A deadly virus known as "Algernon" has attacked humanity with vicious meaning. At the forefront of the battle is the mystifying Akamatsu Industries—disguised as a heavy machine factory in Tokyo, this undercover organization uses neural enhanced weapons known as NeuroNoids to battle Algernon. Also helping with their secret efforts is the mysterious mutant who is only known as "Betterman."
This is one of the weirdest, most screwed up anime I've ever seen. And in a medium such as this (plus, considering the amount I've seen), that's saying a lot.
But I mean that in the most positive way and I think this title deserves far more attention than it gets. There's simply nothing else I can think of that's quite like it.
This is a spoiler free review.
Down to it, It's about a couple of teenagers who join some secret organization to pilot crude looking mechs and fight against weird creatures they know nothing about, alongside a macho pretty boy with rainbow colored hair who
transforms in to a giant monster when he eats fruits...
I'm sure that no drugs were consumed during the making.
Alright, In all seriousness, the first thing that you'll notice is that the atmosphere in this show is very weird. It's somewhat lighthearted and cartoony, but very dark and creepy at the same time. I'm gonna guess that this is the primary reason this series isn't popular, but I for one found this atmosphere to be very refreshing and exceptional. I can't think of anything that's quite like it and it made me feel all weird inside... The reason this tone works here is because it rarely becomes particularly dramatic or edgy so the lighthearted silliness doesn't have much to clash with and it also helps humanize the characters in a way.
Another thing you'll notice is that it's not focused as much on the mecha as you'd expect, it's a lot more about its science fiction which also happens to have horror elements in it, while we follow a group of characters in their journey of encounters with the unknown. It feels like the creator threw all of his childhood nightmares in to it and was able connect all of them in to a pretty massive story with rich lore behind it.
The main theme here revolves around genetics and evolution and as implied by the title, making humanity "better" by stepping in to its next stage of evolution. The story also has a strong scientific foundation where nearly everything from how the mechs function to where the creatures came from can be explained through scientific terminology that gets thrown around and is usually excused with some analogy to a fun fact from real life science. And it keeps building on this scientific foundation as the series goes on in a very intriguing way and it keeps escalating until the context of it is so grand that it becomes hard to wrap your head around the whole thing. Everything that happens eventually feels significant since many early events that don't seem that important end up triggering ones that come much later. It is pretty complicated, but it's not that hard to follow since they explain most things pretty well. Some episodes might confuse the hell out of you, but it won't leave you confused for long. It does an excellent job of consistently raising and answering questions. In the end it also wraps things up in quite an epic and solid manner while leaving no loose ends behind and connecting everything that happened previously.
The story isn't without its issues though.. It does get a tad chaotic in terms of pacing at certain points (seriously, sometimes major events happen within minutes of each other) it's quite heavy on exposition and Betterman (and a couple of other strong characters that just kinda come and go) conveniently interferes in many battles which also means that the main characters are kinda plot armored and very narrowly escape death in some cases.. But I think all this is just a small price to pay for such an outstanding narrative.
It has a fairly colorful cast consisting of a military geek, some cool old man, a hot scientist chick, some disturbed teenage girl and of course the manliest pretty boy anime has to offer - Better-man himself (and a few others).
The character interactions are quite fun and they generally have very good chemistry together which is what really pulls the characters through in the end.
The cast is a little big and they all play certain roles in the story. Most do develop to one degree or another in terms of their relationships and the way they interact with each other which change a little overtime. Eventually they also have neat backstories which are revealed that are actually very relevant to the story as well. None of them feel like they're neglected, nor do they feel like plot devices that are there just serve the narrative (most of them anyway). But I would still argue that the roles they play do seem to overshadow who they are as characters to an extent because the show focuses more on the atmosphere and the events themselves and doesn't bother much to give drama. There is some drama, sure, but it's clearly not the focus since it comes in the form of subtle hints throughout the series about the nature of these characters and who they are so it may be a little more difficult to connect with some of them in your first viewing.
They generally seem to react accordingly to the bad things surrounding them, but I wouldn't say they're particularly scarred that badly by anything they see. Which may have been warranted at points.
