Review

by Theron Martin,

Hyperdimension Neptunia [Limited Edition]

BD+DVD

Synopsis:
Hyperdimension Neptunia [Limited Edition] BD+DVD
The land of Gamindustri is currently divided into four realms – Planeptune, Leanbox, Lowee, and Lastation – which each have substantially different strengths and physical characteristics. Each is headed by goddess called a Console Patron Unit (aka CPU) who has both a human form and a goddess form which derives its power from Share energy, which is both a reflection of faith in the goddess and the lifeblood of the nation. Though formerly at war, the four goddesses – Neptune/Purple Heart for Planeptune, Noire/Black Heart for Lastation, Vert/Green Heart for Leanbox, and Blanc/White Heart for Lowee – have come together for a peace accord, though how much they are now “friends” depends on which one you listen to. Still, they get along well enough to regularly visit each other and assist each other with problems, and the younger sisters of three of them – Nepgear for Neptune, Uni for Noire, and twins Ram and Rom for Blanc – quickly become tight. And despite the peace between the nations, problems do arise, including a witch who has mastered “anti-Shares” and her mouse cohort, a robot seeking to stir up chaos, extradimensional visitors, and a threat from Gamindustri's distant past arising again.
Review:

The anime version of Hyperdimension Neptunia is based on a series of video games of the same name, which were released in Japan beginning in 2010. (PC versions of them have started to become available in the U.S. as 2015 has progressed.) The original games were a riff on the “console wars” for market share between Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony over the past decade, albeit with the odd addition of Sega Neptune, an aborted game system which was essentially intended to fill in the gap between the established Sega Genesis and upcoming Sega Saturn at the 32 bit level (circa 1995). In fact, given that the games were all created for various Playstation platforms, that the Planeptune-affiliated goddess became the lead protagonist, rather than the Lastation-affiliated goddess, is quite surprising.

What cleverness the series has mostly comes from its naming references, which range from clumsy (Gamindustri for the world name? A plant named Strategy Guidaisy? Really?) to very sly. The epitome of the latter is Anonydeath, an armored villain/robot who hacks into Lastation's satellite. The name is undoubtedly meant as a reference to Anonymous, the hacker consortium accused of the April 2011 incident which resulted in the shutdown of Sony's Playstation Network for a couple of weeks due to a data breach of unprecedented size. Another is Arfoire, which is a reference to R4, a card for the Nintendo DS which allowed for the playing of pirated games. As a villainess who specializes in “anti-Shares,” the reference is quite fitting and very well-thought-out. Other name references vary from being relatively obvious (Nepgear = Game Gear and Setag = Bill Gates, for instance) to very obscure (Peashy = PC Engine, which was marketed as TurboGrafx-16 in the U.S.). And of course the name reference of the threat from the past should come as no surprise to anyone who has been around game systems for more than just a couple of decades.

The series does show at least a little inspiration in some other areas, though. The whole business with the R-18 island is even funnier if one knows that R-18 is an age rating commonly-used in Japan for adult content. The way it makes sport of censorship bars for nudity is easily the series' funniest and most scathing parody. The later use of protests for greater access to adult content also has a little more edge given its proximity to other (at the time of the series' writing) recent developments in Japan, and the “Bad Ending” virus in the OVA episode is pretty amusing in concept.

“Inspiratation” and “cleverness” are not terms which can commonly be used for the execution, however. The goddesses do have some genuine crises over the course of twelve regular and one OVA episodes, but a lot of the series consists of silly, mind-numbing fluff, most especially the first episode. That wouldn't necessarily be bad if the series dedicated itself exclusively to that, as fluff of that nature does sell if the girls are cute and likable enough – and on that account the series definitely does not fall short. Problems arise, however, whenever the writing tries to tackle anything even faintly serious, as its characters, situations, and musical score are so lightweight that they struggle to generate any degree of gravitas. This is most painfully evident in the business with Peashy, which is meant to be emotionally touching but is more of a dull farce of pathos instead. With the possible exception of the climactic battle, efforts to build up tension too often fall flat, and battle scenes have neither the animation nor the choreography necessary to be exciting. Mileage will vary on the way some characters occasionally break the fourth wall with their comments.

None of that is probably going to harm the series' ability to sell, as most of the characters either offer just enough sex appeal with their bosom-emphasizing outfits or are just too gosh-darn adorable in human forms. Neptune hits all of the right buttons as the lovable slacker, while Noire is perfectly-executed as the uptight girl. And then there's Plutia's dippy personality and how starkly it contrasts with her goddess form; a running joke is that her friends from her world always tell her not to assume her goddess form, and when Neptune and associates first see her transformed, they immediately understand why. Its efforts to be cute, fun, and just a touch fan servicey can cross the line at times, though. One early scene involving a horde of Dogaboos (ball-shaped gelatinous critters with dog faces) might raise some eyebrows, and the licking monster which appears in a couple of episodes and seems to have a particular interest in little girls could easily be interpreted in an unsavory way.

