Sunday, August 31, 2014

Anime Review No. 85 (Problem Children)

Problem Children are coming from Another World, Aren’t They?

Director: Yasutaka Yamamoto
Script: Noboru Kimura, Hideki Shirane and Yasutomo Yamada
Studio: Diomedea

Well, August closes out with a show that I picked up on a whim around my birthday when Rightstuf was doing a sale on Sentai Filmworks releases. I got this along with two other shows I will be covering in good time, but since the August schedule had an open slot, I decided to place it here. The show in question, is Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They?

Problem Children or Mondaiji Long Freaking Title, is based on a light novel series by Taro Tatsunoko and illustrated by Yu Amano. It tells the story of 3 young individuals: Izayoi, Asuka and Yuu who are pulled from different times of human history by a mysterious force to another realm, “Little Garden”. However, this turns out to be done by Black Rabbit, a rabbit eared hostess that wears a skimpy outfit, acting as an attendant for the ‘Problem Children’ as they engage in Gift Games and helping the No Names (a community consisting mostly of young children) regain their proper place in the Little Garden.

The story is a basically a ‘Alice in Wonderland’ but done in a fantasy RPG/video game-esque setting. You got 3 MCs that become rather OP as time progresses, and have an aide NPC (Black Rabbit). Little Garden is a world governed by games, The Gift Games, various competitions similar to what one does. Heck the first episode plays out exactly like the tutorial and first level of a video game, mostly set up and establishment. But once it starts moving past that, its a fun and fantastic ride. But that’s all it got going for it. Now why’s that? Let me explain.

For one thing, the characters are mostly broad stroke stereotypes that, outside of external appearance and aesthetic design, are similar to other characters that have been in anime for a long time. Izayoi is practically every brash and clever MMC, Asuka is a dignified rich girl and Yuu is a bandage patch away from being Rei. Black Rabbit is basically the fanservice factor taken to its logical extreme and outside of the villains, everyone else has little to no personality of their own. The villains, as in most video games, are either morally repugnant scumbags or genocidal maniacs that are evil because well they just are. This show operates on ‘Video Game Logic’ quite a lot, where stuff happens because it looks cool as opposed to making sense. Aside from that, the only different thing that Problem Children brings to the table is references to myth and legend, especially in the final episodes.

What doesn’t help this is that the show is only 10 episodes long, as opposed to the usual 12-13 episode run most anime shows get in a season. Though that’s not such a bad thing as it cuts out any excessive padding or filler that tend to pop in 12-13 episode anime shows It also means that this show, like a lot of LN adaptations, ends on a freaking cliffhanger/setup for a possible sequel. Granted this show does have an additional OVA episode, but it is akin to the mini games section of a video game, all fluff and no substance, as well as provide plenty of fanservice. Of course, there is a chance a continuation can occur since it has been about a year and a half.

The presentation, in terms of animation production provided by studio Diomedea, is a nice and solid effort, but a few shades away from unremarkable. So rather like Campione, the previous show I looked at from this studio. There are a few impressive shots and action sequences, particularly the Gift Games. The music is done by Shiroh Hamaguchi and its quite impressive and nice, sounding like an OST of a Fantasy VG/MMORPG. Considering the guy wrote music for Final Fantasy that’s no surprise there. The OP is nice often, though the ED is a funny lil cute chibi dance of the main quartet which is a bit chuckle worthy.

Finally, the English Dub….is some very good stuff from the great people working in Houston. First off no honorifics and no sight of Greg Ayres at all, like really. Its a Christopher Ayres-Josh Grelle team-up (director-writer respectively); Josh Grelle also plays Izayoi and is one of the best things about this. This isn’t the first time Ayres and Grelle collabed on a dub-previous efforts included Magikano back in the late ADV era and the dubs for Majikoi Samurai Girls and Bodacious Space Pirates in the current Sentai Filmworks era. The dub has essentially C. Ayres great casting and well-performed direction combined with Grelle’s much loose Funi-esque writing, Grelle having written for both Funi and Sentai dubbed titles. Emily Neves, an actress whose voice acting career spans back to Clannad, is credited as assistant director and she has gone onto be ADR director for some upcoming/recent dubs like Watamote, Rozen Maiden 2013 and Chuunibyo. I’m sure to talk about her as dub director at a later date. Another best thing of the dub is Jessica Calvello who has experienced a recent renaissance of sorts. Her role as Saori in the Girls und Panzer dub was the gateway of sorts to her getting more work recently, playing roles in Maria Holic, Attack on Titan, Gatchaman Crowds, and this. She does pretty great as Black Rabbit, though your enjoyment of the dub may entirely whether or not you like her particular performance style. It does for me so I find the dub quite good. The rest of the cast consists of nice blend of veteran and new talent that Ayres cast in his dubs (Brittney Karbowski, Nancy Novotny, David Wald, Cynthia Martinez, Carli Mosier, Hilary Haag, Andrew Love, etc) and everyone here does a great job here in the dub.

So, what’s the bottom line on this show? Well, Problem Children is an entertaining little diversion. As one reviewer on ANN stated, “Problem Children is probably the best saved for a lazy afternoon when you’ve got nothing else to do.” And you know what, I got to agree with ANN on that. Its a good entertaining show but probably only from time to time. Granted, when I first watched it, I was partly enthralled but after watching it a few more times, my critical mind started piping up and saying ‘Yeah, I dunno how that happened… eh just go with it” but I still enjoyed watching the show. And if that was their aim, well mission accomplished.

September Blog Schedule to be posted tomorrow.

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