This fictional story took place in Europe around 1943. At that time Nazi secretly plotted a plan called Urda. Two agents, Janet and Erna received a task to investigate and prevent the completion of the secret plan.
A thirty minute OVA showcasing unbelievably bad CG, and one of the worst storylines ever to be brought to DVD.
The plot's only redeeming factor is that it is present. The show is essentially about a duo of rebels who attempt to stop a group of Nazis from obtaining a time traveling NASA space shuttle with the help of an incompetent astronaut girl from the future. While this may sound like it could make for some mindless fun, the way in which it was presented failed to do so. Furthermore since this is a set of five very short episodes it is covered
incredibly fast; so much so that if any decent plot points were present you wouldn't have the time to absorb them. Even the shows clincher is incredibly weak and easy to predict.
The series is almost entirely CG and all the characters in the show are textured using cell shading. This is not to say it looks good however. The processed framerate is extremely sporadic; animation can be smooth one scene, and stuttered in the next. This wouldn't be much of an issue if the show was drawn, but since they chose to use CG they should have kept the framerate higher. Additionally character models move unnaturally, background textures have a low resolution, and facial expressions look incredibly awkward. Some of the particle effects and vehicle models are decent however.
If this all seems a bit critical, keep in mind that this was released in late 2003 and computer animation was very advanced then. In fact less than 6 months after this was released the 2004 iteration of Appleseed hit theaters, also showcasing cell shaded CG, but of an infinitely higher caliber. While Appleseed obviously had a much larger budget to work with, that doesn't change the fact that this looks like it was made in the early 90's.
Visually the show resembles a cumulative project for a computer graphics school, rather than something made by a professional company.
This is the shows strong point, but only for the fact that you won't hate it. Musical compositions are reminiscent of those you would find in a typical RPG, with both orchestral and piano pieces. There's a wide variety of sound effects but they aren't edited especially well, and you will recognize many of them from other shows. The voice acting is okay considering what they had to work with, but any expressed emotions are usually ruined by the awkward facial animations anyway.
The characters are so cliché it's laughable. From the female protagonist with superhuman combat ability, amnesia and big breasts, to her cycloptic Nazi mentor who can smack rocket propelled grenades out of the air with her bare hands, there isn't much to take seriously. The show does try and use its ridiculous plot to develop the main protagonist (Erna) somewhat, but it's all too predictable and rushed.
All enjoyment pertaining to this show lies in how terrible it is. It would be best to watch this with a group of friends to get a few laughs. Even the combat scenes are spoiled by awkward character animations and poor music.
While still beyond redemption this show could have been easily improved by scrapping the CG idea altogether, and slowing down the pacing. Furthermore there are so many things in here that have been done before, it's almost like the show is trying to poke fun at the anime industry in its entirety. If this review seems overly critical you probably haven't seen this show. If you have, you should watch it again with my sympathies.
Urda is an anime that I managed to discover after asking myself a very dangerous question: "What is generally considered to be the worst anime ever licensed by Media Blasters?"
The following paragraphs explain the business model of adapting anime in the United States during the 1990s when Media Blasters was a force in the anime industry. If you are an older anime fan and already know this stuff, or if you simply don't care, then skip to the plot section.
Anime Dubbing and licencing vs. Adam Smith's Economic Theory:
So who the HELL is Media Blasters?! In the year 2015 the absolutely DOMINANT force in
licensing, adapting, localizing, and dubbing anime in the West is Funimation. If you started watching anime within the last 4 years and live in the United States, they have probably dubbed every anime you've ever seen in your life! During the 1990s when I first started watching anime, there were many licensing/dub studios and no studio had a monopoly. Some of these included: Central Park Media, Media Blasters, 4kids, ADV, and Ocean. According to basic capitalist theory, monopolies are bad because with zero competition there is no incentive to make good products. You could simply produce total shit and everyone would be forced to buy it because they have no alternative. However, the example of anime dubbing/adaptation flies in the face of this theory and the average quality of English dubs and the quality of the anime being adapted to the US has actually gone up SIGNIFICANTLY since Funimation gained nearly 100% of the market share. Once all competition was eliminated, Funimation didn't have to worry about having better profit margins than their rivals and were able to focus on actual quality. They were even able to start taking risks with shows like Spice and Wolf, which would NEVER have been adapted in 1990s for fear that it would be an expensive bomb and bankrupt the studio.
The huge problem with anime licensing in the 1990s was that everyone thought that the best way to have a high profit margin was to adapt REALLY cheap series that NOBODY in Japan wanted the rights to. If it turned out to be a hit with US audiences the dub studio made a killing in terms of profit, and if it flopped then the loss wouldn't be a crippling blow. This is also why dub studios hired really cheap voice actors and paid them like shit. Everything was about keeping down costs! The absolute CHAMPIONS of this low cost approach to licensing was a company called Media Blasters! Although a tiny company today, they actually survived the recession unlike any of their 90s peers! Even the once mighty ADV who actually spent money and owned huge property like Evangelion eventually fell while Media Blasters limped on. How did they do it? By buying the shittiest anime known to mankind and providing some of the worst dubs in history while relying solely on boobs and blood to make cash off American otaku! Media Blasters once adapted a 2 episode parody spinoff of an anime that was never even released outside Japan...simply because the opening theme featured full frontal nudity! So how bad does an anime have to be in order to stand out in the horrendous repertoire of Media Blasters?! Read on if you dare!
