This Ugly Yet Beautiful World
Takeru Takemoto is a teenager working as a motorcycle courier for his aunt and uncle, who he lives with. One day, he and his friend Ryou Ninomiya are riding together when they see a bright meteor descend and then split in two. Following the trail of one part of the meteor, Takeru finds a glowing girl in a tree, who cannot remember her name; he calls her Hikari, and takes her home with him. Later, Ryou follows the trail of the other part of the meteor and finds a younger girl apparently living in a tree elsewhere in the forest; he names her Akari. As one might suspect, both Hikari and Akari hide a cosmic secret…
Despite the glowing excerpt from Anime News Network on the cover ("Gainax's best work since Evangelion"), I found this series to look very much like something slapped together by a committee. Many of the elements from other Gainax shows are there (and many generic elements from other shows), but there's no feeling of any kind of organic whole here, no underlying idea that is developed in any comprehensive way.
Take the cast. Those around Takeru and Ryou are all stereotypes. We have Daijirou and Shinichi, the usual girl-crazed morons you have seen as "best buds" for the leads in such shows as Happy Lesson, Maginako, even Love Hina. How dumb are they? When everyone finds out that Hikari and Akari are from outer space (a revelation that occurs surprisingly early in the series), their immediate, predictable reaction is to find a "space girl" of their own (whether they propose to find two more, or are willing to share, is up to the viewer's imagination, if the viewer wants to even consider this problem.)
The females in Takeru's "posse" are just as moronic, though. THEIR reaction to the presence of two extraterrestrial females is, why, to make cute outfits for them! (The outfit they design for Hikari looks inexplicably like a military uniform.) This also gives us plenty of opportunity for the famous Gainax fanservice, as they are measured (nude) for their new clothes.
Even more opportunities to get Hikari naked are provided by "Jennifer Portman", an American scientist, who in addition to displaying a lot of her own and Hikari's skin, is also an alcoholic, obnoxious, and keeping secrets from everyone, thus combining the worst traits of Major Kisaragi, Asuka, and Ritsuko Akagi from Evangelion. Also, a plea here: if the character is supposed to be American, or to have grown up in America, could we please find a Japanese VA who can speak English well? (More recently, I had the same complaint about the VA for Revvy in Black Lagoon.)
The secret that J. P. is keeping from everyone is that an "agent of extinction" has arrived on the Earth. Somehow nature is generating monsters to fight against this entity (asking how this works is like asking exactly what place the Angels actually came from in Evangelion.) Takeru himself turns into a half-monster at times, to his natural chagrin, and protects Hikari from attacks by these monsters. I really don't want to spoil things, but putting two and two together.....
Other evidence that this show was slapped together rather than the product of deep rumination is that it violates a basic rule of scriptwriting: don't "tell" me, SHOW me. Late in the piece, Hikari tells Takeru that his childhood experience of his mother leaving has messed him up. Yet we're never shown any of this in Takeru's behavior. Jun from Rozen Maiden and Kouta from Elfen Lied both had behavioral quirks as a result of their respective psychological traumas, and so you'd expect Takeru to exhibit SOMETHING, especially since his trauma was probably closer to Kouta's than Jun's in severity. And yet, no: Takeru is a bit lazy, but gets along with his friends well; he's a bit inconsiderate to his cousin (who has a crush on him), but can certainly feel love toward Hikari; and his moves toward Hikari are no more (or less) tentative than anyone's toward their first love. (By the way, the scene with Hikari and Takeru in the tree watching the meteors WAS nice. Ryou's very strange "courtship" of HIS spacegirl, which was also interesting, consisted of coaxing her OUT of her tree. I had no idea alien women had such a tree fetish.) Hikari is TELLING me that Takeru has problems loving others, but I haven't SEEN it in the story at all.
Speaking of Ryou, I'd really like to like that guy- he seems a bit "deeper" than Takeru- but I just can't. Part of it is that he acts a bit too physically affectionate toward Akari, who at least LOOKS underage, and in fact she has to straighten him out later when he attempts to kiss her.
So, given that I think everyone in the cast is either a cliche or just plain unlikable, that the writers took the easy way out by TELLING rather than SHOWING; and that it's constructed of plot elements that really don't mesh well together, I guess I can't do more than....
...two stars, and not a star more. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: If you watch this show, you will see many, many naked and possibly underaged girls, and you will, at times, prominently see their bare nipples and buttocks as well. This is absolutely not for children, and not at all for those who haven't learned to distinguish between their sexuality and immature carnal urges. There's also a bit of violence, a few racy jokes, and some moments of public drunkenness, but nothing that's particularly striking when compared to the nudity.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (12/12)
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World © 2004 Gainax / SHAFT
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