A year after being disbanded, the elite, diverse, and all female special operations team known as Melty Lancer has been reactivated by the government. Layer after layer of conspiracy will ensnare the females of Melty Lancer as the struggle to preserve the peace of the Eastern Metropolis, Earth, and even the galaxy from threats they can't even begin to imagine.
Melty Lancer is very attractive visually. It features crisp color work, generally well-animated action scenes, good character design work, detailed background work, and good use of CGI. In a sense, I find that frustrating. Like an elaborately wrapped gag birthday gift, the pretty packaging desperately tries to conceal the fact there is nothing worthwhile inside. It seems that my enemy, Checklist-san, has struck again.
Let's start out with the characters. We have this grab bag of six female characters that all seemed explicitly designed to fit some particular required stereotype or power set ranging from powerful magic user to powered battle armor user. Besides just the fact that they wanted to ensure that all sorts of powers were represented, the girls all seem a reprise of standard stereotypes: the aloof leader, the cute spunky girl, the tomboy, and so on and so forth. Though I would have given the title the benefit of the doubt about the wide age variation in the Melty Lancer members, the writers themselves seem fit to clarify certain motivations about why that is by actively inserting their own jokes about Lolita Complexes in relation to two of the younger girls. Ack, I say.
Though many anime settings mix diverse elements such as magic and technology, it just really did seem haphazard and thrown together in this title particularly since certain key background elements involving several of these characters were never actually clarified in the show. The DVD extras contained some explanations that better helped me understand the background of the characters but I tend to feel that I shouldn't be required to read supplemental materials to basically understand the characters and the setting. The show itself should have been providing me with character development and background explanations necessary. Even after reading the various background information, I was still confused about the presence of certain abilities, powers, and many other aspects of several of the characters.
Besides just the distracting mish-mash of underdeveloped backgrounds and explanations for plot points, the actual characterization work itself is exceedingly weak. They girls, their gruff commander, and hapless aide don't grow much beyond their basic stereotypes and more often than not they seem to hint at some greater depth with a few throwaway lines but the shown then rarely bothers to explore farther than that. Most of the side characters and antagonists suffer from the same problem. Since they don't do much to really flesh out the backgrounds of all the characters or make them engaging, I find it exceedingly hard to care about anything that happened to any of them even during the more dramatic scenes. They also had a habit of constantly referencing earlier events and situations with only minimal clarification or explanation. I strongly suspect that these events and even some of the characters (such as the painfully extraneous Vanessars) probably figured more prominently into the game that provided the source material for this show and so the creators may have simply assumed that the viewers might already be familiar with the universe and the characters.
Well despite the characters, the plot had the potential to be interesting and had a lot of good ideas that, unfortunately, were not executed well. The creators just seemed to be unable to have any sort of natural plot pacing and the flow of story comes off exceedingly uneven. When you combine the uneven pacing combined with an overly elaborate plot that seems desperate to include a number of different vaguely connected characters, and conspiracies the end result is quite simply a mess. This is particularly noticeable during the last few episodes where various abrupt "revelations" and plot twists practically make it seem like they were simply making the script as they went along. As I noted before, they actually had some good ideas buried in this car wreck of a plot, which makes it all the more unfortunate that they couldn't more effectively bring them out.
The weakness in plot execution is only underscored by the schizophrenic nature of the show's atmosphere. The writers couldn't seem to decide if they wanted something that was more humorous or drama backed by intense action. Since all of the episodes of Melty Lancer are tightly bound in terms of plot and events, the uneven tone ends up undermining the whole title much more than it might in a more episodic show. The humor went beyond being simple comic relief and the poorly paced tone changes often seriously undercut the dramatic atmosphere they seemingly were, overall, trying to communicate. Certain plot elements and characters (the Vanessars come to mind) are almost impossible to take at all seriously, so their inclusion in certain key dramatic scenes was, I feel, a mistake.
Honestly, about the only things Melty Lancer has going for it are some good action scenes along with generally high quality art work and animation. However, this eye candy (which isn't even all THAT impressive all things considered especially considering some of the things coming out the last couple of years) isn't really enough to save Melty Lancer.
Eye candy and pretty girls do not an anime make. A complete mess of a plot (poorly paced at that), poor characterization, and abrupt tone shifts made combine to make Melty Lancer a not particularly good anime. If you absolutely do not care about good plots or good characters or for that matter even AVERAGE plots and characters, then an extra star would probably be warranted. Honestly, I don't think the action sequences and art are really impressive enough to carry this title even if that is all your are looking for though. It is a shame really. They good production values and some good ideas at least.
If you simply want pretty girls in a science fiction action setting, there are a number of better titles out there. — Jeremy A Beard
Recommended Audience: Melty Lancer has a lot of action scenes featuring gunplay and the like, but most of the girls' enemies seem to be robots or drones, though later on more than a little collateral damage is suggested in certain battles. Toward the end there are several brief but slightly intense sequences that apparently feature brutality toward children.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Melty Lancer © 1999 TENKY / Bandai Visual / GONZO
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