Mikura, Kurokawa, and Harada are the 3 members of the Danger Service Agency (DSA). Mikura is the brawns of the group, Harada is the brains, and Kurokawa is just a bitter ex-cop that likes to think he's in charge. They'll take on any job as long as it involves lots of danger and, of course, money. If you want to live long enough to eat dinner, you better not cross them. Their biggest case, however, could prove to be finding out why someone wants Kurokawa assassinated.
Mezzo rocks. Sure, the animation is nothing new. Sure, the characters are a little bit fanboyish, a little bit stereotypical. But as with so many other anime, the whole is much more than the simple sum of its parts. Even though it is somewhat middle-of-the-road, it still does it to perfection. I found myself wanting much, much more when I finished the final (13th) episode. This seemed, to me, like a series that was in a groove that could have ran for 30 episodes, or 60! Unfortunately it did not, but if you like a fiesty female heroine that kicks ass without dishing out man-hating
BS, along with a host of other hilarious characters, then check out Mezzo DSA!
Mezzo DSA is a 13-episode series produced by studio Arms, that had as a starting point the Mezzo Forte OVA. If you haven’t seen the OVA, it’s pretty awesome, go check it out. The series, however, is pretty mediocre. If you came to the series having your expectations hyped up by the OVA, it might lead you to a strong disappointment.
Story and Characters
The plot of the series follows a mostly episodic format, with two specific on-going “plots” along. The on-going plotlines we’ll discuss later, but for now, let’s talk about the episodic format.
The strength of good episodic series, like Bebop or Samurai Champloo, consists
in effectively establishing the threat or the source of drama/conflict of that episode, preferably before the second act of the story. This is the problem in Mezzo DSA: the specific threats are poorly set up, or just offer little real sense of danger if compared to other cases the crew of the DSA faces, and the drama/conflict (Don’t worry, this won’t be a habit) falls flat, usually due to poor handling of one-off characters.
A good example is episode 08: before the viewer gets the chance to understand the situations that lead to the issue and even the characters motivations of it all, we’re are presented with this supposedly life-threatening mess involving a poorly explained computer virus, a scientific crew that was just presented and a chain of events that barely manages to tie together the episode.
As for the characters, the main cast is composed of the 3 members of the DSA crew, Kurokawa, Mikura and Harada.
The boss and responsible for getting the jobs for the group is Kurokawa. You know those characters like Ed from Bebop or Yamada from Working!!, whose mind seems to operate in another plane of reality? Kurokawa is their king. Both his speech pattern and thought process come off with no discernable logic and are done in a way to weird out the audience. And it works. If it’s a good thing or not, I’ll let you decide.
Mikura is the dream-girl action-star of the series. She’s very self-confident, skilled and has occasional premonitory flashes about the dangers she and other crew members might get into as the series goes on.
Harada is the resident nerd/technology expert (gotta have one of those in your action centered, team based anime), and the closest in the group to someone that might exist in real life. More is revealed about them through the series, but nothing that has significant impact on characterization or development, or even matters at the end of the series. It’s the typical detail thrown away to make you care, but not really, it won’t come back anyway.
The first “storyline” to talk about would be the one involved Asami, a girl that is saved by Mikura in the first episode and since then strives to become strong like her. The problem with this story is with Asami herself: she has a weak personality, impressively bland character and could be written out of the story with little-to-no loss.
The second storyline involves a mysterious man trying to kill Kurokawa. This is introduced very abruptly at the beginning of the second episode, no proper introduction, no build up, just the raw information for the audience to process. The conclusion to this plot is sillier and more anti-climactic than you could expect, but since it’s spoiler you’d have to see for yourself to understand. With the introduction of this plotline, though, you’ll notice another problem with the series: severe pacing issues. The episodes cut from one scene to the other having no regard to a proper transition, which makes some scenes more confusing than they should be. That leads us to another point:
After the series budget is apparently blown in the first episode (It’s that or they changed the team mid-production), the animation becomes very unimpressive: scenarios are nicely drawn but movement lacks fluidity and character models are very lazily done. The effects of it are visible in the action scenes, lacking any of the dynamic thrill and imagination seen in the OVA or even the beginning of the first episode. This was long before Maoyuu Mao Yuusha, so it’s an example of the time Arms attention was still devoted to porn, which still didn’t look very good either.
