Reviewby Bamboo Dong,
DVD 1: Marin & Melan Blue
Marin is happy enough living in her tenement housing complex with her friendly neighbors, but being an orphan and extremely poor, she often gets teased at school. Her life drastically changes one day when another world mysteriously appears in the sky. To stir things up even more, lethal monsters are constantly dropping from the world and attacking Marin. Luckily, she finds an ampoulet in a local shrine that unleashes a living weapon named Melan Blue whose mission it is to protect her from harm. As the two learn about and grow to accept each other, Marin struggles to discover why she's somehow at the bottom of all this.
When the acquisition of this title was announced, the anime fan community was silent. When this title hit the shelves, even crickets weren't stirring. For one reason or another, no one really knows anything about this show and it's managed to sit quietly on the shelves relatively unnoticed. Licensed and released by Tokyopop, the series is a rather interesting science fiction tale that can only be described as odd and strangely intriguing. It combines not only generic monster-of-the-week fight sequences and bionic weapons of destruction, but also more personal issues like dealing with classroom bullies, being an orphan, and growing up without any money. Balancing the interstellar with the interpersonal, it gives the series a novel flair that makes it one of the more unique shows out there.
While on the surface the show seems like a typical Robot vs. Glob battle fest, it tantalizes viewers with hints of epic missions spanning across history, enigmatic births, hidden identities, and sinister forces. As if this battalion of SF/fantasy tidbits weren't enough, the show really takes the time to delve into the life and background of Marin. Showing the ill-fated effects of class consciousness and social standing, it paints a painful story of a girl who's just trying to make it in a world where people chastise her for things she cannot control. Learning the hard way that friends and supporters are all that life needs to be tolerable, Marin has enough things to deal with without having her life made even more miserable by the deadly host of monsters out to kill her. Although awkward at times, there are even moments between her and her best friend Moe that nudge the realms of shoujo ai, though this may prove later on to be a false lead.
At times however, the series struggles with its voice and wavers between one of idyllic folkloric nature and a giddy schoolyard shindig replete with annoying schoolgirls, forced comic relief, and trivial whining. Much of this has to do with the music and art which both offer a wide range of contrasting moods that throws the entire series into a somewhat distasteful heap. The opening theme sets the stage with breathy chant reminiscent of the opening to Gasaraki or one of the more eerie chorales that Yoko Kanno has whipped up in the past. Expecting a troubled show sated with subdued pastels and ancient mystique, viewers are then shocked back to earth with the madcap music and horrifying character designs introducing the series. The lead character is introduced as a gangly girl adorned in a t-shirt and denim underwear, and also, a mile down her long spindly legs, a pair of Japanese wooden clogs that are twice the size of her head. To make sure that any remaining traces of ethereal awe from the opening are shaken from viewers' minds, the visual feast is topped off with grotesquely thick ankles and clumped feet that were slopped onto the cellophane with two brushstrokes.
It's a really a shame that the art in the series is so unsightly, from the unattractive characters all the way down to the unnatural clothing. The two exceptions to this are Brigadoon-based creatures and the extravagant backgrounds. All of the Monomakia (living weapons) that are sent down from Brigadoon, including Melan Blue, are carefully designed to give off an air of either dignity or absurdity, depending on the character. They blend in nicely with the peaceful and detailed backgrounds, contrasting the hideous human characters all the more. Happily, the animation is able to clean up the design mess just fine. Switching between fluid fight scenes and exaggerated cartoonish movements, the animation is a mixed bag of hijinks that ultimately complement the series very well.
While the art makes it hard to take the show too seriously, the music is there to throw in its share of continued confusion as well. From the serene opening to the quirky background tracks, to the light-hearted fluff that is the ending theme, the extreme variegation of moods in the music only makes it harder to pinpoint what kind of voice the series is going for. To be sure, the music by itself is really quite good, but it has the unfortunate problem of making a sloppy series seem even more so with its randomness. To illustrate, the scenes will sometimes dip into a mysterious and overcast tone, making matters like the “secret” of Marin's birth quake with profound ambience, and then completely ruin that with Marin's bothersome screeches about her breasts or her buttocks, neither of which she possesses.
The extent to which the series content covers up these mishaps largely rely on the language choices, though. The Japanese audio track may be annoying at times with the harpy screams of Marin, but the voice acting is excellent. Melan Blue truly shines through with the valor that's portrayed in his voice. The English dub cast also performs well, but the problem here lies not with the actors themselves, but the way that the script is translated. For the most part, the English lines are close to the original Japanese dialogue, but there is one obvious change and it comes at one of the most important parts. In the Japanese track, there is a line in one of the prologues that has Marin asking herself the question, “Does this have something to do with the secret of my birth?” This is one of the first time in the series, other than the allusions in the opening theme, that the viewer is given any indication that her birth and subsequent orphaning was anything out of the ordinary. This plays a crucial part in the rest of the series, but in the English script, the line is masked by the trivial babblings of, “Suddenly, this Monomakia came out of nowhere and rescued me! Talk about a full day!” Of all the script changes they could have made, that one was perhaps the most erroneous.
So far, Brigadoon is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the story is rather engaging and does a good job of teasing the audience to what else may come. But on the other hand, the show is really struggling to decide whether it wants to be a wacky hi-jinks wannabe comedy or a serious science fiction endeavor. Regardless, the series shows promise and though it has yet to reach any height, this is something that viewers may want to check out to stave off some free time.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : C+
Music : A-
+ Interesting take on the science fiction genre
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