In this week's RTO, there are hot zombies, hot sex, hot kitchen utensils, and hot climates as we look at new volumes of Cage of Eden, Happy Marriage, and another digital-only release. All this and more stuff that may or may not be hot awaits you in Right Turn Only!
Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 3rd 2005
DVD 1: Operation: Gald City
In a near future, following a devastating war, a dozen international corporations have come to control the world. One of them, Ashurum, specializes in handling a new class of psychics that has arisen. Though feared by the general populace, psychics have a safe home in Ahsurum, where they can develop their abilities and assist Ashurum in helping other psychics... or dealing with those who become a threat to the general populace. Or so they claim.
One such young psychic, a teenage boy named Kai, has lived at Ashurum all of his life along with his sickly sister Hikaru. He joins the AESES, the agent operations branch of Ashurum, out of gratitude for Ashurum's support of him and his sister, but eventually he discovers that his sheltered life has left him quite naïve about how the world really works. A gentle soul at heart, Kai has trouble understanding how much common citizens fear and hate both his kind and his organization until confronted with it on missions. He also cannot comprehend the ruthlessness of Shen-Lon, a fellow AESES psychic, until catastrophe strikes.
Meanwhile, a streetwise young man named Yuuki plies his services for a guerilla organization led by a powerful precognitive psychic. He must find the Sacrament of Calvaria—whatever it may be—while looking after the kind-hearted and empathetic girl Asuka. Ultimately his path crosses with Kai's, a development sure to shape future volumes.
The overarching weaknesses of E’s Otherwise are its utter predictability and almost complete lack of originality. Its premise and plot so far are merely a conglomeration of elements borrowed from other sources, amongst them the American comic book franchise X-Men and the anime series Scryed. That could still work fine if the series offered any kind of new twist on the “group/corporation training juvenile super-powered individuals for reasons that are wholesome on the surface but diabolical at their heart” concept, but, alas, none have presented themselves so far. In fact, nearly every plot development to date can be seen coming a mile away by an experienced comic book reader or anime fan. That the psychics of E’s Otherwise exclusively employ physically manifesting powers, while telepathy and related mental powers are so rare that their existence is considered a myth, is a little unusual, and certainly does give its characters opportunities to put on flashy displays of power. However, none of those displays are particularly exciting or novel.
That most of the main characters are stock stereotypes doesn't help matters. We have seen Kai numerous times before, and seen him done better. Mr. Eiji, Kai's sponsor and the leader of AESES, is your typical “seems-nice-and-sophisticated-on-the-surface-but-is-slimy-and-ruthless-undernearth” villain, while Hikaru is just as one would expect for the “sick younger sibling” role and Asuka is mostly ordinary as the “cute, sympathetic girl who befriends the hero” character—although her disastrous lack of cooking ability is a nice variation. Shen-Lu, the cute Chinese-themed (but blond!) psychic and fellow AESES member, is a bit more interesting as the girl who plays up to Kai, as is Yuuki as the Robin Hood-type handyman who's basically a nice guy but understands perfectly what must be done to insure survival and security. Shen-Lon, Shen-Lu's (twin?) brother, starts as the stereotypical jerk and rival to the hero but is the only character introduced so far who shows signs of having more substance. Other significant characters introduced so far—including the other AESES team members—haven't had enough screen time yet for a judgment call to be made about them.
Two things save E’s Otherwise from drudgery and mediocrity: it develops a bit of a sense of humor in its 4th and 5th episodes, and its technical merits are quite strong. For all its faults, this is a good-looking series. Although the appearances of Kai and Mr. Eiji are generic, most of the characters look appealing and none are unreasonably proportioned. The AESES uniforms, both for male and female agents, are amongst the sharpest-looking military-styled uniforms you'll see in any series, and the cutesiness factor is not done to overkill despite opportunities to do so (though some of Asuka's outfits threaten to prove me wrong). Even one incidence of cross-dressing works remarkably well. Background visuals are generally very good, especially in the depiction of cityscapes, and integration between character and background art, while not flawless, is good enough for any but a really practiced eye. Colors tend to be on the bright side but are not garish. The animation takes typical TV series shortcuts but is otherwise good, while CG visual enhancements are minimal.
Neither the opener nor the closer for E’s Otherwise is worthy of special comment, nor is the soundtrack. The vocals are another issue, though. I am a dub-leaning person who has generally liked ADV's English dubs in the past, but this time around I found the effort to be flat and unappealing. Most of the anime veterans who anchor the English cast have done much better work elsewhere, and there are no bright stars among the newcomers. I also seriously question the casting, as some of the voices (especially those for the younger female characters) not only didn't sound much like the originals but also didn't sound right for the characters. This is especially true for Shen-Lon, who has a very effeminate voice in the original Japanese but a much more masculine voice in English. The English script also strays significantly from the subtitles at times. While a certain amount of leeway is allowed for matching up words to mouth flaps and stating certain phrases in ways that make sense in English, the alterations went beyond what was absolutely necessary and, in a few cases, did put the scene in a different context.
Most of the extras on volume one are standard fare—clean opener and closer, production sketches, and company previews. Less typical is the collection of Japanese series promo spots. These are very repetitive, though, so there's little point in watching them after the first couple. On the plus side, this first volume does include five episodes, so you're getting a good amount of program for your money.
The graphic content in the first volume is limited to some blood, mildly graphic violence, and one character death. Although the storyline aims it more at a teenage audience, so far it is a series that a mature preteen could probably handle.
Overall, the first volume of E’s Otherwise fails to impress. Here's hoping things pick up in the second volume.
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : C
+ Great costuming, five full episodes on the DVD
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