At the onset of World War III, nobody could have predicted the effect it would have on Japan. While it had officially ended fifty years ago in 2150, its battles still persist. Large, mysterious areas known as "Blackspots" appeared across the country, filled with the contaminated ruins of cities and countrysides. Those inside were trapped to halt the spread of contamination, and their powers began to mutate—be they shapeshifters, pyromancers, or controllers of gravity itself—they all became known as the Needless.
Adam Blade is one such Needless, possessing remarkable regenerative abilities and incredible strength. In order to restore peace to a war-torn Japan, he and his allies must fight together to rise against a heinous research group by the name of Simeon.
Typically shounen style action series are not usually my thing. I find them to be completely silly and juvenile and cater to a demographic that I am just not a part of. The posturing and trash talking, the ridiculous reversals of fortune, and the long drawn out nature of the fighting usually cause me to lose interest. Honestly I am surprised this appeals so much to teenage males, who typically have the attention span of a goldfish. However, initially Needless seemed to be different, and appeared as more of a parody and comedy with an extremely enjoyable female lead. Eventually
though it loses its way and falls victim to the things that doom many of its brother anime; trying to be and do too much instead of sticking with what was working.
The plot, initially is about as basic and nondescript as they come. Needless is set in a post apocalyptic world in which a new race of super powered humans have emerged, possessing fragments of power that give them mastery over a certain skill such as fire, gravity, and magnetism. These fragments apparently have all come from a common source, a god-like being known as the Second. These altered humans are known as Needless. But there is a hard and fast rule however, while some fragments are more powerful than others each Needless can only possess one. It all sounds like it an interesting take on the superpowers genre, and it a lot of ways it is though the way that the powers are used begins to get annoying after while (more on that later). All is not well in the world of the Needless though as they are threatened by the extremely powerful Adam Arclight and his followers in which they face extinction from his scheming. Only the mysterious Adam Blade and his band of resistance fighters stand in the way.
Needless is chalk full of slapstick comedy, action, blood and death, explosions, fan service, and machoism. Fans of these are likely to find plenty to like. The real problem with the series as a whole is the pacing of its storyline. Things move along quickly in the first 1/3 of the series. Perhaps a bit too quickly, which may have lead to the problems it suffers from for most of the middle and late portions of the anime. The heroes find themselves trapped in a room where they must do battle with Arclight's strongest followers. The battles are action packed but they drag out...forever. The story comes to a crawl and these battles seemingly go on forever as almost half the anime is taken up by this one fight and set in this same room. The shocking plot revelation made during this arc is obvious to anyone with any degree of sophistication. Once our heroes finally manage to get out the rest of the series is almost completely taken up with flashbacks, plot building, and adding a conspiracy arc. While this made Needless' story infinitely better and more complex it again felt to me like a complete reversal once again in the theme. To me it was like the director couldn’t make up his mind. Did he want to create an echii action parody, a straight shounen fighting anime, or a complex story about genetic research and political intrigue?
A small rant is in order on the battles. I know that it is a staple of this kind of series to yell out and name all of your attack moves and special abilities, but really is it that hard to come up with some names that make some sense? After hearing "Little Boy" or "Dean Drive Fox Hound" uttered for the billionth time I just wanted to shove a pair of scissors into my ears. And seriously what the hell does Dean Drive Fox Hound supposed to fucking mean anyway? It’s nonsense!
The real tragedy is that what they were doing at the start was working. The best part of Needless is the characters, in particular Eve Neuschwanstein (try saying that ten times fast). She’s got all the body measurements to make her a fan favorite, but she has a hilarious and quirky personality to go along with it to make her memorable. She stupid, can’t remember anyone’s name which leads her to "shorten" people’s names into nonsensical words. She has a really cool special ability called Doppelganger, which allows her to change herself into basically anything of the same mass as she is. Unfortunately as the series progresses she tends to disappear more than a main character should from the action, thus taking away a lot of the appeal for the show for me since I really enjoyed her. Also her Doppelganger ability is used in ways over the course of the series that seem to be inconsistent with what the ability should really be able to do.
