Anime Meta-Review


Steam Detectives


By Date




Title Info

  • seen: 1-5
  • type: TV
  • grade: flawed
  • people: Asamiya
  • made: unknown
  • Review created: Recently, but I didn't record the date.
  • mod: none

The core idea is good, and all the elements for a good anime are in place, but this thing ends up as one of the most tedious anime's i've ever watched. And given that this is derived from a Kia Asamiya manga (couldn't read the titles to see if he was involved in the anime) I wasn't even expecting very much. Anyway, the background is solid `steam punk'. This genre combines historical settings, with London at the height of the industrial revolution being the archetype, with `high tech' products produced using the style and mechanisms of the time. Thus all the machinery is steam powered and cast iron constructed as are the fashions and mannerisms (see Sakura War's as another example). We follow a pint-sized sherlock holmes type, on elderly butler, a caring female nurse and a steam powered AI mecha as they duel with various `super-villains'. Clearly in this strange world the young, but brilliant, detective will compete against the cunning plots and deadly plans of dastardly evil masterminds.

This is pretty rich ground really. The quixotic atmosphere, strange technology and otherwordly culture are a great story setting. But this anime completely fails to use any of it. The biggest problem with this review is which failure to address first. To begin with the writing, both in the detail and wider scope is really poor. The plot and action are illogical, the dialog limited, the `detectiving' really stupid. The stories have a strange slow pace and a lack of suprise that is amazingly soporific. There is little, if any, atmosphere, excitement or mystery. The characters are two dimensional, at best, and there is no dynamism between them at all. The machinery is likewise illogical. The steam powered mecha is pretty cool, but there are lots of silly design flaws, such as his `arms' holding limitless gadgets that could not fit and would not work. Another example of the careless design is where a mecha, and these are meant to be big stomping iron locomotive type things, proves to be able to fly using steam power (in addition to carrying another mecha) which completely destroys the `feel' of heaviness inherent in the mecha. As a final insult all mecha, barring the lead mecha, are remote control. And there was not a story that could not have been solved by shooting the obvious controller. Ah, i'm wasting my time trying to describe all the faults in this short review. Let me simply say that I will be honestly suprised if anyone enjoys the experience provided by this anime. Dull, illogical, lifeless and tedious.

And guess what, the animation is terrible too. The manga has a fairly sparse, brutal sort of style and this has been carried over to the anime. As a result none of the characters look particularly `human'. Watching the lead try to see through his `bunch of black spikes' hairstyle, or watching Linlin's absurd proportions, was near painful. This combines with the (quite drab) colors to provide a very cartoony look. Add the fact of generally poor animation and particularly bad action animation (barring a handful of mecha moments), as well as repeated sequences (the mecha getting transported) to present a very dull experience. The voices are on the average side, sound effects are terrible (barring the mecha) and the music is both average and doesn't integrate with the animation. This last element is suprisingly important, because a lot of the style (everything is steam powered remember) must be suggested with sounds of steam and clunky iron mechanisms, and the failure robs a lot of atmosphere from the anime. The combination of bad writing, direction, design and production is almost, perversely, impressive.

I was looking forward to someone proving me wrong, and pointing out the hidden wonders I had missed. Thus watching Lord Carnage jumping up and down on the remains in this review provided only sad confirmation of my suspicious. In the words of the master, `Not at all recommended'.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:25 WST 2009