, motives, or stakes holding any of it together as fight after fight in constantly changing settings throughout Kobe builds to absolutely nothing. The last five minutes are the closest we get to a story we can follow, flashing back to a vague origin story for one boy getting his angel-monster-partner. (It involves trading cards. Of course it involves trading cards.) So he's our hero, maybe? Doesn't matter, episode over. It's a boring, cheap imitation of other card-monster-franchise stuff you could watch instead. Give it a pass.
By the way, the "Z/X" in Z/X Ignition stands for Zillions of Enemy X. If nothing else, this otherwise forgettable show gave me the stupidest thing I've seen all winter season. And I saw a show with characters named "Birthday," "Ratio," and "Nice."
Z/X Ignition is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)
Review: Sometime in the near future mystical gates which come to be called Black Points open and fantastic monsters spew out to ravage the world. Three years later mankind has apparently come up with a way to defend itself against the Z/X (short for “Zillions of enemy X” – wow, that one must have taken a long time to think up): items creative called card devices because they look like cards. They can be used to control Z/X, which can be mustered to fight for humans and. . .
Oh, heck with explaining it more, as this is just one of those paper-thin premises built to explain the mechanics of the CCG on which the series is based. Very little effort is put into making this seem like it is anything more than just an animated version of a game played using the cards. That's why random creatures like Reapers, angels, dinosaurs, knights, and talking, flying lions pop up beside their masters. Asuka Tennouji is a young man who blunders into this world when he encounters first a shrine maiden who gives him a card device and ten a wounded angel. But that all happens at the back end of the episode. The first three-quarters of it, which happens a week later, is a confusing mess which tosses out unexplained references to Red Worlds and White Worlds, a host of characters viewers new to the franchise cannot possibly know, and a set-up for a big battle apparently intended to assault Kobe. Starting with the first stage of climactic events and then flashing back to tell the story is a common enough storytelling technique, but here it goes on much too long. Nothing we see so far about the characters or the Z/X is all that special either, nor is there much indication of a compelling storyline. Despite all of the action, I had to struggle to maintain focus while watching it.
Maybe Z/X Ignition will amount to something, and the artistry is actually better than a lot of other titles this season, but it has its work cut out for it.
Z/X Ignition is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)
A few years ago, an increasingly unhelpful narrator tells us, large black gates opened up around the world. While idiots stood and snapped pictures of them with their cellphones, monsters from other realms came through and began killing. These beasts became known as Zillions of Enemy X, or Z/X (pronounced “zex”) for short. Now in the present, humans have found a way to control some of the Z/Xs through the use of Card Devices, which in the show you have to be granted but in real life you can buy at your local game shop, because this is a show with distinct card game roots. Anyway, these Devices allow a person to control any type of Z/X, and clearly some will do so for their own nefarious purposes, because it would be a lousy game if everyone got along. The fight for the city of Kobe begins now.
I must give Z/X Ignition credit where credit is due – yep, that city really does look like Kobe! I wonder if we can have a showdown at Anpanmanland. That aside, this is a pretty textbook action show that really doesn't take all that many pains to distinguish itself. Within this episode we see multiple fights between teen or child users of Card Devices (despite the fact that our nominal hero Asuka Tennoji comments that only cops and other military personnel are supposed to have them), and only one bad guy's motives are remotely clear. Asuka is more invested in his part time job than in saving the city, and just why anyone wants Kobe destroyed and/or taken over isn't sufficiently explained. The fights themselves seem to be mostly flashes of light, although Asuka's Z/X, the angel Fierite, gets a little more detail in her moves. The back-and-forth pacing of the episode is also not helpful in facilitating either interest or understanding, beginning with the advent of the Z/Xs, moving to the present, then going back a week in the past, where it ends. While I do appreciate the attempt at trying to mix things up, that might have worked better had the plot been a bit clearer to begin with.
Z/X designs are the most interesting visual aspects of this episode, as one might expect. Fierite looks sort of like an angelic version of the Sylphs from SAO's Fairy Dance arc, with elf ears, feathered wings, and one enormous halo. Other Z/Xs are a panther, a T-Rex made of red orihalcon, a sci fi warrior lady, and some guy named Alexander who appears to have an army, so I'm going to guess he's Alexander as in “The Great.” Of the aforementioned fighters, he's the most interesting, with more fine details than anyone else.
One day we will get a story that works equally well as a game and as a long-form tale, but like the Magic the Gathering novels I read in high school, Z/X Ignition is not quite it. A few neat monsters and a basic history do not a good first episode make, and all of the light-flashing battles you can cram into a half hour will not change that.
Z/X Ignition is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
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