24 of 24 episodes seen
First of all, Needless is not a shounen. Needless is a shounen-parody. Or actually if I stick to proper genres I would agree that it's a seinen, and the reason why it is "full of shounen clichés" is because it makes fun of those classic elements by overacting them till they reach grotesque levels. It's important to understand that that is the basis of the show.
Muscular machos? Naturally. Battles that last for eternity? Most of the anime is set in a single room. Fighters with named attacks or techniques? In Needless they not only shout them all the time, they also write them on the screen with huge flippin' letters to make sure you remember!
I admit though that throughout the anime adaptation there are points when the show turns into the very thing it pokes fun of, but I'll get back to that later.
The second popular misconception is that Needless is a Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann ripoff. Which would be hard considering that the Needless manga started years before TTGL. I won't stick my head into the sand and deny the similarities, I compare Needless to TTGL in this review on a few occasions myself, but while TTGL builds a strong coming of age story over the top of making fun of old school mecha anime, Needless stays in the sandbox where it feels safe but pushes its limits further there.
As you can kinda expect from this type of show, the story is almost non-existent. A mash of dozens of old concepts thrown into a bowl to create a frame for the action, humor and nonstop manliness. What comes as a result is somewhat interesting, but it's kept on minimal complexity so it doesn't get in the way of the "important" elements of the show. On the other hand, the author had some fun with the character's special attacks and you can find quite a few references there. Naturally I'm not talking about "Mio-chan hip attack", but things like "Little Boy", Dean Drive" or "Agnischwattas". I won't call it deep but it's still a bit more layered than people would think.
When it comes to characters, Needless has a huge list of archetypes, and this is also the point where TTGL fans start coughing blood. The "main" hero who likes to solve every situation with his fists (Blade/Kamina), the main heroine who's also a little ruff around the edges but makes up with bust size for lack of braincells (Eve/Yoko), a useless wingman for comic relief (Uchida/Kittan) and the timid kid who grows into a man (or not) (Cruz/Simon). The difference is that Needless really goes beyond the limits and centers the characters around their most basic trait, pushing that one aspect as far as possible. It also adds things like pedophile priests, bold old scientists and most importantly an army of lolis ranging from lesbians to androids. And yet, despite being this bottomless pool of one-dimensional fan service sources, there is not a single character in the show who is unlikable and every viewer can find one or two who they truly love. Even the one who was annoying in the anime gets cool later on in the manga. This palette of characters is what really makes or breaks Needless.
The graphics are hardly anything special: the character designs are a nice recreation of the manga, while the animation is mostly fluid but not really homogeneous. The music on the other hand is quite worthy of praise. I would be the last person you could call a metal-fan, but the hard hitting power metal BGM of the show is just amazing. Taken from e-Zuka's "I got you under my skin", from "Raging Flames" to "Elephant's Scream" every track is a perfect match to its respective scenes and gives them the necessary boost.
I think that just proves that Madhouse was the right studio for this show. With that said however, it also entails the consequence that Madhouse fans are all too familiar with: abrupt original ending. This case is not nearly as bad as for instance with Claymore, but the changes at the end, along with the severely toned down gore (compared to the manga), resulted in the anime sometimes coming through as more of a shounen than a seinen.
So after all that, what makes this mixed bag of shallow elements so special in the end? The entertainment value. The indescribable energy that flows from every scene and gets multiplied by the music to the point that you clench your fist, jump out of your chair and yell "F**K YEAH!". The bursts of laughter you get every time said scene gets interrupted for a second with a crazy one-liner. The brainless fun you get from the painful lack of logic in the show. And I think that's the keyword, Needless is brainless fun. If you are looking for something more or different, Needless is probably not for you. But for what it is, Needless is perfect. read more