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 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. read more
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!read more
I personally liked the show, but not sure if I liked it enough to own it, or even recommend it. It's not that the show was bad, but that there's nothing really outstanding or amazing about it. It was fine to watch and I finished it in about two days, but after I was done the only thought that came to mind was "ok, what to watch next..."
The story was about what one would expect from an action oriented show. It was good in so far as it didn't do anything unforgivably stupid or inane. The action was also decent, but surprisingly, not as much as I was craving. The first episode is pretty much the high point as far as the action goes and it never quite meets or surpasses that level again. The most surprising thing about the show was, compared to Gurren Lagann or Kiddy Grade, the amount of fan service present was almost negligible.
The series seems to continue from the OVA, and in that sense it's a good addendum for those curious to know a little more about the characters backgrounds and the workings of their world. Each episode tells a little story with a very thinly strung together overall plot that wraps up neatly at the end.
Still, all-in-all there's this inescapable feeling of "averageness". Something about it just didn't feel very inspired. The most interesting thing about the show, ironically, were some of the side plots. As an action fan, watching a show geared towards action, I think this says a lot. It would also explain why the OVA stands out and the series gets little mention. So there's a good chance you'll be entertained watching this series, and you'd have nothing to lose, but I'm not sure how much you'd gain either...
This was probably my biggest problem with the show. It's not that there was anything wrong with the characters personalities, or development or anything like that. But they introduce this little sidekick girl that felt completely unnecessary and they give Mikura this younger/cuter makeover that just made things more awkward. I understand the logic behind it, probably to draw in more of the average fandom, but it's hard(er) to take shoot outs, over-the-top-ass-kicking, and the occasional perversion "seriously" when little girls are involved.
THAT aside, the characters were fine... they more or less retained their original persona's and each one had something different and interesting about them. I think the show would've benefited more from just concentrating on the three main characters and probably more focus on the three main antagonists, who did very little antagonizing in all actuality.
The art was solid. I liked quite a few of the designs and backgrounds and whatnot, but much like the action and the story, there was a very run-of-the-mill feel to this too. A lot of times the colors seemed flat and too many times the characters seemed too shiny or had weird facial proportions. The other weird thing about the art was that in two of the episodes they would "flashback" with scenes cut straight from the OVA. So it was a little weird (cheap?) seeing two different animations spliced together.
The sound was ok, of course, nothing (good or bad) stood out. Well, except for the opening/ending songs, those were pretty terrible. The dub seemed ok as well, except for anything remotely emotional, those moments sounded really forced and cheesy. The dub also uses some swearing which isn't present in the subs. I don't have anything against this necessarily, but it doesn't do anything to undo or counter the whole younger/cuter element I mentioned earlier.read more
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 episodesread more