Judge Joel Pearce makes a point of never eating lemons when playing video games.
"One thing is for sure, the game has become very dangerous."—Captain
BASToF Syndrome is a new Korean anime show that blends the "we're trapped in a video game" genre of anime with the even more popular "battling giant robots" genre. Although the concept is decent, watching this show is a frustrating and painful experience that I can't recommend to anyone.
Even though it's not that original, the plot of BASToF Syndrome is actually kinda cool. In a futuristic city built around a dormant volcano, three teenage gamers are drawn into a virtual reality game called the Lemon Game, where the actions in the game cause damage in the real world. It's unclear how the game is connected to reality, but the game was shut down nine years earlier after some odd occurrences. Now, the game has a life of its own and any damage the players take in the game is replicated in the real world.
The three gamers are the best players of a game called Spearhead, an internet game that is never shown on the series. The first of these players is Pseudo, a loner skateboarder who talks like Jeff Spicoli. The second is Mint, a pretty, rich girl who spends all day riding around on her rollerblades. The third is Bebe, a skilled gamer who is friends with Captain, the designer of the game.
And that's when the problems begin. Every single one of the characters is annoying. The most annoying character award definitely goes to Mint, who is pretty much always either screaming or whining. By the third episode, I found myself cringing every time she showed up on screen. Honorable mention goes to the two kids that tag along all the time and don't seem to be involved in the story in any significant way.
Each episode basically works as follows: One or two of the three gamers enters the Lemon Game, where they transform into giant robots and fight against A.I. droids. The droids almost beat them, at which point the person at the control panel of the game sends them a cool weapon. Then they defeat the enemy. At some point in all of this, they hear a girl screaming and smell lemons, and damage occurs in the city, around the same place as the fight in the game has taken place. There hasn't been any real development yet; the series just reiterates the same things about the game over and over and over again.
The biggest problem lies in the script. Things happen that make no sense except to plop the characters in the right place at the right time. The plotting is poor, with no real sense of pacing or delivery of ideas. The "Spearhead dream team" is assembled so they can save the city from the affects of the Lemon Game, but the only time the damage occurs is when they are playing the game. Hey, if they really want to protect the city, they could just stop playing.
I never thought I would say this, but I have finally found a series where I prefer the dub track to the original language track. This isn't because the English track is particularly good, but rather because the Korean track is so annoying and grating that I had troubles concentrating on what was going on. The English track has some problems, too, especially Pseudo's 25-year-old surfer voice. Still, it's tolerable to listen to, which is more than I can say for the Korean track. Regardless of which language track is chosen, ADV has done a fine job with the transfer. Every childish music riff, every tooth-grinding squeal from Mint, and every videogame sound effect is replicated perfectly.
The animation is a mix of good and bad. The characters look quite distinct, almost a cross between an old Hanna Barbera cartoon and traditional anime characters. The backdrops look pretty good, but they were obviously scanned in digitally and they look blocky when they are zoomed in too much. ADV has done an excellent job with the video transfer, which captures the animation perfectly in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The only extras on the disc are the standard clean opening and closing animations, as well as some previews for other anime titles from ADV.
Fans of the series, if there are any, will be pleased to see that there are five episodes on the first volume of the series. For everyone else, though, it just means more to sit through. As most of you have already guessed, this title is very guilty. ADV is not to blame, as they have released the series on a perfectly acceptable disc. Everyone else involved is hereby sentenced to nine years trapped in an evil video game that has come alive.
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