In the not so distant future much of the earth has been submerged under the sea or destroyed by earthquakes. At the center of the turmoil is the mysterious Orphan. Orphan may or may not be the original cause of the cataclysms. Orphan`s goal is to raise a ship hidden deep beneath the sea to the surface, but doing so would result in the destruction of all humans except for the small number which are loyal to Orphan.
Orphan`s agents pilot mysterious mecha known as Grand Cheres, and search the world for mysterious, giant disks which occasionally appear, flying at high speeds and wrecking much of the countryside, or cities, when they hit the ground. After a dying disc almost kills Hime, a Brain Powerd is born from the disc. Brain Powerds are another type of Mecha, similar to but not the same as Grand Cheres.
Hime becomes the Brain Powerd`s pilot, forming a symbiotic relationship with the living mecha and joins an International Organization dedicated to stopping Orphan, or at the very least saving humanity should Orphan succeed.
The obligatory quote from the show:
"Iko, where did you learn to hoe a straight line like that?!?" - About 50 children to an amnesiac girl.
Just a touch of background before I begin to describe the awfulness that is to come: Brain Powerd aired in April of 1998, barely 8 months after End of Evangelion came out, and as such, has the distinction of being the first post-Eva Evangelion clone. Headed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, known for his Gundam series, a mecha staple, and the studio Sunrise- also known for any and everything mecha,
it sounded like a match made in heaven. Who better to put together a masterpiece and show that hack Hideaki Anno who was the REAL anime master?
Yeah, no. Get ready for this.
Artwork and Animation: 1
Where do I even start? God-awful? Horse shit? Regurgitated Excrement?
It's the typical low budget schlock- repeated zooming in on characters for "effect", panning over still frames, action lines galore, and a ton of "quality" animation. It even has inserts that show the characters heads when they speak, on top of the action. What this does is instead distract you from anything with a modicum of excitement to hit you with some dialogue like a brick to the face.
The art looks like you took Gundam, Code Geass, and Evangelion, put them in a burnt out blender, ran it through the garbage disposal, fed it to the dog, picked it up as it fell out of the dog's rear (post reingestion after regurgitation), lit it on fire, took the charred mush that was left and then buried it in a shallow grave. Come back 18 years later, pee all over it, stomp a mud hole in it, and then spit on it. That's what Brain Powerd looks like. Clear enough for ya?
Sound and Voice Acting: 2
This is truly the epitome of a bad dub. The actors must have all been deaf, or were required to put earplugs in before recording, because they shout in a nearly unimaginably monotone way that they come across as though they've never heard a human speak in their lives. They sound like deaf cavemen shouting words at random. EVERY. SINGLE. LINE comes out like a non sequitur as if just to fill the awkward, dead air in between speaking parts. The editing is among, if not THE worst I've ever heard, where there are audible cuts, stops, gaps, and just generally garbage to piss poor quality recordings. The actors are sometimes too far away from the mic, and sometimes it's so loud it's as though they ate it!
There's absolutely no flow to the voices, everyone speaks in a really monotone voice, whether it's super hammed up, super flat, or super screechy- everything is idiotically overdone. The audio track is also edited so poorly, it's as though there was only one single track, and it didn't allow for anyone to talk over each other, or it would cut the first speaker off entirely. I think the entire auditory half of the show was done in one take, with absolutely no edits. The script must have been a direct translation from Japanese and the first ten geeks off the street were selected to perform these roles.
I watched several episodes of the Japanese audio and it was absolute garbage as well.
I give this one extra point purely out of respect for Yoko Kanno, whose name graces this otherwise abhorrent turd of a show. I'm still in disbelief that she agreed to work on this, and maybe she didn't even know what it was, because the music absolutely blows just like the voice acting. I can barely even hum the opening theme to myself, much less actively recall any kind of insert or background music in the show.
Story and Characters: 1
Since Brain is an Evangelion ripoff, I have to at least discuss the shameless theft that Yoshiyuki Tomino and studio Sunrise committed in the process of producing this piece of crap. Let's begin superficially, shall we?
