Admittedly, while I was excited to see Zetman, I was also a bit hesitant going in. The reason being is Zetman is an extremely popular and critically well received manga by creator Masakazu Katsura (who also worked on another of Viz' titles, the fantastic Tiger and Bunny.) The manga had already produced 17 volumes by the time the anime went into production, so when I heard that this series was only getting 13 episodes, I knew they were gonna have to rush through it and could potentially be a disaster. With all that ground to cover and only 13 episodes to work with, the main question is does Zetman overcome the odds stacked against it?
As the story starts we learn about something called "Players", Players are a manufactured hybrid between humans and animals developed by a organization called EVOL, they set up underground fights where the Players rip each other apart as the rich people gamble away their money on them. One day, the people aren't so lucky. The Players escape from their captivity and slaughter every one in sight, including all of the attendance and almost all of the staff.
It's here that we meet Jin Kanzaki (voiced by Jason Griffith.) Jin is a young boy who was taken by one of the surviving scientists of the brutal massacre. Jin, who possesses a mysterious marking on his hand in the shape of a raised circle, now lives a somewhat normal life with a community of the homeless, including his Grandfather, the only real influence he has in his life. His grandfather has always taught him to live his life protecting others, telling him that he has a special gift that shouldn't go to waste. He teaches him the meaning of Justice, although he doesn't really take it to heart (he actually charges a woman a fee to save her life.)
Along for the ride, is Kouga (voiced by Grant George) whom is more of a "for the people" person. He fights for justice because he idolizes superhero's and wants the fame and notoriety that comes with the title. Also joining them is Kouga's younger sister, Konoha (voiced by Michelle Ruff), who while being 3rd lead, honestly has almost no impact on the series.
After patrolling the streets one day, Jin comes home to a devastating discovery, the entire homeless community he has lived with has been brutally slaughtered. He comes across his dying grandfather, who tells him he is going to teach him one final lesson: the harsh reality of loss. Over the course of the first two episodes Jin deals with death, his friends (Kouga and Konaha) being forbidden to see him (since they are rich, and the parents conform to social class) which he takes as abandonment when he needs them the most, and being sheltered by a beautiful woman, whom is shortly thereafter brutally attacked by a Player. With his grandfathers death and the only person who has been truly nice to him dying, Jin is able to tap into a power hidden within him, the power of Zet. It's with this power that he realizes he has what it takes to defeat the Players and he vows never to let anyone close to him be taken away again.
At this point we are introduced to the antagonist of the story, Seiji Haitani (Voice of Keith Silverstein.) Seiji is essentially the brains of Evol, he remains more of a background and looming threat to the characters until the end, at random points in the series he starts to psychologically screw with Kouga's head and test his sense to be a hero, while also testing Jin on his vow to protect others, putting them both in near impossible situations.
We skip forward over a decade (time jumps happen a couple times throughout the show to be able to cover all of the Manga material.) We are reintroduced to Jin and Kouga, whom are both protectors of the city in their own right. The series real story starts to kick into gear when we delve into the reasoning and comparisons between Jin's resolve to be a protector of innocents, and Kouga's, who now fights as a masked hero named Alpha's resolve to be a typical hero with an image. The show builds tension between Jin, who defends the city because he can't stand the thought of death, and Kouga, who defends the city as Alphas, he defends the city for a public image and good reputation. The relationship between Jin and Kouga is truly the best part about this show and keeps you hooked throughout the series.
After some time has passed, we have the reemergence of Seiji who decides to tactically destroy Jin and Kouga. Seiji decides the best way to do this is to find out if they're really "fighters of justices." For example Kouga has always saved people in the order of their probability of survival, so Seiji makes him choose between trying to save his sister, Konoha, or 5 random school girl fans of his, Never letting up, Seiji mentally tears Kouga apart. Jin is given a similar choice, he must choose between getting his Zet powers back with the risk of becoming pure evil, or being killed. So Jin's choice is either possibly destroy the world or leave everything to the now unbalanced Kouga. It's stuff like this that makes Seiji a formidable villain and interesting to watch.
With the stage set with a showdown between Jin, the now unhinged Kouga, Seiji, and the remaining players, the series comes to an end with one hell of a final few episodes.
In the end, Zetman definitely surpassed my expectations, I honestly expected a half told story with an inconclusive ending that wasn't really done well. By the time episode 13's credits role, the exact opposite happened, we ended up getting a thrill ride with breakneck pacing that never let go from the get go. Some things were glossed over for the sake of time constraints and some characters were underdeveloped, but by the end I was fully satisfied with this series.
- Amazing character designs. Specifically Jin, Kouga, Zet and Alphas, whose designs are very unique and awesome!
- Great chemistry between the two leads, Jin and Kouga. These two were really the only characters that got any real development during the show, so they're basically the crux of the series, they are the deciders if Zetman will flop or not, and they're able to carry the weight.
- Great animation value. Honestly Zetman has some of the best animation I have ever seen. I go into more detail below.
- The ending didn't seem like a cop-out. Most of the series that are rushed to the extent that Zetman is, usually have a half assed ending. Somehow, Zetman breaks the mold and ends the show with a pleasing finale.
- Completely rushed. While the series made great use of the time it had, Zetman would have definitely benefited from having more episodes.
- Underdeveloped characters. No characters get any focus other than Jin and Kouga. Not even the female lead's Konaha or the main antagonist.
Video and Audio:
Zetman has got to be one of the most visually expressive anime I've watched. The level of detail that goes into the artwork is outstanding, with some of the best character designs out there (specifically Zet and Alphas), the level and depth of detail that go into the characters emotions are outstanding. The only artwork in recent memory I can think of that is superior to it is Lupin The 3rd: Woman Called Fujiko Mine. While there are scenes of mediocre artwork, for the most part they are few and far between. The visuals really shine when Jin transforms into Zet or when during any of the action sequences. I was thoroughly impressed with the animation quality of Zetman and I wish more shows could capture the same quality.
For Audio, we get the original Japanese track presented in Stereo, as well as a 5.1 HD English track. As usual, I watched the English dub for Zetman. The dub work was OK overall. As for the audio track itself, nothing really stood out and popped. The soundtrack was solid, with some exciting songs during the action that didn't really drown anything out happening in the show, the dialogue was crisp and clean, and I couldn't hear any noticeable distortions or dropouts throughout.
This is the category where Viz usually lacks, they never really put any effort into their releases with extras (thankfully it looks like they're starting to correct that with their awesome looking release of K this February. For Zetman, all we get is a short 4 minute interview with the creator, and the standard clean opening/closing themes.
While Zetman is incredibly rushed, it's definitely one hell of a ride and tried to make great use of the little bit of time it had. The series has got a great premise, a couple solid lead characters, and a decently executed story under the circumstances. Highly Recommended!