The world-building is also more than a little odd. Only three male characters ever appear in the series, and of those, one is a stereotypically gay armored guy/robot (the English dub uses “flaming gay” in reference to him), the second is a mouse, and the third is a vaguely humanoid monster. All of the human characters – even the soldiers – are either women or young girls, and beyond the goddess's little sisters Nepgear and Uni, none of them appear to be teenagers, nor are any of them obviously older than perhaps their late 30s or 40s. This raises a lot of questions about the setting, as does the copious amounts of time the goddesses spend visiting each other and (in a couple of cases) frittering their time away on games instead of attending to their kingdoms, but this is not a series which is at all inclined to bother with minutiae, so not much should be expected from it on that front.

The visuals, courtesy of David Production (Ben-To, Level E) and director Masahiro Mukai (who makes his debut as the head honcho), are not bad but certainly not the strength of the series, either. The biggest points of contentions are the goddess forms, which are definitely sexier in some cases but utterly fail at seeming more glamorous when they are in battle/flight form. (The effect comes off much better when they are in formal wear, such as in the series' opening scene.) Background art provides some nice designs and sharp details, especially when showing cityscapes, but the overall color scheme feels a little muted for something which uses such a pervasive video game theme. Animation is passable except during the fight scenes, which too heavily depend on shortcuts and cut-aways, but it rarely misses a chance to jiggle some boobs, especially in the first closer “NeptuneSagashite,” which has chibi versions of the goddesses laying on a set of bouncing breasts.

The musical score, which freely mixes orchestration and electronica, is also limited in its impact and almost entirely forgettable. It does a little better with high-energy opener “Dimension Tripper” and the aforementioned cutesy closer. Alternate closer “Go→Love&Peace,” which is used for two episodes, is unremarkable except for its fan service-laden visuals, while one-shot closer “Ito,” which is used for episode 10, is easily the series' best song, even over two insert songs.

Funimation's English dub mostly hits the right notes, though apparently some roles are cast differently than in the game versions. At the high end of the scale is Melissa Fahn's take on Neptune and David Vincent's enthusiastic rendition of Anonydeath, whereas at the low end Wendee Lee struggles with Blanc's morose tone in human form and does not quite make her as nasty in goddess form as original seiyuu Kana Asumi does. All of the voices actresses for the four main goddesses do a great job of clearly differentiating their human form and goddess form voices, though, to the point that telling that it's the same actress can sometimes be difficult. Curiously, Bang Zoom! Entertainment regulars Christine Marie Cabanos (as Nepgear) and Cristina Vee (as Compa) are make appearances in the cast.

The Limited Edition release from Funimation includes both DVD and Blu-Ray disks in separate cases, each of which has a reversible cover. Both are housed in a sturdy artbox. On-disk Extras, which are entirely found on the second disk in each case, include a collection of transformation scenes, assorted commercials and promo videos, and clean versions of both variations of the opener and all three closers. As previously noted, the OVA episode (here listed as episode 13) is also included.

Overall, Neptunia is one of those shows whose actual quality has little to do with how entertaining it may be. It works strictly on the level of mixing lots of cute/sexy girls with loads of video game references but is rather insipid otherwise.

Grade:
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : C+

+ Some clever and/or sly video game references, likable main characters.
Little logic behind the world-building, fails at attempted emotional appeal, poor battle choreography.

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Production Info:
Director: Masahiro Mukai
Series Composition: Shogo Yasukawa
Script: Shogo Yasukawa
Storyboard:
Masahiro Mukai
Hideaki Nakano
Masayoshi Nishida
Koji Sawai
Naokatsu Tsuda
Takeyoshi Yamato
Episode Director:
Masashi Abe
Hitomi Efuku
Jiro Fujimoto
Toshiyuki Kato
Hiroyuki Oshima
Yasufumi Soejima
Yoshinobu Tokumoto
Hirokazu Yamada
Unit Director:
Hitomi Efuku
Hideaki Nakano
Music:
Kenji Kaneko
Hiroaki Tsutsumi
Masaru Yokoyama
Original Character Design: Tsunako
Character Design: Hitomi Takechi
Art Director: Masanobu Nomura
Chief Animation Director:
Sachiko Mori
Hitomi Takechi
Shinya Yamada
Animation Director:
Hiroaki Arai
Toyoaki Fukushima
Noritomo Hattori
Rei Ikagawa
Manabu Imura
Keiichi Ishida
Tomoaki Kado
Shinya Kawano
Ryo Kobayashi
Eri Kojima
Karu Mokurenji
Sachiko Mori
Takashi Nagayoshi
Satoru Nakaya
Mihoko Ōkawa
Takaaki Sekizaki
Shosuke Shimizu
Hyung Woo Shin
Yuuko Sotake
Katsuyuki Takahashi
Masaki Tanigawa
Yumenosuke Tokuda
Eiichi Tokukura
Yuto Toratake
Takenori Tsukuma
Shinya Yamada
3D Director: Masato Hira
Sound Director: Jin Aketagawa
Director of Photography:
Yousuke Motoki
Naoyuki Wada
Producer:
Sho Fujimaru
Kohei Miyajima
Takehiko Sasaki
Shinsaku Tanaka
Shintaro Yoshitake

Full encyclopedia details about
Chō Jigen Game Neptune The Animation (TV)

Release information about
Hyperdimension Neptunia [Limited Edition] (BD+DVD)

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