Vandread vs. s-CRY-ed

Vandread vs. s-CRY-ed

Vandread VS. s-CRY-ed

Watched via DVD and Adult Swim/DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Vandread opens with what could possibly be the best hook of any harem anime series. Just prior to launching a war ship into outer space, a whole army of men are shown a propaganda film granting the viewer insight into this highly unusual series. This historic film states that men have been at war with women for generations. These demonic creatures have enslaved, tortured, and fed off of men and are about to strike again. Therefore, it is the duty of the male race to stand up for masculinity everywhere and fight back!

Hibiki, a third-class blue-collar worker, gets mixed into all of this by bragging he is going to steal one of the militarized weapons (a vanguard) before the first-class warriors take off to battle. Sneaking onto the battleship, Hibiki accidentally gets caught up in the battle against women when the ship leaves earlier than planned. Instantly, battle begins and the ship is overpowered by the enemy. Hibiki and two other men are the sole survivors captured by the women, who turn out to be a band of female pirates.

While the two genders fail to make a good impression on each other at first, they end up joining forces to fight together when they begin to be attacked by a mysterious new enemy that acts like a virus. This is where the harem aspect comes in. As it happens, women aren’t as demonic as the propaganda video described; instead, they are highly attractive and adorable. As you can imagine, there are many jokes made as the two genders discover the differences between their two cultures and physiologies.

The show becomes way too formulaic before it finally comes to an explanation as to who their enemy is and how their two cultures became what they are today. While the story seems fairly clever, it still ends up being rather underwhelming after traveling through twenty-six episodes of pitiful sex jokes and gender-based harassment.

I can definitely see how those jokes would get old after a while, even with such an interesting premise to start with. That’s exactly why I decided not to finish this show—it seemed more intent on boob jokes than on explaining anything truly interesting.

PLOT: s-CRY-ed (aside from having a ridiculous name) is a sci-fi fighting anime series that’s trying super hard to be awesome. Sometime in the future, after a geological event called “The Great Uprising,” some humans have the ability to absorb matter and change it into something else. This ability is called an “Alter,” and there are two groups of Alters: Native Alters, who live in the Lost Ground and go against the government; and HOLY members, who work within a government group to track down and stop Native Alters.

s-CRY-ed focuses on two main men, who are, as you might expect, a Native Alter and a HOLY member. Kazuma is a loud, brash Native Alter who works on commission to help others in the Lost Ground and fights HOLY. His Alter, Shell Bullet, transforms his right arm so it looks like it’s made out of armor, and he uses it to deliver super-strong punches. His main rival, Ryuho, is the strongest member of HOLY, whose Alter is Zetsuei, a robot-like thing that basically attacks for Ryuho by using hard, metallic ribbons. The two meet early on in the show when Kazuma comes to HOLY’s attention, and from there Kazuma and Ryuho hate each other and do what they can to fight whenever they have a chance, whether or not it’s helpful to the situation. I’m not kidding: after the show’s finale, they still have to spend an episode fighting to determine the strongest Alter user. Really?!

The first half of the show follows the expected trajectory of Kazuma and HOLY fighting each other, but the second half sees Ryuho leave HOLY and Kazuma come to doubt his resolve. Eventually, the show moves on to a plot line about how the government’s been using Alter users, and from there everyone gets wrapped up in putting a stop to that kind of abuse. Actually, a lot of the show’s about abuse of power, and it’s an interesting plot thread that saves the show, even with so much time spent on Kazuma and Ryuho’s rivalry. The show could’ve been better with even more exploration of those ideas, but they’re what make this show worth watching in the end.

SETTING: The worldbuilding for this series was rather well thought out. There is a fully explainable background to how the two gender-based cultures formed and became at odds with one another, and even their shared enemy. Still, the execution of this story, as I mentioned in plot, left me rather unimpressed. While the first couple of episodes started strong, by the end of the story the setting seemed stagnant and explored more out of a sense of obligation rather than need.

The title “Vandread” comes from the combination of vanguards and dreads, the two ship types the genders use for battle. Hibiki and Dita accidentally fuse together, creating a new type of mecha that helps them fight the enemy. Fusion is explored extensively throughout the series as a metaphor for the two genders having to work together. Not only do the mecha fuse together, but the battleship itself fuses with the pirate ship, needing both the men and women to work together to pilot their way back to their home planets.

SETTING: Like Vandread, s-CRY-ed has an interesting world that’s fairly well developed but still manages to pull on elements from Evangelion. To be fair, lots of things pulled from Evangelion at this time, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, s-CRY-ed brings in Evangelion’s idea of a world completely changed by a geological event and strange, otherworldly powers running amok. From there, the show changes the power to take the form of Alters, where certain people can change themselves or their surroundings in order to use a specific ability. This, like X-Men, leads to a lot of panic, which necessarily created the government division of HOLY, which keeps Alter users from taking over or abusing normal humans. These events, and the main outline of the show, make sense, but they still feel a little too much like they were lifted from other series with similar ideas. The most original element in s-CRY-ed are the Alters themselves, and even those seem too over-designed to feel either original or exciting.

