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13 home / october 2002 / reviews Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

Brain Powered Vol.2: Family Feuds
2 Bilingual DVDs
225 minutes
Bandai Entertainment
Wow Wow
Bandai Visual
The second volume in this emotionally charged series remains entertaining enough to watch all nine episodes in one loooooooong sitting. Arm yourself with snacks, first!
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Brain Powered Vol.2: Family Feuds
By Patrick King

Things begin to fall apart in this volume of Brain Powered as Orphan begins to rise to the ocean's surface, causing tidal waves to drown countless humans. This destructive side-effect of Orphan's activity helps Isami Yuu to make a decision over whether he should stay on the Novis Noah or return to his parents and sister within Orphan. For the giant robot lovers out there, rest assured, for more information about the Brain Powereds and Grand Chers is divulged, as well. Meanwhile, Hime - the primary female protagonist - starts to come to terms with her attraction to Yuu just as everything becomes more chaotic. I'm glad there are nine episodes in this set, because I wouldn't want to wait for some of these cliffhangers to be resolved...

As the show's director, Tomino Yoshiyuki, suggests in his interview (an extra on the second DVD), this mecha anime differs from many others by taking a far more feminine approach to the genre. The themes of motherhood and femininity appear regularly throughout the show, and female characters play a prominent role in the story. The plot focuses more on inter-character relationships, romance, and drama rather than action. That isn't to say that there is no action in Brain Powered, quite the contrary. However, it's simply not as important as scenes of characters talking with one another. Personally, I feel that strong characters are the key to a good show, for action and style are easy to reproduce while substance becomes harder to create. This isn't quite shoujo (girls' anime), but neither is it a manly explosion-fest, either. I'd say it's a commendable compromise between the two.

When characters begin to wonder about the good of the planet and what the right thing to do is in a situation, the show can get a little heavy handed with its philosophy, but it's all part of its style. To some, it may seem like the episodes are overly preachy, as if each part of the story is a fable with its own moral. It doesn't bother me much, though, since I tend to agree with most of the ideas presented.

Produced originally in 1999, this show looks very clean and bright. Character designs are a bit cartoonish in that they are all too perfect. Once again, this is a problem that some viewers may have that doesn't bother me at all. There aren't any instances of super-deformed characters or over-exaggerated outbursts, but everything is too clean to come close to realism. That said, there are some really good-looking characters in this show, and apparently the creators agree, since the entire opening theme depicts the main female characters floating around in the nude. The box warns of "animated nudity," and that's what it's talking about; there are no other instances of nudity. At first all the Brains and Grand Chers looked the same to me, but as the episodes advanced, I slowly became able to discern differences between the bio-mechanical beings. They may be slightly simple in design, but they make up for it in personality as time goes by. The visual side of things, while pretty, are quite possibly the least impressive aspect of the show. But that's simply due to the strength of the story and excellence of the music.

The reason for the music's high quality would have to be Yoko Kanno's compositions. For those of you 'Fringers who haven't heard of her, she's the musical mastermind behind the Cowboy Bebop, Macross, and Escaflowne soundtracks. Her dramatic score stands out during the frequently tense moments of the show, making scenes even more heart-wrenching at times.

Voice acting on the Japanese language track is also very good, with a lot of characters possessing unique-sounding voices. Drama is conveyed without getting corny, and the voices all match the personalities well. I'd have to say that the dub isn't one of the finest I've heard, not really due to the sound of the performers' voices so much as the speed and rhythm in which lines are delivered. It seems that each actor or actress speaks slower than normal, essentially removing any chance of containing an inflection hinting at emotion. I've said this before: it might be the fault of the dubbing software used to synch words with lips. I've heard good dubs produced by Ocean Studios before, but this isn't one of them. However it was produced, it doesn't sound convincing. Luckily the original language version is there to save us...

There are a few worthy extras included on the disc, such as karaoke versions of the opening and ending theme, an interview with Yoko Kanno and Yoshiyuki Tomino, a production art gallery, and a few old previews. The art gallery is full of a number of pictures, but the images are surrounded by a huge (and unattractive) border, taking up room that could've been used to show a larger picture. The interview is all text, and it is also unreasonably smaller than it needs to be unless you have a 60" TV or you're sitting three inches away from a smaller display. It's incredibly hard to read even on my girlfriend's 19" TV from about four feet away, and my eyesight is not too shabby. When text is involved, it doesn't hurt to make it contain more pages and be larger rather than hope everyone owns an HDTV or a DVD player with a zoom feature.

In summary, Brain Powered remains a worthy addition to any otaku's anime collection so long as you're willing to accept a story in the place of mindless metal-on-metal action. This isn't a snoozer of a slow-moving thinking person's show, but it's not a testosterone extravaganza, either. Rather it's an excellent balance of the male and female sides of things that should adequately sate the viewing needs of you and your significant other. Each volume is pricey, but you get nine episodes for the higher cost and a better value in the end. Overall, Brain Powered comes highly recommended.

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