The world is going to be devastated and humanity wiped out by the event of this mountain range sized space ship called "Orphan" taking off (read: Third Impact). There are two warring factions- one that reside in Orphan itself (read: SEELE) growing semi-sentient mechas called "Grand Cheres" (read: Evas), and the lawful good faction that live on a ship with a PYRAMID ON TOP OF IT (read: NERV) that accumulate their own "living" mechas, called BRAIN POWERDS. Funnily enough, Kensaku Isami (read: budget Gendo Ikari) is the father of the main character, Yuu (read: Shinji), who is a incompetent, whiny brat. Yuu's struggle is with his teen angst, and family- including a sister who styles herself Quincy Issa, because she thinks it makes her sound like a badass.
There's also Hime Utsumiya, our Asuka analogue, Jonathan the hotheaded mommy issues emo, and a bevy of supporting characters who serve little to no purpose other than to make my eyes hurt more than they already do, post 26 episodes of this trash. The bottom line is that everyone has mommy or daddy issues. Heck, one dude tries to kill his mom because she wouldn't buy him a Christmas present.
So, what the hell is the plot to this thing? BEATS FREAKING ME. I spent about 9 hours watching this show, and I still have no clue what the heck happened, was supposed to happen, or if there was even an intention of "happen" in the writing. The first episode really set the tone for the entire series- NOTHING made sense, nothing was connected, and it's never explained who characters are, their motives, goals, pasts, futures, or why I should give a flying flip about them in the first place. Even various scenes in the same episode don't work, given how absolutely random and jarring they are, whether from time skips, jump cuts, or any amount of ineptitude in even the most basic forms of storytelling. I will never willingly watch something made by Tomino ever again. This is the most moronic, nonsensical crap I've ever seen.
There was some really hamfisted environmental protection agenda crap at the end... and there was a betrayal I didn't even know was a betrayal because the character was never introduced, they just kind of appeared... there was a twist that... didn't matter in the slightest, Gendo Ikari was reduced to a snivelling, impotent, crying nerd; mechas ice skating, an absolute lack of information involving anything (I have more questions after it ended than I managed to write down), robots that apparently get tired?, and not one, not two, but THREE TACKED ON, PURPOSELESS ROMANCES. We also have fluid suits (read: plug suits) that help the driver of the Brain interface better, mechas ice skating, amnesia, fake drama, BIGGER BAD and well, I could probably read off a laundry list of TV Tropes this show uses, but my life was shortened already just by watching, so I'll refrain.
Enjoyment and Overall: 1
I'm forever damaged after watching this show. Let this review stand as testament to my masochist's constitution, as this pushed me to my outer bounds and beyond. I have suffered through Idea Factory, Tokyo Ghoul Root A, The Super Mario Anime, and many, many others. One could even say I'm a purveyor of old, bad anime. But this... this takes the crown. I have been there and seen bad anime. I actively seek out bad anime. If I had known that something that was such odious refuse as this was as astoundingly horrible as it was, I would never have even so much as searched "Neon Genesis Evangelion ripoff shows"
It fails on every fundamental level, and in every way imaginable. The plot is complete nonsense, the characters have no motivation nor goals, it looks and sounds like ass, and it's not even funny in how bad it is. It's just painful.
There's a reason Brain Powerd has not been remembered by time- because it's indescribably asinine.
Lastly, I have to end with the only scene in the entire show that made me laugh, because this whole thing is painful to recount in a review.
So, Yuu Isami, piloting his Brain Powerd, drops out of hyperspace in the bumfuck mountains of rural China (somehow he knows he's in China, I guess because he read the script.) and an illiterate farmer wearing one of those conical straw hats (yeah, he's not the only racial stereotype character in the show, either) SOMEHOW knows that the robot he's flying is an "antibody" (another stupid name for the same mechs). The show jump cuts to Yuu landing, he jumps out and picks up a watermelon out of the field and just starts going to town stuffing his face with it.
The Chinese guy and about 15 others pull out AKs and blast the fucking watermelon to kingdom come and Yuu starts freaking out, asking "HEY WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR???"
WHAT THE HELL DID HE THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, dropping into a remote mountain range in China, where he cannot communicate, and STEALS food that is their only sustenance????
There are a few series out there that claim controversy as part of their aura. These are shows like Evangelion, who for some reveal a mess of whine, and for others a complex basket of goods. Brain Powered falls in to this controversy in a matter I can’t quite fathom, because for some it is incomprehensible. The reason I can’t fathom the controversy is because it made perfect sense to me, and I don’t exactly see where the confusion lies. Despite the fact that for many fans watching this is among the worst anime experiences in their lives, I am going to proudly proclaim this
a masterpiece, and hopefully give a satisfying reason why.