While it sounds like s-CRY-ed has some potentially interesting politics, it sounds like the same general plot of at least a dozen other series.

CHARACTERS: The characters are very typecast, but still fit rather well into this genre and time in anime history. Vandread came out in a time where characters were highly stylized and extremely individualized. The cast is a large mixing pot of tropes from various sci-fi series. Dita Liebely is an eccentric young and talented fighter pilot with long red hair, that is obviously influenced from Asuka from Evangelion. Her foil character would be Meia Gisborn. Practically a carbon copy of Rei from Evangelion, she is very stoic and cold to her co-workers, as well as Hibiki. Hibiki’s presence amongst the crew ends up being a blessing as he helps the crew, and in particular these two, to develop and open up to one another (you know, like a typical harem series).

Hibiki Tokai is a rather odd individual. He is your typical loud-mouthed short character who barges around recklessly. Because of his fighting talents and personality, he ends up getting a lot of attention from the female cast. By being on the battleship with the women, he finds himself mixed into a harem-type situation, though he personally could care less for the majority of the women. Rather, he finds himself more tied up in his own brain and figuring out what his role in life is.

There is a whole slew of other characters, all of whom add a great deal of humor to the series. The other two men, Duelo McFile and Bart Garsus, never seemed to win me over. They just seemed too stand-off and ridiculous. I suppose that might be so that the audience connects more with Hibiki, but really I just found them all to be unrealistic and hard to relate to.

CHARACTERS: A show like s-CRY-ed relies on its feuding leads to bring in viewer interest, and Kazuma and Ryuho just barely manage to do that. They tend to either act like jerks or to be underdogs you want to root for, switching it up a couple times to keep things interesting, but generally I dislike one of them or the other. Kazuma’s got that hotheaded vigilante thing going on, while Ryuho’s all cold and distant, making them complement each other, but unfortunately their rivalry takes over too many times, and in the end I’m just tired of them both. At least they both manage some personal growth!

The secondary characters really make this show, or at least some of them do. To be specific, Kanami, Scheris, and Straight Cougar are all pretty cool, while the rest of the cast could be missing and I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Scheris is Ryuho’s best friend in HOLY and a potential love interest, acting a little tsundere while having cute short hair and being more aware and self-sacrificing than I’d have initially suspected. She can get grating at times, especially early on, but she’s fun in the end and nice to look at. Straight Cougar, on the other hand, is the most awesome character in the show but gets slighted because he’s straightforward and doesn’t angstily brood over what to do like the two male leads. Really, the show should’ve been about how badass Straight Cougar is, but s-CRY-ed had to appeal to teens, and teens don’t identify with Straight Cougar. He’s too mature and decisive for that, which makes him stand out all the more in an anime rife with whiny teenagers.

Finally, Kanami’s a very nice, healing character along the lines of any cute, innocent character you’ve ever felt moe for. Her major appeal is in how loving and accepting she is, as she’s Kazuma’s friend and housemate who always accepts his ridiculousness and takes care of anyone around her. No one in the show deserves Kanami, but still she acts like a saint and accepts everyone, making her instantly likable if you’re into moe girls. If you don’t tend to feel moe for people, you might think Kanami’s exaggeratedly nice and unrealistic, but if you’re like me, you just tuck her away with Misuzu from Air and bask in her loveliness.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Vandread is a sci-fi series with a heavy influence from Neon Genesis Evangelion. As such, there are many instances of weirdly-placed existential moments where Hibiki questions his role in the world and what his life purpose really is. While it makes a bit of sense to question your place in life when you are thrown into a new culture, it seems way too drawn out for the light-hearted nature of the show.

In addition to the obvious influence in style, there is also quite a bit lifted from Evangelion where the characters are concerned. There is your straight-laced pilot with short blue hair, and your eccentric and flamboyant pilot with red long hair. The whole cast is rather typecast, and they all seem rather strange piled into one show. I suppose the one aspect this series has going for it is that it was made early enough that these tropes fit in more readily and it is easier to suspend disbelief than if the show was created presently.

Aside from these obvious rips from other series, this show does redeem itself with its interesting mecha battles. While awkwardly different in style (3D animation suddenly thrown into a 2D show), the battles are vividly engaging and entertaining visually.