As for the other leads, Adam Blade and Cruz Schild the results are not as good. Blade is a silly and typical shounen male with an over-the-top character design complete with an unoriginal and clichéd personality (basically think TTGL's Kamina). Unless you love 12 pack abs and these kinds of stereotypes or this is the first anime you have ever seen, then you’re unlikely to be impressed by him. That being said he does have his moments of comedy gold and he is not completely without merits. Cruz is also a typical anime boy who reminds me of another TTGL character, Simon (the young version) in both looks and personality. Though he seems to have more sense than most of his shounen brethren, and stays out of trouble for the most part and leaves the fighting to those with powers. His greatest attribute is that he’s probably the only person in the show with a brain.
The rest supporting cast is a mix of some very entertaining and memorable characters and more shounen stereotypes. With the exception of Disc, the rest of Blade's team of resistance fighters is uninspired. The ones who really shine are among Arclight's subordinates. This starts and ends with the Pretty Girl Squad of Mio, Setsuna, and Kushinashi. I found their antics to be the most amusing of any of the characters in the series. They are probably the objects of the most fan service, next to Eve, but for the most part it’s all pretty funny and just doesn’t feel as pointless as it usually is in other shows.
Artistically Needless is an uneven experience. The animation of the fights, action, and special effects are all topnotch. The service is well done, at least amongst the females, and they are cute and not too ridiculously proportioned. However the men are awful. I am on record as being a firm hater of bishies and effeminate men. While the men in Needless are certainly manly, they basically look like bishies on steroids. The fact that all of them looked pretty much the same (does anyone in the future wear shirts?) and the silly looking cartoonish muscles and impossible body builds took away from the art overall.
The absolute worst thing about this series is the music. The first OP "Modern Strange Cowboy" is without a doubt the silliest song I have ever heard and the worst example of Engrish lyrics gone wild. The second OP is not near as bad but still not that good and both the ED themes are average at best. Also the commercial break teaser halfway through is laugh out loud silly with the retarded sounding "Needless" being overacted by various male cast members. The acting overall is decent, but again the male voice actors over play their parts so much that they just sound silly.
Overall my final opinion on Needless mixed. I did enjoy many aspects of it, but it had more potential than it delivered. The schizophrenic direction and pacing are too much for me to ignore. Your enjoyment of Needless is likely to depend on your own personal tastes. If you love shounen action then you might want to give this a chance. I found it to be an average series at best.
Needless is not for everyone, but it is a fantastic show as long as you watch it for what it is and are able to enjoy it for what it is. Still, while it was still airing I got the feeling that most people had misconceptions.
First of all, Needless is not a shounen. Needless is a shounen-parody. Or actually if I stick to proper genres I would agree that it's a seinen, and the reason why it is "full of shounen clichés" is because it makes fun of those classic elements by overacting them till they reach grotesque levels. It's important to understand that that
is the basis of the show.
Muscular machos? Naturally. Battles that last for eternity? Most of the anime is set in a single room. Fighters with named attacks or techniques? In Needless they not only shout them all the time, they also write them on the screen with huge flippin' letters to make sure you remember!
I admit though that throughout the anime adaptation there are points when the show turns into the very thing it pokes fun of, but I'll get back to that later.
The second popular misconception is that Needless is a Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann ripoff. Which would be hard considering that the Needless manga started years before TTGL. I won't stick my head into the sand and deny the similarities, I compare Needless to TTGL in this review on a few occasions myself, but while TTGL builds a strong coming of age story over the top of making fun of old school mecha anime, Needless stays in the sandbox where it feels safe but pushes its limits further there.
As you can kinda expect from this type of show, the story is almost non-existent. A mash of dozens of old concepts thrown into a bowl to create a frame for the action, humor and nonstop manliness. What comes as a result is somewhat interesting, but it's kept on minimal complexity so it doesn't get in the way of the "important" elements of the show. On the other hand, the author had some fun with the character's special attacks and you can find quite a few references there. Naturally I'm not talking about "Mio-chan hip attack", but things like "Little Boy", Dean Drive" or "Agnischwattas". I won't call it deep but it's still a bit more layered than people would think.
