Quite honestly, I was planning on tying off this latest sampling period over the weekend and settling on some new series to start following. Then, you lunatics made so more intriguing suggestions, and I just couldn’t resist. So this period’s been extended by a few days, at least. Marshal Victory recommend this one, describing it as “WAR OF THE WORLDS meets STAR WARS meets JOHNNY QUEST meets BUCK ROGERS meets NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD meets SCOOBY DOO, etc.” and I’d almost figured they'd have to all be meeting at Hogwarts by that point. You can’t just have that kind of crowd congregating on the street.
This is quite possibly the least “anime-like” anime I’ve ever watched for this column. There’s no chibi, no saucer eyes and no demons or tech that couldn’t have been imagined past 1938. It’s like an animated Milton Caniff comic strip! Or, if we want to get a little more topical, it’s like Tintin taking on some foes who’re a little further outside his usual neighborhood. It’s old school boy’s adventure, in other words. I was thinking about how unusual it is to be getting a mini-series in hour-long chunks like this, especially when this has all the twists and beats of a serial that would’ve been doled out in five minute segments in the olden days.
Shows like this seemingly exist to give me a polite, but firm, slap to remind my how many double-standards my tastes have built up. I’ve honestly got a list (not one that I’ve written down, of course) identifying specific tropes that’ll immediately have a real steep uphill battle to capturing my interest. The list starts with all the classic monsters (vampires, werewolves, zombies,) works its way down to dark re-imaginings of fairy tales and the OZ books and bottoms out around the umpteenth retelling of over-used classic literature like A CHRISTMAS CAROL and the various tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur. I’m a believer that certain concepts are best kept to their times and if somebody doesn’t put the effort and creativity in to evolving those ideas to keep up with the zeitgeist, then they’re basically trying to put salt on a stale slice of steak.
Retro-futurist re-workings of WAR OF THE WORLDS usually fit somewhere into the aforementioned list, so I’m eating some crow at the moment for being so ready to dismiss this show, as I found it incredibly hard to resist. I guess a little pluckiness goes a long way and when you’ve got two or three plucky young adventurers on adventure, the pluckiness goes even farther. I’d say that this felt like watching a Saturday afternoon serial or getting wrapped up in a daily adventure strip, but that’d be a fib, as both of those venues were really before my time. Rather, this felt like the same as watching a big holiday season tentpole with your family over the long weekend - - something that’s been inspired by all those bygone adventures I mentioned. If you’re not getting what I’m referring to there, pay attention to TINTIN when it comes out around Christmastime and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
So, yeah, this unashamedly embraces tropes and hugs them deep into its chest. There isn’t anything here that you haven’t already seen many times in the countless throwbacks to the countless works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne… and there’s nothing wrong with that. Billy Kimura and Penny Carter are the kinds of appealing boy adventurers who remind you why tropes become tropes, and why those tropes can always feel fresh as long as they’re done well.
I’d like to continue to watching this. It’s definitely in the “interested” file, now. Even if I don’t get to, though, this is definitely something I’d recommend showing your non-otaku friends who’re looking for an easy point of accessibility into this crazy world of anime.
Watch this episode, "Mysterious Flying-Saucer Invasion! Sky Knight Takes Off!" below and decide for yourself.