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Saturday, 20 June 2015

World War Blue.

World War Blue.

World War Blue, an anime by 5th Avenue adapted from the manga of the same name by Anastasia Shestakova, is blessed with the best premise ever conceived of by the minds of man. Set in the warring medieval kingdoms of Ninteldo and Segua, the series covers a war taking place in the aftermath of the fall of the great kingdom of Atarika. In this war, a young man, Gear, known as 'Blue Sonic' joins the Segua army in order to avenge the death of his friend. He is quickly sent on a mission to retrieve General Alex, a Segua soldier kidnapped by the enemy.

If you didn't figure it out from that summary, World War Blue is a retelling of the early 90s console war between Nintendo and Sega, that ended in Sega becoming a third party developer of video games while Nintendo became a massively profitable industry giant. That's a fantastic premise, with a tremendous amount of potential for interesting storylines and clever comedic twists.

The series itself is actually awful, though. It may, in fact, be the worst thing I've watched all year - and I watched Seventh Son of all things. 

Its crimes, in the main, are being barely a series at all, creepy as all get out, and unspeakably boring. We may as well run down those in order.

Really, that's what the two of you are wearing into battle.

Firstly, it's only three episodes long. Given what the series is like in terms of quality, that's actually a blessing, but the fact remains that this is not really a series so much as it is a failed pilot split into thirds, with a not inconsiderable amount of padding thrown in to fill it out. It is, in essence, an origin story for its protagonist, Gear, and as it is more setting up the premise than anything else, a lot of the characters advertised, like Mario-expy Marcus and Pikachu-girl Pirika, either show up for more seconds or never appear at all.

The series clearly ends with the expectation that one channel or another is going to leap on it and buy another twelve episodes, with the torturous final five minutes of the third episode being devoted to a montage of upcoming villains. But of course, no channel did, so we're left with the anime in its entirety being essentially a sneak peek.

Secondly, it - anime has a creepiness problem, okay? Let's just come out and say that right now, a lot of anime has skeevy sexualisation clumsily shoved into it, often only exacerbated by weird sexual politics and the relatively juvenile looking characters. It is one of the main reasons why I drop various anime, and one of the main reasons why it's so difficult going onto fan forums for it, which have a tendency to be crowded with fanboys who get very, very angry if the main character of any show doesn't have his pick of interested and available women.

A rant for another time.

Most of the animation doesn't look like this. It's much worse.

World War Blue has that problem magnified to about ten thousand. It is a constant, unending drum beat of creepy sexualisation - every scene that has female characters Opal or Ramses in is devoted to having them contort into weird, sexual positions; a running and frankly weird subplot is Opal learning to 'hold in' her energy shooting powers, with this represented by her moaning and trembling while she monologues about how she's so good at 'holding things in'; there are no less than seven references to Opal being sexually assaulted, including an attempted rape scene in the third episode, played for titillation and laughs.

(Ramses, incidentally, also gets two references made to other characters wanting to sexually assault her.)

It makes the entire show incredibly uncomfortable. It feels like every time you settle into a groove watching it, Ms. Shestakova herself leans over and screams 'OPAL'S GAGGIN' FOR IT, THE JEZEBEL' and you have to spend fifteen minutes herding her out of your house.

Usually I'd lead into the third problem by saying 'both these problems could be forgiven if it wasn't so dull', but no, no, neither of them could be forgiven even if it was the most interesting show ever. 


That's a moot point, though, because this is an absurdly boring anime. There is nothing here that will keep your attention once the novelty of the premise wears off - which it will about thirty seconds in. The animation is shoddy, characters are all shounen anime archetypes forcibly stripped of anything that makes those archetypes interesting, the music is bland, and the plot is meandering and cliche.

In the third episode, the writing appears to try and make a saving throw of sorts by having Gear be tasked with basically consuming the life force of General Alex, his father. It's a neat parallel to Sonic the Hedgehog replacing Alex Kidd as Sega's mascot, and if played right it could have presented an interesting moral choice for Gear.

Naturally, it wasn't played right, and instead it is repeatedly framed as not really a choice at all, with everyone, even Alex, saying that no, no, Gear should definitely just absorb his life force, there aren't any moral grey areas here at all. It's one of those very clumsy attempts to drum up the emotion of a difficult moral choice without morally compromising your protagonist, and those always fall completely flat. Gear seems to get over any reservations he had in about two minutes anyway.

All in all, a bafflingly terrible series, and a waste of a perfectly serviceable plotline. What a tremendous disappointment. 

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