When Tomino promoted this film, he claimed it was “even better than Evangelion”. This is an extremely brash statement for any director to make, but in a sense he’s right. It touches the same issues as Evangelion at many parts, but ultimately it’s better for the soul. It is an uplifting defense of the power of love at its core, and thus while I would *not* agree that it’s higher quality, it might be better to watch and enjoy.
So what exactly is this show that defends love against all? Brain Powerd is about biomechanical living mechs fighting for or against Orphan, a ship that will sail to the stars, but requires draining the energy of all life on earth to succeed. On both sides are troubled teens from broken families, who struggle to overcome their hangups as much as their enemies.
What makes this show a masterpiece is the characters. I’ll grant that they aren’t by any means easy characters. They are difficult to understand, and some of them are almost impossible to relate to, such as the antagonist Jonathan. The way the characters behave is complex, and they hide a lot of their feelings. This is what underlies many of the complaints about this show. Without their hearts on their sleeves, sometimes a character will do something “random”, such as Yuu’s defection in the first episode. But once you piece together the characters, everything they do makes sense. Until then, trying to read them is like trying to read real humans. And it’s important to note that the characters are weird. They aren’t weird in the sense that they are incomprehensible, but rather that they have unique modes of expression that don’t conform to stock anime archetypes.
This show, basically, refuses to ever pander to the audience. It requires your full attention to understand. It’s no secret that that which demands the most out of you gives the greatest rewards. I could talk about the plot and characters all day, there’s plenty to chew on in those regards. Instead, I’ll give a brief word to the other aspects of this work.
The animation is interesting, though maybe not conventionally beautiful. This especially applies to the fights, which function in a specifically non-fluid manner. The antibodies (mechs) sort of “blink” short distances, giving the whole fight a surreal vibe. They often take place over water, specifically utilizing these two mediums in an interesting manner. I really think the fights over water are quite elegant, some of the more memorable mech fights out there. The character designs have been criticized as rather bland, but I never got that impression. I especially like Hime’s design.
The music is the only thing about this series that is universally acclaimed, and that’s with good reason. Yoko Kano, famous for Cowboy Bebop, is the one on charge of this front. The opening by Eri Shingyoji, “In My Dream”, is one of my favorite openings of all time.
While we’re on the topic, this is another key gripe about the show. The opening features every character naked for no apparent reason. It’s a bit abstract, but my interpretation has always been that when they are stripped bare, at their core what they need is love. Of course, the clothes represent the revealing of their emotions, and the lyrics are what implies that it’s about needing love. This fits in because it is, arguably, the key concept of the show.
To sum up my overall impression of the show; Brain Powerd is a drama of the most intriguing characters whose outside conflict mirrors their inner struggles. It’s a bit hokey at times, and it’s not as philosophically deep as it thinks it is, but Tomino directs cheerfully and with a good sense of humor, leading to a show that is downright inspiring. It is basically the optimistic version of Evangelion. I can’t recommend it to everyone, only a few viewers will “get it”, but for those who do this is a fantastic and sublime show.
The concepts behind this story are not bad, not bad at all. on the contrary, biotechnology concepts are sound science fiction concepts, best used on Babylon 5 for instance where you see Vorlons and Shadows with huge living ships...
But my, something basic to any story is continuity and coherence...and those two are missing here.
The story begins with one premise...then turns into boring mecha action...then turns into a try-to-be psychological drama, then try to be again a science fiction story...
It tries a lot of things but fails short to every goal.
The very first premise is lost at the end...weren't they trying to stop the enormous
ship to rise or all life on Earth would perish? But the ship ends in space...and nothing much happen aside tidal effects.
And there is no real end to the whole story...
And they began to display something interesting on episode 25 (the memories inside Orphan, depicting it locked in battle over Earth with another ship like it...and then explaining that Grand Chers are from Orphan and Brains are from the other ship...and then nothing else is said about that...and the fate of the other ship...or why they were in battle...
Good ideas, good overal concept but a mediocre execution, failing to make the story work...
A pitty...this could have been in concept something better than Evangelion...but ended being a really haphazardly made series...