When it comes to characters, Needless has a huge list of archetypes, and this is also the point where TTGL fans start coughing blood. The "main" hero who likes to solve every situation with his fists (Blade/Kamina), the main heroine who's also a little ruff around the edges but makes up with bust size for lack of braincells (Eve/Yoko), a useless wingman for comic relief (Uchida/Kittan) and the timid kid who grows into a man (or not) (Cruz/Simon). The difference is that Needless really goes beyond the limits and centers the characters around their most basic trait, pushing that one aspect as far as possible. It also adds things like pedophile priests, bold old scientists and most importantly an army of lolis ranging from lesbians to androids. And yet, despite being this bottomless pool of one-dimensional fan service sources, there is not a single character in the show who is unlikable and every viewer can find one or two who they truly love. Even the one who was annoying in the anime gets cool later on in the manga. This palette of characters is what really makes or breaks Needless.
The graphics are hardly anything special: the character designs are a nice recreation of the manga, while the animation is mostly fluid but not really homogeneous. The music on the other hand is quite worthy of praise. I would be the last person you could call a metal-fan, but the hard hitting power metal BGM of the show is just amazing. Taken from e-Zuka's "I got you under my skin", from "Raging Flames" to "Elephant's Scream" every track is a perfect match to its respective scenes and gives them the necessary boost.
I think that just proves that Madhouse was the right studio for this show. With that said however, it also entails the consequence that Madhouse fans are all too familiar with: abrupt original ending. This case is not nearly as bad as for instance with Claymore, but the changes at the end, along with the severely toned down gore (compared to the manga), resulted in the anime sometimes coming through as more of a shounen than a seinen.
So after all that, what makes this mixed bag of shallow elements so special in the end? The entertainment value. The indescribable energy that flows from every scene and gets multiplied by the music to the point that you clench your fist, jump out of your chair and yell "F**K YEAH!". The bursts of laughter you get every time said scene gets interrupted for a second with a crazy one-liner. The brainless fun you get from the painful lack of logic in the show. And I think that's the keyword, Needless is brainless fun. If you are looking for something more or different, Needless is probably not for you. But for what it is, Needless is perfect.
There are probably a ton of things that could be said about Needless, but in the spirit of this series we will just narrow it down to something simple. Needless! is a show you will either like for what it is, or hate it for the very same reasons.
Needless is a pretty simple show with an equally simple concept. Have a mix of characters with noticeable personalities brawl it out in a span of 24 episodes, accompanied by some great art, fanservice, GAR, gore, comedy and a fast phased metal soundtrack that won't fail to get your blood pumping.
In a future where Tokyo has
been bombed and 'black spots', areas in which people with mysterious abilities roam, exist there is an evil company surrounded with secrets that has settled in the center of the Black Spot and eliminates all opposition. However, a small group of people decide to stand up against this company. Now the plot is in place we are only missing the 'Fight' and 'Finish him!' lines and the person they belong to. Ah well.
Enter Adam Blade, our very manly main lead. Accompanying him are his sexy sidekick Eve, a kid with no combat abilities, an old geezer, a cool Shinigami girl with a giant sword, a loli half human-half cyborg and a girl with a split personality. On the evil company side we have the usual ultimate evil in human form, Adam Arclight, a mysterious guy warped in bandages, a magician kid and an evil queen type woman with a huge rack. Crew set? Let's Brawl.
Quiz time. The question is: "What makes a show with such a simple concept so popular?" Maybe it are the characters. After all, who expects a priest that turns out to be an insane 12 pack abs devil priest with a lolicon fetish that prefers storing grenades over holy texts in his bible and has some wisdom like this: "If someone hits you on the left cheek...DO A PILE DRIVER WITH YOUR OTHER!!" ? Or a sexy girl that can transform any part of her body and comes up with the most unique nicknames since she cannot remember people's real names? Or a crazy maid that takes the meaning of split personality to a brand new level?
It could as well be the art. It is good to great to stunning at times. Animation is smooth, characters look realistic enough. For Needless, that is. The creators probably also knew they did a nice job with the art, as they even included two moments in the series where the art is a..different kind of stunning. The soundtrack could be the secret behind the series' success as well. It always seems to come with the right tune at the right moment, something that makes the fights so much more epic and enjoyable to watch. If not that then it probably is the comedy. It is well done and fits the tone of the show, yet does not fail to give you a good laugh every now and then.
