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Buddy Complex Complete Collection Essentials Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
A kind of old school series with some silly concept names that strangely delights.

A kind of old school series with some silly concept names that strangely delights.

What They Say:
It’s shaping up to be another boring day for high school student Aoba Watase until a bright light appears in the sky and a giant robot attacks the city. As the mechanical menace closes in on him, he’s saved by a classmate who’s piloting a mech of her own. After accepting a cryptic offer to join the alliance she’s a part of, Aoba is thrust into the future where a new world war threatens to tear the planet apart. With no other choice, Aoba must pick a side, learn to pilot a mech, and fight his way through an army of enemies as he tries to find a way back to the past he left behind.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only in stereo encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has a solid blend of action and dialogue that keeps both sides working well as there’s plenty going on with it. The dialogue side is straightforward for the most part but it gets some good use during the combination sequences and just the way it’s utilized during the communication aspect when they’re piloting. It’s not anything special in the end but the placement is solid and the interactions work well. The action side itself stands out more as we get some solid mecha fighting sequences with plenty of flying about that’s well placed and explosions that add some good impact to a number of scenes. Again, it’s not something that goes big in a way that really stands out, but it’s all solidly put together and works to enhance the overall show.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The fifteen episodes that we get are spread across two discs with ten on the first and five on the second. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a vibrant, color and wonderfully fluid look about it in most of its sequences and especially during the action, making it a real treat to watch here in high definition. The colors pop off the screen really well and the overall look of it is strong with great detail to be had and a very solid look throughout. There’s little to really find flaw with here in any significant way as the end result is a very clean and appealing looking work.

Packaging:
The Essentials edition of this release largely replicates what we had before but it’s not quite as strong since we lose the O-card that gave the front a lot more pop of color and vibrancy. The front cover goes with one of the familiar promotional images of the three core characters and the two mecha from it as it’s set against a nicely shaded blue sky with clouds, giving it both light and dark areas to help define it. The logo is kept to the bottom in silver and gray that actually doesn’t stand out all that much. It’s not a bad looking logo but it doesn’t catch your eye either even as it tries some creative extensions with certain letters. The back cover is fairly traditional with a strip of shots down along the left wrapped in red that gives it some really great vibrancy against the darker blues of the sky that’s carried over from the front. The premise is kept straightforward enough and there’s a strong push towards Sunrise and its works to help sell it. The rest is the standard listing of the extras in clear fashion along with the tiny production credits text and a clean breakdown of the technical side through the grid. No show related inserts are included but we do get a good piece of artwork on the reverse side that goes for a red background and letting the mecha take center stage.

Menu:
The menu design here works a simple approach with just a small red stripe along the bottom for the selections, which are even more minimal than usual since it’s a monolingual release. The logo is kept to the upper left at a decent size and with its silver, gray and black blending it looks decent on top of the clips that play out. The clips themselves are fairly standard pieces with a mix of action and minor character moments so you can check out the designs and the whole thing is tied together with a decent piece of instrumental music to set the mood. It’s not big or flashy but it does the job well and navigation is a breeze both at the main menu and during playback with the pop-up menu variant.

Extras:
The extras for this series are pretty straightforward as we get the clean opening and closing sequences along with various promos and commercials for the main series and the special two-episode closing act.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from Sunrise that aired in the winter 2014 anime season, Buddy Complex is the kind of series that just has an odd tone about it, both in its actual run and how it was perceived. The series underperformed significantly for Sunrise by all appearances as it was originally set for a two-cour run and had its second cour dropped down to just two episodes to bring closure to it all. Additionally, it’s a rare series from FUNimation that didn’t get a dub even though it’s a big, splashy, mecha series with attractive characters. That just says that the streaming side of it and the audience mindshare for it is low and nothing in the years since has changed that at all.

The premise is straightforward enough in that kind of wish fulfillment angle as we’re introduced to Aoba Watase, a high school student who has some friends, is solid at basketball and comes across as your nice young guy. Everything goes to hell quickly for him while at school when a giant mecha shows up looking to kill him and destroy anyone that’s around him. The only thing that saves him is fellow classmate Hina Yumihara, a young woman that he barely knew but had been watching over him for some time. She’s got her own mecha and proceeds to go hard and fast against the opponent, complete with requisite scene involved Aoba getting on board the mecha with her. It’s standard first episode chaos and setup material and it works pretty well overall, even if it’s a touch light and rushed. Where it surprises is that after the fight, the pair end up flying into a singularity that destroys a good chunk of the mecha and seemingly kills Hina, all while trapping Aoba in the future seventy years later.

