K.O. Beast Anime Review
KO世紀 - ビースト三獣士
KO Seiki Biisuto Sanjuushi
KO Century Three Beasketeers
US Release By
Manic Sci-fi Action Comedy
7 30-minute episodes
1992-05-02 - 1993-11-21
At some point, humans of the Northern and Southern hemispheres engage in a massive war. Eventually the humans of the North split the planet in two and banish the Southern hemisphere and its inhabitants to another dimension. 10,000 years later, the inhabitants of the harsh climates of the North have evolved into beast-creatures who worship ancient robotic weapons as Totems. Unfortunately for these people, the humans of the South have opened a rift back, and are determined to wipe out the beast people and reclaim the land. That's the backstory, but as for what's actually going on...
So far as the story on screen goes, two smooth looking baddies, V-Darn and V-Sion, plus their tiny demonic sidekick Akumako, have been charged by the evil Human leaders with finding the ancient power of Gaia. Only four beast people and one human stand in their way: Wan of the cats, Bud of the birds, Mei-Mer of the mer-people, Tuttle (of the... turtles?), and the mysterious human girl Yuni. Fortunately for the good guys, Wan, Bud, and Mei-Mer each have a powerful Totem fighting on their side.
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K.O. Beast is exactly what it looks like: stupid, manic, juvenile comedy. Do not expect any original plot whatsoever, anything that looks like backstory, or anything remotely resembling character development. Even the jokes, which aim low and hit even lower, are about as stale as they come (with a few rare exceptions). Thankfully, at least it's reasonably good stupid, manic, juvenile comedy. The banter is non-stop and likably acted with plenty of spunk in both Japanese and English, the animation is colorful and fast enough to keep up, and there are even a couple of jokes stupid enough to be really funny. Sadly, the first couple of episodes and the final one are much lighter on the humor and heavier on the drama, and therefore also mostly bad.
K.O. Beast is not for people looking for anything even close to originality, or for people who do not have an extreme tolerance for lame, overused jokes and endless pratfalls. If you're so inclined, though, it should at least make for an amusing diversion once you get past the first couple of episodes.
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K.O. Beast: Doing its part to prove that you can never have too many series involving bickering idiot heroes who randomly transform into animals trying to save the world from posturing villains. Nope, there's about as much original material in here as leftovers on their third run through the microwave, but to its credit there is plenty of manic humor and "little things hitting each other."1 It neither starts nor ends well, though, so on balance it's only barely worthwhile even for what it is.
K.O. Beast's plot is the sort of embarrassingly bad material you'd expect in a lame kids' show. The series' biggest issue is that at the beginning and end it's moving slowly enough to notice, plus you're not being distracted by the equally juvenile but decidedly better-executed comedy. There's a pretty clear bell curve to it: The set-up episode is cringe-worthy if you've hit puberty, and the second is only marginally better, but in the third through sixth the lame comedy is fast-and-furious enough to be worth a few laughs. Then it tries to get serious and wrap up the story in the final episode, which amounts to a long, boring cliche. If you're not too ashamed to sit through enough to get to the meat, and overlook the end, it's not nearly as bad as it looks at first.
Here's what not to expect: Any original plot whatsoever (random village-leader heroes must save the world from bad people in big shoulder pads), anything resembling backstory (the setting makes zero sense until the pointless exposition of the final episode), or anything even close to character development (so little I can't even think of anything sarcastic to say). Even the jokes, which aim low and hit even lower, are about as stale as they come (with a few rare exceptions). Nope, K.O. Beast is exactly what it looks like: stupid, manic, juvenile comedy.
Thankfully, at least it's reasonably good stupid, manic, juvenile comedy. Once it gets going, the three main heroes rev up the banter and insist on putting their own stupidity and base desires above absolutely anything else so relentlessly that it's actually pretty funny. (The fourth hero, Tuttle,2 does nothing but whine dramatically and wear a cool hat.) The pacing is rather harried, running over some punch lines, and the jokes push even my fairly high tolerance for dumb-but-rapid-fire humor, but at least it rarely slows down long enough for you to realize how lame it really is.
The only other thing worth mentioning is a small handful of sufficiently wacky tidbits--mostly little throwaway things in the background like Mei-Mer's shocked expressions--that are just enough to register on my lame-but-good humor meter. If you're watching the Japanese version you'll also be treated to Bud's dramatic-yet-awkward exclamation of "Son of a bitch!" (in English) while flipping off the villain (yes, a bird flipping the bird). Bud's Star-Spangled-Top-Hat-bedecked grandfather is also out-there enough to elicit a chuckle.
The voice acting carries all this chaos, and is the series' main strength. The three veteran leads in the Japanese cast--Kappei Yamaguchi as chipper Wan, Mika Kanai as Mei Mer, and Takehito Koyasu as smooth-talking Bud--pull off all manner of screeching, hollering, panicking, and (in the case of Bud) rapid switches between greasy-smooth cheese and entirely un-cool squawking (both figuratively and literally). Koyasu also manages to do a passable job of pronouncing the English his dialogue is heavily seasoned with. On the villainous side Naoko Matsui gives the little devil Akumako an amusingly screechy little voice, and V-Darn, voiced by Yasunori Matsumoto, isn't bad either. The rest of the cast isn't so good--Kouzou Shioya is so so as Tuttle/Mekka and Rumi Shishido as Yuni is downright weak--but thankfully neither of them have much to say. Ai Orikasa also makes an appearance late in the series in a semi-dramatic role, but has little worthwhile to do.
