Jason checks out Hideki Ohwada's politically-charged mahjong manga, The Legend of Koizumi.
Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 8th 2006
The Law of Ueki
DVD 3: The Gift from the Sky
Onimon returns after his match with Ueki to inform him that he has become the target of Robert's 10, a group of ten powerful contestants who have sworn their allegiance to Ueki's arch-enemy Robert Haydn. After a demonstration of the caliber of the opponents he has pursuing him, Ueki is left with one option: join the Robert's 10. Meanwhile, in hell, Mr. K learns some startling information about Ueki and sets in motion his own plans to help the lad out.
The Law of Ueki wants very badly to please, but doesn't know exactly how to go about doing so. It tries almost everything, but never settles on any one angle long enough to make a lasting impression. One moment it will be trying to stimulate the tear ducts only to switch to rumble mode as Ueki goes head-to-head with another power user, and then seek out the funny bone with some broad physical humor. However, the show doesn't have the strength to succeed, so instead of a breathless balancing act of coolness, silliness and pathos (a la One Piece) it can only manage to exude boundless enthusiasm and energy.
The show's ADD-friendly structure has its advantages. No matter how boring or annoying you find a given aspect of the show, you can be sure that it won't last long before some other aspect rises ascendant. And the scattershot approach makes the show unpredictable enough for it to execute some genuine surprises, a real rarity in tournament fighting shows. Since the show is always charging full steam ahead, it avoids getting mired in a procession of endless fights the way other similar shows sometimes do, meaning that it often covers an unusual amount of ground in each volume. This prevents the show from feeling stagnant, but simultaneously undercuts the goings-on with a feeling that the progress hasn't been fully earned. With so little time spent on any given conflict, it's difficult to get truly involved in the fights, making their outcomes fairly uninteresting. Additionally, it has yet to attempt anything that isn't standard for a tournament fighting show; the writing follows the strictures of its genre so closely (albeit at an accelerated rate) that it's genuinely lazy. Luckily, the show has Ueki. With his vaguely feral eyes, deadpan personality, and unpredictable, inflexible sense of justice, Ueki is a surprisingly effective lead. Unfortunately, none of the rest of the cast can match him for appeal. Mori and B.J. are both amusing but far less rounded characters, and none of the Robert's 10 have had a chance to stand out. Robert himself has no personality outside of the clash between his surface civility and inner psychosis.
On a visual level The Law of Ueki is less than prepossessing. The animation never looks awful, but this is an artifact of its unwillingness to take chances, rather than any quality, making for competent-looking, but uninspired animation. Shortcuts infest the show (mainly looped animation and stills). During action scenes backgrounds are often omitted, and the frenetic editing does its best to disguise just how little actual movement there is during the action. Ueki's CG trees, the rapid-fire editing, and the director's eye for dramatic compositions do keep the action alive despite the limited animation, but its flaws are readily apparent. Character designs are intentionally rough and generally a good match for tone of the series, but are designed to give animators as little trouble as possible with their simple outfits and limited wardrobes (one set of clothes apiece, and nary a change of dress). Backgrounds fare a little better, but are nonetheless unimpressive, with the exception of (naturally) the trees.
As expected of avex mode, the music is best when delving into more electronic and dance oriented sounds, but even the more traditionally cinematic music is solid and competently used (if somewhat overbearing in some of the action sequences). The opening theme is an excellent, high-energy dance number, while the forgettable closer is a more sedate, low-key song.
Dubs as lifeless as Geneon's effort here are fairly rare these days. The acting is limp and dull across the board, killing the crucial energy of the Japanese version. The script sticks fairly close to the subtitles, but the lack of enthusiasm makes this one that even dub fans might want to pass up.
In many ways, The Law of Ueki is like an attention-starved puppy; it simply won't stop bugging you until you give in and play along with it. And like the puppy, whether you get down on the floor and wrestle about with the adorable little guy, or you lock the nasty cur in the basement and ignore him will be entirely dependent on your tolerance for insistent, hyperactive behavior.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Energetic, fast-moving fighting show; likable lead.
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