Twin Signal Anime Review
TWIN SIGNAL ファミリーゲーム
Twin Signal - Family Game
US Release By
Sci-fi Hero Comedy
3 29-minute episodes
1996-09-21 - 1996-11-21
Dr. Otoi is your average friendly mad scientist: He has a lab in a quiet town, raised a fine young man who has gone on to start his own lab, takes care of his young grandson, Nobuhiko, and has a mysterious nemesis intent on using sinister agents to steal his ideas. Dr. Otoi built himself a nice, friendly super-robot by the name of Signal as a stand-in brother for little Nobuhiko, but thanks to a bug (don'cha hate those?), Signal turns into a chocolate-craving baby whenever Nobuhiko sneezes. Not really an issue, until Dr. Otoi's evil rival steals Signal's brother, Pulse, and decides to get himself some revenge. These siblings do more than fight over chores, and things go from bad to worse when the beautiful robot Elara gets caught in the middle of the feud and Dr. Otoi's assistant decides to build the ultimate fighting robot to "help."
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Twin Signal has the potential to be a very funny series. Dumb and unoriginal, but at least funny. Sadly, thanks to poor direction, weak writing, and being yet another series trying to distill a comic into a couple of OAVs, all it manages in the end are a handful of very amusing situations with a lot of overblown drama involving shallow, uninteresting characters in between. On the positive side, the art is decent, there's a fair amount of passable-looking action, and it serves up some memorable (if simple) jokes. On the negative side, I didn't care nearly enough about the characters to enjoy the heavy-handed drama, the choppy directing only made it worse, and even the good jokes weren't taken full advantage of.
If a light superhero flick sounds like fun, or if you're willing to put up with a lot of lame drama to get to some very funny nuggets of superhero/supervillain parody, then go ahead and give Twin Signal a shot. Otherwise, don't waste your time.
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In theory, Twin Signal should be hilarious. Dumb, inane, cheesy, and unoriginal, but at least very funny. Unfortunately, thanks to poor direction, weak writing, and being yet another series trying to distill a manga series into a couple of OAVs, hilarious is only a theory. Future reference to help spot manga-based series that make almost no effort to accommodate non-fans: A bunch of characters in the intro sequence that never make an appearance is not a good sign, and establishing the wild premise in a single opening scene lasting about 30 seconds is a worse one.
The basic idea behind Twin Signal is far from original--superhero with a random and embarrassing problem surrounded by a variety of people a shade or two shy of competent--but at least it's got the potential for dumb fun. The personality quirks certainly sound good--the villains in particular has some darn funny issues, from severe nearsightedness to an unmasking of what those shadowy lairs look like when you turn the lights on.
That's the good part. The whole, sadly, is barely watchable and certainly a lot more dumb and less fun than it deserved to be.
My main beef with the whole thing is that it doesn't take full advantage of all its good ideas. For example, there's way too much cheesy plot. Not cheesy-funny, but cheesy in a weak attempt to be dramatic or emotional. Had the characters been at all likable (which they aren't--not annoying, just bland), or at least established enough that I cared even slightly about them, I might have been able to stomach the "drama," but it fell somewhere between boring and annoying.
The fact that I didn't feel anything for the characters was hardly a surprise, considering that it's based on a manga series with a lot more to it. Still, so what if I'm supposed to know these characters already--I don't. From that non-fan standpoint, making the lame drama palatable would've taken way too much work, so the whole thing would've been significantly better (or at least more fun) if it'd just forsaken the attempt at drama entirely in lieu of humor.
More fundamentally, I was a bit surprised at how poorly Twin Signal is put together. I hardly expect quality storytelling from a series like this, but it's disappointing when so many of the really funny superhero-related jokes aren't taken anywhere near as far as they had the potential to go, and others are beaten with such a blunt object that they lose half their impact in the execution. The lurching story (random, I'll accept, but there isn't an excuse for outright choppy) and several long sections with too many things going on simultaneously don't help at all. Basically, a sloppy attempt at working with good ideas. It made me want to give the manga a chance, at least.
Finally, as if the random plot, characters I couldn't have cared less about, and weak execution weren't enough, the world has all the solidity of a milkshake on a hot day. I tend to like a setting that has some degree of internal logic, even in comedies. Considering that Twin Signal is theoretically supposed to have a plot, and actually tries for some drama, it's pretty bad that even things as utterly random as, say, Dragon Half have more coherent settings than it does.
