Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dual!

Trouble indeed for Dual!.

This one is strictly for the fans of anime. There's not a lot of crossover appeal along the lines of Ghost In The Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion [Evangelion] or Patlabor. Inspired to devour all robot anime following my look at Evangelion I was led to this production. Having a working knowledge of Evangelion will give you perspective on this entry. One would be left to conclude, 'You my friend are no Evangelion' despite efforts to borrow from it.


The creative team/ studio [AIC] behind Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure [Dual!] [1999] serves up a half-hearted robot anime that just doesn’t pack the mechanized punch of a cerebral classic like Evangelion. It’s undeniably missing the inventive teeth needed to rise above the lot of average robot anime.

Conceptually it has the trappings to be special, but winds up a half-baked, Evangelion-lite entertainment minus most of the thought-provoking infusion from a mind like Hideaki Anno and the thinktank that is Gainax. There is little reservation about the intention here. Creator Masaki Kajishima [Tenchi Muyo!] and AIC sought to capitalize on the success of the Studio Gainax mega-hit, though Kajishima has assured Dual! is an extension of Tenchi Muyo!. There are a lot of imperatives going on here. It delivers many of the key ingredients: three robots, teen pilots, a lead male protagonist, urban combat and so on. Though I suppose that serves as a bare bones description for many of the mecha-driven exercises in anime.

Dual!, like many projects, lacks bite. It lacks originality. It lacks ingenuity. There is rarely an original hydraulic piston in its over sized mecha suit to be found. The idea of a dual universe is a good one, but hardly a new concept. The mirror universe or alternate universe concept is as tried and true a plot device as man stranded on a desert island, but it lacks the much required imagination needed to make it fresh and original. There is cel by cel envy for a whole host of productions that have preceded it. Dual! is just too damn generic and anemic for its own good. It’s hard to get jazzed about this anime when frame for frame, character for character, there's a sense of déjà vu.

It sorely lacks the richness of story and character necessary for an anime series to succeed and have the lasting impact of an Evangelion.

Personally, for me, Evangelion is like the Holy Grail of anime and the teen/ robot concept. There are some that have come closer. Studio Bones' Rahxephon comes to mind as a case in point with its original handling of robot protector against invading creatures. There is a finesse and aplomb to the story backed by a heap load of animation talent from Bones.

Kazuki Yotsuka versus Evangelion's Shinji Ikari. The images speak volumes about the character. Dual! begins with an object of alien origin. It is recovered at an excavation dig and from that moment forward a schism occurs in the space-time continuum and dual universes persist moving forward with alternate and very different realities. One existence looks much like Earth, while the other looks very much like [cough] Evangelion. Grand, new technologies have been cultivated as a result of this mysterious artifact. The key protagonist, Kazuki Yotsuka [Dual!'s very own awkward Shinji Ikari of Evangelion], is the sole unique entity. He alone somehow exists without a living, breathing copy on the other side.

In time, he begins having disturbing visions of giant mecha battling in the streets outside his classroom windows. No one else can see. He alone is graced with a clairvoyant-like gift capable of witnessing a parallel dimension. Meanwhile, Professor Ken Sanada believes an alternate universe exists. His mission is to prove that theory true. Sanada’s beautiful daughter, Mitsuki [Dual!'s version of Asuka Langley Sohryu of Evangelion], ultimately brings her father and Kazuki together. Professor Sanada introduces Kazuki to the equipment he has built. It can teleport an individual to this dual Earth universe.

As you might expect, Katzuki ends up in the parallel, troubled misadventure. It is there he meets the alternate cast of characters from his own world. They all behave quite differently with personalities opposite their other Earth selves.

Instead of being the crazy Earth loon, Sanada is actually respected and supported by the UN who has funded the creation of an Earth Defense Command [EDC]. Does that sound like NERV?. The organization’s sole assignment is to stop the evil Rara. The series is sprinkled with a kind of silly humor and Rara is a lot more ridiculous and wacky than he is evil. In fact, his wife appears to wear the pants in the family. Mitsuki has also made her way to this new universe where she meets her rather unpleasant counterpart. She and Katzuki, it is determined, are quite adept of becoming pilots for the EDC. There's that young, gifted pilot plot device. Katzuki pilots Zinv, by far and away the coolest and best crafted and designed robot unit of the bunch, but certainly no Eva-01. The two partners also meet D [Dual!'s version of Rei Ayanami of Evangelion with a defect... er, make that more defects], a cool, emotionless female bioroid, from yet another lost time and race, with a strange gaping hole in her face where her eyeball should be. The hole is obstructed from view by an overlap of bright radioactive green hair. Brace yourself! The characters even live together. Where’s Evangelion's Pen Pen when you need him? Well, at least names were changed to protect the innocent victims from which this series was plagiarized.

