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Ten Years Later: Hyperdimension Neptunia

6 min read

My wariness of shows based on games is well-earned as when I first got into anime in a big way in the 1990s the bulk of what was being brought over were often basically cheap and simple OVAs. It took time for more involved shows to start getting picked up so you had to work through a lot of junk to get to the good stuff and so much of the junk were game-related. That has become far less of a thing over the years as more projects were done as high-quality multimedia pieces and that helped to spread the money so that the most are competent and often interesting. Based on the gaming franchise that began in 2010, Hyperdimension Neptunia is a twelve-episode series and OVA that came out in the summer of 2013. Animated by David Production, this is the kind of series that really goes all in and makes it clear that they’re backing it with money as the animation is top notch and there are a lot of great designs here. The downside, to a degree, is that the stories are simple yet there’s some quality about them that allows it to really stand out.

Having not played the games at all, and honestly, they were not of any interest to me before or after watching the series, what I like is that the show is very accessible overall to someone like me. I never felt like I was missing out by having not played. It introduces us to a world where there are four main goddesses, aka CPU’s, that maintain their own nations. Each nation generates Share energy, which is what powers everything – including these goddesses, and the more there are that believe in them, the better off the nation. So they’re all dedicated to taking care of their nations and people, which is a good cycle to see because they’re very aware of things. The show may not deal with the average citizen all that often, but there are fun moments when they do. But thankfully, the show doesn’t have to revolve around those kinds of interactions, but rather on what is going on between the various goddesses and their younger sisters.

The series opens with the idea that the four main goddesses that lead their nations – Neptune, Noire, Vert, and Blanc – have signed a Friendship Pact. While they’re still going to be competing, they’re also focusing on befriending each other rather than fighting, so that brings less issues to their respective nations. That’s not the easiest thing to do since they’re all different in their personalities, but they’re also leaders that know their nations can disappear if things go badly. In addition to them, they have their younger sisters that are basically goddess candidates. They’re mostly the same in a lot of ways, drawn to who they are, but there’s also the idea that through the mentoring from the main goddesses, they bring out the true goddesses within these candidates.

The structure of the series is one that’s fairly straightforward as there are a number of smaller stories along the way, while the overall arc is about a force from the past looking to stake a claim on the present. But that’s your standard push in the final act rather than something that’s made clear early on. Instead, we get some fun events with Arfoire and her minion Chu, a cute little mouse-like type that’s a lot of fun to watch. Arfoire is looking to cause trouble for the various CPU goddesses and she serves as a good foil, one that does make some inroads from time to time, but it’s more comical than anything else. When it’s discovered that a particular fruit is something that Noire really doesn’t like, she buys an entire farm of them and draws them in so that she’s cringing the whole time rather than being able to fight back. But it’s not that she’s allergic or sickened badly by it, but it’s a fun route to take to add some tension and silliness to it.

Over the course of it, there’s a good range of interactions with the cast between the four main CPUs and their candidates, and some of the supporting cast, but mostly everything tends to stand alone in terms of story. There’s a lot of early material that focuses on the way the four main girls work have to get to know each other, since the whole point of the Friendship Pact was that they have to move beyond what they were before and really become friends. So a lot of the fun is just in seeing the way the girls interact, both when they transform and act to deal with what’s going on, as well as when they’re just hanging around – often at Neptunes, and goofing off. It gets a little complicated along the way with the arrival of Peashy, a young girl from another dimension. She ends up causing trouble for Neptune, simply because she knows she can do it, but it works well enough to build the overall series of interactions.

With simplicity to the stories overall, what really sells it is the animation and the general sense of fun that comes from it – especially when they visit an R18 island resort as it plays the gaming realm in a good way. The slick and polished design here, combined with the outgoing and fun vocal performances in both languages, it’s an infectious show that just draws you in. And the more gaming-oriented you are, the more of the little jokes, gags, and nods that you’ll get. But there’s also just a lot to enjoy here with the animation with the fanservice. While it does get plenty playful and silly with the breasts and skin showing, it’s done in such a way that it really has a great sense of fun about it rather than disturbingly exploitative. And that’s a line a lot of shows unfortunately tend to cross in bad ways. But here, it just clicked together in such a great way that I was just enjoying the work as a whole and all of these moments.

Honestly, few game-to-anime adaptations have had a more positive resting space in my mind than the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Ten years isn’t a lot for this project, especially since it had a strong design to begin with, and the big plus to wider interest is that it doesn’t require that you really need to know anything from it. It pretty much starts from a good place here and moves forward from there as we’re introduced to the characters, the basic settings, and several simple stories amid a larger world-ending arc without making you feel like you’re a fool for not knowing these things. It’s not a deep or complicated show, but it’s one that tells its tale well and effectively, and you can get a lot out of it and really enjoy the characters. I can totally see this being a draw for people to get into the games themselves, but I found myself at the end of it wishing that there was a second season. Perhaps the new OVAs could lead to just that, a decade later.