DVD Review: Needless Part 1 Episodes 1-12
An anime series about a group of post-holocaust survivors with extraordinary powers!
It is the year 2130, 50 years after the catastrophic events of World War III. Where Tokyo once stood, there is now a nuclear contaminated hole full of rubble and destruction, known as ‘The Black Spot’. Now populated by refugees and outcasts, many of The Black Spot’s inhabitants have developed special powers ranging from telekinesis to super strength, speed and even transmutation. These powers are known as ‘fragments’ and the people who wield them known as the ‘Needless’.
Originally launched as a serial manga in Ultra Jump magazine, a seinen (aimed primarily at an 18-30 year old male audience) publication, Needless is a sci-fi, action comedy playing on the age old plot device of nuclear-granted powers and super attributes. Part one deals mostly with introducing the characters and the lore behind the powers of ‘fragments’ in the world and how they came about. The protagonist, Cruz Shild, has lost his sister and comes under the care of several Needless including the moody ‘destroyer priest’ Adam Blade, elderly scientist Gido and the ditzy doppleganger (ability to change her shape at will) Eve Neuschwanstein. Simeon, an organisation led my Adam Arclight, are leading a hunt for powerful Needless in order to attain their bodies and abilities. It is this hunt which the plot for the series revolves around, and our heroes’ various battles and confrontations with Simeon as they find out more about their powers and pasts.
Needless has a promising beginning with a lovable protagonist in Cruz and some brilliant action anime animation. While the angular design and brash colours may be abrasive at first, they suit the genre of the series perfectly and place you in a fast, action packed world reminiscent of older action based animes. The main theme to the show is a great piece of music and sets the tone for the show well, with an omniscient narrator giving you the back-story to the series every episode in a very nostalgic 90s cartoon show style.
The story is well written and simple with each episode revolving around an intriguing plot point or dynamic action sequence. The fight scenes are well choreographed with some greatly iconic shots and innovative super powers. Each character has their own character ‘card’ which appears each time they introduce themselves and their power, instantly identifying them to the audience. This is not only a fun, cartoony technique, but it also adds to the fan-service of this show as you are shown interesting stills of the character in the process.
However, the dialogue is clunky and badly translated with poor syntax. The English voice actors do very well with the poor script they are given but can oftentimes be annoying or abrasive due to the poor word choices. The fan service is also excessive, with many panty shots, excuses to get the female characters into compromising positions and costumes. However, as this is an example of seinen anime, this can be forgiven due to it catering to their market very well.
The very poor portrayal of female characters as ditzy and stupid is a difficult one to overlook for a female audience. While Riru, Arclight’s right hand woman and one of the Four Strongest Simeon, is a very powerful and intriguing female character, the rest of the female characters are let down by their incompetence, childishness and forgetfulness. This is most strongly shown in the character of Eve who, despite having some great action moments, still requires help from men most of the time (even those without Needless fragments) and even has issues remembering people’s names.
Another bit of awkward translation comes from Adam Blade’s love of young girls. While this may have been intended to be viewed as big brother style affection, the animation and actions of Adam’s characters are portrayed in a disturbing way which may be misconstrued as lustful, especially when aimed at Mio, a very young member of the Simeon ‘Pretty Girl Force’. Whilst Adam Blade’s character is otherwise interesting and fun, with sarcastic comments and quiet power, this does a lot to mar him as a hero for the show for members of the audience who may see his intentions as paedophilic.
The comedy of the series is badly delivered as it relies so heavily on the language used by the characters. However, the fan service slapstick moments and Carry On style moments of sexual comedy are fun.
As an example of seinen anime, it does its job well, focusing on the action and sexuality involved in the story. The action sequences are fast paced and exciting, while the fan service is well covered. However, by focusing so much on a seinen audience, it manages to alienate itself from being accessible to a female audience. Fan service can still be used in anime without being overly offensive when the female character still have some depth and use, but sadly in this series they tend to be vapid and vacuous.
Release Date: 7th January 2013
Running Time: 300 mins
Director: Masayuki Sakoi
Genre: Anime, Action, Comedy, Science Fiction
Anastasia Catris is a freelance illustrator, writer and actress based in South Wales. After graduating in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London she studied for a year in comic book art and design in The Kubert School where she nurtured her love of Japanese animation and cartooning as well as its cinema, video games and culture. You can keep up to date with Anastasia’s activity via her website www.anastasiacatris.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/acatris. You may also follow her on Twitter at @acatris. View Anastasia’s showreel here.