G-On Riders Anime Review
US Release By
Magical Girl/Harem Parody
14 episodes, 22 minutes each
2002-07-07 - 2002-09-01
Earth is being invaded! ...by a subcontractor that's constantly behind schedule, over budget, and manned by a group of cute little alien girls who don't appear capable of taking over a broom closet. Okay, so maybe this isn't the most threatening invasion, but it still needs to be defeated. That task falls on the G-On Riders, a trio of high school girls--Yuki, Sera, and Yayoi--who use special glasses to turn into heavily-armed, superpowered defenders of the planet. Oh, and just to make things interesting, add to the mix a high school that secretly houses the G-On Riders' super-fortress home base, a robot maid, and a loser guy that all of the G-On Rider girls (and even the maid) somehow end up inexplicably attracted to. Really, would you expect anything less?
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G-On Riders is about as juvenile, tacky, and tasteless as I expected, but it happens to be way more entertaining. It's a nice parody of several anime genres and cliches, complete with a catchy, upbeat soundtrack, colorful animation, and even a few major improvements to the worst aspects of what it's making fun of. Some of the jokes fall flat or don't make sense, and while it could be worse there's still quite a bit of fanservice, but the plot actually has a surprisingly effective end--better than a lot of more serious shows.
If you are okay with good, stupid, cheesy parody fun, I'd say G-On Riders is worth checking out. It's certainly not a shining example of high-quality anime, but it is an example of how a series can still be enjoyable when it isn't.
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To say I began this series with low expectations is an understatement. In addition to having a disturbingly similar plot to the terrible ARIEL series, this is directed by Shinichiro Kimura. Never heard of him? Consider yourself lucky, as his works include notoriously perverted and low-quality shows such as Popotan and Cosplay Complex. From the first look, this series seemed like more of the same: Another lowbrow, fanservice-heavy sleaze-fest with a few funny moments at best. But the first look isn't always the whole story, as G-On Riders clearly shows. It turns out to be a fairly good parody show, effectively mocking a number of overused anime themes and cliches, with no actual nudity until the final episode and fanservice mostly kept to a moderate, non-distracting level.
Basically, G-On Riders is a parody that rips into a slew of anime genres and concepts, all of which clearly deserve it. The main one is Magical Girl anime, with additional focus on harem anime, robot maids, and adorably-inept main villains. All of these are mocked and ridiculed in an effective manner, in many cases just by depicting them with characters who take the situations they are in way too seriously, while not making fanservice the overriding focus of the entire show.
But the biggest surprise of this series is that, rather than demolish some of the worst aspects of the magical girl genre, it actually fixes them. First of all, the transformation scenes of the G-on Riders are mercifully short, and totally lacking in clothing that magically disappears. Sometimes they skip the transformation scene entirely, and when they do have one it usually only lasts a few seconds, even when it's all three of them combined. Also, the attacks consist of actual moves for the situation they are in, rather than endless stock footage. Better yet, the main characters actually use weapons! No magic wands, pixie dust, microphones, enchanted jewelry, or any other harmless trinkets. Instead, they use the oversized swords and spears that you would normally find in an over-the-top action anime or classic fantasy series. Really, just seeing a magical girl series with short transformations and actual weapons is so refreshing it almost makes G-on Riders worth watching for that alone.
Of course no one should mistake it for a serious action series. The invading aliens are a bunch of cute little girls who attack with ridiculous giant mecha monsters called "fancy beasts." They not only look way too adorable to be considered a legitimate threat to the earth, but quickly lose faith in their agenda and start defecting to the G-On Rider cause one by one. Normally that would be a problem, but the parody nature of this series actually makes this an asset. The other main focus of the parody is the harem anime angle. For that, we've got a kind-hearted, socially inept loser named Ichiro who somehow manages to grab the attraction of nearly every significant female character, but can't seem to make any progress with the only one he really cares about. And, of course, he has a special power to aid the girls in their time of need, which can only be activated under certain conditions. It's a brilliant mocking of many of the major aspects of both harem and magical girl anime, depicted very effectively with humor and drama as the situations he's in play out.
