Anime Review: Buddy Complex (2014)
It was the end of 2013. Valvrave the Liberator Season 2 barely thew down the gauntlet at the end of its series, and Buddy Complex somehow managed to zoom its way to the forefront of the new anime season, shouldering the label as Valvrave‘s potential successor. With its amateur-looking badass male leads and a set of powerful mechas, the Sunrise production received a lot of hype at its premiere launch. But is it possible for another mecha series to emerge supreme over previous dominant series such as Valvrave, Gundam, and Code Geass?
Directed by Yasuhiro Tanabe, this is definitely Tanabe’s main anime directorial role yet. Previously involved as an episode director in Battle Spirit, Horizon in the Middle of the Nowhere and the Idol-mecha series, Idolm@ster Xenoglossia, Buddy Complex is a distinctive leap for Tanabe as a director.
Buddy Complex revolves around high school student Aoba Watase who got transported from the year 2014 into the year 2088, and now fights for the Free Pact Alliance. But whilst piloting ‘Luxon’ in admist battle, he surprisingly encounters his school-friend, Hina, piloting a mecha for the enemy, Zogilia Republic. Hina was the one who previously saved Aoba’s life before sending him into the future but this future Hina seems to have no recollection of Aoba as she tries to kill him multiple times even when he offers his hand as a sign of peace-offering.
Buddy Complex isn’t as highly-intense, explicitly gruesome or political as Code Geass or Valvrave the Liberator — it’s a show that is entertaining for the average anime viewer who wants a bit of fun entertainment. The art direction and animation is standard in Buddy Complex but the thought of mechas flying through crispy clouds across the bright blue sky is a real freshener from other series as most mecha series are generally set in outer space.
While the series could have expanded on its character and plot arcs, the ‘buddy coupling system’ is rather unique. After a few attempts of the show explaining the ‘coupling’ process, viewers are genuinely amused by the extraordinary power that the coupling power offers to its pilots, and the bond that is needed in order to operate the machines.
The BC Project original story kicks off with fast-paced adrenalin action buddied with a time-travelling mystery that has got viewers perplexed. But as Aoba settles down in the foreign country as the pilot for Luxon, the story unexpectedly becomes bland and stagnant. We see Aoba encountering Hina at odd times; both Free Pact Alliance and Zogilia continuously engaged in battles on the battlefield; and we see Aoba constantly rubbing the wrong side of Dio.
Unfortunately, Aoba Watase blends in the same mould as most male anime protagonists. Voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Nobunaga the Fool; No Game, No Life), Aoba isn’t exceptionally bright, lacks common sense, and often acts upon his emotions. To counterattack Aoba’s bland and annoyingly positive character, Aoba is paired up with fellow pilot, Dio, who emits vibes of moodiness and mysteriousness. Together, they make the ultimate team on Free Pact Alliance as they demonstrate high levels of compatibility when their mechas become one.
But it was Hina Yumihara (Saori Hayami) that caught our eye from the very first episode. Such a mysterious and rebellious female character both in the past and the future — her character keeps us hooked as we must ask ourselves: Is she the same Hina from Aoba’s original world? Will she remember who he is? What is she, and what will happen in the near future? As Hina and Aoba’s lives intertwine, Hina becomes confused as to who she really is. Surrounded by corrupted allies, and Aoba’s determination to not stay away, it become a little difficult for her to know the unreachable truth.
Due to Buddy Complex‘s lack of direction midway, it would be no surprise if the series lost a majority of its fans along the way. However, for those who patiently waited for the return of Buddy Complex’s Valvrave-like twists, these fans were ultimately rewarded at the series’ epic finale as riveting twists unveiled at an exhilarating speed that no-one really expected in the long run.
This was a good call for the series. With its surprisingly explosive finale twist that made many viewers do a double-take … did Buddy Complex really have to end at only 13 episodes? Whilst most viewers would have expected just one season from this mixed-response series, Buddy Complex’s conclusion left viewers hanging, and the cliffhanger didn’t help either as the audience now has to wait for the second season to find out what’s going to happen.
Overall: Buddy Complex takes the audience on one epic journey through highs and lows. The narrative may have hit low bottom throughout the course of the story – leaving viewers confused at the story’s direction – but Buddy Complex ultimately saved itself with its array of twists in the leadup to its time-travelling mystery.
For an above average series that carries on the spirit of its mecha predecessors, Buddy Complex should be given the chance right until the final red curtain. It’s a shame that viewers dropped out halfway though — let’s hope fans who enjoyed the first season will get on board for the second season (if it ever comes).
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