Shelf Life
Scar-red Rider XechS

by Paul Jensen,

Holy crap, have y'all seen the insane box set that's coming out for The Legend of the Galactic Heroes? I haven't seen the series and I'm not sure I'd ever pay that much for it even if I had, but that's a darn impressive number of discs and a very cool-looking box to hold them. Sometimes it's just nice to know that over-the-top stuff like this exists, price point notwithstanding. Welcome to Shelf Life.

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Scar-red Rider XechS

On Shelves This Week

My Hero Academia - Season 2 Part 1 BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 325 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Deku and the other members of Class 1-A enter the school's sports festival, where they face off against aspiring heroes from other classes.

Extra: We have episode reviews for both seasons, along with a separate review of season two and an interview with some of the cast and crew. You can stream both seasons on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.

Uta No Prince-Sama Legend Star - Season 4 BD, DVD
Sentai - 325 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Right Stuf|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Rival idol groups HEAVENS, STARISH, and QUARTET NIGHT continue their competition to be the opening act for the prestigious Triple S event.

Extra: We have a review of this fourth season of the long-running male idol series, and it's available streaming on Crunchyroll, HIDIVE, and Hulu.

Shelf Life Reviews

Some anime adaptations of video games turn out to be pretty good despite the difficulty of translating an interactive experience to a third-person linear one. Unfortunately, Scar-red Rider XechS is not one of the good examples. Here's my review:

It's a bad sign when my favorite scene in an anime series happens right at the beginning, before any of the characters start talking. I did like the approach of having one of the main characters play a guitar while the show gives us a bunch of establishing shots, but it's all downhill from there. Scar-red Rider XechS is one of those titles where there are enough decent pieces in place to give you a sense of what it was supposed to be, but the story never finds a way to fit those pieces together.

Based on an otome game from 2010, Scar-red Rider XechS starts with a rock band full of handsome guys and places them into a sci-fi action story, complete with transforming power armor and invaders from another world. Teenage heroine Akira Asagi is placed in charge of a team of Riders, who use their color-coordinated armor and one-wheeled motorcycles to defend Earth from enemies called Nightfly O'Notes. Akira's main concern is getting the boys to work together, but she has some much bigger problems headed her way. The war between our “blue world” and the invaders from the “red world” isn't quite what it appears to be, and there are malevolent forces pulling strings behind the scenes.

On paper, that sounds like it could make for a decent story about costumed heroes fighting aliens. The problem with Scar-red Rider XechS isn't so much in its premise as its presentation. For starters, the characters are all wedged so tightly into their standard genre molds that there's no room for any of them to be interesting. Akira's main love interest Yosuke is the hot-blooded red Rider, Yosuke's longtime friend and rival Takt is the cool and rational blue, and on it goes for each of the conveniently color-coded dudes. They're all so locked into their roles that there's no room for depth or surprise in their personalities, and any attempts at making them unique only make them annoying. Akira herself suffers from the classic “blank slate protagonist” problem. Her role in the story is often limited to that of a bland observer, reacting positively to good things and negatively to bad things. There's just nobody here to sympathize with on any meaningful level.

Then we have the plot, which is a mess of clunky proper names and clumsy twists. The aforementioned Nightfly O'Notes might have the most obnoxious name on the list, but they're not without competition. Akira and the boys work for an organization called LAG, which stands for “Life After God” just in case it wasn't already obvious that the show borrows a lot of ideas from Evangelion. Each of the Riders is also partnered with an otherworldly being called a Substance, and all of those are named after brands of musical instruments because you know, they're in a rock band. I could put up with the silly names in a more coherent story, but the plot in Scar-red Rider XechS is so messy that it can't even decide on a villain. In the space of twelve episodes, we get three main antagonists, each with their own master plan for ruining the world, plus a bunch of suspicious folks who may or may not be traitors. The inevitable result is a lot of expository monologues, some awkward narrative pacing, and a big pile of loose threads left hanging at the end.

Of course, when I say, “twelve episodes,” I really mean “six or seven.” It takes nearly half the season for the series to bring out its first main baddie, with the early episodes largely dedicated to exposition and weak comedy. This brings me to my last major issue with Scar-red Rider XechS: its inconsistent tone. The show's more serious narrative ambitions are frequently at odds with its goofy side, and the two don't mix well at all. At best, it swings wildly between them, transitioning from comedy to drama with whiplash-inducing speed. At worst, it just mixes everything together at once, with characters cracking lame jokes or peppering their dialogue with deliberately bad English in the middle of a life-and-death fight. The writing seems unable to find a tone that works and stick with it, though at least it adds some variety to the general badness of the story.

If all you want out of Scar-red Rider XechS is a couple of pretty faces, you're still out of luck. The production values are weak across the board, and the only character design worth mentioning is the fancy star-themed suit that one of the main villains wears. Faces wander off-model on a regular basis, and the transformation sequences are recycled multiple times. During the handful of concerts that the heroes perform, the animation just gives up completely and settles for panning across still frames. At least the music is tolerably decent. Funimation's release of the series is a sparse DVD-only affair, with no English dub and only the clean opening and closing as extras.

Scar-red Rider XechS is not worth your time. Heck, it was barely worth my time, and it was my job to watch the darn thing. It's not pretty to look at, it's not clever or engaging, and its plot twists rely on withholding information and pulling new ideas out of thin air instead of subverting expectations. I can't think of any reason to recommend it, and it's all too easy to find better examples of everything it does. Skip this one, folks.

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Darcy:

"Hi all. I started collection manga when i was 19. i am now 24, forgive my awful pictures but have a lack of space since moving house. I sadly lost most of my manga collection due to my house being flooded (Hence the move), losing a whole load of manga and also a set of Tezuka Osamu prints. However i'm slowly rebuilding it. It's a shame i cannot have them in a more open space but alas that's life.

I went though a phase of buying "steelbooks" en masse such as the studio Ghibli collection and various films i know i would watch time and time again. I also ended up buying majority of my manga in the set boxes due to them being considerably cheaper than individual volumes

Anyway thanks for viewing my investment."

I'm sorry to hear about the flooding and the damage to your collection, but it looks like you've still got some really impressive stuff there. I've always liked the look of steelbooks, even if it can sometimes be harder to get the discs out of them than it is with regular plastic cases. Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with the rebuilding!

If you'd like to show off your own anime collection, send me your photos at [email protected]!

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