I apologize if I somehow don't use a lot of big words, or just a lot of words in general in this review. I lost enough braincells watching/half-watching this show that it's affected my vocabulary and my memory, and I've just stopped caring altogether to give this a proper review. I'll be mainly going off Wikipedia and TV Tropes for information simply because I can't be bothered enough to go off my own memory for this. I pity the poor bastards who watched this weekly when it first aired, because I bet they couldn't remember jack shit every week—thus why the main character clearly had
to do a quick recap of what happened every single episode, and even SHE didn't seem invested in it.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is the pinnacle of the 90s when it comes to anime, and has become one of the most influential series of the decade (that continues to this day). So naturally, people wanted to bank on its success by wanting to make their own Evangelion, whether to prove they could do it better, or just for a quick buck. Likewise with all titles that followed the leader, success varied for each “Eva-clone” that was made. So, uh, you know how every director and every studio, no matter how critically/universally acclaimed they are, has that one bad movie/series they have in them that they have to get out somehow? I think I found the one for Sunrise, the studio that is basically the king of the mecha genre, and Yoshiyuki Tomino, the guy whose reputation amounts simply to “Kill them all”. (Oh, he kills them all, alright. Those braincells ain't coming back.)
STORY: Don't make me laugh, what story? Oh, there's a story, but don't ask me what it is because I'm a goldfish. But according to Wikipedia and TV Tropes, the story is, uh, let's see, about a futuristic Earth in which an alien spacecraft that's dubbed “Orphan” is resting at the bottom of the ocean where it's stirring from its dormancy and will kill off all living beings when it decides to leave the atmosphere. A group of people calling themselves “Reclaimers” believe they're the chosen ones Orphan chose to take them to the stars, and wants to aid it by hunting down plates to revive the spacecraft using mechas called “Antibodies”—or Gran Chers—to collect them. One of the residents, a boy named Yuu Isami, revolts against his parents and flees with a newborn “Brain Powerd” (which are basically infant Gran Chers) and runs into a group of rebellious Antibody pilots known as Novice Noah where he becomes attached/attracted to a girl named Hime Utsumiya, who is orphaned and had accidentally become an Antibody pilot to a newborn Brain Powerd, and together, they try to prevent Orphan from emerging and destroy all life.
Sounds simple, yes? Far from it. The introduction was too complex for my poor albeit-educated brain to grasp, and it became more convoluted as time goes on as characters are introduced with their own personal demons (and most of them are—what a shock—orphans or those who have parental issues) and yet don't have personalties to call their own. Then revelations of Orphan and the Reclaimers come to light, characters start fighting with each other and angsting/not angsting about their crappy lives, and then the United States gets involved at some point, and what the hell just happened? I'm not going to pretend I was the least bit interested in what was going on, because I wasn't. The beginning episodes-aside throwing us into the action without proper introduction (at least Evangelion was courteous enough to show what was going on), it tried to be interesting, but it was clear no one knew what the hell was going on. I don't know what it's like in the original Japanese, but the dub by Bandai sure was scrambling to find footing and giving up very quickly.
Apparently, this is Tomino's take on Evangelion, but I'm clearly not seeing why or how. In fact, I was actually a little surprised how much I was reminded more of Vision of Escaflowne than I was Evangelion, although it's kind of a hybrid of the two. It feels like story ideas that were canned from Escaflowne were used here, except then taken into a different direction right off the cliff à la the fate of the last graboid in the first “Tremors”.
CHARACTERS: I'm good with recognizing character designs, so I can see them all in my head. However, when it comes to their names, I can only think of three without looking them up: Yuu because “SHUT UP, YOU”, Hime for “Excuuuuuuse me, princess!”, and Jonathan because that's my brother's name even though the character doesn't act at all like my brother—unless my brother went rogue or something. The other names I didn't bother to remember because they're too exotic or too bland to think of anything to memorize them. Even then, I wouldn't be able to tell you their importance to the story because then that would mean trying to figure out what their personalities are.
Yuu is basically this anime's Shinji, except as a generic protagonist who apparently has issues with his family especially his sister, and they tried to make that the central point of his character yet it didn't stick. Hime is the redhead, thus she's the Asuka of this anime right down to the love interest, right? Not quite. She's actually the Anzu/Téa of this anime. So yes, that means friendship speeches. This is her character. Jonathan is like the rival/antagonist/Dilandau of this anime and has mommy issues up the wazoo. And people get on Shinji's back about his daddy issues, but that's because he's more engaging about it, and no one cares to remember this show enough to remember this brat who complained to his mother whom he was about to shoot that she never gave him Christmas presents.
