What They Say:
On the world known as Little Garden, factions and communities complete for power via Gift Games, in which individuals with unusual abilities are set against each other. But where there are winners, there are also losers, and the group called the “No Names” has been so devastated in their conflicts with the Demon Lords that almost all of their 120 remaining members are still children! For surviving leaders Jin and Black Rabbit there seems to be only one hope: Bring in outside recruits and gamble that their new abilities will somehow reverse the tide! Of course, Earth-born Izayoi , Asuka and Yo don’t know any of this when they accept the invitation to come to Little Garden, nor do they know how dangerous the games actually are. Fortunately, all three are far more formidable than anyone else can imagine. Still, before they can win the games, they’ll have to learn how to work together and with the other No Names, and time is rapidly running out! The supernatural and the paranormal collide as the ultimate battle for power begins in PROBLEM CHILDREN ARE COMING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, AREN’T THEY?
The audio works well enough here. No glaring audible problems and you can hear everything well enough. The music is sometimes the exact same volume as the talking, so the dub can be a little hard to hear at moments, but it’s not awful.
I realize that the video quality looks much better on a TV than a computer. The computer somehow makes things look a lot grainier and the quality seems to drop like a rock. Though blu-rays still look nice on PC, DVDs just leave a bunch to be desired. However, that doesn’t mean the DVD looks nice. It’s passable, I guess. The glaring quality issues on PC aren’t as evident on a TV, but they’re still there.
The package feels a little more flimsy than what I usually get with Sentai’s stuff and I’m kind of afraid that I’ll break it if I bend it too much. I suppose that’s probably with every box though. The discs come out easy and feature the four main characters from the cover on the discs (the first disc is Black Rabbit and Izayoi, the second disc is Asuka and Yo). The artwork is nice enough and features a white liquid covered Black Rabbit with strawberries on the back because why not.
The menus feature Black Rabbit and Izayoi on the right with a nice little selection for episodes on the right. It plays the opening or ending on a loop as per usual. It’s functional, but that’s about it.
The extras are neat, but largely superfluous. Unless you have the blu-ray, the screen catches of the bumpers you find online are going to be better. And even then, the blu-ray’s been out for a while, someone probably captured those. And the TV spot, blu-ray spots, and promo video are literally promotion for the thing you already bought. They’re a cool addition, especially the bumpers, but I would have preferred anything else.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Problem Children are coming from another world, aren’t they? (henceforth known as Problem children) is the very definition of fun. It’s concept is ridiculous. It’s initial plot holes are glaring. But who cares? The show is really, really damn fun.
These initial plot holes I’m talking about are what happens to these kids’ parents? Aren’t they, like, terrified that their kids are missing? And one is a rich girl with probably a comically overprotective father; I mean, this is anime, that’s how it works.
But you know what? That doesn’t really matter. Izayoi is a kid that gives off the impression that he doesn’t care about his parents and his parents don’t care about him. He’s a guy that’s looking for the fun in life and hates it when that fun comes at the cost of other people. I mean, in the first episode, he protects a kid being bullied (unrelated, the bullies are taking the kid’s clothes off? Who does that anymore?). He’s clearly a guy with a code that he runs by. He’s the epitome of lawful neutral.
Yu is a girl that seems like she’d be neglected by her parents, probably because of work. She’s sweet enough that her parents had to be nice, but just caught up in everything else. They’ve lost sight of what’s important in life, and that’s their daughter. If there’s an epilogue, it’d include them being happy together. This is where her trust issues come in. Recall episode eight when she’s fighting against Asha and the Jack o’-Lantern: She didn’t chose a partner on purpose and the pumpkin points out that was her mistake. She should have because it would have made her that much better in the fight and given her that much better chance to win. But no, she couldn’t because she has trouble even trusting the friends she’s made these last seven episodes.
Asuka is a little different. I feel like her parents would be seeking her vehemently. Either for appearance or because of the resources they have, they’d want to find their daughter. Asuka, however, seems distant from everyone in her mansion. She talks to the maid as if she’s a servant and, yes, she is, but no one deserves the treatment that Asuka gave the maid. She quickly learns her own mistakes though when she focuses her gift not on controlling people, but gifts themselves. Her entire arc is going from self-centered little girl who would use anyone to meet her ends to a young lady who would fight for her AND her own. Even in the end, she doesn’t crush her opponent when given the chance. She gives her opponent a chance to win, albeit for a self-centered reason.
