54575 cr points
Send Message: Send PM GB Post
36 / M / CR HQ
Posted 5/8/14 , edited 12/8/14
by Zerogouki

When entertainment gets called "formulaic," it's invariably an insult. The implication, of course, is that the work in question is hidebound completely to a recipe, and inferior to something more avant-garde or experimental. If anything puts lie to that idea, it's ORECA BATTLE and DRAGON COLLECTION, two series airing as one complimentary block and now streaming on Crunchyroll.

Both series won't offer any major surprises for those of us who have experience with video game derivatives like Pokémon, Digimon, or the more recent Yokai Watch, and of course the vast number of card game shows that followed Yu-Gi-Oh!. The truth is, they don't really need to.

Sure, you can probably already guess how things go in general terms in both, and you'd be right: Ordinary, albeit hot-blooded, boy enters a fantasy realm through a video game (which you can play at any arcade, kids at home!) and fights various monsters in a quest to get stronger and protect his friends. But I could do just the same on your average episode of Law & Order or Castle, if I really wanted to. The pleasures of ORECA BATTLE and DRAGON COLLECTION are in the details and in the way the two series play off each other.

Episodes of each are only eleven minutes long and they air opposite each other in one typical half-hour time slot. Watching them in their original format offers some cute moments of synchronicity: The appearance of a big red dragon at the end of the first ORECA BATTLE episode, as an opponent, nicely parallels the appearance of the hero's dragon character in DRAGON COLLECTION (be aware of just how often you'll say "dragon" and "card" while talking about these shows), and there's a cameo appearance from Pandora, the talking treasure chest/game console who ushers Fire into fighting a real Oreca Battle in the arcade in DRAGON COLLECTION. I'd steer clear of that arcade, myself.

Konami, the company behind the games, and Oriental Light & Magic, the makers of these anime adaptions, were nice enough to differentiate them: Fire, the hero of ORECA BATTLE, is an experienced player at the titular game and has garnered a reputation for excellence among his like-minded middle schoolers, but Hiro, the... well, hero, of DRAGON COLLECTION hasn't even had a chance to play the game before he ends up stranded in its fantasy world. Fire also already has an ally, his friend Data (as the name suggests, he's the smart one), and garners a whole collection of monsters right in the first episode, whereas Hiro has to struggle just to get one, early on. What they both have in common are a certain classic shonen dimness (although Hiro's friend Shin gets the most Son Goku-esqueline when he asks if a magazine tastes any good. Classic!) and a great deal of affection for their little monster pets.

Visually, both shows work about the same. The characters designs stick within an easy to interpret shonen template, with average height spiky-haired kids, taller long-haired guys, and big giant thug guys -- and I do mean guys, as there are only three female characters of marginal importance in the early episodes. Still, the highlight of a show like this is always the monsters, and they don't disappoint: While they aren't quite to the level, of say, Toriko, they're cute-yet-badass style is instantly endearing. I especially like their expressive, cartoony eyes, which give them a nicely human quality.

The voice acting in both shows is good, with a few standouts; Koichi Sakaguchi as the aforementioned Pandora has an oozy, sickly quality to his voice, like a mischievous granddad, and newcomer Haruna Sakurai jumps right into her role as Hiro -- you haven't heard anyone say "guts" with as much enthusiasm since Noriko Takaya in Gunbuster, or perhaps the theme to Getter Robo. The music, too, is mostly perfunctory, aside from the stupendous opening song to ORECA BATTLE, "Oreca Omaeka Genkai Battle!!," sung by Akira Kushida. It'll still be in your head days after you've left Fire and his friends behind.

In fact, there's a chance most of the show will. No matter how formulaic it may be, there's charm and amusement to be had here; only the most joyless anime fans will be able to resist them completely. Any fan of game, shonen, or monster anime would do well to check either or both out, and may find them hard to resist.
You must be logged in to post.