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Posted 6/13/14 , edited 6/13/14
by cardboard_shark

For all our diverse tastes and personalities, most anime fans have at least one trait in common: we’re all prepared to make a lengthy, passionate argument about how animation isn’t just for kids. With all the time we spend explaining how smart and mature anime can be, we sometimes forget that there are plenty of shows out there made primarily for a young audience. A good example of this sometimes forgotten genre is HEROBANK, a series full of virtual battles and capital letters.

In the near future, the high-tech Hero Bank System has given birth to a virtual sport which functions like a combination of mixed martial arts and Kickstarter-style crowd funding. Two people with smartphones can meet up in the real world and challenge one another to a Hero Battle. Their avatars fight in a virtual boxing ring, and the match is streamed to audiences around the world. Viewers can support the combatants by contributing Battle Money, which acts as a power source for special attacks. If you can impress the audience through skill or charisma, they’ll help you unleash your best moves.

The show’s main character, Kaito Gosho, is a grade-schooler who just can’t get enough of the game. When he’s not out doing good deeds with his friends, he’s taking on all comers in the virtual ring. Just as Kaito’s about to lose a match, a monk in aviator sunglasses offers him a powerful new Hero Suit called Enter the Gold. All he has to do in exchange is sign a contract. Kaito eagerly accepts, not realizing that he’s just put himself ten billion yen into debt. Luckily, it just so happens that there’s a big Hero Bank tournament going on, and the grand prize is (you guessed it!) ten billion yen. Can Kaito and his friends win the tournament and pay back the debt? You’ll just have to watch and find out, kids.

HEROBANK plays to the dual childhood fantasies of being a cool, flashy hero and making piles of money with which to buy endless amounts of junk food. Kaito and his buddies are amusingly goofy, and their determination to help others should make it easy for young viewers to root for them. The “bad guy of the week” opponents and their Hero Suits tend to be parodies of typical older kids and adults, and are one of the show’s most entertaining elements. Kaito’s teacher is an early highlight thanks to special attacks that can be dodged by correctly answering quiz questions.

In between all the action and comedy, the series sneaks in some interesting life lessons. A sinister masked villain regularly tempts Kaito’s friend Nagare with offers of easy access to money and power. Judging by the opening sequence, Nagare will eventually give in to temptation and become Kaito’s chief rival, illustrating how money can come between even the best of friends. It’s a surprisingly deep observation for a children’s show, but one the series takes its sweet time making. After five episodes, it’s tough not to start yelling at Nagare to hurry up and turn to the dark side.

While most viewers will prefer more mature action titles like Kill la Kill, HEROBANK has the potential to be a hit with a young audience. It may not help you argue that animation isn’t just for kids, but it’s a solid option for introducing your younger relatives to anime.
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