Every once in a while you come across a show that is attractive for several reasons but just doesn't deliver the necessary punch in the end. Maybe the story comes up short, maybe the pacing is off, or maybe the concept is simply "old hat". Chrome Shelled Regios is a prime example of all three aspects.
This 2009 series by Zexcs is based on a slew of light novels and manga that have been coming out since 2006. Honestly, there's a ton of stuff on the market in Japan and that fact alone builds hype for the show. It has to be popular for some reason, right?
Chrome Shelled Regios takes place far into the future where mankind can only exist in walking domed cities. The air outside has become poisonous and there are ginormous bugs who like to feed on people. In this world people with magical powers have risen to protect humanity and one individual, a young boy named Layfon, finds himself in the thick of things.
Layfon is a new recruit in a military arts academy and is signed on to work with Platoon 17, which is headed up by a strong-headed young woman named Nina. The two bump heads early on because Layfon is ultra powerful with seemingly little effort and Nina tries her hardest but doesn't even come close to him. Together the two make an interesting team and there's a nice little rift that forms between them for a few episodes. What really fleshed out Platoon 17, however, is the remainder of the cast, which includes a sharpshooting hotshot, a grease monkey, and a tsundere girl who stands out as the most personable.
With the cast in place the show moves forward to show them growing closer together as a troupe. There are hardships aplenty as they learn to work together, but peppered in between is a conflict against a bunch of alien bugs named Conaminoids. These larva-like beings attack the military academy and we get to see first hand Layfon's awesome power as he cuts through them all like butter. This is the very reason the school's student body president sought out Layfon, but that's another storyline entirely.
For the most part Chrome Shelled Regios has a straightforward story and good character development. Unfortunately it jumps around the time frame now and again and flashbacks and current events tend to not be explained. We see Layfon when he's younger, only to see him when he's older, and then there's a military exercise in one scene, with current day the next. Oh, and don't even get me started on the inexplicable sequences that take place with a terribly dubbed Engrish adventure. Nothing is adequately explained and as a result it's very disorienting to watch the show. This is more problematic early on, but it's something that remains throughout this first half.
If you can get by the mucked up pacing and timeline then the only thing you have to contend with is a special glossary of terms that are never explained in a timely fashion. Contaminoids, Regios, Kei, Heaven's Blade, Electronic Faeries, and DITE are just a few terms thrown at you in the early goings. They are explained as the series moves forward, but until you get to that point you just have to go with it and that's more annoying than the payoff is worth.
Ultimately Chrome Shelled Regios has enough going for it to make it worth renting, but the flaws really hold the series back. Things get deeper and more interesting towards the end of this first half, so it's possible the second half may turn things around. After the bland majority of this release though, I'm not holding my breath.
Chrome Shelled Regios is presented on DVD with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks good with sharp lines and vibrant colors, but there's some grain and softness at times as well. The series maintains solid design and fluid enough animation, however, so it's easy on the eyes for the most part. There are times where the animation gets a little choppy and there's some blocking in the darker areas, so the transfer isn't exactly perfect. Some aliasing is also present at times.
As far as the audio is concerned the English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 are both a smidge underwhelming. The dubs are okay, though the Japanese Engrish sections are downright awful. The music for the show isn't entirely memorable, but it does sound like it was ripped straight from a J-RPG. Technically speaking the English track doesn't really knock it out of the park either and the dub is merely "okay".
For bonus features there are a slew of clean animations and trailers. That's about it. There is a Limited Edition version of this release, though the packaged product was not available for review.
Chrome Shelled Regios isn't terribly by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not exactly good either. The show is underwhelming in almost every regard and struggles to stand out from concept to execution. Some interesting characters, solid relationships between the cast, and action are highlights, but even these are overshadowed by the pacing and story issues. Consider the show a rental.
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