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"The Law of Ueki" The Law of Improvement

When I reviewed of Volume 3 of The Law of Ueki, I said the show had decent potential but wasted it with a beyond poor execution. Now that the series is finally off the ground, though, it seems as though it’s gotten a lot better. Before, it seemed as though the series went from plot point to plot point, regardless of how well it fit in the episode itself. As a result, the episodes rushed through everything and felt like one big, giant mess. Not anymore. Now, the series knows when to stretch out a plot point so that it can end the episode effectively, and everything feels like a more standard anime, which is a good thing in this case. Each episode has a specific end and it’s fitted into the story structure. This is a change from earlier stories that by itself marks an improvement.

ImageVolume 7 concludes the “Ueki vs. Roberts 10″ arc, and specifically the Ueki vs. Robert big battle, which is decently interesting, as the fight is spruced up with a lot of sacred weapons being thrown about. Robert does come off as purely evil and continually tries to kill Ueki even after the boy saves his life. Unfortunately, despite wanting to acquire the Talent of Blank so that he can wipe out all of humanity, Robert still lacks the spark needed to be the big main bad guy. After the battle is over, Ueki and his friends are told they need to form a five-fighter team for the next round and search for one of Rinko’s old acquaintances, Hideyoshi, who has the power to turn his voice into a portrait, allowing him to trick other people via ventriloquism. This little arc is a decent watch, although it can be a bit predictable at times, especially whenever Kentaro, a little boy scared to do anything, is on screen. The bad guys aren’t particularly memorable, but Mario’s “Super Elegant Ball” power gets some great reactions out of the crew, resulting in some genuinely funny scenes. Unfortunately, the rest of the bad guys are just too bland for my tastes and just seem to be there just to give Ueki and his team someone to fight.

The action gets a bit better in Volume 8, as Team Ueki prepares to fight in the third round. Before that, though, comes an episode where Ueki tries to conclude his Celestial Star training inside Tenko before moving on, though if he does Tenko will die. Unlike the horrible emotional episodes on Volume 3, the emotion of this episode is actually genuine, and one can actually feel sad when Tenko decides that it’s okay if he dies. Tenko’s not really as memorable as other cute plushie fodder like Pikachu from Pokémon or Muu-chan from Tactics, but he still has some personality and is somewhat useful. He still looks really, really weird with that arm bracelet-thing as his underside instead of normal legs, but I did get used to it. The only real problem with this episode is that it may feel a bit hokey since this show seems undecided about whether it wants to be a serious action show or a light comedy (reminds me of Zatch Bell in a way), so whenever a truly serious moment arises, I still feel like they’re trying to introduce some weird joke.

ImageThings get slightly better when the third round starts and Team Ueki battles Team Grano. The powers get a bit weirder: Guitar can turn clothes into armor; Pastello can turn a coloring book drawing into a dimensional portal; and Munin can turn any pun into reality so long as somebody laughs. The battles can drag on for a while, as though the staff is trying to stretch them out to fill a full episode, but for the most part they’re reasonably enjoyable and fun to watch. Rinko and Sano’s teamwork battle started to get on my nerves, though, and Pascol, another member of Team Grano, gets annoying quick. He’s one of those “I’m a weak little kid and don’t wanna fight” characters, and soon enough I just wanted Ueki to beat Grano so that Pascol could leave the show forever. At least it’s made up by some giant killer oranges.

Thankfully, the animation has stepped up on these two volumes. The triple-shots aren’t anywhere near as plentiful and it now seems like the studio is actually animating the various scenes instead of just manipulating stills, resulting in some fine pieces of work and a much more polished product. At its best it still doesn’t come anywhere close to Naruto, never mind anything coming out of Production I.G. or Kyoto Animation, but it’s actually achieved a respectable level now, so that’s a point in its favor. The overuse of pastels still leaves the coloring looking a little too faded, especially since it’s not used nearly as well as in, say, The Powerpuff Girls, but you quickly learn to get over it. At the very least, the CG glowing effects help enhance the show, especially when Ueki uses his Gulliver attack to cover the ground in neon green squares.

Unfortunately, while the dub is no longer as obnoxious as it was back in the early days, it really hasn’t gotten much better, either. The dubbing is done by Ocean Group Calgary, also known as Blue Water, so you know that the voices (and more specifically, the acting) isn’t going to be top notch, but it seems that without James Corrigall to do the ADR directing, nobody can get a good performance out of these guys. I’d say the dub overall is about on the same level as Dragonball Z‘s dub, only more accurate, so take that as you will. Thankfully, the Japanese version isn’t nearly as horrible. Sure, it’s about a generic a dub as you can get, but in some cases generic works just fine. The opening theme, “Falco,” is still rather catchy, while the ending theme is as forgettable as most ending themes are. Most of the background music is your standard action fare, with very little that will make a huge impression on you, like the music in Naruto or Pokémon can.

Both volumes include trailers for Rozen Maiden and Karin, while Volume 7 has a trailer for Black Lagoon and Volume 8 has a trailer for Disgaea with such beautiful animation and fun action it makes me wonder how the hell it all got sapped out of the third volume. Both DVDs also have a coupon for $3 off by mail-in rebate when you purchase one of the earlier Ueki volumes (2-6).

ImageOverall, if you were turned off by the early episodes of The Law of Ueki, now might be a good time to get into it again. It won’t blow your socks off or anything, but it’s a decent little timewaster.

Episodes on The Law of Ueki Volume 7: Teammates Wanted:
Episode #25: “Resurrection! The Law of Mr. K”
Episode #26: “Terror! The Law of Hanon”
Episode #27: “The Law of Hideyoshi”
Episode #28: “The Law of the House of the Sun”

Episodes on The Law of Ueki Volume 8: The Key to Victory:
Episode #29: “Don’t Die! The Law of Tenko”
Episode #30: “The Law of the Third Round”
Episode #31: “The Law of the Strongest Tag Team”
Episode #33: “The Law of True Strength”

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Amazon links:
Volume 7: B000NJL4RQ
Volume 8: B000MTEFQO
Score: 69/100

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