Saber Marionette J
300 years ago, the crew of the starship Mesopotamia is sent from Earth to a newly discovered planet with the mission to colonize it. But somehow things went wrong and the ship was damaged. Desperate not to fail on the mission, for now it meant their very survival, the crew tries to escape, but end up crashing to the surface below. Only six members survive. Which would have been okay except for one problem ...
All of the survivors are men.
Now, 300 years later, TerraTwo is a thriving world, where men are clones and women are cold, unfeeling machines known as Marionettes. Mamiya Otaru is just another hard-working Japoness citizen trying to make a meager living and avoiding the advances of Hanagata Mitsurugi, the town fop, when he happens upon an abandoned castle. Inside, he awakens the mysterious girl known simply as Lime. Lime is a marionette, but not like any marionette he'd ever known. Lime acts like a tomboyish girl, and Otaru (not to mention the rest of the men of Japoness) don't know quite what to make of her. It turns out that she is but one of a new breed of marionette that possesses the "Virgin Circuit", which gives them human emotion, and is the key for the true revival of the human race on TerraTwo. And when Otaru finds two more of these "weird" marionettes, all of whom vie for Otaru's attentions, things get really wacky, really fast!
Imagine if you will, the world of Armitage III, but populated with the cast of Ranma 1/2...seems wrong doesn't it? Actually, Saber Marionette J is one of the most enjoyable anime series I've ever seen. The characters are sweet and lovable, the animation top notch and very bright, and the story is at the same time both compelling and ridiculously silly. This is by far the lightest of the entire Saber Marionette series, and that's actually a good thing. It remains dramatic without being heavy-handed and therefore allows it to better accomodate the rather ridiculous humor that is in plenty of abundance. Not only do the characters in J want to have fun, but they want the viewer to have fun to, and there is a LOT of fun to be found here.
To the casual viewer, at first glance J may seem like yet another Tenchi/Ranma clone...that is, one man with tons of beautiful women (and sometimes men) clamoring for their affections, but J manages to avoid falling into the trap of the three marionettes all yelling at each other for who gets who. In fact, they don't yell at each other *at all!* Sure, they each, at times, try to seduce him, but it usually falls flat. Let's face it..they are trying to attract a man who has never -ever- been attracted to a woman, and isn't sure if he's supposed to be or not. They realize this, so Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry are all perfectly content sharing him. They almost immediately become a family, not only strengthening their friendship, but allowing them more time instead to do battle with Faust and his uber-sexy SaberDolls or to keep Hanagata out of Otaru's hair.
Which brings up an aspect of the series that some fans have told me about. I've seen the whole series fansubbed, but I've been told that in AnimeVillage's dub (and sub) Hanagata refers to Otaru as his "best friend" rather than his love. If this is so, this will detract from the character of Hanagata a bit, because he is THE most flaming queer in the history of anime, and he's proud of it! The ironic thing is...in the world of Saber Marionette J, it is Hanagata's feelings for Otaru that are accepted by everyone (well, okay, normally they would be..but NO one in Japoness likes Hanagata because he's an arrogant, whiny jerk -- but at least he's a funny one), and Otaru's relationship with the marionettes is deemed almost deviant. This is a society that doesn't have women ... there is no such thing as a heterosexual male, so it doesn't make sense for Hanagata to be stalking Otaru because he wants him for a friend, but because Otaru is really one of the last of the desirable males on the planet, though unfortunately for him, Otaru doesn't reciprocate. Three hundred years of cross-cloning and gene splicing doesn't tend to produce the most stellar of human genetics, and this is why it's such a crucial time for the men of TerraTwo.
I could go into so much more about this series, but too much more and I could be here all day ... which is something J does that is very remarkable. It manages to pack a LOT of story and subplots into 25 episodes -and- explain and resolve it all without rushing the pace or compromising quality. It also leaves itself open just enough to continue the series, as it does in J Again and J to X, and not have to resort to the "alternate universe" in order to do so (though oddly enough, this is *itself* a retelling of the not-quite-as-successful Saber Marionette R series).
The true triumph of Saber Marionette J is that it's built for itself a fully fleshed-out world with three-dimensional characters who are very real, and as long as they continue to live on TerraTwo their story is not yet done.
Top-notch animation, involving story and memorable characters make this one of the greats. If there was a flaw to be found here, it was too small to notice. — Christina Carpenter
Recommended Audience: Best for younger teens and up. Very brief nudity (if any, really) though Bloodberry and the Saber Dolls are impossibly proportioned. People with hang-ups about homosexuality may want to stay away ... because though sexual preference is not a major factor at all in this series, almost every guy in this series is by matter of environment. Violence is mostly non-graphic, until near the end of the series, when the action really starts to heat up.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Saber Marionette J © 1996 Akahori Satoru / Negishi Hiroshi / Kotobuki Tsukasa / Kadokawa Shoten / Bandai Visual / Sotsu Agency / TV Tokyo
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