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"Cybuster" Just Can't Stop Being Mediocre

In order for a giant robot anime to stand out from the pack, it needs at least a couple of the following: catchy music, nice animation, an interesting plot, engaging characters, and of course some really, really cool giant robots. Which show defines the standard is subject to personal opinion, but there are some series that, no matter how you look at them, just reek of averageness. Cybuster is one of those series.

Coverart for Cybuster Volume 3: The Divine Crusaders.As we learned in previous volumes, the environment is utter garbage and is getting worse. To clean up Earth, a new company called DC is created and it recruits a bunch of teenagers to do the dirty work. Well, DC’s been getting more and more militaristic, and when giant robots called Prescion start appearing a bunch of teenagers decide to fight back with a Robot Warrior God known as Cybuster, who can appear and disappear as if traveling to another dimension. Cybuster’s pilot, Ken, has the power to travel to a mystical place free from all pollution. Unfortunately for our heroes, a mercenary named Dallas is close to discovering their hideout. All is not lost, as our heroes gain a powerful new weapon. But it may be too little, too late. DC is creating a huge super robot to crush our heroes, called Gravio– I mean Granzon.

You’d think this would be something along the lines of “Captain Planet: Giant Robot Style,” but it’s not. Most of the attention is focused on the tiny group of rebels trying to survive against the paramilitary might of DC and the constant threat of all-out war. Gritty war stories are well and good, but when your characters are Planeteers, a campier plotline might serve your series better. Instead, what we have is your typical “government is bad” storyline, except with some very big plot holes. For instance, last disc Lena worked for DC, was defeated by Cybuster and left for dead. Our heroes rescued her and she has joined their side. However, in Episode 12 she goes back to DC, where everyone is shocked that she’s still alive. She then proceeds to sabotage a good chunk of the Prescion units and returns to the rebels, yet DC never mentions her name again after she leaves (and of course, the military doesn’t have any security or anything so she simply walks out). Then there’s this whole thing about Cybuster being spiritual and needing to heal before going out into battle, but it never gets more than two lines of exposition before it’s dropped completely.

One thing for which I will applaud this anime is actually having a character with asthma. For such a common ailment (I myself have asthma, though I rarely get attacks anymore), it’s very rare on TV, let alone anime. The asthmatic character, Saiyuki, is your typical sweet and innocent baby sister, always worried about other people and animals before herself and not much of a fighter. Still, she’s the most entertaining character on the disc, as everyone else has little or no personality or defining traits. Ken is your typical impulsive teenage male hero, Lena is the prideful engineer, and Dallas is the strict military man and main combat adversary. There’s a bunch of random teenage engineers who have a subplot in this disc, but it’s not too interesting. And I haven’t even started in on the visuals.

The title screen. Wow. Amazing.Someone needs to tell TV Tokyo, NAS, and Bandai Visual that it’s no longer 1983. Cybuster‘s animation seriously looks like it’s from the early 80’s, with super-faded colors, limited movement, and cheesy special effects. Rave Master, Dragonball, Kanto-era Pokémon, and early Detective Conan all have much better animation. Hell, even Saint Seiya has the advantage here. If this truly was an 80’s series I’d be more lenient, but it turns out it’s from 1999. There are a couple shots where a digitally-colored Cybuster appears, but itstands out like a brightly-colored thumb and all it does is glide across the screen in one direction. Vision of Escaflowne combined traditional and digital animation much better.

Several Bang Zoom! regulars fill the dub roles, but apparantly even they can tell what a waste of time Cybuster is, and as a result their performances are phoned in. Wendee Lee’s previews are especially cheesy. Steven Blum could have livened things up a bit, but all he gets is a nameless background character. The Japanese version isn’t much of a standout either, but it’s there for you purists. And for some reason (it also happens on Star Ocean EX), Geneon has decided not to include a sign and song subtitle track, so the only subtitles are for the Japanese version. I thought we had left those days behind long, long ago, but apparently not. Those who want to understand signage and songs while watching the dub will have to manually switch back and forth, which gets old very fast.

The extras on this disc are the DVD credits. That’s it. No insert extra, no clean opening and closing, nothing. It’s just slightly above your average Pokémon disc. Though, if you wanted to, you could watch a trailer for a much, much better mecha show, Stellvia, and realize how dumb you are for buying this vanilla dreck. What’s even worse is that since Geneon didn’t replace the Japanese credits in the show with English text (like most anime companies do), the Japanese creative staff, the English production crew and both voice casts are not given any credit at all unless you can read Japanese. Geneon isn’t usually this lazy, and it’s not a good habit to see developing.

I just cannot, with good faith, recommend Cybuster. Not with the gazillions of better mecha shows out there. If you want anime Captain Planet, go watch Arjuna.

Episodes on Volume 3: The Divine Crusaders:
Episode #11: Divine Crusaders
Episode #12: The Spirits of the Wind and the Fire
Episode #13: The Army of Prescion
Episode #14: A Wing in the Flames of War

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