One small relief is this is a mere twelve episodes rather than a provocative twenty-six like Evangelion. Dual! certainly steers clear of the confounding conclusions of the classic Evangelion. Those looking for some light mecha entertainment could do worse even if it borders on the familiar.

So does anything work for Dual!? The English dub provided is good. The animation is serviceable, but not extraordinary. Still, Production I.G. and Gonzo Digimation have no worries. Despite the vivid colors, the digital animation lacks warmth and gives the whole production a sanitary, cookie-cutter feel and sterile look.

The undeniably sleek and original design of Evangelion's Eva-01. Some of the robot skirmishes and cockpit scenarios are solid. Gunparade March is a stronger example of a work that built upon existing tropes and expectations with an interesting look. Zinv is the best-designed mechanized giant here. Overall, the designs are not particularly impressive. Again, Evangelion is at the pinnacle of memorable, distinct mech and character designs thanks to Ikuto Yamashita and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto respectively. These men have offered true vision and talent.

This image is a stark reminder of the battle between Eva-01 and the third Angel in the first two episodes of Evangelion. The final creations here look as if someone fell asleep at the sketching desk during the design stage. The fierce Eva Units have nothing to fear. Even when everything is working, the lack of artful, skilled animators combined with the weak execution of a weak script just cannot deliver the goods.

Having said all of this, Dual! offers light, fair entertainment to the anime aficionado. While I am a detractor of the series, some otaku enthusiasts have found the light mood and less serious tone in Dual!, quite agreeable, approachable, acceptable, and even refreshing. The series has even garnered a sizable fan base. Where Evangelion has the potential to damage the more mature, adult mind, Dual! is more accessible for those seeking less complex fare. More mature otaku sensibilities should look elsewhere.

When it comes to television, animation or film, I'm all about character and Dual! never substantially develops its characters. I hate to fall back on Evangelion, but Dual! forces the comparisons. Evangelion is chock full of touching, unexpected, deep character moments that gradually builds upon old information or foreshadow new information. It is a complicated weave of character building. Dual! simply doesn't offer that.

It’s one thing to draw contrasts and comparisons between an anime series like Samurai 7 and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. There’s a reason for the discussion. Samurai 7 offers an intentional reinterpretation. It’s a re-imagining of a classic. A debate is inevitable. Homage, tribute or shameless copy? These things are fair game. Should we be having the discussion on Dual! and Evangelion? Probably not. Dual! is nothing more than a pale imitation of much better productions on the market. It is an unabashed clone of far superior works. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery and in some cases that is absolutely true. George Lucas paid considerable tribute to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai using its influence for Star Wars, but did so within the framework of a space opera and fresh new ideas. As box office history would prove, that's flattery!. Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure turns out to be a lifeless copy for the mind.

I don't want to discount the hard work the creators put into these projects, because they do. Further, I'm a firm believer in supporting these productions and paying proper royalties to the artists involved. And if you enjoy robot anime, Dual! may not rank among the classics, but you could do worse. There's enough visual evidence here to glean what you'll find in that cockpit. Dual! is simply not an Earth-shattering event on originality. Perhaps in another universe it could have been a stronger adventure thus the quest to digest and pursue quality anime continues.

Dual!: C-

Studio: AIC [Anime International Co., Inc.]/ Director: Katsuhito Akiyama/ Producer: Kazuaki Morijiri/ Animator: Atsushi Okuda/ Character Designs: Atsushi Okuda/ Mechanical Designs: Kenji Teraoka/ Character Designs: Masaki Kajishima/ Script: Yousuke Kuroda/ Hideki Shirane.

2 comments:

le0pard13 said...

Fine piece on anime, as usual, SFF. Love the screen caps that accompany them. Thanks.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you good sir.