Better-man himself is a macho pretty boy, but we don't discover what his true motive is until it is revealed late in the series which I did take issue with since we only discover who he is and thus he remains static throughout the whole thing. But then again, I guess Better-man is too cool for school. His presence alone definitely makes up for that.
In addition, a lot of anime like to blur the line between kids and adults in terms of how they behave (aka - bad writing) but here the kids indeed behave like believable kids and the adults do feel like actual adults, even if they all have a somewhat campy nature to them. some of them might feel a little arch-typical but this show definitely wouldn't have worked if the characters were just the most basic archetypes. And thankfully they're not since they're portrayed in a pretty human and relatable way. Plus, the show goes out of its way to humanize a couple of side characters that would normally be thrown aside.
The art-style is quite original with a semi cartoony look to it and with character designs all looking quite colorful (and a bit silly in some cases) which also allows for them to be very expressive. Add to that a large variety of creepy and dark locations that contrast a bit with the characters and yet still fit perfectly due to an excellent use of shading/lighting effects. In terms of animation and the level of detail it's nothing particularly special and there's even a little reused footage a couple of times, but it has quite a variety of weird looking creatures, character expressions that are always a pleasure to look at, a lot of camera angles that give a sense of tension and a great deal of action... Even though I may have given you the impression that this series is dialogue heavy, it's actually heavier on action. The mecha designs aren't very appealing, but they certainly don't feel weightless and at least they serve an important purpose in the story. Plus, when Better-man himself shape shifts in to his different forms, each of his designs look really cool and you get a lot of opportunities to see him duke it out with other monsters/meachs/tanks and whatnot.. Which is awesome. The creepy imagery in general is stunningly shot with very unique compositions to the point where you can easily recognize this anime and distinguish it from others just by watching it for a few seconds. So it really has its own visual identity which is more than I can say about most anime and its visual style communicates the tone of the series perfectly.
In terms of the (Japanese) voice acting there's an excellent cast here with a wide range of fitting voices, everything from the geeky , to sexy, to incredibly creepy to the badass and the acting is always on point (it's also pretty anime-ish and doesn't attempt to sound too realistic). The only time it might feel a tad dry is in some instances when there's a lot of exposition and dialogue in general , but there's also a great deal of emotion when it needs to be there and that includes pretty much all the characters. The sound effects and soundtrack in general are pretty damn creepy and play a significant role in the atmosphere, so it generally sounds pretty cool in series, but honestly I'm not sure how well they hold up on their own.
The series also eases you in masterfully with a very quiet and soothing OP song just to make sure you're comfortable before the mind frak kicks in. And the ED song (much like the series as a whole) is weird, intense and simply one of a kind. I can confidently say that it is THE best ED song I've ever heard! I can't even describe it, you have to listen to it for yourself.
Love it to the point of obsession! I've been watching anime for a very long time so coming across something like this made me feel like I was still in my early days because of how unique and strange it is. It was creepy, thought provoking, weird, action packed and it even had some light and tasteful fan-service. The weirdness might not be for everybody.. But seriously, if this turns you off why are you watching anime in the first place? For the cute girls? Well then frak you! I'm watching it for weird stuff that I can't find in western mediums, thank you very much.
Honestly, this review was quite difficult for me to write since this is a very tough series to review properly and do it justice.. It's just strange to such a degree that makes it hard to talk about it.
All in all, Betterman is one of a kind. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anybody, but it's really something you have to see to believe.
y' know.. this is the best mecha I've ever senn far more better than NGE NGE in my opoinion was pretty booooooring.. but in betterman there was action giong on all the time.. thats why i love this anime.. but there was one thing that reaalyy pissed me off. KEITA AONO that guy is one of the most hated anime characters of mine.. in my opinion he is such a @#$%...but story line is very well made-orirginal plot...
Betterman is a show that crosses sci-fi tech, supernatural elements, and at times, straight up magic. I'll be reviewing Betterman with my personal rating system consisting of rating five categories out of 100 points, and then multiplying them out by a weighting factor to get a score between 0, and 100. The categories are Acting/Characters, Plot, Enjoyment, Atmosphere/Theme/Setting, and Visuals/Audio/Effects.