Plot and Characters:
The plot is that some astronauts in the year 2100 are testing out a warp drive and somehow end up back in the year 1943. The spaceship is captured by Nazis of course, so a US Army woman that defected from the German Army and whose origins are never really explained, must stop the Nazis from harnessing its super technology. This seems like the plot to an early Wolfenstein game that would have run on MS-DOS! What surprises people watching Urda is that the graphics in this anime also look EXACTLY like a game from that era of computer technology! Urda was made in 2003 and was one of the first ever "ONA" anime released exclusively on the internet! However, internet speeds even for brand new computers were fairly slow in 2003 and most of Japan was still using dial up at that time! In order to make this anime more download friendly, they broke a 30 minute anime movie into 5 chunks of 6 minutes and used VERY primitive graphics so that it wouldn't take up much hard drive space. The biggest problem besides the graphics is that despite the seemingly bare bones plot, they STILL try to fit way too much character information and story in each 6 minute chunk. This leads to wild revelation after wild revelation in a highly anti-climactic and rushed fashion. Think of the ending reveal in “Mars of Destruction” only repeated 5 times in every 6 minute episode! Obviously the plot becomes a laughable mess and the characters aren’t given any chance to be actually fleshed out. Urda earns a very clear “F” for story and characters.
Graphics and sound:
I’ve already mentioned how bad Urda is on a technical level and referenced that it looks like a cross between PS1 polygon cutscenes with perhaps late 1990s PC graphics. Great art isn’t necessary to having a great anime, but Urda is simply unacceptable! It was a stupid compromise to butcher the art in order to make it easy to download. If technology was too limited at the time for ONAs then they should have waited until computers were more advanced or released Urda as a PS1 shooter game. Instead they tried to force a project to work regardless of technological limitations and created an atrocity! The music really isn’t much better, but at least they refrained from using midi renditions of classical music like Mars of Destruction! Thank God for small miracles!
Urda isn’t just an everyday bad anime. Urda is the kind of shit that you simply have to see to believe! If I were reading this review and hadn’t seen Urda, I would think that this review was some kind of prank. Clearly no animation studio would ever greenlight an idea this bad! The problem is that this wasn’t made by an animation studio that cared about making money. This anime was released by a tiny studio created by the same man that wrote and directed Urda! Basically, this is the anime equivalent of a vanity published novel. The Japanese director who simply goes by “Romanov” had the money and didn’t give a fuck about how badly this would bomb. He was making this product for the lulz and no one could stop him! This is often how the absolute worst films are made: Birdemic, The Room, Manos, etc. One stubborn man with way too much spare money and a REALLY idiotic vision. Urda has truly earned its place in the pantheon of terrible anime!
Firstly I have to say: "Urda" could have been great. Set on the western front of the second world war, a landscape relatively unexplored by anime, "Urda" threw together a bunch of random plot elements like Nazis, UFO and time travel ... and ends up with a surprisingly intriguing sci-fi tale. But alas, the potential went to waste, as the end product felt more like the result of someone experimenting with CG from his home PC than a proper anime. With its short length and undercooked story and characters, watching "Urda" is about as satisfying as getting served a starter when you're hankering for a
full three-course meal. In fact, the anime could almost be passed off as a multi-part trailer to a longer, greater series.
From "Urda"'s often amateurish production values, I'd estimate its budget to be around the astronomical figure of £5. One of the primary offenders is the cranky animation, which was often so shoddy that I had trouble comprehending what was happening on screen. That said, "Urda" has its moments; at times, the direction felt sharp, and it seems to have a good instinct for handling mood and atmosphere, particularly with its use of music. The action sequences possessed a surreal stylishness, and made me think they took inspiration from movies like "The Matrix" or the cut scenes of some video game. Some of it was pretty cool, but other parts were blown out of all proportions. In one such scene, as two characters dueled on a flying plane - literally "on" it, as in stood on top of it - another plane got destroyed above them, and the battling characters managed to snag a piece of debris each, and promptly started hacking away at each other with the pieces of broken plane. Honestly, I shit you not; I'm not even exaggerating.
Complaints aside, "Urda" deserves some plaudits for being as good as it is given the obvious limitations of its production. The ending is especially brilliant, but if anything made me lament even more that the show was held so far back from its potential. I would love to see it expanded into a longer series by a proper anime studio.
Only one creator worked on URDA -- Romanov Higa. He had others handle the voice acting and music, but all of the visuals are his and his alone, using a combination of Hash: Animation Master and LightWave 3D. He self-published this work on the web in segments before distributors picked it up. So this work has more of a cult audience than guaranteed mainstream appeal. As a celshader artist, URDA inspires me on two levels. First, it contains one of the finest celshaded character models that I've seen to date: Janet Hunter. She actually looks hand-drawn, and she has a wonderful personality to boot. Second,
Romanov Higa exploits the celshaded 3D medium to the fullest, from the use of the 3D camera to atmospheric and lighting effects. He's not locked down to a camera stand, and he knows it. While I strongly recommend that celshader artists view URDA at least once, casual fans may prefer something else. URDA's only 30 minutes long, and not all of the character models reach Janet Hunter's level of quality. Also, as the work of one man and not an entire studio of artists, URDA does not have the finely polished look of the high-budget ANIMATRIX shorts. For a more moving 30-minute film by a single artist, casual fans might prefer VOICES OF A DISTANT STAR. For folks intrigued by celshaded 3D animation, though, URDA is well worth a look.