Friday 29 March 2013

Anime REVIEW: Vividred Operation

Vividred Operation anime A-1 Pictures

The second of my winter 2013 season anime reviews is a series that comes from A-1 Pictures and director Kazuhiro Takamura, who previously showed anime fans that the world didn't need trousers in Strike Witches. Their newest work is a 12-episode series that goes by the name of Vividred Operation, which once again pits girls wearing less than recommended against an anonymous alien threat. 

Vivired Operation Akana Isshiki
Akane shows off just how little need she has for trousers

Following the creation of the Manifestation Ending by self-proclaimed mad scientist Kenjirō Isshiki, mankind enjoys clean energy from the sky and a bountiful life. When the world is threatened by alien life forms identified as the Alone, Kenjirō completes his greatest experiment at the expense of trapping his mind inside the body of a small stuffed otter. He presents his granddaughter Akane with a special key, allowing her to unlock the Vivid System to grant her special powers and battle the Alone.

She won't be facing them alone though, as her childhood friend Aoi, sword fighter Wakaba and anthropophobic genius Himawari gain their own Vividred powers and Pallet suits, each in their own unique colour. When Akari kisses one of them on the forehead, they are able to combine into an even more potent fighting force. But what is the secret behind the mysterious Rei Kuroki, and what have the Alone offered her in exchange for her help? 

Vividred Operation Combination this the kind of combination you expected?

It isn't often that I have very little positive to say about a series but Vividred Operation is one that has really tested me. I suppose the concept itself is pretty cool? What we essentially have is effectively a magical girls Sentai team that are able to combine into more powerful forms and draw upon super robot-esque powers. But outside this concept the show offers very little of substance, with the plot at its most basic form Strike Witches set in the future. The team are a pretty one dimensional bunch - there's the friendly, emotional team leader Akane, the shy Aoi, the tough girl Wakaba and the clever but introverted Himawari. They don't much to break these character types (and their introductory episodes are about all they get in the way of proper development), but instead all preach the importance of love and friendship - which is in turn pretty much the source of their powers. Side characters come in the form of Akane's younger sister Momo (who isn't really all that different in personality), a bossy National Defence Force member come teacher/guardian and the aforementioned mad scientist grandfather - who REALLY didn't need to be stuck as a otter for the entire show.

Vividred Operation Rei Kuroki
Bad guy girls are always the most interesting

Their ability to "combine" into an older, heavier armed female is unlocked via Akane kissing one of the Vivid Girls on the forehead, resulting in a transformation that will probably get most Yuri fanboys cheering. In fact, as this show comes from the creators of Strike Witches fanservice is a main part of the show's appeal. The transformation sequences all feature the girls stripped down to their underwear, and the main theme of the show seems to be getting teenage girls into the shortest hotpants as possible. I doubt you'll find any real school that issue short shorts as their uniform. While fanservice isn't something that's usually well woven into a storyline anyway here its even more distracting as the camera takes to butt level far more often than it probably should. 

Vividred Operation Crow Alone
"Fucking birds."

The villains weren't much to write home about either, with most of the Alone taking the "silent giant black alien" route that's been done to death in anime already. The story of Rei Kuroki was probably the greatest asset the show had in terms of plot, her coming from a destroyed parallel world she can only return to if she assists the Alone in destroying the manifestation ending. The true voice of evil comes from a black crow, which mostly taunts Rei until it comes to blows against the Vivid girls and gains godlike powers. The show mentions high intelligent alien lifeforms and various scientific nonsense, but at heart all the Alone are is pretty uninspiring monsters of the week that come, destroy and get killed by the heroes. 

Once introductions are out of the way and the show gets down to telling its story, it becomes all too clear that there isn't actually that much story to tell. The plot is spread very thinly, with the girls taking on episodic missions which add very little to their characters or the overall plot. Rei gets one much-needed episode that explains her background, but following that the main meat of the plot is crammed into the last three episodes. By which point, it's very hard to care about Vividred Operation any more.

Vivired Operation Kenjirō Isshiki

Those looking for a light and colourful series that isn't too heavy on the brain and features plenty of fanservice might get a kick out of Vividred Operation, but truth be told there isn't much here that you can't find better elsewhere. The plot is crammed into the very beginning and end, leaving numerous episodes in the middle that offer filler story lines and little else of interest. The characters are cliché and uninspired, perhaps only outdone by the dullness of their faceless enemy. My advice is to just stick to Strike Witches, because even though that probably had more fanservice at least it had a somewhat interesting story to go with it.

No comments: