KO Beast Review

KO Beast Cover

I’ve got to say, high expectations are a really horrible idea.  Well, I guess that’s all I really need to say about this show.  I originally bought it, since I couldn’t find high quality stuff online, even though there are now, and did not watch it, simply because I thought I should save it for a rainy day.  Well, after watching Master of Martial Hearts, I felt like breaking in this series’ seven episodes.  And, it was not worth the wait of nearly 18 months, I’ll tell you that.

KO Beast Dub Review
Studios: B4 Studios, The Right Stuf International
Length: 7 OVA episodes (25-30 minutes Each)
Availability:  Hard to say.  The show was originally dubbed a decade ago, and made nearly two decades ago.  I found the three DVDs for about $5 a piece, and you can through a simple search.  Or you could watch it on Youtube, here’s Episode 1.

Not addressing anything other than how the series was a seven episode OVA series, with three episodes in 1992, and 4 in 1993, by a studio that did, well, nothing but this series.  The show is centered around a conflict between a subspecies of men who managed to evolve to form a common link between themselves and animals.  Being overrun from their peaceful pre-industrial homes from humans who utilize that lovely style of technology that was all over the place in 90’s anime.

But more specifically, it is about a tiger-person named Wan, bird-person named Bud.  Mermaid-person, who does that even work?  Name Mei-mer, because talent.  And turtle-person named Tuttle, because it’s cute.  All of whom were chosen to be heroes by ancient robots of various sizes, known as Djinns, in order to awaken an ancient power known as Gaia.  All while avoiding the humans as they awaken their own Djinns.  Namely, at least for the first three episodes, the duo of mage knights, V-Darn and V-Sion.  Well, before they’re replaced through a very jarring mid-series shift into comic foils.  Being replaced by someone named Icegal.  A character who has nothing to do with ice.

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Well, that’s the gist of it.  For the sake of condensing this review after my last one was seven pages long, I’ll just say that it also centers around a girl named Yuni, who is some sort of mystical link between both man and Gaia.  But truth be told, the entire narrative of this show is very, what’s the right word, clumsy.  By which, I mean that it is not poorly told, but does not have a lot of little features in terms of transitions, or establishing a world.  Which might sound minor, but it results in the show feeling like it was put together at the last minute by a team that had half the time to tell the a story that they still really wanted to tell.  The fact that this was a studio’s only effort really supports this theory, and if that doesn’t do it, look at this bomb-ass intro!  Seriously, I’ve seen it fifteen times over the past week, and I still get chills just watching it

Even though, the designs are oddly from the second half of the series, which changed for no real reason.  There is some nudity, which is out of place in most things, let alone a fairly tongue and cheek show like this.  Which makes me wonder why they included it for one scene in the final episode.  And, well, that giant robot never appears.  Hell, the giant merging robots, or Djinns, only combine three times, with that weird bit with the balls having no real reason.

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Actually, the lack of reasoning for actions really does hamper a lot of this show.  With one little aspect being how the main animal-human characters, or Beasts to use the series’ lingo, transform from their human forms to their beast forms.  Now, they establish early on that they all have ticks to transform, whether it be an emotion, an action, or changing of surroundings.  Which, would be fine, except for how that is pretty much abandoned in the second half, and ignored repeatedly in the first.  So why even establish that?  I don’t know.

But, going back to what I said about the budget.  When making a show within a lot of restraints, it naturally makes sense to design a show set around that budget.  Even if you have an idea you really want to express, you should make sure that you can strip it down to something doable within your ability.  I mean, Wayforward’s Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! is a prime example of such an action.  However, there are only seven episodes of this OVA, and it has enough ideas to fill up one that’s thirteen.  Hell, throw in a few side plots and you can have 25.  I mean, they clearly had enough plot for an RPG.  I mean it, this show had an RPG for the PC Engine in Japan.

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It mostly becomes a problem when you realize that even though they explain things like, why would the world ever be cut in half?  Do you realize how much energy that would require?  Or how activating the Djinns doesn’t make a lick of sense.  They just are connected to the main characters, or by anyone with the technology.  And even where they came from is hard to pick out.  They used to be warmechs or something, but how were they sealed away in stone then?  Why do some bleed?  What is the significance of the three main Djinns, and how to they combine into one badass mech?

