Movie: Sometimes, a promising series gets bogged down as later volumes of the episodes are released and the lack of original ideas becomes more apparent. This is a natural progression for many shows since the writing and direction of entertainment often relies on the here and now aspects of what a culture finds fun to watch and by the time later volumes come out, the moment has passed them by. One show that seems to have fallen into this trap is Cyberteam in Akihabara, a show that had me praising it a mere few months ago, claiming it was: "interesting" and "fanciful", among other things. In the latest volume, Cyberteam in Akihabara 3: Cyber History, the show spent most of the time dwelling on the antagonists as they plotted and schemed to use the cyberteam to fulfill their own ends. Here's a bit of background to give you an idea of what went on in the initial volume with what I said in my review (I never saw the second volume):
"The show started off with Diva, the introductory episode that, like Angelic Layer, starred a young gal trying to get in on the latest craze. In this case, the craze centered around a little robot pet, PataPi's, that could learn to talk and interact with their owner. If you've seen Furbys, Robosapiens, or any of the countless others on the market, you'll understand what I'm talking about although they looked very much like the yellow character from Pokemon more than anything else. In any case, the lead, Hibari Hanakogani, is moving up to junior high school having turned 12 years old and wants to get her own pet. Having had dreams of a young, handsome prince (much like in Wedding Peach); she is surprised one day to meet him in real life whereupon he hands her a PataPi that she named Densuke. Shortly thereafter, a guy names Black Prince and his minions try to take her precious Densuke away from her by force, and the little robot energizes to produce a large combat fighter like Nuku Nuku. The being is called a Diva and is no surprise to the bad guys, many of whom look like smaller versions of RahXephon mech-robots.
As the episodes progressed, from The Black Meteor, Homunculus, and Death Crow; additional characters were added that displayed similar powers based as much on emotion as anything else. This seemed similar to the Pretear series almost as much as the aforementioned Wedding Peach (a show that had a similar trio of super powered heroines). Hibari's friends, Suzume Sakurajosui and Tsugumi Higashijujou filled out the trio and while the fighting appeared to be cookie cutter battles that could've come from any of a dozen other series, I liked the non-battle stuff a lot. The final episode of the volume, Cockatrice, was interesting in how the bad guys went to a lot more planning and thought in order to capture their victims, and those who enjoy Angelic Layer will have a lot to identify with."
This third volume opened up with the gals having their usual squabbles over boys and daily life in general but it quickly developed into an exposition on the antagonists, now revealed as members of a secret society called the Rosenkreutz, whose members are either immortal or close to it. They have been manipulating events in the course of human development by a variety of means and a full episode is devoted to their recruitment of the super genius Black Prince, the subject of Hibari's dreams. The other major development is with the addition of Tsubame, a gal with a similar pet and awesome powers that were initially presented as a possible friend to the team. In the course of the four episodes, the team has the standard fighting (both in the group and outside) formula used too often in anime and that was why the volume really bored me more than anything else. What could've been a unique fusion of concepts from other shows fell down and became another wannabe show geared to gals that want to save the day while finding the guy of their dreams. As such, I'm going to rate this one as a Skip It. I'm sure some of you will like it more than I did but it had nothing new to offer and the fact is that it took a lot of promise and tossed it out the window to rely too heavily on borrowing from other series (I had hoped it wouldn't do this).
Picture: Cyber Team in Akihabara 3 was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color, as originally released in Japan. The series was made in 1998 and shows its age in terms of the slightly muted colors and minor pattern noise but I saw no compression artifacts or major issues in repeated viewings of the show. It did have a visual appeal as seen on the front DVD cover but it also looked a little low budget for the animation as the movements didn't always track the audio (either lip movements or special effects) but I didn't detect this being related to a synchronization problem. In all, it was colorful and cute but wasn't cutting edge by any means.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices of either the original Japanese audio track in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo or the dubbed 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English dub. The dub sounded far fuller on my home theatre set up but purists will likely throw a fit over some of the liberties taken with the translation and the over the top performances by some of the cast. Most of the time, the separation, bass, and special effects were enhanced by the revisited audio but the original vocals beat the dub in almost all cases (and I'm not a snob about dubs either). The music was light and fluffy, adding a measure of fun to the show (and I still hope ADV Films releases an audio CD of the music soon, even if the show itself has now proven lame).
Extras: The best extra for me was the inclusion of a director's commentary with several of the voice actors present to give their impressions of the material at hand. My common issue about the English language commentaries from ADV Films was present here as well; the crew (Greg and John, IIRC) spent too much time goofing around and not enough time commenting on the show itself. While I can appreciate them not wanting to provide any spoilers, they could've at least discussed something closely related to the episodes on the DVD. It was still fun though and better than the short feature "In the Studio" where one of the older gals on ADV's voice acting cast flub her lines repeatedly. Otherwise, there was a set of trailers and a advertising paper insert as well as the usual clean opening and closing.
Final Thoughts: Cyberteam in Akihabara 3: Cyber History, had a number of interesting elements but squandered them on meaningless plot twists and the end result is that it took on a kind of generic anime feel to it. If you've watched a lot of anime, you'll have seen numerous examples of the archetypes employed and the cultural matters overdone to the point of redundancy. What started off with such promise fell off the fence it was straddling and that limited the appeal of the show to me. Fans of anime nudity might enjoy seeing a few seconds of characters in states of undress but they'll be wasting their time too.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article!