animefringe april 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
Wild ARMS - The Old West, Anime Style

Video games and anime frequently tie in to one other, with a number of successful anime titles spawning games (such as Magic Knight Rayearth, Evangelion, and Initial D) as well as quite a few games having television series (Street Fighter II, Zone of the Enders, and Final Fantasy, to name a few). Just last month, we looked at Ys, and with all of the new Sakura Wars material coming out, there's bound to be more on that series around Animefringe sooner or later. For now, however, we're going to look into Wild ARMS, one of the newer offerings from ADV, and one that I snagged the disc and art box for.

Incidentally, Wild ARMS was the first game I bought for the Playstation. Like ten billion other people, I bought the PS One solely for Final Fantasy VII, but I was so eager to get it, I purchased the Playstation a few months before its release. However, I hate letting a game system go unused, so I grabbed the first RPG I could find (Wild ARMS) and went to town. While it wasn't the best game I've ever played, it was a very solid title with an excellent soundtrack. It had enough innovation to keep my interest, and it left a good enough impression that I bought the sequel, years later. When I get a PS2 of my own, I'll get Wild ARMS 3, without a doubt.

With three rather successful games -- spanning two generations of hardware -- selling well in both Japan and America, it made sense to produce an animated series; so here we are. Many people cringe at the thought of shows based on games, and I know that that fear is based upon the reality of releases like Tekken: The Movie. However, rather than attempt to squeeze every aspect of the Wild ARMS universe into a series, this made-for-television show invents its own rules, populates it with original characters, and in general, does its own thing. While there is a continuous plot line, each episode tends to be rather self-contained. The same characters appear in each episode, although they don't really travel together.

For the most part, the story follows Sheyenne Rainstorm as he searches for himself. And no, I don't mean that in a psychological way -- he's actually lost his body. After a gunfight in which he was gravely wounded, his brain was transferred to the body of a child and he was sealed away in a maximum-security prison. This is particularly troubling to Sheyenne, for as the reincarnation of the "Evil Race", as he claims to be, he was quite the man to fear back in his heyday. His heritage allows him to wield the ARMS, which is a super powerful adaptive weapons system. Amusingly enough, he was also a ladykiller, and he's painfully reminded of the loss of his impressive physique every time he comes onto a woman. Whenever he puts his moves on a lucky lady, they can't help but call him cute...and then move on.

Sheyenne travels with Dr. Kiel Aronnax, a brilliant man who was being held in the same prison (named Alcatraz) as Sheyenne. Frequently, they meet up with Loretta Oratorio and Mirabelle, two female thieves who were searching for treasure in Alcatraz when they discovered Sheyenne in stasis in the facility's most secure vault. Dr. Aronnax opened the vault, and all four aided each other's escape. There are two other main characters, both belonging to an extremely long-lived race of Picachu-like creatures known as Popepi Pipepo. Isaac, the male, travels with Sheyenne and Dr. Aronnax, while Jerusha, the female, typically keeps the company of the lady thieves.

The setting for the story is rather original, containing trace elements of science fiction, fantasy, and the Old West. While that sort of hybrid has been done before (most obviously in Cowboy Bebop), Wild ARMS tends to be less realistic than other series. That doesn't make it less interesting, for it allows the world to possess floating fortresses, giant wyrm-like creatures, and the aforementioned Popepi Pipepo. Neat elements are thrown in without explanations, and that's fine by me. The alien nature of the show is taken for granted by the characters, allowing viewers to be awed but not too distracted by the scenery.

This doesn't exactly promise to be one of the most thought-provoking titles out there, but it should provide plenty of entertainment to a wide audience. Throughout the series, the characters visit a myriad of locations as Sheyenne searches for his old body. As a result, viewers are not likely to get tired of being stuck in one setting, for each episode will bring us to a new place. It doesn't matter whether you've played the games or not, this is a lighthearted fantasy tale, and its recent production promises some above average animation to keep your eyes happy. As I mentioned, ADV is producing these one disc at a time, but there's a special art box packed with the first disc for you collectors out there.