Wild Cardz Anime Review
Jaja Uma! Karutetto
US Release By
Board-Game-Themed Cute Girl Action
2 25-minute episodes
1997-05-21 - 1997-09-26
The Card Kingdom is protected by its four sworn guardians, the Crown Knights, aka the Jaja Uma Quartet. They are: Jo Diamonds, who can run and jump like nobody else, Casa Clubs, a martial arts expert with amazing senses, Coco Heartful, the cute psycho-magic master, and Sunday Spade, the team's leader and possessor of the mysterious and ultimately powerful trump power. These four young lasses use their card magic to defend the country from whatever evil happens its way, but this time the enemy isn't a criminal or even a supervillain--it's a giant chess piece. When a huge white pawn takes out a bridge and then starts moving in on the city, the only thing standing in its way are the Knights. Things go from bad to worse when a second indestructible chess piece shows up, along with some lady who thinks she's an agent of God, a sleazy black marketeer, and a bunch of nasty ninjas. Then there's the dashing Joker...
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Wild Cardz is standard all-girl hyperactive action anime in its purest form, with a board game theme. The plot is nonsensical and basically nonexistent, but the action is high-speed and continuous, and it's seasoned with superpowered girls in short skirts, ninjas, and chipper banter. What the animation lacks in quality or creativity, it makes up for in sheer volume of action, and there are a few bits of imagination in the backgrounds and magic. The Japanese acting is also reasonably funny, even if all four of the main characters sound confusingly similar. The dub, on the other hand, has abysmally bad dialogue, so it's hard to even tell if the acting is any good.
Wild Cardz is no masterpiece, but I enjoyed the ride. If 50 minutes loaded with cute girls and turbocharged action sounds like fun, you probably will too.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Wild Cardz is a fun ball of pure hyperactive fluff. This board-game-themed take on the spunky fighting girl genre comes equipped with perky card-monikered knights, giant chess piece battleships, and a black market sleaze with a Mahjongg motif--the only thing it's missing is a bowl of bridge mix. A zippy romp from start to finish, there's a load of turbocharged action, a smattering of humor, and absolutely nothing else.
Don't even ask about a story--what little there is makes zero sense and there's next to no set-up. It never even bothers to explain what's up with the giant chessmen. The collection of suddenly-appearing characters are equally baffling: The random black market fellow is cut-and-pasted in out of nowhere, and I have absolutely no idea what's up with his manipulative companion. She is apparently sent by "God," and has a big dog. Even the dashing Joker isn't around long enough to figure out if he's a romantic interest or just an annoyance.
If all that sounds a bit confusing, it is. Honestly, though, I didn't care--plot and character development are not the aim of Wild Cardz. Sure, there's some requisite "We've got to risk our lives to save people!" chit-chat (leaning toward Crown and Country instead of the default Love and Justice), but this series is all about action. And it has action in Spades (and Hearts, and Clubs... sorry).
Jo can run really fast (a busty Flash in a miniskirt), and she pretty much sets the pace: The first episode is about 90 percent action and 10 percent story, and the second is essentially one long action sequence. What the action lacks in creativity and quality it makes up for in sheer volume, and it also sufficiently distracts from the total lack of substance. Result: 50 minutes of fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
Backing this up is good-enough art and cute-if-forgettable character designs. There is some creative flourish: Imaginative, nicely drawn backgrounds and decent card-themed magic. Coming as a bit of a surprise, the scenes of large scale destruction also look surprisingly good (even if they are perpetrated by chess pieces).
The generic, upbeat background music matches the pedal-to-the-metal pace. There's a disappointing lack of any vocal themes, though--it would've been a prime candidate for hyper-perky J-pop.
The Japanese acting gets the job done: The black market fellow, given a requisite cheesy Chinese accent by Nobuyuki Hiyama, is particularly funny; there's a scene with him and Jo yelling at each other that had me chuckling based on the text in the subtitles alone. On the negative side, the four girls sound similar. It does make sense since they look similar... except that makes it even harder to keep their abilities straight. Not that it really matters, and it could be worse.
The dub isn't particularly good; decent casting but sub-par acting. The writing shoulders most of the blame--the dialogue sounds like it was written by somebody with a tenuous grasp of the English language.
In all, Wild Cardz is standard all-girl hyperactive action anime in its purest form. The plot is nonsensical and basically nonexistent, but the action is fast and continuous, and it's seasoned with superpowered girls in short skirts, ninjas, and chipper banter. Wild Cardz is no masterpiece, but I enjoyed the ride. If 50 minutes loaded with cute girls and turbocharged action sounds like fun, you probably will too.
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Kind of similar to any of the magical girl series, or anything else with cute girls in stylish costumes fighting evil. The best matches for the mood and action overload, however, would be the out-of-control chaos of Geobreeders and its sequel, and perhaps the tweaker of fantasy series, Dragon Slayer.
Notes and Trivia
Wild Cardz (or rather JajaUma Quartet) is a small collection of media tie-ins. It started off in 1995 with some illustrations by character designer Noritaka Suzuki published in the anime magazine Monthly OUT (renamed Magazine MEGU during the run), followed with a series of radio drama CDs, then the two anime videos (amusingly VHS only--the only DVD release to date was in the US), and finally a 1998 Playstation game subtitled "Mega Dream Destruction" (the funky opening animation is on YouTube).
In the linguistically mixed original title (the first part is written in Roman characters: JaJa馬!カルテット), "Jaja Uma" is a moderately insulting (though not particularly crude) Japanese expression for a headstrong or unmanageable woman, roughly equivalent to the rather old-fashioned "shrew." The Japanese title of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, "Jaja Uma Narashi," uses the phrase, though it doesn't appear that the title of this series is a reference to it.
Coco Heartful is voiced in Japanese by Momo Yomezawa in her only known anime role.
US DVD Review
Nothing special, but a solid production. The video transfer is acceptable and the Japanese and English stereo soundtracks sound fine. The English "subtitle" track, however, is a lot closer to the dub script than the actual Japanese dialogue. The only special feature is some clips highlighting the voice talents of the actors (in both English and Japanese, for a change).
A very brief flash of nudity and some non-graphic mass havoc along with a few small bits of off-color humor account for USM's 13-up suggestion, though really, 10-up is reasonable.
Violence: 2 - Lots of destruction, but little or no blood and death.
Nudity: 1 - Short skirts and a very brief flash or two of skin.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A few non-G-rated jokes and comments.
Language: 0 - Nuthin'.