This future world is an area that’s certainly open for a lot of things that can be done with it. What we get as a baseline is that the world has largely shifted to two different sides, with the Confederation made up of at least North America and Japan among others, presumably much of Europe as well, and the Zogilia Republic, which has a heavy Russian angle to it among others that are brought in from various Asian locales. The two are at war and have been for some time, though the reasons why are never really clearly laid out and the goals of the two sides are simple in just winning as opposed to achievable goals that you can put into a bullet list. This is an unfortunate aspect of the show because it takes some of the driving motivation out of it as you really don’t get to empathize with either side, either as good guys or bad guys. Both are really just made up of people wanting to protect their homelands and it’s left to just that. Admirable but superficial in terms of really getting us to connect with it.

With that as the backdrop, what the show does is fairly interesting overall as we get Aoba struggling to deal with being in this future time and the only thing he knew with Hina having been lost in his arrival. She does tell him to trust Dio when he gets there, but Dio turns out to be a high school-aged highly skilled pilot that comes from a wealthy family. And he distrusts Aoba completely, as does most everyone based on the kind of crazy story that he tells. What helps, eventually, is that Dio begins to believe more when the two of them connect through the specialized way that the mecha here work with each other on the Confederation side. In order to heighten the pilot’s abilities, it works with a pairing program that connects the two pilots with the Buddy system. We’ve seen similar before in Godannar and Pacific Rim and they mostly work it well here, though they put in the limiting element of it only working for 300 seconds before they have to break off. And there’s the element of the bond being shaky as well depending on events that are going on. For Aoba and Dio, the two end up pairing very quickly and to a higher level than others, which is doubly shocking since he’s not undergone any training obviously. This is the whole gifted wish-fulfillment element that’s really the weak link here because Aoba is able to perform high-level maneuvers quickly and easily very early on. While you can kind of give it a pass to some degree because of the Buddy system and natural talent, it’s just one of those harder areas to work through.

One of the elements that really does work well for me though is that when the show deals with Hina from this time period it’s not done in a simple and easy way. It turns out that she’s on the other side, a Zogilia pilot, and part of a group that’s making concerted attacks on the ship that Aoba ends up a part of. This has the two of them coming into contact and her being unaware of who he is since it hasn’t happened to her yet. For Aoba, however, it’s a connection to his past and he grabs on hard, foolishly, and almost in creepy ways from time to time. But as it progresses it works the connection they have from the reverse side and I really enjoyed it because Hina’s not a constant and not around him much until the third act. The only piece that kind of weirded me out, owing to time travel escapades, is that he gives her a hairpin that she gave him in 2014, which she, in turn, brings to the past. Where the hairpin came from is the true mystery!

A lot of the main season is pretty much what you’d expect, especially if it really was going to go for two cour and ended up being abbreviated. There’s a lot of familiar basic worldbuilding going on and character exploration, but it moves at a kind of leisurely pace overall. And there are some really good scenes throughout it as we get to see how it all works. What the show ended up getting done though was to bring it all to completion after the main season ended by getting a two-episode special. In this piece, presented as episodes fourteen and fifteen, it pours in a ton of quality work with the animation to have a grand battle between the mecha, ships and a big ass cannon called the Gorgon. It’s the kind of throwing everything in plus the kitchen sink piece while also trying to wrap up the character story. I can imagine most of the second cour would have been Aoba and Hina getting to know each other and deal with more attacks, especially from her comrades that she defected from, but by truncating all of that and just pushing hard on the final act it ends up working in a much stronger way.

In Summary:
Buddy Complex got a lot of grief when it came out and I can understand why as it works with a lot of familiar things and not enough to really distinguish itself. But like my initial viewing back then, I found it in its own way to be quite the charming show that benefits from how its second act ended up unfolding. Though I wanted more meat out of the characters and the world-building – it really is underserved here – I really liked the visual design of it all from the mecha to the characters and the simple fluidity of the animation that showed a real love of these kinds of old school mecha shows. It definitely feels very Gundam-classic in its own way. In the end, I get why things went as it did for the show, unfortunate as it is, but I’m definitely glad that I got to see it in full and come away with my own positive impression of it. It’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread but it was a pretty damn enjoyable experience overall, with tempered expectations. This edition, priced so low even before discounts, makes it worth taking a chance on if you’re into the genre at all. It could be an undiscovered gem for you.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Closing, Promotional Videos, Blu-ray Commercials, Final Act Commercials, Final Act Promotional Video

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 18th, 2019
MSRP: $29.95
Running Time: 375 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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