Wednesday 15 August 2012

Anime REVIEW: Fireball/Fireball Charming

Fireball and Fireball Charming logos

The latest anime series I've watched is a bit of an oddity, and certainly not something you might expect from a company such as Disney. Fireball and its second season Fireball Charming are two 13-episode series created by Jinni's Animation Studios in conjunction with Disney. Each episode is just over a minute in length, and created entirely with CGI. The original series ran between April and June 2008, while Charming aired during the same months in 2011.

Disney Fireball Drossel and Gedachtnis
Meet Drossel, manufactured with the mind of a 14 year old.

The series follows gynoid Duchess Drossel von Flügel (title and full name: the 19th Lord of Uranos' Kingdom's Tempest Domain, Drossel Juno Vierzehntes Heizregister Fürstin von Flüge) and her massive cyclops robot servant Gedächtnis. Episodes revolve around happenings in their giant manor house the Tempest Tower, and are set against what is presumably a war between robots and humanity (with humanity having taken an oppressed status). Fireball Charming is a prequel series, set in the year 48234 as opposed to the setting of the original, which was between 48650 and 48794.

Disney Fireball Drossel Flying Accessory
Who said that flying couldn't also be fashionable?

With episodes only having just over a minute of runtime, there's no time for proper build up and so the comedy has to come in relatively fast. For certain episodes this works quite well (such as Drossel's discovery of a new hairpiece) but other jokes will fall flat. The most obvious offender would be Drossel constantly calling Gedächtnis by a different name (such as Rasputin or Sancho Panza), which is funny at first but quickly gets old. The setting of machines at war with humans isn't particularly prevalent, but is often touched up in a way that makes you wish Fireball was something more than comedic one-shots. The final episode sees the main characters seemingly taking a last stand against a human uprising, with their fate left ambiguous. Too bad nothing further will probably ever come of it.

Disney Fireball Charming Drossel and Gedachtnis
Drossel and Gedächtnis sported a different look back in the year 48234

While Fireball may be a somewhat enjoyable yet pointless watch, prequel series Fireball Charming has a lot more going for it. Once again it takes the format of minute long episodes, but the humour has expanded beyond the same repetitive jokes. We see a lot more of Tempest Tower, along with more characters and a greater emphasis on sight gags to go along with the large amount of dialogue. Both Drossel and Gedächtnis have received a makeover (Upgrade? Downgrade?), with the former taking a much less humanoid form - complete with extended head section and tapered legs. This allows a much greater range of robotic motion from the character, which is also helped by the much bigger budget Fireball Charming obviously received. Even if the humour does nothing for you, fans of CGI certainly won't be disappointed - the original Fireball had its merits in terms of animation, but Charming makes full use of its medium and every scene is a treat for the eyes.

Disney Fireball Charming Drossel Bike
Charming Drossel's sweet ride

While in the end both seasons are only going to take under an hour to watch the overall plot itself may seem superfluous, there are worse ways to spend said hour. The comedy can often be hit and miss, but its two main characters are strong enough both in terms of design and personality to keep you watching and maybe even wanting more at the very end. It's fitting that the second season was named Fireball Charming, because charming is exactly the right word to use when describing the Flügel household.

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