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

Betterman Vol.2: Metamorphosis
Bilingual DVD
125 minutes
Bandai Entertainment
Somber and mysterious, the second volume of Betterman answers some of the lingering questions raised in the first while maintaining its creepiness.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Betterman Vol.2: Metamorphosis
By Patrick King

An untraceable foe, known only as Algernon, has been waging a quiet war against mankind. Akamatsu Heavy Industries, funded by a shadowy group called Mode Warp, contains some of the few people aware of this almost supernatural threat. Betterman is rife with confusing plotlines, dark imagery, and an occasional serving of humor to relieve tension, and I think I like it.

In general, it seems as if most anime series don't really expose the true conflict right at the show's inception. After all, you need a reason to keep on watching, a hook to keep you coming back. Betterman walks a dangerous line between contrived mystery and intriguing suspense. If certain plot elements don't see some resolution soon, then viewers may tire of the authors purposefully hiding information. Storywise, though, the show is interesting and the characters' personalities fill the gaps left by artistic mystique. I still want to see what comes next, so director Yonetani Toshitomo must be doing something right. This is without a doubt one of the creepiest shows I've watched in quite some time. Typically, I watch anime after I get off work, which can be rather late on certain days. Watching this show in the dark alone at night is a different experience than watching it at other times. I don't get scared easily, but Betterman's eerieness has a way of getting to me. This is entertaining, of course, I'm just not sure how solid the plot is, yet.

There are some great fights in this volume, including the conclusion of Better Man's battle against the legendary Behemoth. Two new forms of the quiet savior are also revealed, Forte and Aqua. You'll have to watch the show to see exactly how they differ from prior incarnations, though. Keita, our not-so-manly hero, grows closer to the frail but exceedingly cute Sakura in a way that appears to spark jealousy in his childhood friend, Hinoki. This volume delves deeper in each of the characters - their pasts and personalities - rather than center around the biological implications of Better Man. That's a good thing, in my book.

For a rather recently (1999) produced show, there is an odd contrast in visual quality here. The animation is smooth most of the time, but all the scenes are dark, muted, and almost fuzzy. It seems to be a purposeful choice on the part of the art directors, but it makes everything seem rather dated. Blacks aren't as deep as they should be and colors are not nearly as bright and vibrant as other shows. Some may find it adds charm and mood to the series, but others may simply wish it had the visual clarity of shows such as Zoids or Brain Powered. One plus the show has going for it in the visual department is a widescreen presentation. This isn't done too frequently for anime series, and it's a welcome break from the norm.

Just as important as the animated visuals, however, I am rather fond of the character designs. More cartoonish than other shows (with big eyes, multicolored hair, and comical takes in certain situations), it presents a welcome contrast to the somewhat heavy storyline. As I mentioned in my review of the first disc a few months ago (Vol.3, #8), I really like the look of Better Man's alternate forms. Since the delay of Panzer Dragoon, I need something to tide me over in the meantime. Some may claim the designs look too similar to Evangelion's Evas, but I think the various monsters in this show look just like ancient creatures have looked in centuries of mythology. The scenery in the show varies widely as the story progresses, and the backround art is skillfully rendered.

I have practically no qualms regarding the audio for this disc. The dub is exceptionally well-done, though I still find Sakura's ethereally haunting voice more effective in Japanese than in English. I only have a few problems with it. First of all, Keita's actor sounds slightly too old for a high-school student. Secondly, the Indian guide in the English dub doesn't have much of an Indian accent, but then the Japanese characters don't have Japanese accents either, so I suppose the point is moot. Oddly enough, the sound effects for Better Man's psychovoice was also re-recorded, and my girlfriend and I were both disappointed by the dub version of it. It's not nearly as piercing and violent as the original, and since this is Better Man's ultimate attack, it should be unsettling. Nifty stereo sound effects are employed for Better Man's fights, especially for his psychovoice. Aurally, this is a very good disc indeed.

Extras packed on the DVD include another "Mode Warp File" detailing the neuronoids (fighting mechs), a production art gallery, a textless ending, and a reversible cover. One side of the cover is shiny and the other has slightly different images on the back of the box. This is a nice addition to the package, and the only thing that could make it better would be to pack the disc in a clear keepcase.

If you're into horror and don't mind waiting a while to find out what the heck is going on, then Betterman is a great show to get into. There's a good amount of action and comedy to sate the more impatient fans, but if you can't stand a slowly unfolding mystery, then you might get tired of the show before it goes anywhere. This is the first creepy anime series I've watched in a long time, so for me it's a welcome break from what I'm used to. I'll still be there, waiting for the next installment of the series, but I do hope things start to solidify in the episodes to come.

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