"The Law of Ueki" Power to Change Reviews into Doomsday Devices!
Previously, Ueki managed to narrowly defeat Robert just before the next round of the Celestial Fight. After recruiting Hideyoshi as their fifth member, Ueki, Ai, Sano, and Rinko traveled to the Celestial World to fight in the third round, in which the last team standing would move on. Ueki’s desire to protect his friends no matter what startled the other characters, as he was willing to put his training on hold so that his friend Tenko didn’t die, and risk his life in the fight against Team Grano to convince Pascol to defect. Thanks to their teamwork, Sano and Rinko also came out on top. Now Team Ueki has to face off against Team Marilyn, which could prove to be their downfall.
We start out with “Clash! The Law of Ueki vs. Li Ho,” in which Ueki fights Li Ho (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.). Li Ho detects Ueki’s weakness and pushes him to overcome it so they’ll be more evenly matched at their next meeting. This is a decent episode in which Ueki learns a lot about his hidden powers and gains an added edge for the next match. Now, this is all well and good, except that said hidden powers come from within instead of materializing via his sacred weapons, so it ends up as Ueki going Super Saiyan more than anything else. I’m rather tired of shonen anime relying on the old “golden Super mode” trick to make the good guy more powerful. Considering the attacks Ueki’s used up until now, I was hoping his ultimate attack would tie into his ability to make trees from garbage (which has all but disappeared since he got his weapons). It’s severely disappointing to see that he just gets angry and creates an aura of energy around him, causing pebbles to fly in the air as lightning crackles. Come on Ueki! You had a good premise with all the various powers, but now you’re just being lazy.
In the next episode, Team Ueki’s opponent is Team Marilyn, a cohesive unit that has been together since they were children. As you can imagine, this puts Team Ueki at a major disadvantage, especially when one of their own is KO’d almost immediately. The episode is nothing too special, as its only purpose is to set-up the opposing team and the battle situations before things really get serious in the next few episodes. There is a reasonably funny scene where Marilyn wants to tell Ueki about their origins but he doesn’t really care one way or the other, causing Marilyn to try and trick him into wanting to know about them, injuring her pride in the process. It is rather refreshing that the opponents are a real team of professionals instead of a ragtag band of losers like previous teams.
The fight finally gets underway in “The Law of ‘You Tricked Me!'” Ueki faces off against Baron, the hulking brute who has the power to teleport to wherever he throws his knife, while Marilyn and the others go after Sano, Ai, and Hideyoshi. The battle is fairly entertaining, and I’m glad Ueki’s Super Saiyan abilities don’t magically bail him out like they would in certain other anime; also, he manages to win in way that is actually quite inventive. Baron himself is a decent adversary, although his glowing pink knives could have been ditched for real knives. Ueki shows off some good moves using all of his attacks right after one another. However, the scene still suffers from the constant momentum shifts between the two contestants. One moment Ueki seems to have the upper hand, then Baron will be back on top a minute later, followed by Ueki gaining the advantage once again.
A similar problem occurs in “The Law of the Proof of Friendship.” Sano, as the only one left with offensive capabilities, must try and defend against the other members of Team Marilyn. Now, there’s been some weird powers before, the most notable being the “power to change a coloring book drawing into a portal” from the last volume. This episode tops that with Putting’s “power to turn his mouth into a portal to the 4th dimension.” I could only sit there dumbfounded, wondering what barrel the creator scrapped that one out of. The fight constantly goes back and forth in a “Hah! I countered your attack!”, “No, I countered your counterattack!”, “Well, I countered your counterattack to my counterattack” kind of way. Eventually I just wanted somebody to get KO’d so that the plot could progress, but that won’t happen until the next volume. As for Ueki himself, for some reason he takes the long way around, and several times throughout the episode the scene shifts to Ueki battling some giant Celestial animal, such as a Celestial snake or a Celestial alligator. It’s one of those weird, “what the hell?” moments this show is famous for.
The animation is fluid at times and stilted at others, so it’s the same as previous episodes. It’s still loads better than anything seen during the early days of the series, but it can’t compare to other shonen shows of its ilk like Naruto or Bleach. Several movements are fluid and the action is well-staged, but the ghost town backdrop gets rather boring quickly and all the smoke in Episode 36 gets on the nerves extremely quickly. Luckily, the CG continues to impress and the coloring gets a little better. Despite being mostly green and brown, Team Marilyn is one of the more vibrant teams and makes the show pop a little bit more: amazing what a non-pastel color can do. Again, as the guns and grenades are painted normally, I found the pink blades on the Baron’s knives just weird. Even on Sunday mornings in Japan, one would think a knife would be allowed to have a grey blade. I mean, if Digimon can show knives unedited, why can’t Ueki? Anyway, the transfer is pretty good with no obvious video defects.
The dub is pretty much the same as usual. The Blue Water players continue to underact, although things improve when Carol Ann Day, one of the few good actors at Blue Water, joins the cast as Marilyn. The dub isn’t quite as bad as it was early on and I’ve heard worse, but it’s nowhere near what I would call “acceptable” or even “good.” The Japanese track continues to be worlds better, but even it lacks spark. Someone expecting the same audio quality of, say, Cowboy Bebop or Ghost in the Shell needs to look elsewhere.
There’s a new opening and ending on this volume. The ending song is just as forgettable as the previous one, and while “No Regrets” is a decent opening theme, I don’t think it’s nearly as catchy as “Falco.” As for the background music, it’s still rather standard and doesn’t offer anything new, but it’s not horrible.
Instead of providing just trailers, Geneon adds a textless version of the second opening as an extra, so that’s something at least. There’s also a short bio insert featuring Marilyn, Matthew, and Baron as well as a preview of the next volume.
Overall, if you’ve enjoyed previous episodes, this latest volume of Law of Ueki will do the trick. I recommend that newcomers rent the series first.
Episodes on The Law of Ueki Volume 9: The Cold Survival Game:
Episode #33: “Clash! The Law of Ueki vs. Li Ho”
Episode #34: “The Law of Team Marilyn”
Episode #35: “The Law of ‘You Tricked Me!'”
Episode #36: “The Law of the Proof of Friendship”
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