Friday, February 07, 2014
Well, it came that usual time where me and my friend Rasean were looking for another anime we could watch together on Xbox Live in between our bouts of fighting game madness. After trying out several series, we decided on Outbreak Company because the first episode was pretty humorous and delightful, it was promising and made you curious as to where this plot would end up.
After finally buckling down from Xbox long enough to finish this 13 episode series, we finished it (A bit late, but better to have finished than not at all, right?) In this review for the anime of "Outbreak Company", I will be deciding on whether or not this series about a company's ambition to submit a new world to otaku culture is worth the time to watch. Go ahead and hit the jump to catch for the full review!
[ What is "Outbreak Company" about? ]
|Empress Petralka Anne Eldant III|
It seems the company has found a portal to another world, one where magic exists and things work very differently than the world he knows. He soon finds that he is tasked with spreading the influence of Japan's otaku culture to the populace of the Eldant Empire, which is ruled by the 16-year-old Petralka Anne Eldant III, to create an entertainment monopoly.
The problems with being in a foreign land, dealing with their people and ways of life, teaching otaku culture, and Shinichi acting on what he thinks is best regardless of AmuTec's interests sums up "Outbreak Company".
[ Story/Plot Review & Impressions ]
|Shichi Kanou teaching a class at a school built by AmuTec to teach the residents of Eldant otaku culture.|
The plot of this story is unique to most anime in the fact that it does not revolve around a love interest (Though there are obviously some love elements present) or even a world changing event that must be averted or prevented, but rather an otaku attempting to do an uncanny job within a foreign world. I think that this series is very fresh in the fact that it does not have the normally serious, dire feel that a lot of animes have; rather it was very light-hearted and silly, filled with regular nods to geek culture's popular themes and tropes.
Starting off, they establish everything very well. Immediately we know who Shinichi is, why he is looking for a job, and exactly what he is going to be doing within the very first episode. Also, we find out why the company was searching for someone with strong knowledge based in otaku culture and their plans on its use within this new world they have discovered. Moreover, throughout the story they tell us the the laws of the land and the type of influence and power that the monarchy has over Eldant. As far as the main parts of the story, I feel the pacing is right around where it should be, not enough serious parts to tire you out, but not enough silly and humorous parts where you feel things are woefully unnecessary, it is a very nice blend of both worlds creating a delightful journey for the viewer to enjoy.
Shinichi meets a slew of interesting characters that help push the story along, and seeing how they react to japanese culture and how they accept and interpret it is what makes this series so great. The integration of anime, gaming, and manga culture and its intricacies to a foreign land that has primitive technology (Even if they are magical in nature) sounds like it would be difficult; no way to know what the other is saying, no idea what any of the character tropes or local slang and gestures mean, and even the perception once all these things are actually taught (Also, before you ask, the reason Shinichi is able to understand the residents of Eldant is through magical rings which automatically translate languages when people speak to each other in different tongues). To my surprise, this series does a very good job of explaining how it actually brings about the knowledge of our world to this new one. Bravo.
Something I also like is how it gives a new look at how you can technically "invade" a place by more than just hostile force. By making someone dependent on you and what you can provide leaves them without any alternatives and FORCES them to do what you want to gain more of it. I feel that this harsh truth can be applied to more than just this anime, such as how people often deal with others in their day-to-day lives by growing dependent on something that is not yours to begin with; not to mention to question people's motives because hardly anyone does anything for the sake of being kind.
The problem I do have with this series is that it was very predictable about what would happen from the very beginning. Aside from one very grueling surprise within the beginning episodes, I do not feel like we are caught off guard with too much of anything from a story progression perspective, hardly spontaneous happenings of significant importance. We occasionally are presented with random events and unexpected use of otaku knowledge, but no real plot twists or unpredictability exists; this makes things rather boring sometimes. Also, I have no idea an Empire that would allow a foreign world to visit them without at least visiting them in return (I get that they lied and said that the inhabitants of Eldant would not be able to breath on Earth, but why blindly trust? Why not at least test it and see if ANY of the species would be able to? Did not make any sense to me, especially if you are allowing them to influence your culture). I understand they want to monopolize the market and maybe rise within Eldant by selling manga, but how would that help in the long run?
Another thing is we do not really know what happens going into the future. The end presents a predicament where I feel it is a stalemate for both sides with Shinichi right dab in the middle, it is acceptable but does not feel like a TRUE ending. I feel the last few episodes would have been better spent working on a more satisfying ending with a bigger conclusion, I feel this would have given it a serious conclusion without the feel of a rather unsatisfactory conclusion.
[ Character Development & Impressions ]
|Elbia Hanaiman, my favorite character.|
Outbreak Company has a slew of characters from a variety of different races and backgrounds; such as Elves, Dwarves, Lizardmen, Human, etc. They have a system reminiscent of the olden days of humanity where people were assigned certain roles and worth based on social status, where if you were born of a certain heritage you were either inferior or granted the birthrights to nobility. In fact, all of them seem to have accepted their roles in life, be it that half-elves are an abomination and of the lowest rank, be it that lizardmen are nothing more than servants and tools for war, or even that humans are deserving to rule because of their assumed thought superiority. This is where the main development of Outbreak Company takes place.