This is sad considering the series origins. Even SOME impressively bad anime like Blood-C had the decency of really well animated action sequences. Having at least that aspect done right wouldn’t necessarily help Mezzo DSA become a cut-above in the media, but at least would be something to present above mediocrity.
I just realized I wrote the most boring paragraph of my entire life, so I wish I had soundtrack to accompany me now, and the same goes for the anime. Black Lagoon this isn’t, so get used to listening to the same track during action, which doesn’t go far to improving the experience, since the shortcomings in animation spread over, and matching sound and visual doesn’t create the most water-like flow. Oil-like would be a more fitting analogy.
Do you remember how Berserk had really poor animation, but the well-crafted characters and amazing dialogue made us barely care about that? Off course no-one expected it here, a Berserk doesn’t happen very often, but it’s hard not to think that a Greenback Jane was possible (I leave you in the dark in regards to this reference).
Mezzo Forte was imaginative, simple, fast-paced and had bursts of expression that made it maybe not the most memorable, but a highly entertaining ride with little that could be cut off without a loss, and it’s sad to see the anime not following on that.
Just for disclosure: to me, a show is Bad when it actively insults my mental capacity in some way. Mezzo DSA is not that, it’s just mediocre.
Mezzo DSA is another great example of an anime that is long for no apparent reason. I know that it's only 13 episodes long and that is about 5 hours in total run time, but it makes 52 episodes of DBZ feel short. Now that's pretty scary when you think about it. The series is very long on filler and it would have made a much better 3 - 6 episode OVA, and that's slightly pushing it. This series is a direct sequel to the 2 episode OVA Mezzo Forte; and I'm still scratching my head as to what made it necessary to give Mezzo
a sequel in the first place.
Mezzo DSA is an action romp that delivers lots of shoot outs, car chases, and hand to hand action. The budget murdering first episode will have you believing that you're about to watch something completely unforgettable. I mean the first episode is very good and you will be anxious to see what happens next. Unfortunately, everything comes to a halt right after that, and the series stumbles almost the entire way until the final two episodes, where it starts to actually become watchable again.
During one of the segments in an earlier episode, one of the main characters becomes the center of a hit. This sub plot takes a back seat for the most part and creeps back into the picture periodically. It soon picks up in full throttle and becomes the central plot leading into the final two episodes, which are full of revelations and double crosses that delivers a nice action packed climax. The final episode ties up all of the loose ends and provides Mezzo the closure it needs. However, the action scenes never reclaim their former glory, and through out the anime I was never truly impressed again after the first episode.
The series follows a stand alone episode format, and each story happens to be self-contained until the final two episodes. Although every thing in between feels like filler, there's a couple of interesting episodes here and there, with maybe one or two providing necessary background on the main characters. I find it funny that one of the flash back episodes happens to be among the best, and it contains almost no action at all. It was a completely character driven romance story, and I found it to be the deepest of the entire series.
Even though the series has its shining moments (and there aren't many), Mezzo DSA suffers from very bad direction. Umetsu goes out of his way to toss out everything imaginable. Some of the stories have sci-fi and supernatural elements with the DSA taking on ghost and aliens. I found it to be quite silly and just plain out of place with the overall style of the anime. It slipped my mind, but I now remember where Umetsu must have gotten his motivation for the poorly directed Kite Liberator.
The series has mild character development, but I can see some viewers taking a liking to the energetic characters. Mikura is the muscle of the group dealing out worlds of hurt with pistols and martial arts. The other two characters manage to hold their own quite well and really aren't overshadowed. However, they're all just your average static characters and they never completely grew on me. There also wasn't a single antagonist I cared about either.
Visually, Mezzo DSA follows the style of the original. The character designs didn't receive any type of make over, and they fit well with the personality of the series. The visuals are very good in the first episode with some very stylish, well choreographed, and over the top action scenes. It also contains a bit of fan service, and some nudity with references towards lesbian acts. However, the series does not contain the graphic sex scenes of its predecessor. There's absolutely no sex to be found here and I'm not complaining about it at all.
