Reviewby Paul "Momotaro" Chapman
Another entry in the newly evolving "space-western" anime genre, Eat-Man '98 takes place in some far off date, in some far off galaxy where everybody mysteriously speaks perfect Japanese. (^_^) All seriousness aside, this anime is also one of the recent "bounty-hunter" entries from our friends across the Pacific, similar in some ways to Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. Eat-Man '98 chronicles the trials and tribulations of one tall and reticent fellow by the name of Bolt Crank. Bolt's not just some regular human being, though; he's gifted with the ability to munch down metal and circuitry, and then sprout whatever objects he's recently digested, fully-formed and in perfect condition, from his right hand. This twelve-episode, two DVD set follows Bolt as he goes through his normal bounty hunter routine; i.e. protecting a village from a ruthless corporation, guarding a young girl from blood-thirsty assassins, stopping a giant rampaging monster from running amuck, etc. Stories range from stand-alone episodes to small story arcs of two to four episodes apiece.
On a technical level, the Eat-Man '98 DVD set is nice. It comes on two discs in a hard-plastic keep-case with good cover-art and a helpful insert that lists and provides an overview of the various story arcs, including helpful pictures taken from each arc. The menus, while lacking animation, have peppy techno music playing in the background and some good examples of still art. The only extras to speak of on this two disc-set are the series of Bandai previews, which are interesting to look at and informative, but otherwise pretty much standard fare. Six episodes come on each disc, and though it seems that the "Scene Selections" menu only offers six chapter-stops per disc, it turns out that each individual episode in fact has five chapter-stops: the opening theme, pre-title animation, title animation to eye-catch, eye-catch to closing animation, ending theme and preview.
Eat-Man's plot is something of a mixed bag. Occasionally, it is wildly original, while at other times it's standard old-hat sci-fi. Most of the stories are fairly straightforward and predictable, but some episodes ("Bye-Bye Aimie Part II," "Mega-Mix Part II,") have tiny twists that will take you completely by surprise. Just when you think you've got everything figured out, Eat-Man '98 hits you upside the head with a couple of curve balls that you couldn't possibly have anticipated. Still, this series suffers from a distinct lack of direction, coupled with a nigh-complete lack of character development that hamstrings the show even further. Granted, some of these problems stem from the very nature of the main character: Bolt Crank is the strong, silent type (emphasis on 'silent') as well as a wandering mercenary. I suppose it's hard to nail down a single continuous story if your protagonist refuses to stay in one place or do only one thing for very long.
However, while the storyline lacks punch, many other aspects of Eat-Man '98 set it slightly above your average anime show. The colors and character designs are crisp and interesting, the folksy soundtrack grows on you, and the variety of humor is one that is all too hard to come by these days: subtle. Also, the cel animation is slightly above average, while the integration of computer graphics techniques is excellent, neither too jarring nor too extravagant. Despite these positive aspects, dub-fans will be left twisting in the wind yet again. The only episodes that have a corresponding dubbed audio track are "Bye Bye Aimie I & II," the episodes that make up the first story arc.
Considering the amount of anime (300+ minutes) compared to the cost, Eat-Man '98 is a great deal for a pretty decent series. If you like the space-western genre, a minimalist approach to story telling, or just enjoy getting more episodes for your money, you should check this series out.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
+ Original concepts, good music, good CG, good character designs
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