Sunday, May 03, 2009

Anime — Zettai Karen Children

This is not a series I'd intended to watch. It looked from the premise like "Japan does the PowerPuff Girls -- again". The Absolutely Lovely Children are three top-level espers (teleport, telekino and telepath, reading across at top left) fostered by and working for BABEL, a Japanese government agency, where they work to avert disasters, and apprehend rogue espers.

Then the first episode came out, and it started to sound so bad, it might actually be good in a perverse kind of way -- Kaoru, the redhead turns out to have the mindset of a dirty old man, as shown centre-left (in a later episode she even calls for the spiritual assistance of all the dirty old men in the world); and the villain, Muscle Okama, is a totally camp Hard Gay impersonator with an unusual petrifying energy attack (lower left).

But soon, after a few episodes to establish the main cast, you realise that this is actually the X-Men, and not the PowerPuff Girls after all. There are groups of anti-esper normals who are targeting espers on both sides of the law, for whom The Children are prime targets; the red-headed telekino soon gets the first of several power-ups (lower middle, upper middle); and then a silver haired WWII veteran with a group of other disaffected espers, fighting for an esper-only world under the organization name PANDRA, make their appearance (right column -- the answer to the question being, "No, I'm Magneto."). And, finally, a prediction from the most powerful precognitive, that as young women, the (no longer) Children will side with PANDRA against the rest of the world (centre), led by the Dark PhoenixQueen of Catastrophe.

Thematically, the series is all over the place -- from guest appearances by characters from other series, including the Strike Witches, broad slapstick, off-colour humour about the 20-something guy who's handler and foster-parent to The Children and the strains his precocious charges inflict all the way to straight drama, with the prophecy, and the continuing themes of discrimination based on accident of birth, but without getting too full of itself.

All in all, a much better series than it had any right to be; and plus one point for making sensible use of a duress password in one episode.

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