Just laying out these character arcs makes me realize that this show is a little unique. Izayoi’s entire arc isn’t revelatory or dynamic. He remains relatively static throughout the entire series and he’s the guy we see first out of the four main characters. What we learn about Izayoi is as we go along. He’s not very trusting, but extremely protective. And when he does open up his trust, it’s completely. He may joke, but he cares, perhaps more than Yu or Asuka. It’s not to discredit their own trust, but to give that much more to Izayoi.
Asuka goes through the most obvious change, literally changing her gift (I equate it somewhat to a patronus from Harry Potter in this case). And she gets the first victory in the final battle out of any of the good guys. But even her arc is just her gift. It’s not as much changing her own personality as it is realizing who she really is. That’s just as important and can be just as a compelling arc, but it’s a means.
All these characters are seemingly a means.
The focus seems to be on politics that are never fully explained and Gift Games that teeter between funny and ridiculous, but never believable. The main characters have superpowers and they’re in an alternate dimension, so I wonder how important believability really is. We’re introduced to the No Names, a community that has no flag and no combat-ready members when both are needed. They’re called the No Names because they literally have no name. Their name which defines them and their flag that represents them have both been taken away.
We see their redemption though in their journey through the series. The three main crossovers—Izayoi, Yu, and Asuka—are given the chance to bring redemption to the No Names. Their own redemption isn’t even to the guild itself, but to their morale. It seems that, at the end, the No Names are not much better off than they were. But we know that with Izayoi, Yu, and Asuka, things can only go up from here.
For us, they do not. The OAV is situated after the series on the disc and it is AWFUL. I don’t know why this was even produced. Well, I do, but I don’t like it. It’s completely indulgent in fanservice and there are almost no shots that get away from that. In one, it’s shot as if Black Rabbit is being given a blow job by a bunch of scantily clad (they have rags over them) girls. In another, literal tentacles come out and go around Asuka and an OAV-only character’s bodies. In another, Black Rabbit is covered in milk (because it looks like cum!). In another, their bathing suits (because they started wearing only those early on) are dissolved off. In another, Izayoi says “I have underage girls washing my backs. This is the life.” Fuck this OAV.
As an aside, the opening’s chorus is a really charming J-pop tune that says 1-2-3 in English seemingly out of nowhere. I can’t say I remember much of the verses, but the chorus brings an energy to the song and the series that’s perfect. I know it’s one of those kinds of songs that’ll be in my head months from now and I won’t know for the life of me where it’s from.
The dub is…alright? The main cast is fine. Josh Grelle as Izayoi hits the notes of the character from the Japanese nearly perfectly. Jessica Calvello, known for Excel in Excel Saga, puts a different kind of twist on Black Rabbit. It sounds REALLY awkward because the character speaks in the third person and that just doesn’t work in English, unless you’re The Rock. Nancy Novotny and Brittney Karbowski work as Asuka and Yu respectively, but they’re nothing special. Grelle and Calvello are clearly the standouts in the dub and they aren’t GREAT. They’re just really good. It probably helped that Grelle did the script adaptation, thus gained familiarity that anime voice actors don’t usually get.
The unfortunate thing is that most of the background characters, and even some of the secondary characters, aren’t that good. They hurt that dub so much that I really wanted to switch to the subtitles whenever they were on screen. What stopped me was almost always one of the main characters—or Luci Christian’s Shiroyasha or Black Shepard’s Perseus—that made me want to keep the dub on. Thankfully, by the second disc, everyone seems to have fallen into their roles and things get overall better.
I watched Problem children while it was simulcasting—I think I watched about five episodes before giving up—because I saw a lot of futility in continuing to watch it. After marathoning all these episodes, I have to say I was right. Problem children’s appeal is in how much fun it is to watch and how easy it is to watch. Problem children is the perfect show to have on while you’re doing something else because it doesn’t require full attention to enjoy it. It’s simple fun.
English 2.0, Japanese 2.0, English subtitles, Problem Children Bumpers, TV Spot, Blu-ray Spots, Promo Video, Clean Opening & Closing Animation
Content Grade: B for the series, F for the OAV
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: C-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 29th, 2014
Running Time: 275 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
PS3, 24 in. Vizio 1080p HDTV