There's a few more visually pleasing moments concerning very colorful backgrounds. I also thought the BGM was a nice fit, and I liked the opening and closing J-Pop themes. The dialogue was pretty witty at times, but I got sick and tired of Mikura's "dinner" line very quick. It's almost as annoying as Naruto's "believe it" line. I thought both the dub and sub was decent overall, there really isn't much to say about it either positive or negative.
The biggest problem that I have with the series is the length. Mezzo DSA could have been far shorter, and the result would have been a better anime. I found the stories to be too by the numbers and they eventually became repetitive. In addition, a majority of the action scenes were very boring to say the least. I'm happy to see that Umetsu closed the books on this series. His imagination is way too limited and this series furthers my opinion that he's a sub par storyteller at best. Only recommended to the ungodly easy to please.
Highs: Very good first episode, some needed background provided
Lows: Could have been much shorter, way too many boring episodes
I would say this show has a plot and/or storyline but most of the time it is the typical “bad guy or assignment of the week” episodes and they do have their biggest case that serves as the main plot of the story and it’s finding out why someone wants Kurokawa, the bitter ex-cop and head honcho of the DSA, assassinated.
To recap on the main characters, Mikura is the brawns of the group that can kick a lot of ass and have a short temper when it comes to doing her job. Harada is the brains and the technical expertise of the group that handles
all the robot bodies, just like Forte.
All three main characters are pretty decent like last time but here’s one thing that bothered me: when has Harada shown interest in Mikura because in the series, there were some hints at that although like the first Hentai scene in Forte, it felt very unnecessary and unneeded but then again, I didn’t mind the Hentai scenes in the first one. Also there is a new character introduced in the series and her name is Asami and you first see her appear getting beat up by grade school girls who are getting her lunch money or something like that and then she met the DSA and I thought The Boondocks illustrated that point where grade school girls are never to be fucked with. Anyway, Asami wants to be just like Mikura because of how skilled a fighter and a gun-toting girl she turned out to be. Thankfully, she isn’t up to Scrappy Doo levels but she still doesn’t feel that useful but only to add some cuteness into the show and that goes double for Mikura’s new design. Yeah, the animation in here is slightly inferior to Forte due to the fact that Forte did have the budget for 2 episodes and DSA has 13, it shows and it seems a little big off. Some of the original character designs were altered with different colors and face expressions. I also feel like they should have used some storylines from Forte to give the show more into a continuing plot like:
Remember the psycho insane girl, Momomi Momoi, which Mikura fought and killed? A longtime friend of hers named Sakura met the girl Momomi when she was about to get gang raped and Momomi rescued the girl and since then, they became lovers after that and when she is killed, Sakura swore revenge against the people who murdered her. I would have like to get more into that storyline and see how it progress instead of the Kurokawa assassination plot because the assassin hired to kill Kurokawa has got to be the most blandest characters in that show. He’s a very typical hired hand, mother was murdered and killed his father for murdering the mom and so on and so forth.
The dub wasn’t half bad although I kind of miss having Melissa Fahn as Mikura but instead they got Luci Christian to do her voice, mainly to the fact that this is an ADV dub and this actress does associate herself with that company and its successor, Sentai Filmworks. She was good in her role but it wasn’t a stand-out. The music is hardly noticeable and doesn’t stand out in my opinion and the opening song was alright and the ending song was something I would just skip just like the other ending songs in the past.
FINAL VERDICT: To me, this is the diet version of Mezzo Forte. Now I don’t miss the Hentai element in the series at all but as a regular action anime, this was a decent and relativity OK series but as a successor to the first OVA, this is very bland and it doesn’t leave much of an afterthought when you finished it. I make it sound like the first OVA was the masterpiece of anime and it wasn’t. The OVA was a stupid but very fun anime that I whole-heartedly enjoy. The series was OK but it should been tweaked a little bit more. Would I recommend this? Maybe to those who saw the first one and I recommend that you see the OVA before seeing the series.