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"Moeyo Ken": And The Point of That Was ...?

Welcome to Mediocre, population: Moeyo Ken.

ImagePetite, food-obsessed spell caster Okita Kaoru; stoic ice elemental Hijikata Toshie; and bossy Kondou Yuuko make up the Mobile Shinsengumi (whatever that means) and protect ancient Kyoto from monsters and the supernatural, just as their fathers did in the past. Someone should protect viewers from this disc.

This four-episode OAV isn’t quite sure where it’s coming from or who it’s aiming to. It also seems to revel in its clichés, no matter how anachronistic for the ancient Meiji era they may be. The show tries to incorporate Magical Girl elements with Sentai, and that’s not a good mix. We’ve got the command center that has a bunch of computers made of wood and receive radio signals from wooden Dick Tracey-ish watches worn by the inconsequential male sidekicks. The girls mobilize via launch tubes a la Voltron and drive futuristic-looking cars that are powered by little kittens on treadmills. (I swear I’m not making this up!) Then, as if to add insult to the timeline’s already painful injury, the girls equip themselves with cybernetic power armor that is shot out of a cannon from the roof of HQ, Samurai Pizza Cats-style.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem if the show were even a little bit interesting. The girls are so stereotypical that anyone who’s ever watched a comedic anime can see the “jokes” coming a mile away. Their quirks are revealed through bizarre coincidences that exist merely to reveal the gag, such as Kaoru’s dislike of ruined food and Yuuko’s fear of frogs (which goes absolutely nowhere). If that weren’t enough, the “villains ” have such a lack of presence that they make Pokemon‘s Team Rocket look like a viable threat. They are three useless characters—a woman, a pretty boy and a fat dude—who get zero character development other than “we want to bring back the glories and evil of the past ways.”

The first two episodes are forgettable, giving us only examples of how the Mobile Shinsengumi deal with monsters, a Photographer who steal souls, and a displaced Cow god. The third gives Hijikata some more personality as she comes to grips with her father’s murderer, and the group fends off an army of reanimated Yoroi (Samurai) armor. The final episode is the only one where plot and comedy come together properly. The Shinsengumi team is disbanded for causing more damage than they prevent, after which the enemies disrupt the four sacred temples (think Abenobashi) to unleash a drunken, horny demon lord. So Yuuko decides to prove to the government that the girls indeed are worth something to Kyoto (which is strangely referred to simply as Kyo in the dub).

But I’m the one that’s gonna need some more convincing. The animation, even though it comes from Ouji Hiroi (Sakura Wars) and features character designs by Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha), is some of the worst I’ve ever seen for an OAV. The characters move statically and are off model more than half the time. Most of the budget must have gone to the half-assed CGI used for the deployment of the Supercars.

The dubbing isn’t that great either. Almost all the actors sound as though they’re either forcing their emotions or have simply given up trying. The only interesting voice is that of Nekomaru, a large cat-demon that assists the team for some reason or other and ends his sentences with “Meow.”

Extras are the only place this disk shines. Included is a little booklet that explains the historical/legendary significance of the monsters and creatures. The disk has the typical clean openings and ends along with an extensive character, background and CGI art gallery. I wish more disks would showcase the behind-the-scenes stuff as efficiently as this one. Also included are some ADV previews.

Every once in a while, you get an anime that doesn’t strive to be any more than it needs to be and is content to be as middle of the road as possible. It’s a tribute to mediocrity! If you’re looking for a single-disk fling to spend your money on, I could think of worse things to splurge on, but I can think of quite a few better too.

Moeyo Ken is rated “13+” for violence, language and implied nudity.

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