Too often in anime you’re watching a well animated sequence — the lights, the smoke, the action, the tension… Then all of a sudden they throw a cultural faux pas curve ball that sounds so silly it will make you giggle like a 13-year-old school girl. And that’s exactly what happened here, although with a title like Buddy Complex, you saw it from a mile away. Despite how much some anime earnestly try to be good, they are almost defined by the writer’s bad taste, like how Jim Carrey will always be associated with the most annoying sound in the world. Whether Buddy Complex comes to dispose of its dirty laundry remains to be seen, but I’m not holding my breath. I think it will just be the next in a long line, a descendant of Vividred Operation’s docking and Star Driver’s Galactic Pretty Boy. Will Buddy Complex come down to these 22 seconds?.
To give Buddy Complex a fair shake, let’s rewind to the beginning: we see a humanoid robot sucked into a wormhole and end up in a different time-space, very reminiscent of the intro sequence from Suisei no Gargantia. Then the main character, Watase Aoba, is strangely introduced by his sister addressing him by his full name, and this will be a recurring trend. Watase Aoba is a high school student, a basketball ace, and he’s about to be pulled into an alternate reality by a mysterious girl. Honestly, we’ve seen this plot device a bazillion times and it’s become one of those things in anime that we just have to accept, like why does Rock ‘n’ Roll always have that same rhythm? It just does.
But where Buddy Complex succeeds is, if you could take your mind off the plot for a moment and focus on the in-betweens, there’s beautiful animation, well-placed CGI effects and directorial techniques that give it a sense of urgency and immediacy that many anime shows overlook. Chase sequences mimic a shaky handheld giving life to explosions and robot dynamics, and characters are often running towards the screen from our vantage while dust and debris fly. Motion blur gives us sense of acceleration. These are techniques that pull us into the fray so that we are so enamored with all the energy that we lose track of the details — this is what makes Michael Bay movies forgivable and more anime should learn from it if they don’t want to take the pains of writing original scripts.
With plots like these, episode 2 is when it really starts. The main character is whisked away into this fantasy land like fish out of the water as he tries to deal with the unfamiliar situation in front of him. Aside from Inuyasha if I correctly recall, most stories of this stripe conveniently forget about the real world — what happens to his parents? Etc. Episode 2 is also where the supporting characters are revealed. I had a feeling of déjà vu throughout this episode, and it’s not because of the plot, which is thus far cliched as we’ve already established. But in a different way, I felt that I’ve seen something before, that this episode reminded me of something. It took about a minute to reach that “ah-ha!”. Gundam Seed! I mean the characters aren’t an artistic pixel-for-pixel rip-off, but the character archetypes between the two shows are so similar — the role they play and their general looks. Are they too inspired by Gundam, or am I just grasping at straws?
I don’t have high expectations for this one but the technical direction just about offsets the generic plot. There is potential in the plot, of course, from a sci-fi time-travel angle, but given what I’ve seen so far, I am just sure that I will not be seeing any romantic twists of Aoba trying to save Hina like Steins;Gate or Noein meets Gundam SEED. This show, I speculate, is more about feasting your eyes on spectacular light shows than about the political intrigue of a real Gundam show or anything complex. The OP is Eurobeat like Gundam OP’s, shows the main character standing in ruins like Gundam OP’s. And I’m sure there will be a shallow shounen-style romance stuffed in here somewhere, but the tone of the show does not indicate even an ounce of darkness or feels. I expect that the show will hover around mediocrity.