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Needless Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Sometimes all there is to life is just a bit of fighting. And fanservice.

What They Say:
The year is 2130 and the world has been decimated by a devastating third world war, making the planet a dangerous, apocalyptic hellhole. There is, however, one hope: Adam Blade, a fake priest with big fists and a nasty disposition. He’s the closest thing this world’s got to a superhero, but like any superhero, he has a weakness. In Adam’s case, it isn’t Kryptonite; it’s cuties in sexy little outfits, usually of the schoolgirl variety.

Contains episodes 1-24.

The Review:
The audio presentation for the series has the Japanese and English tracks in stereo using the DTS-HD MA codec with a near-constant bit rate of 1.8mbps. The show has a pretty good forward soundstage mix to it as it uses a fair bit of action to complement the dialogue and it’s very expressive at times with the way it gets almost wacky with it. The fighting sequences is where it stands out the most outside of the music when it gets to the hand to hand sequences as it has a nice bit of impact. The dialogue for the series is strong with lots of characters that are talking a lot, and fast at times, and it has a good warm and rich feeling to it. It’s got some directionality to it that works nicely and some depth and overall it’s a solid and clean mix with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in the second half of 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. The twenty episode release is spread across three discs in a nine/eight/six format. The show has an average bit rate in the high twenties which works well with the very bright colors that it has, especially the rich blues of the sky backgrounds. Needless has a very raw feeling to it with a lot of angular line work and detailed edges to it that gives it a rough feeling. The action to it is definitely exaggerated and the fast movements are well handled by the encoding. The colors are very rich and appealing and the transfer avoids problems like cross coloration and aliasing.

The complete collection for Needless changed things up with the disc count and the case for it keeps it all slim with a single sized standard Blu-ray case to hold it all. The front cover goes for the fanservice in a big way, much like the half season sets did, by showing a pair of the girls in their swimsuits on the beach, one of which is enjoying a Popsicle in a way that definitely catches attention. While I would have liked something that deals with the action part of the show or more of the leads, there is an appeal with what we get here. The back cover goes with an all black background that brings out lead in for part of it with a muted look as well as a few shots from the show squished off to the side that are a bit murky as well. The show is simple in plot so the summary we get here covers the basics well without having to say too much. The discs special features aer all very clearly listed and we get the usual rundown of production credits and a clean and very easy to read technical grid that lists out how the content is designed. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for the release is pretty good overall as it has a very large yet personal feel to it. The main menus for each disc has a different piece of character artwork with Blade on the first and Eve on the second where they have a dark and almost concrete feeling to the background which gives it a hard feeling. The navigation strip along the bottom doubles as the pop-up during playback as well as it uses the same kind of color scheme but has primarily the episode number selections which is designed in the cross form from within the show itself. It lists it by number and title which is a nice touch. The layout is very simple and quick to use but language selection continues to be a problem because it’s not terribly clear based on the icons used within it what the actual selection is. And when you’re in there, you have to select something in order to get out, making it easier to just select on the fly and avoid the whole section altogether.

This release has a good selection of extras to it that are worth checking out. The core things come in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are always welcome and they have a good encode here of it with a high bit rate at times. One extra here is called The Secret of Saint Lilly Academy which has its own submenu that brings up its pieces to check out. This is a collection of comedy shorts that puts the characters in a very different setting and has a whole lot of fun with it. It’s the kind of omake that’s generally a lot of fun no matter what, but even more so when the show already has a strong comedy angle to it since they take things even further. In addition to that we get a really nice and fairly detailed liner notes section that covers a number of the gags and comedy bits throughout and some of the subtler pieces that helps to flesh out things nicely. Liner notes are becoming a lost art so having some really well laid out and designed ones is welcome. The last extra on here is a series of production and character sketches that’s done as a video which has lots to it, but like the first, watch it only after you finish the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the Ultra Jump manga by Kami Imai, Needless is a twenty-four episode series that feels like it was separated at birth with Gurren Lagann when it comes to the visual designs and overall energy. Needless predates it though and the manga is ongoing still with some eleven volumes out so far in Japan. Madhouse worked on this series back in 2009 and it definitely shows as it has a very distinct and edgy look to it that takes the energy of the designs and really utilizes it to make an engaging show that keeps you visually enthralled with all the details. The series is one that manages to mix the action and humor rather well to give it a dynamic feeling that keeps it moving pretty much all the time with little in the way of quiet moments.

Needless takes place in the year 2130, some fifty years of world war three suddenly erupted and caused numerous cities across the world to fall prey to the attacks, such as Tokyo which had a very expansive area turn to ruin. While the world went on afterward peace seemed to settle, the area in Japan where this attack happened became known as the Black Spot. People lived there, roaming gangs lived and operated out of there and the outside world generally seemed to have little to do with repairing it or moving back into it. A lot of the reason for this is that numerous people within this zone had their DNA altered and the result after five decades is a lot of people who have some very interesting abilities in their possession. Those who are these Needless only possess one ability but it’s something that they often master as best as they can to survive and give them an edge.

