You know you’re a miserable, directionless mess when completing another stage of Tetris Plus is the highlight of your day.
I watched the entirety of Saber Marionette J back in July – that’s three series, about 57 episodes in total. It had its ups and downs (some long, drawn-out, poorly-paced downs towards the end), but I quite enjoyed watching it. I enjoyed it so much that I’d made plans to cover it for Random Action Hour, and wrote up pages for the first four episodes… and then kind of lost the energy and motivation to keep it up. They’ve been kicking about for three months now, so I figure I might as well make them public. I wouldn’t count on seeing any more episodes in the foreseeable future, mind you.
Personal tangent time! I’ve no idea what exactly led me to discovering Saber Marionette J – all I know is that I was introduced to it by the plethora of fansites and character shrines dedicated to it in the Geocities age of the internet. The type where it was basically one person love-gushing about it, and then splurging all the images and videos they’d collected onto various pages, dotting ^_^s around hither and thither. Back then, pages like that were charming!
I watched those few RealMedia video clips way too many times, because it was the closest one could get to watching the series for a resident of a small European-ish country. It’s almost unsettling finally watching the episodes over a decade later, and then one of the scenes you’d watched years ago would occur. And you knew exactly how the scene would play out, line for line. In Japanese. It’s one part nostalgic and one part “holy crap, my childhood was dorky as all hell.”
The first Saber Marionette J was a good watch; the 25 episodes are paced quite nicely, with enough focus on characters, settings and the overarching storyline to cover all the bases. It’s got action, it’s got slice of life, and it’s got an episode where a character learns about love, loss and mortality through a squirrel. Oh, and the fact it wraps up all its loose ends quite well in a bittersweet fashion is worth commending. So of course they had to continue it with a six-episode OVA series!
Saber Marionette J Again was pretty freakin’ dire. It begins as horrible, fanservicey fluff that struggled to fill its half hour runtime, and turned into a crummy, poorly-explained end-of-the-world threat. Seriously, its first few episodes were really unwatchable, but by the time it becomes vaguely interesting the pacing has barely improved – large chunks of episodes are filled with padding where nothing important (or interesting) happens. On the bright side, the artwork is pretty slick and colourful, having aged well thanks to the digital animation.
J To X is a mixed bag, and the root of the problem is that there’s no series-spanning overarching storyline. That’s why the first series worked so well for me – everything actually tied together one way or another, and the 25 episodes felt like a coherent story, with a beginning, middle and end. This series fluffs around for the first ten episodes, hastily throws in a plot featuring a former bad guy becoming a bad guy again, and then wraps it up with barely any notice. It starts a brand new plot immediately after, but so little is explained in each episode, not to mention all the cast are either struck with amnesia or trying to find each other that it turns into a miserable shaggy dog story. It does pick up once that’s rectified, but then the series’ conclusion is just so embarrassingly sappy that it ends up making you go “aw, jeez, why’d I even watch this in the first place?”
… okay, not quite, but the final two episodes really are so sappy bloo-bloo that it hurts.
For saying I like the series, I do rant about it, don’t I? (isn’t that what anime fans are meant to do anyway?)
Of course, when I summarise stuff I always end up focusing on the negative bits. I was looking forward to covering the series, but as of this writing I just don’t have the energy for that kind of stuff. We’ll just see what happens.