And this gets completely nailed with the villains.  The starting duo of V-darn and V-sion get to try out some stuff in the first three episodes, but they are barely even there in the other four, and just act as pure comic relief.  Other than the fourth episode, they have no reason to exist.  Which is sad, because I love the idea of pitiful villains, and they just kinda get dumped into the role of second hand enemies very quickly.  I mean, they do this kind of Team Rocket thing, but they really don’t have a lot of personality going through with each other.  Owing how V-sion really does squat outside of episode one and, somehow, awakening two Djinns.

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Even though I love the idea of V-Darn as a character, he just kinda has no point near the end, and does not develop much to make me really care.  I mean, you could have half an episode, or even a full one, of him and V-Sion talking about their experiences, giving them more depth.  And that goes double for the heroes when you realize how underdeveloped their worlds are.  I mean, there’s an atlantis-like area that Mei-Mer is from, and we never get a really good look at it, or have it start to feel like a really fleshed out area.  The environments just lack the charm can often feel lacking of charm, like they needed more wide shots of the characters traveling around these neat looking locations.

I’ll admit that this can be pretty hard stuff that most people do make easy, but mistakes like this haunt the entire series.  We never really learn much beyond Gaia that I could not point at and say, “Hey, this is pretty much just Code of Princess”.  I get why the villain is one dimensional, but what the hell is Yuni anyways?  Was she created?  If so, by whom, and for what?  Oh, and don’t even get me started on IceGal, and her being some sort of missing link between man and beast-man.

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There are tons of little problems with pacing in this show, and establishing the lore.  However, I do really like the world they assembled.  I know I just spent the past couple hundred words shifting through the negatives, but there is a lot I really enjoy about this show through the very hard to ignore execution.  The world is lovely and filled with cool looking locals, which do vary as the series goes on.  The characters have simple personality traits, Bud being a bit horny, Wan being a bit of a glutton.  Tuttle being reliable, and Mei-Mer being a bit fragile, but also takes control when need be.  And both V-Darn and V-Sion make for an amusing buddy act, even without the help of the Akumako, a insane devil on V-Darn’s shoulder who constantly shouts in a voice nothing short of lovely, about how she wants to murder the heroes and eat their souls.  She seriously steals the show for me.

Actually, most of the voice acting is pretty darn solid.  There were claims that I read about the voice cast being the same from Pokemon’s original dub cast, and that is certainly true, but not how the show contains numerous references.  In fact, I only spotted one.  Along with the claims of the show being a gag dub.  I have heard of a borderline offensive UK dub, where that might be the case, but everything here is plaid pretty straight, and certainly does sound like something that was a mostly direct translation.  Which is my way of saying that they probably kept every instance of damn and bastard, even though removing those and the one non-sexual naked woman would’ve made this a great show for kids.  Although, I actually find the fanservice to be funny, so I’d just remove the middle fingers instead.

KOB1

But a lot of the series just feels flat due to bad pacing.  WIth a lot of fights barely being long enough for you to get immersed in the absolutely lovely animation.  I feel confident saying that, mostly due to how an animator showed me the intro, and the fact that this show just looks so slick.  There are notable bits where you can tell they had budgeting problems, but as a whole, the show certainly has top-notch presentation for the time.

It can jump around alot, and some fights did make me question where characters pulled X out of their bums, namely some special moves or how the Beasts have melee weapons in the second half.  But I just adore looking at this show, designs that could easily stand the test of time for the main characters.  And just a sense of sharpness and smoothness that I really enjoy about older anime do make this show shine through in at least one aspect.  Oh, and need I mention how rad that theme was?  Shame that’s where most of the music budget went, and they never use it in the show!

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I must admit to being a bit torn with this show.  On one hand I adored the ideas expressed, and prefer their execution of themes more than, say, Solatorobo: Red The Hunter, which this is actually a bit shockingly similar to.  But there is just a lot that is faulty about the execution, most of which I can contribute to how the show gives the impression that the creators had no idea how to condense their ideas into a small package, even though they loved them a lot if the fact this was a company’s first run through is any indication.  And I just get this feeling of sincerity from the show, like it was really the best B4 Studios could do in what I am certain to be a shorter limit than the one the release dates would imply.  Instead, the charm and animations act more as a saving grace than the exceptional finishing touches on a lot gem.  There are times when media is forgotten when it should be remembered.  But I have to say, this is not one of those times.  But it is certainly not worth your time.  Who knows, perhaps I was just being a bit too critical and demanding.  But as it stands, KO Beast, a show I wanted to love, is one that I can manage to call good, and even then it’s on the lower end of the spectrum.

Good! (5/7)
A solid title that may be lacking in an infinite amount of different ways, or just a few big and difficult to ignore issues.  Varies based on the medium.  But still worth giving it a go!

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