"Now that Netflix has released two garbage-tier cop shows with supernatural elements in a row, I wonder what they gonna do next..."
Ingress the Animation is the third cop show with supernatural elements Netflix has decided to release this year, but it's not exactly as awful as the other two. I have absolute no idea who is greenlighting these, but please, stop.
We have 3 main leads here and they are called: Jack Norman, but I will proceed to call him Jack Normal in this review because he is so Normal that even his first name is Jack. Sarah Coppola -- whose last name, indeed, is of American origin and which has the word "Cop" in it because that's the only witty thing regarding this show. There is also another dude here (third character in case someone lost the count) who has a token Japanese name to fill the anime quota, Makoto Midorikawa.
Jack Normal is, ironically, very typical middle-aged agent-person you, also typically, see in cheesy cop shows which main content after season 1 is relationship drama because they ran out of any real content to show. This is the emotionally dead partner that is introduced in season 3 when the writers try to balance the now-melodramatic cast members with confrontation. Perhaps my analysis of him is bit too specific and niche, but that's the first and last and only thing I can get out of him no matter how often he appears on the screen and no matter what he does. His presence is somewhat badass yet personality itself miniscule. I have seen worse decisions made so I will conclude that he is doing decent job doing the things he was designed to do. As a person, I can't say he felt like a real being or did something out of genuine behavior, but he did weirdly remind me of Agent Smith from The Matrix occasionally, so that's kinda cool.
Sarah Coppola is, from her character design to personality, a completely dull and boring person. She lacks characteristics and quality merits so badly that following her becomes quite fascinating in rather backwards-sense: seeing her trying to act this character makes her whole presence/appearance in the show resemble a live action actress whose agent managed to somehow get her in this show even when she clearly shouldn't have been in it. Perhaps another weird thing to say, but that's still highly accurate way of putting her persona in this try-hard western cop show/anime hybrid. She is also quite weirdly used as a narrator in the series as so often her dialogue/monologue seems to exist for no other reason than to give the viewers explanations and fill in some missing information, story-wise.
Speaking more of these anime hybrids, Makoto Midorikawa gives me the weirdest Major (Ghost in the Shell) and Shinya Kougami (Psycho Pass) vibes. His character design was at least inspired if not directly stolen from Shinya, while his personality is even easier to describe: any typical nice guy superhero jesus except now a "good cop" and doesn't suffer from moral yelling-issues because he can typically maintain his cool. The moral stuck, still, but don't appear pushy. The catch being this weird superpower that has made him some type of pseudo-outcast // given his character some type of "feel for me" factor the audience can relate to. Personally, I didn't really buy it, but it didn't annoy me either.
As a whole, the cast is passable. Not very strong, but not specifically terrible or impressive lackclustery either. Some basic things are added to make them feel relatable and some emotional sides are also put there to make them seem more "whole", and they all certainly have "their moments". Perhaps following the characters would have been more interesting if they had been worse and not so consistently mediocre. So often it felt like part of them exist just to please the audience with cheap-ey means and tropes.
This is the part where I won't be saying all that many good things. Minor spoilers are also included, mainly/only regarding short action scenes and not the grand scheme or plot.
The main idea behind this show is the effect of drug-like matter/chemical booster called XM, which "unleashes" the full potential of human capabilities (brains, senses, muscle-memory, reaction time, etc) under circumstances rather similar to the Luc Besson film "Lucy", the main difference being how chaotic its effects are as the series practically never focuses on linearly building the story nor showing the "drug's" effect on certain character or plotline, but instead, the entire XM's effect in the world of this series is in the spotlight. This is a huge concept to gasp on, and shows that can deal with such a big scale are scarce. Ingress claims to be much, yet it completely fails to be convincing, feel important or in generally, doesn't offer reasons to, well, give a damn about whatever is going on in the big picture, because, just to quote one side character, "all we want to do is save the world."