Within the Black Spot, a man known as Adam Arklight as part of the Simeon corporation from the outside world is operating with a plant to acquire and crush the Needless as his ability is to learn, which means he can take on their ability for a time and use it himself. The show opens with a group of resistance Needless fighters who have just been crushed by his organization and are on the run with only one young man named Cruz who isn’t even a Needless himself as the survivor. He ends up coming into contact with a man who looks like some form of a priest named Adam Blade who himself has the learning ability and quite the quirky sense of self. He helps him out and Cruz ends up crashing at the ruined church he operates out of with a group of strange individuals.

Cruz isn’t called that by any of them as he’s given the name Yamada against his will and basically does a whole lot of chores for them in between the growing number of fights that seem to follow. Blade’s something of a priest but he’s more motivated by money than anything else, well, except for cute young girls who call him brother to get him to do things. Along with him there’s Eve, a doppleganger shapeshifter with a number of very deadly skills, and Gido, an older character who excels at science and all things mechanical. As a group they have a decent feel about them and as the episodes go on, the group expands a bit with an information broker and some pure muscle with a flame ability.

The larger storyline that comes out of this fairly early on is that Adam Arklight has a definite interest in Blade because his own body is starting to wear down and he needs a new replacement one and Blade’s might be the most ideal one. Some of his subordinates are sent to check things out and to make their own exploratory attacks and that gets Blade to actually be proactive and go to find out what the deal is from Arklight himself, which gives the show a mild road trip feel for a bit. What this does primarily is to bring in more of the characters, including one of the sub-groups of one of the Great Four leaders, the beautiful Riru who herself had carved out a little empire in the Black Spot. She has a group of some forty-odd young women in school girl uniforms that she uses for an attack force. They’ve all god Needless abilities themselves and a core group of them becomes the main focus when Blade comes up to them at the Simeon building that’s out in the midst of the Black Spot.

While the series has its appeal at first with its visual design and energy, it started to drag a little bit towards the halfway mark. There’s something to be said for the variety and intensity of the fights as the unfold, from Eve being twisted to what she is now, but there’s a lot of bloody moments along the way as well. Blade himself has a reduced role for part of it as it goes on as the focus is on others involved in the fight, especially as they try to save each other with the way some of them are getting wounded, but eventually it all turns towards the real fight, the serious fight. The fight that has Adam Arklight stepping into the room so he can make things clear with what he wants since he needs Blade’s body, though he can definitely bludgeon it a lot without killing him.

The extended fight has its moments, but it does bring in a lengthy flashback as well. The first lengthy flashback we get involves dealing with Cruz’s past as he learns that not only is his sister Aruka actually alive, but she’s one of the Four Great Ones that works for Arklight. The back story for Aruka isn’t all that much of a surprise from the first moments we see her even with her mask on, but as it gets into it, the story ties back to the beginning of the series when we saw Cruz and Aruka on the run as the rebellion was being crushed. There’s a nice little secret tied into it that helps explains why she did what she did, but also why Cruz has been fairly easy to follow for awhile and the why of following him since he has key information that’s being sought after. It does a decent job of bringing certain things full circle, but it’s nothing really powerful or revelatory.

The other flashback that occurs further in this set involves going back even further, to the time after the world had been ravaged by the creations that the Japanese government had made. They’re now involved in figuring out how to create something new and more advanced based off of the one remnant they have from which they pull Eden’s Seed. What’s interesting about the project and flashback is that it goes to a time when Rikudo, or Gido, was a big part of the Adam project and actually had hair. The story back in 2114 has a lot to offer as we learn about that project and how the Adam’s came about, what was thrown into the Black Spot and how Arklight became the power that he is. There are some decent layers to it as it’s explored, and we see how Arklight was essentially built, but it’s generally filled with the information we need for the final arc of the series.

And that final arc is kind of awkward since probably seventy-five percent of this series takes place over the course of what, an hour or two at best? From their arrival at the Simeon building in the Black Spot, it’s been non-stop action with the back story filling in things. When it gets to those last episodes, it focuses on the epic scale battle between Adam and Blade with Adam intending to become the god that he believes he is, which has Blade and the others trying to stop him. It’s fairly straightforward and it’s good to see how everyone comes together to deal with it since they realize exactly what’s at stake compared to before. It does bring things to a solidly big level, which isn’t a surprise considering what the show has been like, especially at the start, but it lacks a certain resonance to it simply because it’s so much in a short space of time overall that it just keeps going, and going and going. It’s like an endurance run and you’re more just glad to be at the end of it than anything else. It does end well, and the minor epilogue has some smile inducing moments and Cruz himself comes out the best, but it’s not anything that really stands out in a powerful way.

In Summary:
Needless started with a lot of potential and a great sense of style and power about it, but it felt like it got very distracted with what it wanted to do. In a way, it felt like certain manga series of old where it was just long extended series of actions that kept going and going, building on top of each other as it moved to the next set piece. While I’m certainly not against action as I’ve watched some very, very long fighting/action series, I did wish that this show had more real plot to it and spent time making me care more about the characters or just being invested in their battles. There are a lot of elements to Needless that I liked, but the show didn’t come together over the whole run and this set was nothing but fists and pounding going on. It may work on a week to week basis, but in an extended sitting it was an endurance viewing.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, The Secret of Saint Lilly Academy, Needless Information, Character Sketches, Production Sketches, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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