26 of 26 episodes seen
Note: Although SR was aired as 2 separate series in Japan due to ratings, it was intended to only be one, and was properly aired as such in the rest of the world. Thus, this review will reflect the entire series, not just the first 26 episodes.
Story: I watch a lot of anime aimed at children, and story usually isn't their strong suit. Spider Riders is an exception to the rule. It's about a boy who, following his grandfather's journal, discovers an alternate world where the humans are at war with humanoid bugs called Insectors. Thus, rather than a systematic monster-of-the-week, unending quest show, Spider Riders has an overall objective; to win the war. There's some pretty interesting twists as the story goes on, so it's not even as straightforward as my explanation would imply.
The plot is somewhat derailed in the dub, but explaining why here would spoil one of the best of these twists.
Art: Studio Bee Train does a great job with the art. The character designs are bright, cute and appealing. The spider designs all manage to be unique and intricate as well. I can only think of one episode offhand where the animation quality is noticeably weak, which is always a positive.
Sound: The music, while not incredible, still manages to be quite catchy. It's a bit of a shame no OST was ever released for this series. It has some very nice BGMs with vocal, reminiscent of Yuki Kajiura. The OP and ED themes are generic, but not bad, my personal favorite being the second ED theme, Koi no Keshiki.
The english dub replaces the OP with rap, and has a fairly grating soundtrack.
As far as the acting goes, the voices suit the characters quite well. Shigeru Chiba as Grasshop (as well as his wife and two kids) is worth mentioning, simply for the amount of nonsensical bantering he does whenever he comes on screen. Toshihiko Seki's Buguese reminded me why I consider him one of my favorite seiyuu.
The dub acting, of course, is less appealing. While the actors most definitely improve as the series goes on, some sound quite awful and unfitting in the earlier eps.
Characters: The protagonist, Hunter Steele, is as idealistic as your typical shounen hero. He tends to see everything in black and white. However, the characters on either side of the war are in a much more grey area, and that helps make them interesting. While some of the characters are rather flat (the spiders other than Shadow, for instance) others are incredibly strong and dynamic. Most notably, Aqune, Buguese, and Corona. It's also hard to fit the cast into any type of cliche. If you're used to seeing girls in action cartoons as the useless cheerleaders who get kidnapped all the time, you have to see Aqune and Corona, who are just awesome heroines. I came to love or at least appreciate most of the characters as the show went on.
Enjoyment: Spider Riders is a very enjoyable series to me. One has to keep in mind that because Bee Train was involved in it, things have to go at a very slow pace. Still, there was enough action, mystery and suspense throughout to keep me invested. I will admit though that the second half of the series was a disappointment in comparison to the first. It had some great episodes, but others were lacking. Apparently, due to some kind of executive meddling in the hopes of leaving opening for a season 2, the second half was changed drastically. Thus, a lot of the mystery and backstory were left unexplained. Still, I did enjoy the show despite it's very disappointing end.
Overall: I'd consider Spider Riders a series that definitely deserves a chance, particularly the Japanese version. It was much more than I expected coming into it, even though it has it's obvious, glaring flaws. I thank the very interesting characters a lot for this. Buguese and Aqune both have a high spot in my favorite fictional characters ever, and that's quite an accomplishment, because I watch a lot of anime and love a lot of characters. So, overall, SR is an entertaining watch. read more
50 of 50 episodes seen
Admittedly, not the strongest part of this anime. It's very much a slice-of-life series, and that's not one of my favorite genres. With a few exceptions, I have a hard time staying interested in a series with no overall objective. There is a little bit of plot, but the series probably would have been stronger if it jumped into it earlier on.
I love the art. Besides just being plain cute (expected from the same designer responsible for Powerpuff Girls Z) the designs are very unique. Some of the characters have crazy hair, such as Striker's scythe and Number Nine's fish head. The art generally flows well too. There are a few episodes where the quality is noticeably lower, but generally, there's nothing distracting at least.
The series also uses a lot of CG. Again, something I'm not particularly fond of, but the anime art makes up for it.
The BGMs aren't particularly notable, but very rarely does a soundtrack stand out for me, so I wouldn't judge it too harshly for that. The OP song is pretty catchy, though it's unfortunately accompanied with a rather bland animation that feels pretty outdated by the end of the series. There's also another song on the OP single, which is played as an insert song a couple times, and is much catchier. Both EDs really stand out, however. They're very cute songs, and appropriate for the show, as they're supposedly performed by the idol character, My Sunshine. The second actually is sung by her seiyuu.
When it comes to voice acting, as a seiyuu lover, I was a bit disappointed to see a mostly new cast. However, I've come to like some of these voice actors. Mutsumi Tamura and Kaya Miyake (the seiyuu for Bashin and J) sound convincingly enough like 12-year-old boys. Sometimes I have an issue with cross-dressing voices, as the guys can just sound too feminine for their age. Riki Kitazawa (Card Sensei) had no major anime roles prior to Battle Spirits, but has shown a nice range of emotion (going from comic relief scenes to quite serious ones) and I really hope to hear more from him soon.
Character: Probably the strongest thing in this anime. The characters are amazingly fun. I have a hard time disliking any of them. They all have some interesting quirks, and are likable in their own way. Bashin, the protagonist, is typical of a shounen hero. He's very hot-blooded, persistent, and clueless. While this is a character archetype that tends to annoy me, I found him so absolutely braindead that it can be hilarious. While they're not my number one favorites, Bashin's rival J and childhood friend Meganeko are probably the two strongest characters. Both get a great deal of development throughout the series, in ways I didn't expect. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the villains, Thousand Spirits Group. They're quite unique (it's not every day the creator of a TCG is put in it's anime adaptation as an antagonist), and for a lot of them, "villain" is probably too harsh a word. Not to say they're all nice though. Smile in particular makes a great villain, as his appearance and obsession with J come off as quite creepy.
Enjoyment: The series gets better as it goes on, with the second half being much more interesting than the first. The first episode is perhaps the slowest in the series, unfortunately. The 3+ minute long arena building scene does not help. But as it went on, the atmosphere really drew me in. It can be kind of a relaxing show, the type where I like to just marathon it to kill time and laugh a bit.
Overall: Clearly, this isn't an anime for everyone. But I certainly wouldn't limit it to fans of the TCG only, as I had never played the game before I watched this, and still enjoyed it. If you like cute, funny anime (this series has made me laugh out loud countless times) you'd probably enjoy this. If you prefer your anime with a gritty look and a dark, serious plot, you'll probably hate this. read more