Needless is frigging crazy. It's a whacked out show along the lines of Gurren Lagann and it retains most of the tropes. Super-powered characters, over the top attitude, and a sense of style that is unabashedly in your face are just a few of the things that make the series stand out. Then again, being loud and ostentatious means nothing if you don't have the quality to back it up. Does the series have it where it counts?
Originally released in Japan in 2009, Needless is a product of Mad House and Director Masayuki Sakoi. The show lasted for 24 episodes and was based on an ongoing manga by Kami Imai. Sentai Filmworks has acquired the license to the series for release in America, and today we're looking at the first collection, which takes the first twelve episodes and presents them on two DVDs.
Needless takes place far into the future where the world has been rocked by World War III. Naturally nukes were involved and the survivors were thrown into disarray, but in the aftermath of the war people have come back around again. Society may not be what it once was, but the world seems to be far from a barren wasteland as most WWIII stories would have you think. Despite that, there are mutants of a sort, known as Needless, and they are treated as the rulers, and the scourge, of the world.
In this post-war timeframe what was once Tokyo is now a crater known as the Black Spot. It's the area where outcasts go to live and it's a place where society is handled a little differently. There's no electricity in the Black Spot and those who live there for a time become the mutant Needless. It's by the Black Spot that we're introduced to Cruz Schild, a young boy who is part of a rebellion against a villainous organization known as Simeon, which is headed up by Adam Arclight. To put things bluntly, the rebellion didn't go so hot and in the end Cruz is the only one left alive. Cruz is unfortunate in the sense that Simeon is searching for him, but by the same token he is lucky to have come across a Needless named Blade.
Blade is a badass and is essentially a man's man. He's a skirt chaser, doesn't back down from a fight, smokes, drinks, and, well...he's something of a degenerate. I suppose that's what you'd want in a hero, right? Blade is the star of the show and his power is special in the sense that it allows him to mimic the powers of other Needless that he encounters. Oh, and did I mention he's a priest? Joining Blade is another Needless named Eve, who is a doppelganger, and a scientist named Gido, who works with the two in a rundown church. Together the cast basically squares off against Simeon's forces and other Needless as they come to cause trouble.
The plot of the series is relatively light and the short version is that the head of Simeon has more than a passing interest in Blade. There's some connection between the two and it takes the series into some interesting areas, however, it's most an excuse for the characters to fight a lot. This is a hyper-paced action series with loads of humor, eye candy, and flashy bits.
That comparison to Gurren Lagann I made in the opening statements of this review is rather true when it comes to the style of the show. Unfortunately the narrative doesn't really pop by the time this first collection is over, and ultimately I'd say Needless is more of a fun ride rather than the kind of trip you take again and again. With that in mind, we only have the first half here. The second could take things in another direction entirely. Either way it's still an entertaining show, but it's definitely geared more towards those looking for action and style over substance.
Needless is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks quite good with strong lines, smooth animation, and a great sense of style in terms of design. Mad House took a page from Gainax's notebook with some of the animation here, and the flashy, sketch motif works during the more intense battles. Otherwise the technical presentation of the series is good with impressive details, bold colors, and very little grain to complain about. There is some light blocking at points, but it's few and far between. This series is also available on Blu-ray though that particular release has been unavailable for review as of yet.
This being a bombastic kind of show one would expect a 5.1 Dolby Digital track of some form, but all that's here is 2.0 stereo. The treat is that we get Japanese and English audio, which doesn't always happen with Sentai Filmworks. The quality of both dubs is good, and in all honesty I didn't really have a preference one way or the other after experiencing both. Technically speaking the show feels a bit flat, which is unfortunate, but I suppose you can't win them all.
Clean animations, trailers, a nice character sketch montage, some information on the details of the show, and some animated shorts (six in all) in the form of "The Secret of Saint Lilly Academy". This last feature is a collection of short comedy episodes that are worth a laugh once you're done watching the show.
While I wouldn't call it a breakout success, Needless is popcorn munching fun that doesn't try to be anything else. It's lighthearted with an over-the-top sense of style and it never stops trying to one-up itself. Blade is a crazy protagonist and the world he lives in is just as nuts. If you don't mind a show with lots of flashiness, screaming, and eye candy, check this one out. For now I'm going with a strong recommendation on it, but I'd like to see the second half before fully weighing in.