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Review: Zetman

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Justice isn't always about sunshine and rainbows

Even though I’m the guy at Japanator that watches toku shows, my experience with superhero stories in general is below average. While I’ve kept up with many of the cartoons and films that are based off of DC and Marvel’s characters, I never got around to reading the original comic books that many people grew up with.

Based on my limited experience with the genre, I find the heroes' inner struggles to be one of the most interesting things about their adventures. Since Zetman focuses on two heroes, whose backstories and moral values differ from one another, the premise of this show is right up my alley-- the question was whether or not it could deliver on its promise.

Battling evildoers is a serious occupation, so let's find out if Zetman's main characters have what it takes to become true champions of justice.

Zetman: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Licensed by: VIZ Media
Release Date: 11/5/2013
MSRP: $54.97

Adapted from a manga by Masakazu Katsura, Zetman tells the story of Jin, a homeless kid who's lived his whole life with his grandfather. Despite Jin's current living conditions, the boy's determination to help others knows no bounds-- as long as you're willing to pay him, of course. Not only that, but he’s buddies with Kouga, who happens to be the son of the man in charge of the powerful Amagi Corporation. Early on, a monster kills Jin's grandfather, and the young child is left with nowhere else to go. Luckily, Jin's good deeds are rewarded when a woman that he rescued decides to take him in.

After Jin gets placed into a new home, we fast-forward to a point in time where both friends get ready to face the Players: a group of monsters that have hidden themselves within society for quite some time. Once Jin’s dormant powers awaken, the two protagonists end up walking the path to justice. However, Jin and Kouga start to realize that their world isn’t black and white.

While Zetman’s story focuses on Jin and Kouga's battle against the Players, there's more going on here. The show depicts struggles between the rich and poor, illustrated in part by the views of Amagi Corporation’s president. On top of that, the people providing Jin's supplies plan to use him as a tool for their own benefit. Aside from Jin’s situation, Kouga faces the pressures that come with being part of a rich family. In fact, Kouga is forced into many messed-up scenarios where he has to think on the fly; otherwise, he’ll have to live with the lingering guilt of letting innocent people die. To an extent, you could say that Zetman is made up of different shades of gray, since the human characters can be as twisted as the monsters themselves.

Despite these strong points, the series suffers from a few pacing issues. Due to the staff’s decision to adapt Zetman's story into a 13-episode series, most of the plot feels rushed. Characters end up changing their views without any proper development, and it's hard to care about the people outside of the main duo. Thankfully, Jin and Kouga manage to keep the show interesting, since there's never a dull moment when they're around.

Art-wise, Zetman’s staff does a decent job in converting Katsura’s illustrations into animation, since the designs capture the artist's realistic style. While the composition isn’t on the same level as Sunrise’s Tiger & Bunny series, another series that features Katsura’s artwork, I felt that Zetman’s look went well with the anime's themes.

Aside from the human characters, Jin’s Zetman form, Kouga’s Alphas suit, and the Players give off a nice superhero/tokusatsu series vibe. In fact, Zetman and Alphas’ designs remind me of Devilman’s titular hero and Kamen Rider Ixa from Kamen Rider Kiva. Meanwhile, the Players look like they came from a Showa-era toku show or a classic superhero comic, with their old-school style.

From what I’ve watched of Zetman’s English dub, the voice acting was average at best. While NYAV Post has a great track record with shows like Giant Robo the Animation, The Venture Brothers and GaoGaiGar, their issue might’ve been with the voice actors that they chose for the series. Personally, I found the original Japanese track to be the superior choice of audio this time around. Since Daisuke Namikawa (Waver from Fate/Zero) and Mamoru Miyano (Light Yagami from Death Note) were voicing Jin and Kouga, I couldn't help but go with Zetman’s original recording.

Interestingly, Zetman comes with an interview with original creator Masakazu Katsura from NYCC. Sadly, the feature is short, since Katsura only answered a small amount of questions. However, Katsura reveals that the anime’s staff chose to adapt different chapters from the manga that they believed would fit well with the anime's original story; unfortunately, the way they structured the series resulted in Zetman’s strange pacing.

At the end of the day, Zetman isn't breaking any new ground within the superhero genre; however, Jin and Kouga's conflict made way for an intriguing story that prompts the viewer to question both characters' reasons for fighting crime. As long as you can tolerate the show's weird pacing, you'll be in for a fun ride. Otherwise, Katsura's original manga might be a better starting point for newcomers, since the story flows better in that format.

7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them. 

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Zetman reviewed by Salvador G Rodiles

 

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Salvador G Rodiles
Salvador G RodilesSenior Editor   gamer profile

Salvador's an average bystander who took his first steps towards a life-changing goal. During his journey, he's devising a way to balance his time with anime, manga, video games, and tokusatsu in... more + disclosures


 


 


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