Cyborg 009 Review - Short Circuit
I really need to stop doing this to myself. Why must I, after watching a movie that I really really enjoyed, always follow it up with a series nobody expected to be good and completely lives up to expectations? Maybe it’s just a bitter involuntary response I have, like saying, “Shut up,” whenever somebody sneezes, but the last time this happened I actually kinda enjoyed it to be honest.
See, last time I went to the movies with Summer Wars, the next review on my docket was the abominable Casshern Sins, a series I’ve raked over the coals so much now I’m surprised it hasn’t become a meme on this site yet. The thing was, Casshern Sins was on my “to bloodily eviscerate” list for quite some time before then, so tearing into it felt like a spitefully entertaining Christmas more than anything else.
This time, I’m looking at a Netflix exclusive, and had this review come out a few years ago, the tone would’ve been completely different. Because as far as anime exclusives go, Netflix is pretty well set up, between Seven Deadly Sins, Ajin, Kuromukuro, Magi: Adventures of Sinbad if for whatever reason you don’t feel like putting on One Piece, and my personal favorite of the bunch Knights of Sidonia.
Then out pops Cyborg 009: Call to Justice in 2016, and considering that on its release I was already binging a bunch of other shows that I knew were good, also junior year was a bit of a pain, also also I’m not an idiot, I let it go on its way. At least, until the anime famine of Winter 2017 struck and I was so desperate for new shows that I had to put it on out of necessity. To bring out one of my tortuously overdrawn metaphors, this is like being stuck in the desert, incredibly thirsty, and the only drink you can find is a warm can of beer about one and a half years past expiration.
What I’m saying is Cyborg 009 isn’t very good. At all. That’s kinda the point I’m getting at.
Going back to a couple weeks ago, you remember how I mentioned there are different types of bad anime, ranging anywhere between fun bad and offensive bad? Cyborg 009 comes in probably the worst flavor of bad there is: the boring bad. The show itself wants to be an action show, but does it in all of the most tedious, uninteresting and of course wrong ways that I barely managed two episodes before dropping it like a cursed twelfth-century vase.
I can’t even get properly motivated to start reviewing this thing. I mean, what’s the damn point? There’s nothing to talk about. It’s just a bad show. There’s no meat here. The worst thing it did to me was suck away forty minutes of my life. It didn’t get me angry, it didn’t make me laugh. It was just…there. And I can’t help feeling like, regardless of what I say about it today, it’s not going to care about it either. I’d probably have a more productive evening telling you about stuff I’m actively enjoying as opposed to criticizing a series less entertaining than a map of Greenland.
But, well, I guess it’s my job to at least acknowledge this thing. Let’s get this over with.
The closest semblance of a “plot” that I could scrape together is that we’re focused on a crime-fighting team of nine highly advanced cyborgs of various nationalities and backgrounds. The catch seems to be that each of them volunteered for an experiment hosted by a shady organization but were duped into being augmented against their will, and if that’s the case then I personally would love to hear how the Russian baby signed up for it. Does the show care? Not especially, and the show offhandedly mentions he’s actually incredibly intelligent, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s still underage no matter what country he’s in.
We’re not five minutes into the first episode and already I have a headache, but let’s move along. Each cyborg has been granted a special trait by the doctor overseeing their crime-fighting operations. The usefulness of said traits range wildly from 009’s ability to essentially stop time at will to 008’s ability to be really really good at swimming. Not only does this seem like an incredible case of favoritism, but it also raises the question of can the rest of the cyborgs swim, and if yes why does 008’s augment seem so trivial in that light. Or even better, is there any reason the good doctor couldn’t just take all of the nine cyborgs' special abilities and drop them all into one super-cyborg so to speak?
If there’s an explanation, I either didn’t watch enough of the show to hear it or the line was so throwaway that I forgot it. Either way, I’m counting it as a plothole.
Now, think about the preceding two (well, three) paragraphs there for a minute. How long did it take you to read that, maybe discounting the riff on the cyborg’s augmentation imbalances? Probably less than a minute or two I’d imagine? The series dedicates almost the entire first episode to telling you directly to your face, with no breaks or interruptions God forbid we pause it for some actual action, what I managed to sum up in two sentences. Yeah, we are given the anime’s premise in a full-on, stop-for-nothing fifteen-minute exposition dump in the first episode of the show.
