animefringe june 2003 / reviews

Project ARMS Vol.3: Eyes of Flame
Format: bilingual DVD, 3 eps., 75 min.
Production: VIZ, LLC / Minagawa Ryoji / Nanatsuki Kyoichi
Comments: The ARMS wielders begin to learn more of their past in the latest volume of Project ARMS, whether they want to or not.
Animefringe Reviews:
Project ARMS Vol.3: Eyes of Flame

Once again, a Project ARMS subtitle is taken from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. The first disc was named "The Claws That Catch" and this one is called "Eyes of Flame." Both titles are phrases from the famous poem, and the connection becomes rather obvious when one opens the DVD case and finds a reprint of the Carroll's poem on the insert. Of course, part of the attraction of "Jabberwocky" comes from its composition of a large number of nonsense words. I suppose that's what makes it so much fun to read - the fact that we know what Carroll is saying even though he's not using real words to say it. Nonsense words also allow our imaginations to fill in the gaps he left, making the poem well suited for personal customization. Its loose nature, however, makes its application to Project ARMS hard to grasp. In any case, it is a nice touch.

While such depth is at least hinted at in Project ARMS, I haven't seen enough in these first nine episodes to overwhelm me with complexity.

This series tells the story of three youths - Ryo Takatsuki, Hayato Shingu, and Takeshi Tomoe - connected to each other by their possession of sentient metallic weaponry (grafted onto their bodies in place of limbs) called ARMS. The full potential of the ARMS system remains unknown, though the first two volumes have given plenty of hints that we haven't seen anything yet.

In the last volume, the boys faced the Bowen twins in a lethal showdown at their school. The twins, employed by a shadowy super powerful group known as the Egrigori, attempted to capture the three using their cyborgs, Plus and Minus. This disc begins with the aftermath of that battle, and some interesting character developments occur as a result of those events.

I've enjoyed the plot so far, but sometimes the series becomes a little too simple for me. In each episode, someone confronts the three main characters because of their ARMS, attacks them, and loses somehow. I don't think this pattern will continue forever, but it's all been a little too predictable thus far.

On the upside, this is an interesting series, and the characters are each distinct from one another. Takeshi is still too whiny for his own good, Hayato is still too hotheaded for his own good, but Ryo is a convincingly capable person and does a good job of not scaring away the audience with an overload of youth angst.

For a TV series, the animation is impressive at times, though still shots are used for dramatic emphasis. There isn't much skimping on the battle sequences, however, and those are the parts that fans of the show are really interested in seeing anyway. The character designs differ from the standard look of most other anime series, with a heavier emphasis on muscles and veins. If anything, the show looks more realistic than other shonen series (series for boys), and the grittier look commands an appreciably greater amount of respect as a serious TV show. There are some comedic moments to be found, but this isn't a comedy by a long shot. It's appropriate that it doesn't look like one, with characters that are too cute to fit in.

The Japanese voice acting is good, with the actors coming across believably as angsty teens. Hayato's raspy voice makes him sound like a serpent at times, which is neat since he acts like one frequently. The only downside to the Japanese dub is the fact that it's available only in mono. The English dub is mixed in stereo (that's 2.0, for those of you number fiends). The English language track didn't seem to go overboard on making the title more "mature" (as English dubs do all too often) by dropping eight times the amount of obscenities into the series. Yet, it does seem to suffer from slow...editing...sickness. Sometimes, actors sound like they just can't get their lines out at the right pace. I realize that it's not the way the dialogue was recorded so much as the way the vocals are mixed into the show, but that doesn't make it less annoying. I have to say that the English version has grown on me as I've heard it more. When I first saw the show, I had a dub-only copy of the first episode, and that tainted my opinion of the series just a bit. Now that I have the choice to hear either, I'm much happier.

There's only three episodes on this disc (which most likely isn't Viz's fault, but rather a result of the holder of the original license), giving the volume a running time of roughly 75 minutes. Clean opening and ending credits are included, along with a brief storyboard and line-art collection. The artwork in the gallery is tiny, though perhaps viewers with a large TV will get something out of it. It is nice that they're there, of course - I just wish I could see them.

While Project ARMS is overflowing with masculine teen angst, it remains an entertaining series that is better balanced than I may have made it sound. It certainly possesses an interesting concept, and I really can't judge if the series does the idea justice until I've seen more of it. For now, I'm planning on seeing more of it, so we'll just have to see.