At least it looks okay--colorful, but nicely drawn and on average a little more expensive-looking than I'd have expected. The character designs are generic, but nice-looking enough, and the supervillain is fairly sharp-looking (pun somewhat intended--he has nifty scythe-like weapons). The action scenes, which are drawn out to make up more of the plot than I'd have liked, are decent, with a handful of nice touches and relatively smooth animation (albeit with some budget-minded concessions). The music, however, is unremarkable--the background music didn't stick in my mind, and the opening is cheesy. At least the closing theme is amusing, if not very good.
I've only heard the English dub, which stands out for the variety of voices; they all have an American cartoon-style exaggerated air, but at least in the case of two bumbling henchmen are pretty funny for it. Since the writing isn't too bad, and the acting is broad but decent, it comes across well enough overall.
Basically, on the whole, Twin Signal really isn't any more distinctive than the variety of other superhero comedy/parody OAV series. Its notable features boil down to some good ideas, a particularly random plot and setting, and poor enough construction to push it toward the bottom of the pile of its kin. If silly superhero stories are your thing and you're not picky about plots, you'll probably at least get some good chuckles out of it. Personally, I found myself liking the ideas, but being downright bored by the execution.
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Moldiver is very similar; semi-serious superhero parody, not a whole lot of plot, and with a few very good pot-shots at the genre. It's not spectacular, but is somewhat more solidly made. Project A-ko is a much more Japanese-style take on the idea, and is also much heavier on the blatant parodies, not to mention much better all around. Tiger and Bunny, finally, is an extremely high-class, much more Western take on the same concept, and in addition to having a drastically more solid setting also does very well with both drama and comedy.
Notes and Trivia
Twin Signal is based on a lengthy manga of the same name by Sachi Oshimizu. It was licensed by media blasters for release in English, but they stopped work on it after only one volume.
US DVD Review
The bilingual DVD includes the basics, plus an art gallery.
Rated 13-up by Media Blasters for some violence and a couple of mildly off-color comments.
Violence: 1 - Though the fights are straight-faced, the violence is mostly bloodless.
Nudity: 1 - Nothing much worth noting.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - The light romance, little more.
Language: 1 - Fairly clean.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Nobuhiko Otoi: Rika Matsumoto
Signal: Hiro Yuki
Mini Signal: Ikue Otani
Shinnosuke Otoi: Akio Otsuka
Masanobu Otoi: Issei Nimata
Minoru Otoi: Kumiko Nishihara
Pulse: Taketo Koyasu
Chris: Yuri Amamo
Elara: Yuri Shiratori
Officer Maki: Tomoyuki Morikawa
No. 3: Akie Kusachi
Flag: Masami Toyoshima
Hoshimaro Umenokoji: Ikuo Nishikawa
A Suke: Masaya Onosaka
B Suke: Kujira
English Dub Cast
Signal: David Thund
Pulse: Kevin Collins
Chirs: Lisa Ortiz
Nobu: Michelle Newman
Professor: Mike Pollock
Erala: Rachel Lillis
Suke A and B: Jeff Ward
Ume: John Avner
Dad/Masanobu: Doung Bost
Mom: Caroline Bose
Number 3: Rachel Lillis
Maki: Michael Tremain
Arano: Abigale Gampell
Mini/Flag: Michelle O'Medlin
Original Story: Sachi Oshimizu (Shonen Gun Gun)
Director: Takashi Sogabe
Producers: Michiyo Hayashi, Tomoyuki Igarashi
Character Design and Animation Director: Toshiko Sasaki
Music: Takeshi Suzuki
Director of Photography: Takashi Yasutsubata
Production Design: Hiroshi Kato
Music Director: MInami Kishimoto
Screenwriter: Kuniaki Yamashita
Storyboard/Dramatzation: Eiji Sui
Animation Director: Toshiko Sasaki
Lyrics: Huji Bessho
Composer Arranger: Hiroyuki Matsugashita
Shinger: Bluem of Youth
End Theme: "Nantoka Naru yo" ("You Can Do It")
Lyrics: Natsumi Tadano
Composer and Arranger: Zaki
Singer: Akie Kusachi
Production by TV Tokyo, Sony Music Entertainment