This Week in Anime
Is Ultramarine Magmell a Monstrous Mess?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

35 years ago a continent full of monsters appeared in the Pacific Ocean. Now, in the year 2019, Netflix has released the series on the rest of us. Nick and Steve explore the unknown island of Magmell and discover its full of monsters...physically and plot wise.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Nick, I know this isn't how we usually start our fun anime conversations, but I was feeling inspired after watching this week's show, and I was hoping you'd take a quick look at this very good picture of Toad that I made.
Nick
I'd be upset about that but after hustling my way through Netflix's latest dump cycle, I'm honestly feeling pretty numb. Let's just get this done man.
No lie, I was making that very good picture while I was watching one of the final episodes, mostly out of desperation for something to keep my brain cells cycling, because Ultramarine Magmell most certainly was not helping in that regard.
I hesitate to call Magmell the worst thing Netflix has dumped on our laps this year (hey 7SEEDS what's up WHY DO YOU HAVE A SECOND SEASON??) but it is almost certainly the most disposable.
Don't make me pit those against each other. It's like having to choose a least favorite child.
Which is almost impressive because on paper there should be something interesting here —the fantastical premise of a continent full of monstrous plants and animals just appearing one day is at the very least a good sandbox to play in as a writer. Yet somehow UM fails to ever manage to be even a functional way to kill time.
Yeah, imagine if a huge landmass popped up in the middle of the Pacific, teeming with fantastical wildlife beyond our wildest imaginations, and instead of having fun with that, we spent 13 episodes with this asshole.
So the setup for the show is that our hero, Inyo, is an "Angler"—somebody who takes missions to go in and save doomed morons who tried to go all Monster Hunter in Magmell, the big monster country that popped up 30 years ago.

You would thank that this would be a good setup for fun adventures, maybe even some interesting parables about what drives people to travel to such a dangerous place. Instead it amounts to mostly a dozen or so shaggy dog stories where nothing interesting happens and nobody learns anything and now you're 20 minutes closer to death.
It's such a shame, because I genuinely like that setup! Instead of focusing on all the starry-eyed adventurers either trying to make a quick buck or a name for themselves, we focus on the people who have to clean up their messes and save their butts. Stories that happen on the periphery of traditional heroic narratives are interesting to me, and there's so much potential to comment both on fictional tropes and real-life issues. Ultramarine Magmell, unfortunately, doesn't scratch any deeper than "what if man, is the REAL monsteR??????"
It should have been a warning when the first episode of the show was just a pointless bit of tragedy porn. A sick kid's family goes to Magmell to search for a cure, the parents die, and then Big Bro decides to sacrifice the kid to get the magic flower for himself, only to be immediately killed by Inyo after it.

There's no real lesson or point or even an emotional perspective to any of it. It's just a hypothetically sad story animated for all of about 30 bucks that left me with little more than a shrug.
Yeah, on top of everything else wrong with it (which is pretty much everything), the show is both poorly animated and poorly directed to the point of being downright soporific even in its action-heavy scenes. Nothing feels like it has weight. There's never a sense of urgency. The art is all flat. There are agonizing stretches of silence between inane lines of dialogue. I could go on and on, but it all adds up to a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

I really don't know who this show was made for.
I'd say for die-hard fans of the manga, but apparently nearly the entire season is totally anime-original stuff, which is even more baffling to me. Why bother making an adaptation of a property only to a) excise nearly all of the actual source and b) replace it with THIS
I mean I guess I appreciate all the environmentalist sentiments? But also, Captain Planet is 30 years old, and I need a little bit more meat on those bones than "cartoonishly evil conglomerate kills fluffy bear people with cub blood bullets, doesn't that make you think?"
Honestly that's giving this show too much credit. It sometimes gestures at an environmentalist stance just by being about an uninhabited land being explored by humans, but it never actually tries to say anything with it. Like right after Inyo takes note of them using science bullets to kill all the adult bear monsters, they just leave the island and there's no real consequences for the company. Heck, some of them turn into recurring characters because we need some tired boob jokes in here too.
Oh I dare not accuse Magmell of having a consistent agenda. in that same episode, Inyo helps them not just kill, but completely obliterate the kaiju in charge of that section of Magmell, and that's not commented on at all.
Inyo, episode 1: Magmell brings out the worst of people's greed and selfishness.
Inyo, episode 2: TIME TO BLOW UP SOME WILDLIFE
Inyo, as should be clear by now, is an wholly unlikeable character and it boggles my mind that he's the protagonist. I think he's supposed to be this carefree lovable scamp, but in actuality he's mean, lifeless, and possibly a sociopath.
There are three types of characters in Ultramarine Magmell.
  1. Assholes
  2. Obnoxious Morons
  3. Corpses

that's it.
You forgot hardcore Fred Flintstone.
I'm sure he's an asshole too.
Fair
On top of Inyo being an asshole, the show also has a really weird idea of what is or isn't objectionable by its standards. Like I still can't make heads or tails about that episode with the fake holy woman.
See it's Complicated because she harvests monster organs but she uses the money to run and orphanage, but she also seems to really like killing monsters, so who's to say?

As a wise man once said, there's actually zero difference between good and bad things. You imbecile.
I certainly don't see why the show gets so judgy about her in particular though. Inyo kills animals all the time for food and literally saved a crew of people who cruelly experimented on infant animals to make super bullets. But I guess she's got scary eyes so it's a good thing to let her die.
The show can barely stretch a cohesive narrative to fit 20 minutes most of the time, so I quickly learned not to expect it to be worried about things like theme and ethics.
It does have laser dogs, tho. Which is nice.
Sadly those laser dogs, like every other monster in this show, just look like rejected Digimon. And like, rejects from the really bad seasons of Digimon at that.

