Reviewby Theron Martin,
BD+DVD - Part 2
The death of King Delzaine leaves too many unanswered questions over whether his goals had anything to do with the declining Warp Particles (an eventual threat to the well-being of Endora), but the more immediate problem is Endora being thrown into chaos by the power vacuum left behind. Emilio deeply regrets that he didn't take Shun's advice about talking to Delzaine first, but he does join Shun, the Ignauts, and the others assembled at Babel in a return trip to the capital. Along the way, they quell what unrest they can and pick up both additional allies and an old enemy, but none of that helps solve the bigger puzzle. Only details from an unexpected source and an equally unexpected trip to the surface world can change things, but the answers they get will rock both Emilio and Shun to their cores.
I had a pretty low opinion of the first half of Endride and was warned not to expect much more from its second half. So I went into episodes 13-24 with a great deal of trepidation, but to my mild surprise, the second half is actually an improvement on the first half. To my disappointment though, it's not enough of an improvement to make this series a worthwhile recommendation.
For the most part, the flaws that dragged down the first half of the series remain. For an anime predicated on fantasy action, it has some of the weakest spectacle sequences in recent memory. Shun and Emilio clearly haven't gained much from their extensive sparring; both fight simply by smashing their weapons against their opponents, with no grace and little skill being evident. Even the two climactic battles at the end have little sense of dynamism to them. Other characters aren't much better, with one being vulnerable enough to need saving on multiple occasions despite the first half of the series implying that she should be skilled enough to hold her own; presumably this was done to help establish some character relationships, but it isn't successful in that regard. Hordes of ghostly bad guys are simply not convincing as threats, since they simply hang around to be killed off in droves, and the animation simply isn't up to the task of making any of these scenes visually impressive. (Let's not even get started again on the pathetic Warp Relic designs or their unimpressive evolved forms.)
The second half does a little better on the characterization front, though it's mostly limited to Emilio, Shun's father, and (most surprisingly) Delzaine via flashbacks. Alicia continues to hang around and be mostly useless, and a couple of Ignauts who were more prominent in the first half get shuffled into the background while others (especially Mischa and Felix) struggle through weak attempts at character development. At least Pascal and his protégé Joseph are still a delight as a duo, and the acerbic relationship between Shun and Emilio gradually shifts to a more comfortable (if still combative) friendship as they take turns genuinely supporting each other. Emilio also develops more as he tries to come to terms with the eternally unresolved baggage over his father, but Shun, despite a big shake-up, remains largely unchanged to an improbably degree by the end.
The plotting also somewhat improves. The way individual events play out it still weak, with many seemingly important details being hand-waved or entirely ignored. There's also a bad tendency to introduce events but leave their consequences hanging, like how the populace in the capitol being unsettled by doomsaying is never revisited, how one prisoner managed to survive for more than a decade without being fed, or how his existence is entirely ignored after he breaks free despite his previously prominent role and great strength. On the upside, we do finally get a complete picture of what Delzaine was trying to accomplish and why, and some pretty big twists result from this. How Shun's parents fit into the picture, how Shun got to Endora, and why he has a Warp Relic are also explained; in fact, the two episodes spent on the surface are possibly the series' strongest content. All of this contributes to a halfway-decent plot that comes close to posing some interesting philosophical questions, though its conclusion feels about as lackadaisical in execution as the rest of the series.
The technical merits of the second half remain largely unchanged from the first half, although the instances where character artistry fails to stay on model have significantly increased. The vibrant coloring of the background art and the perky musical score still remain the biggest technical strengths, but how much they can do to support the content is limited by the quality of the writing. The opening theme remains unchanged, while an unremarkable new closing theme appears.
Funimation's release is the standard Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack in a single case with a slipcover. The only extras included are clean versions of the opener and new closer. Dub quality continues to be solid, with the more annoying aspects to Aaron Dismuke's performance of Shun being softened somewhat as his character also softens more. Mark Stoddard and Robert McCollum are still stand-outs as Pascal and Demetrio, while Chuck Huber and Jessica Cavanaugh fit well in more substantial roles as Shun's parents. The dialogue also adapts smoothly into English, although even a well-written adaptive script can't do much to save some weaker scenes.
So while the second half of Endride does improve to a generally tolerable level, that isn't enough to save the show. The potential for a better series shines through occasionally, but this anime proves unable to capitalize on its mild potential. Director Keiji Gotoh has turned out better efforts with titles like Kiddy Grade and Uta~Kata, so I have to wonder how this one fell apart.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Improved plot and character development, solid English dub, vibrant color palette
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