The show consists almost entirely of a central cast of characters you'll be seeing a lot of. Most secondary characters that don't become major later in the plot aren't shown in detail. While the characters are not particularly complex, none of them are played up
for a single trait. Each has several traits, and are, within reason, believable. The characters are also used well, and in balance, with some acting as comedic relief, but also being serious as the situation requires. While some of the characters can seem annoying or flat, you learn more and more about them as time goes on, and they become far more likable.
The characters were solid, and enjoyable, but nothing special, and that's why I gave this category 75 points.
The plot of Betterman is perhaps one of the best, and one of the worst traits of the series. Betterman will leave you constantly guessing as it does not try to explain the majority of what's going on. While the series does bring everything back to a solid conclusion which ties together all the confusing elements throughout the show, and resolves the central conflict, it can be a deal-breaker if you're not the type of person who is willing to wait 26 episodes to get a firm grip on what's going on. At the same time, the entire show has a multitude of themes running through it, about genetics, evolution, spirituality, and so on, that are enjoyable, and occasionally make you stop and think. Another complaint about the series is that while everything ties in at the end, there's still a huge variety of threats, and elements to the plot that are largely disparate logically, if not thematically. One might, perhaps, see this as someone having a lot of ideas, and just tossing them all in and trying to make them fit together after. Whichever it is, they are linked together competently, and so it's not a major concern. Be advised, however, that some things may not be explained satisfyingly, such as the Animus flowers.
While the plot itself seems like a tangled mess as you go through it, it wraps up and clarifies in a way that makes sense when you look back on it. Still, this leads to a less enjoyable experience, as well as there being other weak points. I gave this category 70 points.
While this wraps up enjoyably, though, perhaps, to a slightly unsatisfying conclusion, Betterman's seemingly tangled plot lead me to not enjoying a fair amount of the series, especially early on, as much as I would have liked. Characters are solid, and pleasant. Comedy is sufficient to not make the series dry. At the same time, it stays serious when it needs to.
While Betterman had the potential to be far more enjoyable, the plot issues definitely brought down the enjoyment. 65 points.
The setting is... well, it's all over the damn place, and doesn't really result in any cohesion. At the same time, I had nothing bad to say about most of the locations. The theme of the show, however, was a solid and enjoyable look at Humanity's goals, and the role of evolution and, to an extent, spirituality. The atmosphere of the show was very creepy. The show plays a lot on things happening in the mind, and raises creepy concerns that are never really resolved. The way they portray a lot of characters is disturbing, and is used to creepy effect both when it is something, and when it isn't. A lot of the locations are dark and creepy, as are a lot of the events, and plot elements. Perhaps the most creepy part of the series is a flashback that occurs later on in the series that takes the hiding of faces to a whole new level.
The atmosphere and themes were pretty solid, while the setting could have used more work. Overall an 80.
These are lumped because they're things I don't generally care as much about unless they're extremely good, or extremely bad, and they all run along the same vein. The visuals and effects were enjoyable. The animation was at no point disturbing, and the visuals and audio really played into the creepy atmosphere. At the same time, a lot of the attacks and the like in the show seemed very same-y and could have benefited from a little more variety. The voice acting seemed decent, though at times the analytic monotone of Miyako became somewhat annoying.
Where the visuals fall short, the audio backs it up making this a solid 75 points.
Overall a solid show. It's not great, but it's very good, and unlike pretty much any other series I've seen. Definitely worth a watch if any of the themes running throughout the show interest you. Betterman is a solid 73/100 or 7/10.
While I will not spoil all the events of the series, I will state the concluding moral of the narrative, including slight reference to some particular events. So, if you want to hear that from the show rather than from here, I'd say end reading here. I have a beef, and I'm going to vent.
