Review for Needless - Part 2
It’s only been a month since the release of the first half of Needless. On the bright side, it means that the show is still fresh in my mind, and there’s no need to quickly revisit the first half to get reacquainted with the characters and the story. On the other hand it means that there hasn’t been enough time for me to have to go back and reappraise the show. The first part of Needless certainly left me with doubts. It began solidly enough, appearing to be a parody of the usual shonen tropes, taking those clichés to such an extreme level that it looked to transcend its genre, but for the latter half of that collection, rather than parody the genre, it settled into embodying it instead, with a lengthy, multi-episode spanning fight sequence. With the advent of the second half of the series, I’m hoping that it manages to find that early charm once more.
Fifty years after World War 3, the centre of Tokyo is a no go area, a circular Black Spot in which the Needless have arisen, people with powers and abilities, a legacy of the weapon that was unleashed during the war. These people aren’t wanted by society, hence their name, and why they are confined to the Black Spot. But for some, the Needless are of great interest, which is why the Simeon Pharmaceuticals group under Adam Arklight have established their HQ right in the middle of the Black Spot. It’s why Simeon unleash their army of Testament robots in the zone, and why they for some obscure reason hunt the Needless.
When the inhabitants of the Black Spot try standing up to this tyranny, the retaliation is brutal and immediate. A young boy without any powers named Cruz manages to escape the crackdown, but only after the sacrifice of his older sister. He manages to find sanctuary in the ruins of a church, after being helped by an unconventional priest. Adam Blade’s unique power is to take on the abilities of whoever he fights, while his ally Eve has doppelganger ability. Also on their side is the scientist Gido, and together they may be able to make a stand against Simeon. The problem is that they only think Cruz is useful for keeping the church clean and making the food, and they can’t even remember his name. What’s worse is that Adam Arklight has Adam Blade in his target sights. When last we left Needless, Eve had been captured by the Simeon Corporation, and used as bait for Adam Blade. Adam and his allies walked into the trap anyway, in order to rescue her...
The concluding episodes of Needless are presented across two discs by MVM.
14. Lilith Temptation
15. Fourth Wave
16. Aruka Schild
18. Agni Schiwatas
19. Positive Feedback Zero
22. The Triple Six Committee
24. Cruz Schild
Needless started its journey in Sentai’s hands, passed to Siren Visual who gave it the PAL transfer for Australia, and then finally to MVM who bring it to us in the UK. It’s a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and it’s clear, sharp and colourful, with only the most frenetic of action sequences evidencing some compression. Sentai also gave it a Blu-ray release, but other than the lower compression and native 24 frame playback, it’s hard to tell what an HD treatment would offer this quite simplistic animation. It’s not the most detailed or complex visually, instead offering simple character and world designs, with bright primary colours, and bold outlines.
It’s a fairly run of the mill anime for the most part, sticking to the comedy conventions in its style and impact, but once in a while, especially during the action sequences, and most notably in the first episode, it will do something avant-garde, adopt a Western action comic intensity and visual aesthetic that really serves to wake the viewer up. These ‘Redline’ moments are few and far between, and Studio Madhouse really ought to have given the whole show that singular style, as it works really well with the shonen tropes and post apocalyptic nuttiness, a little 2000 AD in tone.
You get the choice between DD 2.0 English and Japanese stereo, with optional subtitles and a signs only track. This being a Siren authored disc, it presets to my preference of Japanese with subtitles, so it’s dub fans who will have to visit the audio options menu. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the subtitles are free of error and accurately timed, which is just what the comedy needs. On screen text is captioned as well with overlays, so you miss as little of the humour as possible. It’s a fairly standard stereo mix, which comes alive for the action sequences, while the dub cast provide the generic voices for the rather stereotypical characters.
I have to say that the dub, what I sampled of it anyway, really impressed me. In my experience US dubs of comedy anime really just equates to voice actors screaming at the top of their lungs, but there’s variation, characterisation, and nuance here that indicates a little more thoughtfulness, and I found the English dub as easy to enjoy as the Japanese.
The first collection of Needless was distinctly lacking in extras, but the second half makes up for that. The discs get animated menus that present their content, while the extras themselves are on disc 2.
The textless credits are here, although only the second versions. For those who may be disappointed at a lack of the yuri-laced action of the first ending, you will be placated by the short animations on this disc.
Twelve 2-minute episodes of the Secret of Saint Lilly Academy (listed on the disc as Secret of Lily) follow Cruz Schild in drag, as he infiltrates a girls’ school where most of the female cast of Needless are students, as he searches for his missing sister. As a boy who has to pretend to be a girl, situations constantly contrive to put him in the midst of naked schoolgirls, who all want him to get naked too, just to be one of the girls...
Needless Part 2 delivers just what I did not want from this show. As I said at the beginning, the show started off in a very promising way, looking to parody all those shonen action tropes that I find so tedious in shows like Bleach and Dragon Ball Z, the macho posturing, the levelling up of strengths, the succeeding against impossible odds through willpower alone, and screaming out your special fighting moves as you deliver them. Most of all, at first Needless seemed to eschew the most tedious aspects of such shows, the multi-episode spanning fight sequences, peppered liberally with flashbacks, recaps, and onlooker analysis. Shows like Dragon Ball Z could stretch 10 minutes into four hours that way, and if ever I need a cure for insomnia...
I thought Needless would avoid that on the strength of its first few episodes, but then some six or seven episodes in, Eve got captured by the Simeon corporation, and the remainder of part 1 was spent with the heroes infiltrating the Simeon Building in an effort to rescue her, and getting caught up in a episodes spanning battle in some kind of oversized training facility. I had hoped Part 2 would dispense with that, and get back to the short sharp bursts of story, but two episodes in and a new opening sequence debuts, complete with prologue announcing that our heroes are currently battling in the Simeon Building. It quickly becomes clear that this fight sequence will continue as long as the second opening sequence and its prologue stay in place, i.e. the whole of Part 2.
As you may guess, the pacing is really shot for Needless. Six episodes of dense narrative, rich character development, and comedy are followed by a story climax that is stretched over 18 episodes. That isn’t what I consider satisfying. It’s best to take Needless as two different anime shows clumsily glued together, a shonen action parody followed by a classic shonen series with comic overtones. If you can somehow forget how Needless started, then you might be able to appreciate the concluding episodes, and in particular this second collection at face value.
Lots of fighting ensues, people yelling out special moves, levelling up, all stretched out over all of the episodes in this collection, and it’s peppered with recaps and flashbacks galore. By the time episode 20 gets here, the writers realise that we still need to know what the show is actually about, so we get two episodes of history, taking us back in time to reveal what the Adam Project is all about, and how it all went so terribly wrong. For the conclusion of the sequence at Simeon, we get the obligatory twist in the tale, followed by another twist to keep us all on our toes, followed by a balls-to-the-wall, over the top, series conclusion.
Where Needless just about redeems itself, is that it keeps its sense of humour about it. While the intense parody of the opening of the series is no longer apparent, it still refuses to take itself seriously, with the characters remaining refreshingly daft, one-liners abounding, and the fourth wall exceedingly fragile. It manages to issue forth its testosterone filled clichés with enough of a knowing wink that unlike the shows that inspired it, there was never any danger of Needless putting me into the land of Nod.
Once you understand just where Needless is coming from, it proves to be entertaining enough, if wholly unmemorable, and utterly disposable. It’s silly and its fun and what makes it work is its un-PC humour. What may keep a smile on your face are the Secret of Saint Lilly Academy short animations, as they are even more un-PC than the main show, saucy, silly, and charmingly offensive.