The English is, surprisingly, just about as good. The standout is definitely Sam Regal as Wan, who keeps up remarkably well with the chipper, goofy Japanese version, but Bud's smooth-talkin'/high-pitched squawkin', supplied by Liam O'Brien, is also right up there. The translators (and actors, and director) also do a remarkably good job with some very tough-to-follow dialogue, matching the action and original dialogue relatively well while still keeping up the flow and plenty of funny. The dub crew also managed a good transition from Bud's English-sprinkled Japanese dialogue to something appropriately cheesily-smooth without the benefit of being able to insert "I'm so cool" English phrases all over the place.
The old-school visuals certainly do their part to hold up the action. Cute, somewhat old-fashioned art (it has that rougher, early-'90s look to it), lots of bright colors, and a whole lot of animation that's actually fast enough to keep up with the barrage of humor--about all you could really ask for. Throw in several dramatically cheesy robot transformation sequences and you're set.
Oh, yes, there's also music in there. Hirohiko Fukuda's background music is barely even noticeable, but the opening themes are quite amusing. On one hand there's the lively classic rock and roll intro that RightStuf used for all seven episodes, and on the other there's a terribly sung but also terribly catchy theme that was originally used on the first three episodes (they thankfully kick it in as a bonus on the first DVD).
In all, K.O. Beast is not for people looking for anything even close to originality, or for people who do not have an extreme tolerance for lame, overused jokes and endless pratfalls. It is, however, plenty manic, and the spunky banter between the lead characters in both languages is enough to at least make for an amusing diversion for those so inclined. Just beware of the "dramatic" episodes taking up space at the beginning and end.
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When it comes to frantic, stupid, old-school comedy/action, the reigning king is Gokudo--relentlessly weird and considerably funnier. The obscure Dragon Slayer is also worth a look as a truly hyperactive fantasy romp, and there's always Slayers for characters with a mission far more serious than themselves.
Notes and Trivia
K.O. Beast is an original concept, not based on anything else. While the credits list no creator, it was presumably a joint effort of idea man and writer Satoru Akahori (who scripted the series) and director Hiroshi Negishi, who he frequently works with.
The original title, KO Seiki Biisuto Sanjuushi is something of a pun; "sanjuushi" is the Japanese title of The Three Musketeers, usually written with characters meaning "three," "gun," and "warrior" ("三銃士"). In this case, the middle character, "juu," is written with the character for "beast" ("獣"), turning it into a pun very close to "The Three Beastketeers." True to Three Musketeer form, there are of course four heroes. The first part of the title, "KO Seiki Biisuto," is more straightforward (if nonsensical), meaning "KO Century Beast."
The series is technically made up of two OAV series, the first with three episodes and a sequel with four; the opening song and animation is different for each, though RightStuf used the same opening for the whole series on their DVD release.
The little devil Akumako makes a cameo appearance in Satoru Akahori's wacky comedy parody Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge; Akahori was the scriptwriter for K.O. Beast.
Footnote 1: That's an apt quote from Time Bandits, for the unfamiliar.
Footnote 2: Actually his name is Mekka--the Japanese word for "turtle" backwards--in the original; RightStuf changed his name in the dub and subtitles.
US DVD Review
The DVDs from RightStuf are put together reasonably well. The weak point is the video, which is both a bit rough due to age and shows some noticeable compression artifacts in the more chaotic scenes (of which there are a lot), though it's not terrible. The audio is passable. There are plenty of extra goodies, at least: character bios (this is actually useful info, since the backstory is totally unexplained within the anime itself), lots of semi-amusing outtakes from the dub, some interesting notes by the translator, some text snippets from interviews with the Japanese staff and voice actors that went with the Japanese DVD release, and one unedited (and subtitled) original opening on each disc. My only complaint is that they didn't use the original opening on the first disc, instead using the same opening theme for the entire series, although the original one is included as a bonus on disc 1 and definitely worth checking out.
Rated 13-up by RightStuf on account of some off-color humor and a bit of rough language, though it's generally pretty mild.
Violence: 2 - There's a lot of fighting, but it's not very graphic.
Nudity: 1 - Nothing noteworthy.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Nothing past some off-color humor.
Language: 2 - A bit of rough language.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Wan Derbard: Kappei Yamaguchi
Bud Mint: Takehito Kyasu
Mei-Mer: Mika Kanai
Yuni Charm Password: Rumi Shishido
V-Darn: Yasunori Matsumoto
V-Sion: Yuko Mizutani
Akumako: Naoko Matsui
Tuttle Millen: Kozo Shioya
Czar Master: Seizo Kato
Dr. Password: Tatsuyuki Ishimori
English Dub Cast
Wan Derbard: Sam Regal
Mei-Mer: Angora Deb
Bud Mint: Liam Chirstopher O'Brien
Tuttle Millen: Will Hirsh
Yuni Charm Password: Michelle Forget
V-Darn: Ed Paulson
V-Sion: Rachael Lillis
Akumako: Lisa Oritz
Czar Master: J. David Brimmer
Dr. Password: Leicester Tunks
Producers: Yasuhisa Kazama (1-3)
Original Character Design: Takehiko Ito
Character Design: Zero-G Room
Music: Hirohiko Fukuda
Director: Hiroshi Negi
Animation Director: Toshiyuki Turu
Producer: Satoru Akahori
Originated From: PROJECT B4
Script: Satoru Akahori
Art Director: Hiroshige Sawai
Theme Song: "B*O*M*B*E*R Love"
Lyrics: Rolly Teranishi
Performed by: Sukanchi
Opening Theme (1-3): "Koi wa Maketerareneeshon"
Lyrics: Yumiko Ishijima, Hirohiko Fukuda
Composition, Arrangement: Hirohiko Fukuda
Vocal: Rumi Shishido