Needless is a show that may prove either enjoyable or not for the reasons above, but especially on the person watching it. Simple as that. If you are still not sure on what to expect, watch the first opening/ending or simply lock the door to your room, dig up your headphones and marathon the thing. Although the title may be misleading, this show could very well be something that makes a nice addition to your list.
NEEDLESS was one of the first anime I started watching as it was airing, when I first got into streaming new shows via fansubs. The shininess of watching brand-new shows hours after airing in Japan still hadn't worn off for me, so that may have somewhat influenced my opinion of the show. Regardless, NEEDLESS is a crazy, action-packed, explosion- and fanservice-filled ride through a post-apocalyptic wasteland straight out of Fist of the North Star or sCRYed.
My reviews have gotten a lot of 'Unhelpfuls', so I'm gonna try and stick with the usual format and see if that's more palatable.
Story - 6/10
Unfortunately, this is
NEEDLESS' weakest point, since it's a comedy/action series, the jokes and the fights are really what keep the story running. The overall plot is pretty much the exact same as the aforementioned sCRYed; an event that devestated part of Japan also gave the survivors mysterious powers, which the heroes use to fight against an evil megacorp trying to run things. The battle between the two Adams is pretty awesome, but reminds me too much of Cable and Stryfe from the X-Men comics. Very derivative story but not bad for what it is.
Art - 8/10
I know the art style turned a lot of people off, but I love the super-exaggerated look of the characters and the action sequences are superbly done. The girls are all drawn primarily to be easy on the eyes, while the guys all have huge necks, pulsing muscles and multi-pack abs (except for poor little Cruz). As a parody of over-the-top shonen anime, it's appropriate that the art style parody those same conventions.
Sound - 10/10
Easily NEEDLESS' best stat. I loved the music, from the BGM to both OPs and EDs. I personally prefer "Modern Strange Cowboy" to "Scarlet Bomb" but they're both pretty killer as OPs, and the (in)famous Pretty Girl Squad takes over for the EDs. The voice acting is very hammy and over-the-top; Adam Blade's seiyuu speaks maybe three lines in a normal voice, shouting all the others at the top of his lungs. And the way he rasps "Memorized!" (omoeta) is fucking awesome.
Characters - 8/10
While few if any of the characters in this series have any real depth, this was never intended to be a series about dialogue and character interaction. All the characters have one or two traits that are turned up to maximum volume and blasted 24/7; for example, Adam Blade's overwhelming arrogance and lolita complex, Eve's inability to remember anyone's name, and so on. Still, despite the lack of depth the characters manage to be quite charming, especially the over-the-top hero of the show (Cruz is technically the main character, but Blade's the one who does all the fighting).
Enjoyment - 9/10
This show made me laugh, turned me on with the antics of the Pretty Girls Squad (especially when I first saw the ED, full of mostly-naked girls we hadn't even seen yet O_o), and got me pumped up for the crazy over-the-top fights. Even slamming kanji into the camera's face to remind us of the names of the moves got a 'fawk yeah!' from me.
Overall - 9/10
Usually story counts for more for me, and I wouldn't give such a high overall score to an anime that falls so short in the storyline category. But as I said, the plot's not really what's important in this show. I mean really, what's the overarching plot in Lucky*Star? It's an insanely fun and crazy funny parody of shonen stereotypes and does it marvelously. And interestingly enough, the parts that are parodied the most--the endless battles and in-your-face fanservice--are done about as well as I've seen in the 'serious' shows.
If you don't like the pro-wrestling atmosphere of hugely muscled guys and hot chicks in skimpy clothes fighting one another (for often implausible reasons), then you might want to stick to more serious fare. If you love shonen anime tho and like to laugh at the conventions of the genre, NEEDLESS is definitely worth giving a shot.
A perfectly-timed gust of wind. A low camera angle. Once in a while we get a peek under a skirt. And sometimes, just sometimes, we get a glimpse of the legendary striped anime panties that are shimapan.