Betterman is a Sci-fi/Horror series set in the Gao-Gai-Gar setting taking place a few years after that series conclusion. From its roots in that franchise it retains the same level of varied and well designed but not well developed characters, heavily detailed but not well researched or internally consistent technobabble, and
well engineered but quickly and jarringly switched tones and atmospheres. Where GGG explored physical and technological sci-fi concepts, BM similarly explores biological and transhuman concepts. What BM does not carry over from its preceding story, however, is an attitude that the exploration of these concepts is a good thing.
Where GGG played with the ideas of the awesome things people could do with technologies like AI, space travel and physics bending machines, BM will go at lengths, stumbling at every turn, to show you how only petty people will actively explore biological technologies that veer things off the "natural course". It ends in a moral that trying to use life sciences to do honest good is likely futile, and anyone who tries to explore such venues for any other reason is explicitly doing so for terrible reasons. At only one point, during the final fight, does it even suggest an idea contrary to this narrative, but this was but a one-time gimmick to defeat the final enemy. Whatever ideas that could have been developed with that instance, of working together to ensure that mankind can surpass the limits of its own hubris and slippery slopes of technology misuse while still embracing the technology, were quickly ignored for returning to its narrative of leaving life alone. Instead of showing the hope of what mankind could someday achieve by following through with exploring the sciences depicted as GGG did, it attempts to spin a tale of how altering the organism is inherently wrong, and to interfere with the natural order or improve yourself in any way will only bring catastrophe. It ends with a message that if you just give up trying to improve yourself, and just embrace being an unaltered cog in the natural process, you'll be happy, without very strong exploration into the contrary, despite GGG having a variety of transhumans or otherwise augmented individuals with no detriment to their character or antagonism to their existence. While GGG depicted bad people using technology for evil, they never once really depicted any technology itself as inherently evil, instead playing with the motivations behind the uses for or against good, and I think that's where my beef here lies. GGG had fun with its science, while BM antagonized it, and I don't really think that should ever be cool.
In reference to an earlier statement, the series completely ignores or omits things like the Evolders or cyborgs to promote its anti-transhuman narrative, despite the former being well known figures in the world at this time, and the latter being something not uncommon at this point in time, supposedly. These are not the only things BM seems to forget, and in fact references the preceding franchise so rarely that it almost appears as though the references they do make are there solely to remind you that they are supposedly related. If I am to be honest, it almost feels forced, like with the Cloverfield films that weren't originally supposed to be Cloverfield films, and I have to wonder if the references are there for the same reasons.
Beyond the less than savory moral about augmentive technology, the story is your standard "mosnter of the week with overarching mystery and light romantic subplot" story, with little if anything new to add. If you like those kinds of stories, you'll like this, but if you don't like those, you're going to get nothing out of this besides horror. Horror, I would like to comment, that it does well. While the motives and morals behind why some of the things depicted in the show are "horrific" do not sit well with me, the spookiness, tension and grotesque designs are often quite on point, so I guess that's fine.
Really solid art. Looks older than it is, but this does not actually detriment for its art quality. I've complained a lot, but I can't complain at the way it looks. That, and them monster fights where hella rad, despite the sour narrative context. Only negative is the use of still frames was sometimes a little too noticeable, but honestly everything looks pretty swell.
Some audio was fine, some sound effects were cheesy, and some of the music was better than average. Very little to comment here.
The characters were quite diverse, and very few really fit into any specific stereotypes, but beyond that damn near none of them got any development, and the main character was of almost as little use to the plot as Indie was for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The cast functions better as a showcase for interesting and rarely used character concepts to be applied elsewhere than it does as the driving force behind this show. The only really distracting thing in the characters was the implication that Betterman's fucking pangolin hair was something inherited, but by that point the character could in no way be taken seriously, so it only added to the humor value.
Was down for the horror, and the humor of each episode having a goddamn dinosaur come out of nearly nowhere to save everyone, but as soon as it tried to articulate a message, and struggle to explain why its anti-science angle was totally right, my enjoyment started to dip, and after the very end it had me sitting there with a very sour taste in my mouth, especially after having watched GGG immediately before it.
But hey, if you share its moral opinion I'm sure you'll have a blast. In that case, I'd also recommend Earth Girl Arjuna, for a similar story, despite a dramatically different selection of genres.