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.
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Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jul 3, 2009 to Dec 11, 2009
Premiered: Summer 2009
Broadcast: Fridays at 01:30 (JST)
Licensors: Sentai Filmworks
Theme: Super PowerSuper Power
Duration: 24 min. per ep.
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
Score: 7.231 (scored by 6039260,392 users)
1 indicates a weighted score.
2 based on the top anime page. Please note that 'Not yet aired' and 'R18+' titles are excluded.