The actual events seen appear rather small-scale compared to the overall idea mentioned above, as one could expect from action series. The writing and overall execution of the action sequences is not very thrilling to say the least. For example, Jack Normal beats gun-using soldiers barehanded when they are already shooting bullet at him. Thanks to the power of sunglasses, he is able to dodge the bullets and beat these dudes. I didn't find it very believable thing to occur nor did it seem badass. As a matter a fact, it felt highly irrelevant and did a poor job demonstrating the "powers" and effects of XM seen in the series. The outcome could have as well been explained with plot-armor and the scene would have made as much sense. The driving motion in the series ends up being practically a cat and mouse play. I guess it could be worse, but "running away from the baddies" is not exactly a thing that gets all of my hype, and the cliches introduced *later* in the series are somehow even less impressive.
The dialogue is not exactly the most intellectual seen in anime, either. This is pretty good material for "weebs first anime to watch RAW" as practically the entire cast speaks anime-Japanese and their one-liners could as well be memes. It does contain some entertainment value when watched with humor, which I guess is okay, after all, it's pretty clear this show is at its best when not taken too seriously. The idea for this show is not very original, and as I stated above, its details and content, that can so often make average series high quality despite their week core ideas, are not exactly doing extraordinarily good job in terms of anything. Its writing is on thin ice, to put it kindly, and its directing, as logical and loyal to the game source material it may be, seems more fit to story-driven video game than anime. I, for one, would much rather play this story, the story of this anime as it is presented in it, than watch it like this. Were this a multiple-choice video game, I would forgive most of the errs in its writing and execution. However, this is an anime and it needs to do better to be "immersive" and believable.
Perhaps I would be more pleased if I really digged blockbuster action and were genuinely enjoying Netflix making anime of mind-numbingly mediocre action sets, but at least many live action series and movies that did highly similar things had decent banter, appeared more comical, and contained something called a budget. Budget that could make them more entertaining to view, which leads me to the next section I wanted to talk about.
CGI is the word of the day. Especially the character movements look awkward, cheap and relatively lame. Or at the very least require some time to get used to, if we are putting it as kindly as the Japanese-named main character would. This level of animation is only borderline passable in today's industry. I can somewhat understand cheap animation in, let's say, slice of life shows, but when an action-oriented series chooses this path, it can be taken as disrespect towards the audience, and that's what I am calling it, because I am not as nice as the Makoto dude.
To say one positive thing regarding the animation, at least the fps (frames per second) is not zero-effort stuff, but, on the other hand, 29fps "cheapness" is still cheap: one can make just about any shitty game run on higher frame rate, but it really doesn't save the outcome. One other thing I kind of liked, art-wise, was the use of colors in night time. Especially dark shadows and alleys and buildings during nighttime did some good job on capturing some atmosphere with the OST. Some of the more heavy contrast artwork, especially during XM scenes, and the use of different colored lights could even be called pretty to look at.
Sounds-wise, the industry rarely does anything noteworthy in series that are below/approximately reaching the common mediocrity levels, but here Ingress differs a bit. For one, the soundtrack almost makes the series worth of watching, or at least listening to. The opening song is something that would not be expected of anime, and the ed is so damn catchy it instantly found a place in my playlist. Both of them are also English vocal songs by English vocalist. The generic yet efficient tension/action BGM all are of respectable quality, respectable as in they do not feel like an insult towards better series. Unarguably doing their job in the way the can be and is expected. The voice acting kind of just is there, but considering the nature of the series, it is clearly the best thing to achieve: when the seiyuu work doesn't stand out, you're doing it right. Very fitting choices, never felt out of place, or anything like that.
To quickly conclude this review:
Ingress surely isn't offensively bad. Perhaps on a more generous day and with more ironic/casual viewing I could even say it is even fine piece to watch. As it is, my expectations were at least surpassed and I can call Ingress and average series: it certainly is better than the other two shows, B the Beginning and AICO.
Numbers aren't typically my thing, but here are some references for once,
Story 3/10 If there is anything impressive about it, it's how generic it managed to feel.
Characters 5/10 With my experience, I would say this is the most common quality level of characters seen in anime.
Art 5/10 The good and bad sides kinda balance it out to the starting point of average.
Sounds 7/10 Some impressive scores and fitting seiyuu work.
Enjoyment 7/10 I am still uncertain why the show managed to be so highly entertaining.
Overall 5/10 About half of all shows I have seen are pretty much as good as Ingress.