The mechas themselves would count as characters if they were interesting enough. They're sentient enough that the pilots bond with them and talk to them and address them as “boy” (they all do it), and they all apparently have the likeness of a child which goes with the themes of childlike ideologies of the world and what it means to grow up. But they're boring. At least when it came to the EVAs, while they didn't talk, the way they bonded with their pilots had emotional connection to the characters, as well as distinctive looks (and in a way, “personalities”) from one-another. And with Escaflowne, while the mecha also didn't talk, it was the god of war in Fanelia, and thus there was importance to its presence in the series and the connection it had with the main characters, particularly with Van.
I can't tell you thing one about the Brain Powerds and why they're important to the series outside of the fact only children can pilot/befriend them (sort of, I guess) simply because they're children themselves. Even though wouldn't it make more sense for an ADULT to be the pilot to help nurture these Brain Powerds?
ART/ANIMATON: Sunrise as a whole typically produces some exquisite artwork, and had their own style that can be pointed out in a line-up. Sure, you can totally tell this is from them in the 90s, but this is not one of their best works. It was obvious they sent this off to the new people who weren't being paid enough to even give a rat's ass about it while all the experts worked on Cowboy Bebop, which aired at about the exact same time as “Brain Powerd”. The animation is so dated for the time that it's embarrassing because of all the shortcuts and post-production effects that were done, and there were a lot of clunkiness to be found in every episode. The only time it looked good and had that Sunrise touch was when it was admiring the female body in the opening credits.
Sunrise is also known for their mechas, as mentioned before, and they have made some creative and distinguishable mechas over the years even though it was all to sell toys in the end. The mechas designs in “Brain Powerd” are some of the most uninspired designs I've ever seen. There's apparently two different mechas used throughout the series, the Brain Powerds and Gran Chers (although they're the exact same mecha, just one's a child and the other's the adult), and I can't tell the two apart at all, which made it infuriating during the battle sequences against the Reclaimers' Antibody pilots. Doesn't help that the Brain Powerds tried to get different designs for each new pilot (especially the one pair that were twins), and I still couldn't tell them all apart.
Oh, and the cockpit is in the groin area, and whenever the hatch opened up, it looked like an erection. Make of that what you will (though it explains why everyone would call their mechas “boys”).
SOUND: I chose not to watch this in Japanese because I figured this was going to be a doozy to keep up with, and I'm sure I chose the lesser of two evils. My God did no one at Bandai care—which says something because a lot of these voice actors are actually well-known and have done other dubs before and after this (I want to say the Escaflowne dub was done prior to this one because Andrew Francis sounded like he had hit puberty prior to being cast in this anime). I don't know who the ADR director for this was, let alone who translated the scripts, but I bet you no one on that staff and in the recording booth knew what was written on those pages or what was going on on the screen. Everyone sounded confused when they're not stilted in delivery, it was really awkward.
The only person who seemed to have cared may have been Yoko Kanno, although if she half-assed it, it's not THAT noticeable. But her music for this show honestly isn't worth looking for despite the soundtrack being the best thing about the show (to the point I was more invested in the music than I was in the scene or the dialogue). And I hate saying that about her, but considering she was working on Cowboy Bebop's soundtrack at this time as well, her priorities were elsewhere alongside everyone else's.
Also, the opening song, “In My Dream”, is too good for this show and thus it's the only thing I'm taking away from this. And no, I don't get why it is there were naked women in the opening, which is the only opening I can think of outside of Elfen Lied where nudity was rampant.
ENJOYMENT/OVERALL: My brain puked. That's... that's all I can say. I've tried, people, but all I could do was ramble because I have no idea how to process this show. When you're reduced to a blabbering mess and you just go into a trance and wander around trying to acknowledge the surrounding world, your mind goes elsewhere. Well, that could just be me, but this is what this anime has done to me in a way very few anime has had the privilege of doing to me. I'm legitimately surprised I can even function right now, I thought the number of headaches I had developed from watching/half-watching this baloney would've given me an aneurysm.
In fact, just thinking about it makes my insides clench and my brain to throb and I want to puke, and I don't want to talk about this anymore. It probably should've stayed that way so it would've saved me and the rest of you the headache of trying to comprehend my thoughts.