Because that’ll keep the audience engaged and wanting more.
In keeping with its stale, uninteresting, rigid motif in the writing, Cyborg 009’s animation is not one to be so easily snuffed either. I imagine the conversation went something like this: “What if we did Knights of Sidonia’s 3D thing again, only this time we acted like we were animating a crappy indie game on Steam as opposed to an actual show?” The art feels stilted in the most literal sense of the word. I felt like the entire series would fall in on itself if I so much as kicked the underside of my desk too hard.
Whenever one character is expositing for the audience, everyone else in the room ubiquitously sits or stands motionlessly while blankly staring at the speaker with whatever expression the animators decide would be their default face texture. What rare moments of movement I witnessed were jerky, unnatural, and robotic, appropriately enough. The characters veer so far into the uncanny valley I’d understand if you mistook the series for a horror show.
Characters teleport into and out of existence whenever they aren’t part of the foreground. Their mouths move in manners nowhere remotely close to the words the characters are speaking (before you say anything, the show seems to have sunk a lot of time into different mouth movements for its cast; I’m saying that if you have them, use them). The facial animations are either hilariously incompetent or creepily unsettling, often both at the same time.
The only entertainment I found out of this series was picking out the awkwardly silly faces the characters routinely pull at the most inopportune of times.
“But aren’t you kinda insinuating that the show’s action isn’t up to scratch either, SnYves?” Reader, you are exactly correct and a bag of chips. The action is utter nonsense, with no sense of weight, no degree of importance, and no reason whatsoever to care. Part of that apathy might stem from 009’s (make sure you pronounce the zeros!) incredibly overpowered ability; I forget if he’s capable of actually stopping time, or if he moves so damn quick it only feels like it. Either way, that’s the kind of ability that risks trivializing any conflict in the entire series, so whenever he’s around I find it hard to give a damn whenever a new foe appears before our heroes.
I imagine the only reason he doesn’t have it on the entire time is because there are eight other cyborgs on the team, and I guess they need a chance to do something as well. Besides, if he did, we already have a great anime about being so overpowered nothing is capable of presenting a challenge. It’s called One Punch Man, and it is leagues better than this tedium.
This review is getting on the boring side for me as well, come to think of it. I’m not sure what else there is to say, but that’s the risk you run when you try recapping something roughly as exciting as a third-grade rock collection.
Ooh, speaking of rock, Rise Against is putting a new album out this June! Yeah, the preorder single, “The Violence,” is out now and it’s actually pretty good. Frankly, I’m not sure if anything is going to beat The Sufferer and The Witness, and Black Market had maybe two good songs worth listening before they got overplayed to hell and the rest of the album wasn’t really noteworthy, but Wolves is shaping up to be a pretty nice release from what I’ve heard.
Hey, how was everyone’s E-Days? I bumped into a new webcomic series called Slightly Damned that I shotgunned over the weekend, and it’s pretty damn good, no pun intended. Buwaro is one of the most lovable doofs I’ve ever read about, the whole dynamic between him, Rhea and Kieri is excellently written and very well thought-out, whatever gut punches happen in the narrative are well-earned and, most importantly, memorable, and I just had a ball reading it on the whole. This is one to keep an eye on, and even if webcomics aren’t your thing, I still recommend giving it a go. It is really solid.
I’ve also been playing a ton of Faeria lately. It pretty much plays like a tactical board game with elements of Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering thrown in to boot. Pretty much, the entire game plays out on a hex board where you create lands to drop your creatures onto and power your spells. The tactics come in moving your creatures around the board, invading enemy territory and attacking their base while holding off your opponent’s forces. It is a very unique game to say the least, plus the devs hold monthly tournaments with some decently-sized prize pools. It’s also free-to-play, so I say no reason not to download it and try a few hands.
Wait, this isn’t what I’m reviewing. What was I originally talking about again?
Meh, probably nothing important.
THE VERDICT: F
Next time: It’s okay to like things.