Judge Joel Pearce is going to take off his glasses, if you don't smarten up.
We all have our demons. Lucia has our backs.
Venus Versus Virus actually shows quite a bit of promise as a series. It has a strong central conflict, a well-defined mythology and some fun demon-blasting, gun-toting, knife-wielding action. Alas, it falls prey to that most common of anime weaknesses: completely horrible plotting.
Facts of the Case
Sumiri has recently discovered she is a special type of person: one who is able to see evil viruses that prey on humanity. Well, they don't prey on everyone—just those who can see them. Still, she is rescued by the cold but deadly Lucia, who helps out in an underground organization called the Venus Vanguard who fight the viruses. Soon, they discover that Sumiri is very special: when struck with antivirals, she enters a berserker rage, becoming the strongest weapon against the evil creatures. Soon, they will need all the power they can get, though, because there is a stronger evil lurking on the horizon.
I'm not sure whether anime writers grossly underestimate the intelligence of their audience, or whether they all go to the same terrible scriptwriting seminars, but too many series are crippled by terrible storytelling. Venus Versus Virus is a perfect example of this weakness. The first few episodes, which should be exciting to pull us into this fictional universe, are made up of mostly exposition. We get the back stories of all the characters, three explanations of the viruses and how they aren't demons, then most of those stories over again told by different characters. These are interspersed with some decent fights, but they are surprisingly static. In fact, there is so much exposition in the first few episodes that it's almost impossible to assemble a chronology of what's actually happening when.
Then, when all that exposition is over, several episodes in the middle of the series are quite good. They move the plot forward, are much more linear, and let us learn about the characters as situations unfold. By episode six, I was just about to forgive Venus Versus Virus for the pain I had just gone through.
Then, episode seven introduces the true conflict of the series, throws all of the mythology that we've spent hours learning out the window, and introduces a slew of new characters. The next few episodes are spent on, yes, exposition, as we learn the new information we need for the show's new conflict. By this point, only the most die-hard fans are going to be open to learning more information from flashbacks. The last few episodes are more interesting, but feel the need to go back over everything again for audience members who have forgotten all that exposition the first time. The faster pace of the second half grinds to a halt, and the first half of the finale is spent going over everything again, which doesn't leave enough time for them to conclude the series properly. It's almost like it ends mid-sentence, when the animators realized it was time for the credits to roll and it was all over. Oops.
There are some other problems as well. Sumiri's powers strip the series of much suspense. It's a lot like The Incredible Hulk, really. Every fight ends with her entering her berserker form and toasting the enemies with virtually no effort. Hanging over that is Lucia's mysterious eye-patch. We know huge things will happen when she takes off the patch and uses her left eye, and we are reminded of that power for half the series before it's actually used. This is far too much power alloted to the good guys for the fights against the viruses at the beginning, and by the time we reach the middle point of the series, we know we're headed towards a showdown between Berserker Sumiri and left-eye Lucia. This isn't a spoiler, since the show has the poor grace of showing part of this showdown at the beginning of the first episode.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Those two problems are really enough to bring the whole series to its knees, but there is a lot to like, as well, thanks to strong voice acting in both the sub and dub, some clean animation and awesome battles. The whole series has a pretty cool vibe that will appeal to a lot of anime fans. In fact, if it was sliced down to a two hour film, I suspect it could be pretty awesome. Some anime fans will still find the strengths outweigh the problems, especially those who disagree with me that anime writers have severe plot issues in general.
Funimation has done a fine job with the release, though they haven't put any extra effort in. The video transfer is strong, with no artifacts. It looks equally good on standard and progressive displays, so it's been well mastered. The sound is fine as well, though there are only stereo mixes in either Japanese or English. Both dubs are excellent, so it really comes down to preference on this one. It lacks many of the cultural nuances that many anime series have, so the dub seems pretty close to the original. The only extras are clean credit sequences, so don't expect to do too much digging after the show is over.
I can't recommend Venus Versus Virus to many people in good conscience. My suspicion is that younger teen anime fans will be more enthralled by the series than I was, and they could do a lot worse than this. For fans that watch a lot of anime, however, the problems in the series will be a lot more obvious—and frustrating. In such a crowded market, it's possible to find more original and better told stories.
Guilty, and sentenced to a nasty glare from Lucia's left eye.
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