Still, this series does have its share of drawbacks. While the fanservice isn't as heavy as I was expecting (until the final episode), it's still at bit too abundant at times, complete with loads of panty shots and oddball sexual situations. Furthermore, a lot of the running gags and jokes just didn't make any sense, at least to me. For starters, there is the fact that every single female character in the series wears glasses. Why? What's the point? How is this supposed to be funny?
There are also unexplainable situational jokes and character traits. For example, in the first episode Ichiro acquires Yuki's panties after they are blown away by a fancy beast when she's taking a bath, and he spends almost the entire rest of the series trying to find an opportune time to return them. Is this supposed to be erotic, or funny? It's so lame I don't even feel like wasting time trying to figure it out, so I'll just leave it at stupid and unnecessary in order to move on. Then there is Yayoi, who has this bizarre disorder that prevents her from getting near attractive males close to her age, because whenever she does, she reflexively throws them into the air. This issue is never explained or resolved in any way, and just left me scratching my head. Maybe there is something I'm missing, or a series I haven't seen that this is supposed to be making fun of, but as it stands, I just don't get it.
The main characters are nothing special, but serve their roles. Yuki is the most sweet, energetic charming, and innocent of the bunch, yet somehow always ends up getting into the most explicit and inappropriate situations. What a surprise. She also displays some typical anime airhead traits in that she is totally oblivious to Ichiro's romantic interest in her, no matter how clear he makes it. Yayoi is similarly innocent and good natured, though also fairly shy and with her bizarre "condition." Which the main thing that distinguishes her, but not in any useful or amusing way. The final one, Sera, is the tomboy bad girl of the group, routinely picking fights with Yuki and constantly trying to manipulate others into doing what she wants. This didn't make her particularly interesting or original, but at least it distinguished her from the others.
The final thing worth mentioning is the plot. As expected it's pretty simple, usually involving one fight with a fancy beast attack per episode. As the alien girls eventually lose faith in their purpose and start deserting one by one, it seemed like the story was going downhill fast--the G-On Riders' job seemed to get progressively easier rather than harder. But, to the show's credit and my surprise, the series actually throws in some big plot twists at the end, creating a much more interesting and substantive story than what first appeared. The series also has a surprisingly effective ending, wrapping up all the major story issues far more conclusively than a lot of serious shows of its kind do, let alone other parody ones.
G-On Riders is about as juvenile, tacky, and tasteless as I expected, but it happens to be way more entertaining. It's a nice parody of several anime genres and cliches, complete with a catchy, upbeat soundtrack, colorful animation, and even a few major improvements to the worst aspects of what it's making fun of. If you are okay with good, stupid, cheesy parody fun, I'd say it's worth checking out. It's certainly not a shining example of high-quality anime, but it is an example of how a series can still be enjoyable when it isn't.
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Has a lot in common with Project A-ko, only way more sleazy and nowhere near as good. Both involve school girls with super powers fighting aliens in an unconventional comedy setting. Also shares some similarity with ARIEL in that both school girls fighting inept aliens who are incapable of organizing a serious threat due to budget and manpower issues, though this series is significantly better.
Notes and Trivia
G-On Riders (the G stands for "Glass" or "Glasses," incidentally) is an original concept developed by studio TNK and "Katsuzo." In addition to the anime series there were a couple of radio shows that ran for a bit, the titles of which are "La G-On Riders" plus a glasses-related pun.
Episode 14 is a "bonus episode" that was included with the Japanese DVD release of the show. Unlike the other 13 episodes, it's filled with nudity, and unsurprisingly never aired on Japanese TV.
US DVD Review
None exists in the US as of this writing.
A lot of off-color humor and fanservice pushes it into the 13-up range, 16-up when you count the rampant nudity in the bonus episode.
Violence: 1 - Although the G-on Riders use serious weapons, most of the fighting is pretty harmless.
Nudity: 3 - No actual nudity outside of the bonus 14th episode, which has tons. The others also have a fair amount of only slightly less explicit fanservice.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Plenty of awkward situations and encounters, but no actual sex, even in the bonus episode.
Language: 0 - Nothing here.