The most dangerous game of all.


Honestly by the end I kinda liked how dopey all the monsters look. Given how bland the rest of the art direction is, at least they have the look of "An Attempt Was Made"
The inspiring art direction of putting a wig on a scorpion and saying it's a human turned into a monster.
Don't forget Bat Boy!

now with Glasses!
I'm just now losing my mind trying to summarize that episode in my head. The moral was don't make animals fight each other because you'll turn into the animals and fight each other for 30 years until your rich friend who got off scot-free turns up feeling sad and saves the day by doing literally nothing. That's what happened!
Well of course that one doesn't come off sounding good, but there's plenty of interesting episodes! Like "that one time Inyo killed his pet monster dog for reasons" or "Inyo's sidekick Zero wants to get taller"
Or "Inyo and Zero grift a man until he (almost) dies"
Or as I like to call it - The Worst Episode. Which I know is saying something, but there's no other title fitting for 22 minutes of bad, oddly mean-spirited Looney Tunes violence with the comedic timing of a grand mal seizure
I mean at least it's self-aware

It really feels like an episode written for babies.
The central joke is that Inyo and Zero are such assholes they drive a man to ruin his life trying to either make it rich going to Magmell or die to escape them. They then sabotage his attempts, pushing him further into debt until he ends up in the dirt, about to be eaten by a monster, and pisses himself.

It tries so hard to be funny in the most viscerally painful way. I love me some good slapstick, but this has all the artistry of a desperate YouTuber scraping the bottom of the comedy barrel.
The only thing it succeeds at is making me hate Inyo, which wasn't great considering I had 8 episodes left to sit through.
It couldn't even nice enough to have an 11 or 12-episode cour. It had to have the full 13. Which is, again, why by episode 12, i had to open up paint.net and make my good Toad jpeg, lest i be utterly defeated by Magmell.
But Steve, how could you not be enthralled by such stunning adventures as "youtubers commit animal cruelty for no reason"? Like hey, they even put us in the episode.
You wouldn't even catch me dead in Magmell. I'm steering as far away from Inyo as humanly possible.
But yeah, by about episode 7 I was actively skipping through the dead air of every episode just to keep from losing all patience. It's amazing how the poor writing and bad animation combine to make something that almost actively repels you from paying attention to it.
You and I both know we've had to watch some truly rank anime for this column, but I genuinely hated the experience of watching Magmell. Just absolutely loathed it. I don't even know if its the "worst" thing we've covered, but in this moment, it feels like the most pointless.
Pointless is definitely the word. It's a show that seems to exist solely to waste your time, and I can't imagine anybody familiar with the manga would be happy with this excuse for an adaptation. And we haven't even gotten into the random misery porn that is this show's finale.
Hell yeah, just what we needed to spice the final arc up: a literally-moustache-twirling villain who turns everything into a bomb.

It's especially good because you know by episode 10 I was dying to find out what Zero's surely-rich backstory was all about!
So something we failed to mention because it's totally incidental to the rest of the show's meager world building is that Inyo and Zero are "Lachters" which means they make black electricity that turns into literally anything they want. How or why they can do this is never explained, but you know there was an evil old man who wanted to torture some kids to find out!
I love Lachter. It's like a four-year-old's idea of a superpower, except executed in the show with none of the fun or imagination a four-year-old would've had with the idea. All Inyo uses it for is swords, grenades, big hands, and cubes.
There was also that episode where he made marshmallows! Which was also when we found out Magmell has a native, sentient race of humanoids that are never brought up again.
God every time I remember something about it this show gets dumber.
Not that I'd trust Magmell to say anything poignant about indigenous people and colonialism, but man, of all the wasted concepts, that's the hugest.
Anyway, back to what amounts to a final arc—the evil guy who experimented on Zero as a child shows up to get revenge on Inyo for punching him like, once, and the show finally returns to how it started: pointless, toothless tragedy porn!
It's even worse than how it started, because it's pointless, toothless tragedy porn stretched thin across three entire episodes.
Hope you like several minutes of Zero crying and Mustache Man being vaguely evil, punctuated with dead air! Seriously there's so much empty space in this arc that I thought I was watching the World Trigger anime again. It's that bad.
And if you're not tired of anime lazily aping Akira, I have good news for the big final boss confrontation!
Spoilers: they beat him by hitting him with big hands that Inyo literally makes out of thin air.
And that's how the show ends. We learn that Inyo originally saved Zero because his mentor Shuin told him to save Zero for some reason, and now he does it again because they've since bonded over their mutual love of terrorizing obnoxious shopkeepers. Truly gripping character arcs here.
We've said it a few times but this show is just...nothing. Even incredibly bad stuff like Sword Gai or 7SEEDS leave an aftertaste when you're finished, but if I hadn't actively been taking notes on this show I'd have forgotten what happened as soon as it was over.
I will only remember Magmell for the time it stole from me. Precious time I could have been using to catch up on Chihayafuru more quickly.
There's a million better things you can do with the precious time we have on this earth. Want a memorable, creative adventure in a hostile yet lush fantasy setting? Go watch Made in Abyss again. Want fun and thoughtful episodic monster shenanigans? The latest GeGeGe no Kitarō anime is still hitting it out of the park! Want to be bored out of your mind? Might I suggest every single sci-fi anime Netflix has put out in the last 2 years.
I can't even recommend Magmell as a curiosity. It's utterly bankrupt. I seriously don't like being this negative either, but just don't.

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