"Star Ocean EX": RPG Clichés in Anime Form!
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This may come as a shock to some of you, but I have never in my life owned either a Playstation or a Playstation 2, nor do I plan to get one anytime soon (happy with GameCube). Even though I’ve never played it, I have still heard of the Star Ocean video game series, mostly through my RPG-obsessed roommate. Since I haven’t played the games (specifically Star Ocean: The Second Story, the game on which this series is based), I’ll have to judge Star Ocean EX on its own merits, which is often difficult with a game anime.
Last volume, Claude, a good-looking young man came “from the stars” to crash landed on some random planet. There, he gained a sword, a destiny (find the Sorcery Globe and destroy it), and his first traveling companion, who is, of course, female. But not just any female, a female elf named Rena who fell for him almost immediately. In their travels a magician named Celine whose fighting power and bust size are both formidable joins them. The group now needs to travel to El Continent to find the aforementioned Sorcery Globe or else bad things will happen. With the way things are headed, a group after the power of the SG to create an Evil Empire is bound to appear.
On this volume, our party of three runs across an old friend named Ashton who’s battling two evil dragons, one breathing fire and the other breathing ice (the fire one is red and the ice one is blue, of course), when, for no apparant reason, they fuse themselves to Ashton’s back. Then they decide to head to a mystical temple where the King’s Teardrop will cure Ashton’s woes. But like any good ragtag team of heroes, they drop everything to help out a beautiful young woman named Opera, who, it turns out, is an alien like Claude. After that’s settled, the group explores the palace, where it’s revealed that if Ashton uses the King’s Teardrop, Gyroro and Ururun (the dragons) will die. Since they’ve been possessing Ashton and making him really cool and awesome against his will lately, he’s all too happy. So, our gang faces off against the King of Demons, Jean.
Later, our heroes arrive in town. While Ashton chases barrels, the rest of our heroes stay at the local inn, which, in true RPG fashion, has only two beds for our four member party. Rena doesn’t mind this until she sees Claude kissing Celine. Now, if you know your RPGs, you know that characters never kiss; they just stare at each other. This little misunderstanding gets Claude all messed up, but not enough to stop him from performing his deus ex machina Special Attack (called “Kuhazan” in this series). Our heroes try to rent a boat, but the ocean is haunted. Naturally, it’s only haunted at night, so after taking your typical five seconds to fully recover, our heroes play Scooby Doo for a while, taking a boat (wooden, of course) to a random island where the “ghosts” have been taking stolen jewels for some reason. There, they reunite with Dias, the rival/ally from last disc who is about 1,000 times cooler than the main hero (and who looks a lot like Joe from the Gekigenger shows on Nadesico) and can perform the same deus ex machina Special Attack Claude can. After reuniting a local ghost woman with her precious earring (we’re never told why it’s so precious, it just is), the gang is off to El Continent.
You kind of have to try and pinpoint the clichés and make fun of them, otherwise this series loses a lot of its appeal. Don’t get me wrong, the story is a little interesting, it’s just very generic, though I will admit that having two dragons forcefully grafted to the protagonist’s back is pretty different. The characters are very stock and one-dimensional. It’s not an aggressively bad thing, it just means that this series can’t rise above its own mediocrity. And there’s little hope for it to get any better.
The animation doesn’t help either. Claude’s big attack is well animated, as are most of the opening and closing, but the rest is just blah. While I’ve seen far worse animation (Rave Master and Cybuster come to mind), Star Ocean is still nothing special. Even the action sequences are mostly “PowerPoint battles” (still shots instead of actual animation). Still, the coloring is fairly bright and vibrant, fitting the RPG fantasy setting. Character designs are pretty standard as well; one minion design even reminded me of Articuno from Pokémon. Transfer is typical digital anime quality, which means it’s pretty clear.
The Ocean Group dub was led by Matt Hill (the Gundam SEED Hill, not the Transformers Hill) with newcomers Nicole Bouma (Sweet in Zoids Fuzors) and Brent Miller (Hot Shot in Transformers Armada/Energon). Gabe Kouth (Nicol in Gundam SEED) and Venus Terzo (Blacharachnia in Beast Wars/Machines) also join the party for a pretty good, but not stand-out, dub. The Japanese version is, again, decent but not exceptional. Music-wise, there are some decent tunes (I have no idea if they’re from the game or not) as well as a pretty catchy opening and closing theme. Again, nothing special.
What a surprise, nothing special when it comes to the extras either. There’s a clean version of the ending, a version with the Japanese text on it, some useless character bios and a two-sided pencil board. At least the pencil board is cool.
Overall, it’s hard to recommend this. If you just want a fun action-adventure fantasy tale, you could do much worse, but if you’re looking for the next Record of Lodoss War, stay far, far away. However, if you enjoyed the video game, I don’t see much of a reason why you wouldn’t like the anime as well.
Episodes on Volume 2: The Dragon’s Teeth:
Episode #6: Two-Headed Dragon
Episode #7: Tetragenes
Episode #8: Teardrop
Episode #9: Harley
Episode #10: Ghost Ship