You are actually able to see characters change and evolve as the story continues to take place and Shinichi's thoughts of equality and ideals are adopted by the people of the Eldant Empire. Bias and segregation slowly become outlandish and barriers are broken down in the thinking of many people; in fact, it is something typical of racial relations in the United States between whites and minorities during the 1900's, where equal treatment was not enforced by the government because it was seen as the norm. The fact that no one besides nobility really knew how to read and were forced to join the army at an early age proved just how insane this world's laws were for its people, and how little understanding they had of each other. However, it is not long before they soon seem outlandish because of realizations coming to light. Through the teachings of otaku culture, as well as some very threatening life changing events, the hearts of those in charge began to change as everyone was seen as important in their own right instead of worthless and intolerable.
|Romilda, a female dwarf, raising her hand to ask a question. Guy behind her is only 10-years-old.|
Something else about the characters is how unique they made everyone in accordance to their talents and efforts. Elbia was proficient at drawing and was very animalistic in her behavior and cravings, Dwarves were short and extraordinarily strong (Not to mention their men looked old fast while the women looked very young), Elves possessed magical abilities, etc. These unique assets made you intrigued as to what everyone was capable of doing and made the crumbling of the social barriers surrounding them even better. You come to love the charm of each type of person that they introduced (Except the Lizardmen for me, reminded me too much of my most hated character from the Soul Calibur game series).
|Half-Elf Myucel Foaran teaching.|
Something I did not quite like was that they never solidified any relationships pertaining Shinichi and the females that they introduced. You can tell from the introduction of so many women that this was going to be a "harem" based anime, but that is never good to me without a connection to at least one girl that is long lasting (Which is one reason I hated "Oreimo" with such a passion by its ending). We already know that some of the girls have a mild interest in him, but rather than choosing one (And it is obvious who he really likes), he does not make any choices and kind of tries to fit everyone's schedule and needs of him (While ignoring some obvious feelings by someone else). I feel this tension could have added another element where we could truly see some catastrophic occurrences.
Overall, the characters reactions to certain otaku elements, their cute natures (It was mostly women that were introduced, except the other two male characters Jinzaburou Matoba and Garius En Cordbal), and the evolution of their mannerisms and thought processes is the main attraction of Outbreak Company. They do a good job of outlying everyone's roles and the reasons that their attitudes change the way they do. I am also impressed by the brief synopsis given of each characters and their lives up to the point Shinichi meets them (Including the life of Shinichi himself). You get tangled up wondering how they will express themselves next and what situation they will land themselves into, this helps to take away from he lackluster plot and failure to provide any excitement or unpredictability in terms of plot twists.
[ Other Mentions ]
|Elbia Anne Eldant III, Shinichi Kanou, and Myucel Foaran reading a manga.|
There were lots of little hints here and there about different things. From stand-up cut outs that resembled Hatsune Miku to manga that resembled Shingeki no Kyojin; they were little things packed into this anime that made me laugh out loud. The fact that they tried to bring in things that resembled items in the real world was pretty funny (However, Oriemo did that as well in a few episodes, so it seems to be a common thing). The movie that they were filming also copied the scenes from a few anime in the real world, so they were trying to honor anime in their own way.
Something I was disappointed to see was no gaming tournaments. With them playing on various consoles and handhelds, I would have loved to see them go at it on a fighting game of some sort where the winning side got a special prize (They could have even split into teams, kind of like they did with the soccer game). While I know this is more of an opinion than anything else, I feel it could have even possibly replaced the soccer match (Not going to lie, it was one of the most enjoyable scenes in this anime) because a gaming tournament represents a lot of gaming culture in today's current world (e-sports and all).
The last thing I want to mention is about the ecchi elements. The characters themselves are pretty young looking by the drawings, and Elbia herself is merely 16-years-old; so I had mixed feelings about a lot of the ecchi scenes that were shown here. It is a different between having a "lolli" that is grown-up and appears young (Such as Evangeline A.K. McDowell from "Negima! Magister Negi Magi") versus someone who is actually a young girl; especially when you have old men deciding her swimsuit and it is hinted at the standard issued Japanese swim uniform, just all kinds of wrong fetishes. I wish they would have made her official age older to avoid any guilt.
|Profile for Elbia Hanaiman|
Another thing I really liked was how they gave little brief looks at characters between the commercial breaks. They would pretty much tell you things pertaining to that individual, such as their favorite anime character. These were delightful little looks at their preferences. They showed you two per episode, and I believed this helped to present life and depth to the cast.
Last but not least is the coloring. While I am not too much of a fan of the art style that is used, the coloring is simply sublime. While I normally am more of a fan of heavy contrasts, I feel they do an excellent job of presenting an air of light-heartedness to their characters and environment by the coloring alone. In fact, this type of light-hearted coloring reminds me a lot of Kyoukai no Kanata. This just may become my favorite style of coloring if they happen to keep this up.
[ The Verdict ]
|At the beach! From left-to-right: Myucel, Minori, Shinichi, and Elbia.|
YES! WATCH THIS SERIES!
STRENGTHS - Lovable characters, Good character development, A look at the positives of otaku culture.
WEAKNESSES - Ending is unsatisfactory, No advancement of any romantic relationship, Logic regarding plot is somewhat flawed.
Regardless of if Outbreak Company had some flaws in its logic, unsatisfactory ending, and no resolution of its romantic relationship teases, I feel it is a good series. Anyone who watches this series however, should probably be well versed in otaku culture beforehand to understand some of the subtle references it gives towards the geek computer. In all honesty, I feel that if I did not know a lot of the things that I did I would have still enjoyed this series, but not nearly as much as I had; but I feel it can also teach those who do not know, which is a plus.
The characters proved to be magnificent in how their depth and evolution over the course of the series was explained, and some things you hated at the beginning were created lovable by the end. Reactions towards even the most basic of things were enjoyed, and the residents of Eldant's utilization of what they had learned from Shinichi was played out before our eyes in hilarious fashion. Even though the ending was not satisfactory, we did feel good nonetheless and the fact that I am left wanting more only proves how good it actually was. So hats off for being a fun series, I really enjoyed myself.
I hope you all enjoyed my review for Outbreak Company! Thanks for reading!