The battles were the coolest part of this show, but the awkward 3D shoved in there made me cringe even when this first came out! I’m so glad anime’s gotten better at blending CGI with traditional-looking animation.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The art is where you can tell most that s-CRY-ed wanted to be cool, for two reasons. One, the character designs are by Hisashi Hirai, that guy who did Gundam SEED and Fafner and Heroic Age and everything else that desperately wanted to be cool during the 2000s. Secondly, there are a lot of psychedelic colors in use with the Alter powers, and, when the powers are used, the screen swirls really hard to show how cool and awesome the powers are. (Oh, and there’s a reused jazz interlude between episodes, but that didn’t air on TV, I think.) I can’t remember if I felt this way when I first watched it, but as an adult in the year 2014, these all feel a bit like I’m being repeatedly struck over the head with the show’s desire to prove it’s cool and edgy and worth watching.

Aside from that, s-CRY-ed is a generally good-looking anime for the time it was made. None of the animation or designs would stack up today, but, for the time, you can tell that most episodes have the budget for fight scenes to look good, and I can only think of a couple times where episodes were very obviously trying to save budget (aside from the recaps). Like Vandread, s-CRY-ed also pulls from common anime archetypes to design its characters, but there’s less of a harem setup here, and the characters have enough room to breathe so that they don’t feel quite as cliché as some anime today.

I think these series both lucked out by being made in the early 2000’s. Back then series were still being produced to sell predominantly more than broadcast, and you can tell these were given a more extensive budget than they probably deserved plot wise. And like you said, they at least look like they are supposed to be “cool”.

OVERALL: Vandread is an okay series, at least for the first half. While I respected that the series actually designed an ending and bothered with creating a believable world and history for the series, it almost seemed to stretch the series too much in two directions. Honestly, if this series was going to be a harem anime, it might as well have just explored that instead of trying to be a sci-fi series exploring human genetics. Or better yet, it could have explored genetics and humanity without the over-the-top sexualization of an entire cast of characters. Either way, the series isn’t really a great example of either of these two fields. Despite that, it is rather entertaining and seems to have a well-placed budget, though the characters get weirdly off-model (which is hard to discern if it’s intentional or not). Anyways, overlooking the various amounts of awkwardness this series has, it is still a rather fun watch. If you are interested in sci-fi, mecha, and harem series, give this a try. Think of it as the predecessor of Bodacious Space Pirates, though I’d recommend only renting it, or finding it online. Also, don’t feel obligated to finish the second half if you find yourself getting bored by the repetition.

I’m really glad I never finished this, because I can’t stand goofy harem shenanigans, and it doesn’t sound like any of the serious plot questions make up for all that awful boob grabbing and boob-hugging armor. If it had been more serious, I would’ve given it more of a try, but it’s just too unbalanced for me as it is.

OVERALL: Though s-CRY-ed really wanted to prove it could be something (like Kazuma!), in the end it’s just a middle-of-the-road early-‘00s action anime from Sunrise. It had potential to be pretty interesting, with the persecution of people in the Lost Ground and of Native Alters, but a lot of that potential’s lost through the constant focus on how much Kazuma and Ryuho want to beat each other up. Even beyond that, there are times when the show feels very Alter-of-the-week, and then it randomly pulls out a main villain in the second half so the leads have someone to team up against. The show loses its plot focus by trying so hard to appeal to a young audience, and that keeps it from being as interesting as it could’ve been.

Of course, the show does have some things going for it, like some of its characters and the main focus on abuses of power. Honestly, though, I think I got through the show because of Kanami and Straight Cougar, as well as the fact that my brother watched it with me and helped me make fun of it and see its better aspects. So, while s-CRY-ed is interesting and has a couple good characters, I can’t really recommend it unless you know someone who’s super nostalgic for it and wants to watch it with you. Then, go ahead and give it a try, but otherwise you’ll probably burn out after Kazuma and Ryuho’s second pissing contest.

The more you talk about this series, the more it makes me wonder how close it comes to being like Trigun. I feel a lot of series that came out during that time heavily focused on dualism and pissing matches between good and evil at the sacrifice of losing all real plot.

FINAL SCORE: (7/10) FINAL SCORE: (7/10)
Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Vandread vs. s-CRY-ed

  1. While I couldn’t get into S-Cry-ed, I utterly love VanDread. The first half does appear to got the harem route only because of how the politics of the world/universe is set up, but the first season, or first half, is a lot of set-up. Bart doesn’t come into his own until the first third of the second season while Hibiki continues to mature more as the second half progresses. The reality of their universe also becomes clearer.

    Granted, the fan service gets in the way, but not the extent that was Divergence Eve, which also came out just after, trying to cash in on VanDread’s success. For me, it was a turning point for the giant mecha series (and loved how the combinations of ships led to different configurations). Probably best not to view it as a harem anime but more as a sic-fi adventure.

    • Thanks for adding your insight! You made a lot of great points that explain how the series is an enjoyable watch. I’m not too big on mecha series, but you’re right that this series pushed the genre and opened the doors for other series to explore. It’s one of the few action series that I really liked. While it has a lot of fan service it makes up for it with actual comedy, which is how it ultimately won me over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s