Saturday, 17 August 2013

MÄR -メルヘヴン- / MÄR: Mär Heaven

MÄR has been in my life a long time now. I wrote my thoughts on the manga in 2005, after having read it for a couple of years back in the days of SnoopyCool. And today, I finally finished the anime - so that’s probably a full decade of slowly consuming the media based on the adventures of Ginta and co from the creator of Flame of Recca. And maybe I’ll find some time soon to finish off MÄR Omega too.

By the makers’ standards, I suspect MÄR is considered a success. It ran for no less than 102 episodes, through four seasons, and being aimed squarely at kids, I have no doubt it had a decent TV slot – no late-night anime for adult otaku this. There were spin-off games and an American dub. That’s longer thanOnmyou Taisenki, longer than Hikaru no Go, and almost exactly the same as D.Gray-Man. They must have thought it was worth continuing for so long, too, because even when they ran out of manga material to adapt, they shoehorned in lengthy filler that apart from giving more screen time to Loco was almost entirely terrible.

But I suspect that a significant contributor to this was also what was really the main reason this adaptation was a disappointment. Small studio SynergySP, in their first solo animation project (after the group effort of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch) took all the tips from parent studio Toei to make a long-running season on the cheap. Like Yakitate!! Japan, this one was a real disappointment when it first came on, because I wanted to see the impressive world of the manga on the screen, and it looked dismal. Unlike Yakitate!! Japan, when it comes down to it the manga didn’t have much going for it other than the visuals, so reducing the extremely detailed fairy tale-inspired designs of the manga to the level ofPowerpuff Girls Z really, really damaged it.

You see, MÄR is about as generic as shounen manga can get. A schoolboy slips through a mysterious doorway to a magical world, where he discovers that the red sun…sorry, the reduced gravity gives him enhanced strength and agility. After getting himself a very special ‘ÄRM’ to fight with, our hero Ginta joins the struggle against the Chess – and the rest of the series is basically a tournament of one-on-one fights, so typical of Jump titles, though at least Naruto interrupted its one when it started to drag. I was very disappointed with the final chapters of MÄR because the much-vaunted knights’ battles were no more challenging than the rooks and bishops who had come before them. And then there’s an obvious little twist for the King and the series ended. The manga spins it out some more, with the King being more formidable and even killing off most of the cast before they inevitably come back through the power of friendship, but essentially it’s the same.

Which leads to the main problem of the visuals being so underwhelming. The very basic colouring and clunky animation only make the fairly neatly-done CG look more daft because of the contrast, and especially as the more outlandish characters appear, and this only leads to disappointment. 

First impressions, 16.04.2005: Episode one: not bad. Not great, but not bad, either.

The anime, like the Manga, should get a lot better once it gets into its stride. The first manga chapters were pretty awful (thank god we lost the talking rocks) - though I'm looking forward to seeing Chappu and Moku-sama in ep 2. The voice cast was good: fairly generic, but servicable. Ginta's voice was fine, though he didn't look runty enough in the beginning. Dorothy, Alvis and Babbo all sound great - not quite as I imagined, but great nonetheless. The only voice I didn't like was Ginta's schoolfriend's - and the OP was very unimaginitive and dull. Some of the CG looks great, some not so much. Still, I have high hopes!

Mär is never anything but generic shounen, but it becomes GREAT generic shounen when the main plot kicks in.

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