Judge Bryan Byun would like to "get back" the 125 minutes he spent watching this inoffensive but entirely forgettable anime series.
It's nice to know people take the arts seriously, but what do you do when people just take them?!
Get Backers is a frothy but good-natured 2002 anime series that follows the adventures of Ban and Ginji, a pair of down-and-out desperadoes who form a kind of retrieval business in which they (as you might have guessed from the rather clumsily worded title) get stuff back, after it's been taken (by, uh, Take Stuffers?). Unlike your run-of-the-mill desperadoes, however, Ban and Ginji are super-powered; Ban has super-strength, in addition to a power called "Jagan," a kind of "evil eye" that lets him project heavenly—or hellish—dreams into people's minds, and Ginji, who carries the rather dramatic title of "Lightning Emperor," can generate electricity that he uses to zap offenders.
Get Backers: Find the Fine Arts, the second DVD volume in the series (there will be ten volumes in all), tells two complete stories over the course of five episodes. In the first, the Get Backers help out a blind violin prodigy whose priceless Stradivarius has been stolen. The second story moves from music to art as the boys go in search of a missing Van Gogh painting (or is it?) and tangle with an old flame.
Fans of lighthearted action will find much to like in Get Backers—there's a good deal of humor to be found in the series, and a refreshing lack of the overheated sturm und drang (surprising in a series starring a guy named Lightning Emperor) that weighs down so many other action-oriented anime titles. Get Backers doesn't take itself too seriously or drown in atmosphere, but provides lively adventure and colorful characters (one of the most interesting of which is Shido, an old acquaintance of Ginji's who has the ability to talk to, and mimic, animals). I haven't seen the first volume in this series, but I was able to find my bearings without too much difficulty. The stories are fairly self-contained and refer to prior events often enough to give new viewers a general sense of the characters' backgrounds.
Get Backers features some decent production values, with detailed and subtly rendered backgrounds and vivid, colorful foreground elements. I'm not a big fan of the angular, sharply defined style of character design this series utilizes, but the animation as a whole is appealing, if not especially original or dazzling.
"Not especially original or dazzling" pretty much sums up what I don't like about this series. The character traits, situations, and dialogue feel formulaic and worn out from overuse. For instance, the "sleazy gang of tough delinquents gets humiliated by smirking hero" gag gets dusted off here, and you may as well go to the bathroom at that point, because the next ten minutes are basically the same as the ten minutes that always follow that particular plot device. Too much of Get Backers has that familiar, by-the-numbers quality, and it reduces the series to a bland, inoffensive confection that's forgotten as quickly as it's consumed.
This ADV Films release of Get Backers features anamorphic widescreen video, and the images are beautifully rendered with very few distortions. Colors are vibrant and distinct. Audio is presented in a solid English 5.1 surround track that sounds clear and dynamic, with enough bass to lend action scenes some welcome oomph. Unfortunately, the Japanese audio track is only in 2.0 stereo, and sounds wan and muted in comparison to the English dub. The English voice acting is okay but fairly standard; I preferred the original Japanese voices, which made for something of a dilemma in light of the diminished sound of the Japanese track. Still, both tracks are quite listenable and should satisfy most viewers.
This volume of Get Backers is graced with an excellent batch of bonus features. Audio commentaries are all too rare on anime DVDs, so the inclusion of two commentaries on this disc (for episodes six and nine), with English dub director Lowell Bartholomee and English dub script writer Dan Deitz, is especially welcome. Unlike many anime commentaries that consist mainly of actors joking around for half an hour, the commentaries here are pretty informative, with Bartholomee and Deitz providing an interesting glimpse into the process of translating and dubbing Japanese animation for English-speaking audiences.
Also included is a behind-the-scenes featurette that offers interviews with the English voice cast (fun, but not as substantive as the commentaries), as well as clean opening and closing sequences and a set of ADV trailers.
I enjoyed the lighthearted spirit of Get Backers, but not enough to get hooked on the series. It's fun, but not distinctive enough to stand out from an increasingly crowded pack of action titles. I'd recommend Get Backers without hesitation to avid anime fans and those looking for relatively undemanding diversion, but viewers seeking substance or originality should look elsewhere.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Audio Commentaries with English Dub Director Lowell Bartholomee and English Dub Script Writer Dan Deitz
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