Photon Anime Review
/ OVA / Comedy / 16-up
Hilarious, but badly unbalanced by the last episode.
...Tenchi Muyo visits El Hazard, with its mind in the gutter and humor on overdrive, plus a dramatic episode from some other series accidentally spliced in near the end.
From the people who brought you Tenchi Muyo comes Photon. Those familiar with Tenchi are going to find some elements that will be all too familiar. Beautiful women falling in love with and fighting over a guy that doesn't really seem worth it. Don't take that to mean that this was a Tenchi rip-off though. It wasn't exactly like Tenchi Muyo. This show was like Tenchi with three vials of Heroin pumped into it. Okay, it wasn't really that bad, but it had the raunchy humuor, the amusing situations and the cute characters of Tenchi Muyo all maximized three times. Despite it's cute appearance, Photon was vulgar, almost shockingly so, the situations were downright hilarious and the characters were tooth-decayingly cute. Even while writing this review I have a hard time knowing if I actually really liked Photon. There were certainly a lot in there to like. But you'll notice the imbalance in the plot synopsis and that can be applied to the entire show. Allow me to explain.
Photon was very funny. Hilarious. Let me make that abundantly clear from the get go. This show was really off the wall at times and I really enjoyed all the funny situations. And since most of the show was just a string of hilarious situations you could say that I enjoyed Photon on the whole. However, the key word is most. There was a plot in there, but it was buried very deep under the cute characters, love triangles and gags. We got a few peeks of it in the first episode and then we don't see a whole lot of it until the very last episode. The last episode was, mostly, pretty serious stuff. It contained a lot of twists, though not terribly unpredictable ones, betrayals and character development. In it's essence this is all fine. I don't have a problem with an anime being silly and then growing serious towards the end. What I do have a problem with is when an anime is almost totally silly throughout and then, poorly, tries to cram an entire serious plot into one episode. It made this series really unbalanced and I thought that was a real shame. Otherwise, Photon would be a near-perfect example of a totally silly OAV series that doesn't require you to think in the least. Also, the episode itself was unbalanced. It would be serious, then someone would do something really stupid and throw the mood off balance. So this is what I mean about the synopsis applying the show. It was mostly about a bunch of silly characters in silly situations, then at the very end, a plot to take over the universe. Also, the plot was too inconsistent for its own good. There were a lot of unexplained holes. Photon's special power was never fully explained, nor were several other things that were important.
Perhaps it's time to stop picking on Photon and focus on it's strengths. Perhaps the synopsis is a bit misleading, as there is a bad guy throughout the course of the series. Papacha. He's quite the character. A complete loon, actually. I couldn't help but find him extremely amusing. Heck, any character that only has the aid of a black dot to cover himself can't be anything but funny. The two main female leads were also quite funny. Aun with her shrill, over the top attitude and Keyne (who is probably my favourite of the girls--and not just because she provided the most fanservice) was pretty mean, in a funny way, but also sweet and caring. I must admit that out of the women who were competing for Photon's affection, I was actually rooting for Keyne. That brings us to Photon himself, who you just can't help but like. You do have to wonder why he has these beautiful women after him, as he's only a small child by appearance. But he has a good, pure heart, pure intentions and he's extremely dedicated to upholding his promises. Also, his large eyes provide the perfect effect of making you feel sorry for him whenever he's punted around.
The personalities of a few of the characters are a tad harsher compared to Tenchi Muyo. The bad guy is quite the lecherous pervert, wanting 13, 000 wives throughout the universe. And despite the fact that Keyne was sometimes sweet and caring, she was also mean at times and her dialogue was rather crude as well. Not to say that any of this was a bad thing--it was all very funny. But for those Tenchi fans thinking they'll find the same lightheartedness from any given Tenchi series, well, they may be disappointed. I myself really enjoyed the characters personalities and the way they interacted with one another. Definitely one of the high points of Photon.
Another high point of Photon was its production values, which were all on the higher end of an OAV. The art was quite solid all around. The backgrounds were pretty well designed and those who liked the outfits in Tenchi will certainly like the distinctive and elaborate costumes in Photon. The character designs are also akin to Tenchi, with wide eyes and cute characters all around (except for Papacha who was purposely ugly when he was being himself). The animation was quite good. Nicely colourful, fluid and very well done. The fights, what few serious ones there were, looked pretty good as well.
Photon is a series where the acting in both languages hit the mark well. In English, the casting was good and the match ups with the Japanese cast were pretty good. The only exception would be Photon. In Japanese, his voice was high, while in English his voice was soft spoken but lower. However, the English Photon was acted pretty closely to his Japanese counterpart, with both performances being low key but appealing. Speaking of the Japanese version, it made a lot of the usual casting choices with Aun being appropriately shrill. Keyne was as well to a lesser extent. In English, Aun was about as shrill, though Keyne's voice had more of a bad girl tone to it. Both were good though. The acting in both languages was well done and very funny. As with a lot of CPM titles, the dub mirrors the sub pretty closely though this time it wasn't nearly as awkward as it's been in the past. Both versions were well written. To chose a standout, it would have to be Papacha in both languages. Both versions were very well acted with a lot of spirit and gusto. The music in this was almost memorable, with the main theme being pretty energetic, the ending theme being cute and the BGM being surprisingly varied.
So in the end, Photon had the right idea for the most part. It was creative and extremely funny and I liked all that, but the sloppily written plot being crammed into the last episode just didn't do the series justice. Had it of spread itself across the six episodes or if more episodes were made then the transition would have been much smoother and less confusing. Also, Photon seems pretty adept to a sequel, though one hasn't been made. While the story (if you can call it that) was conclusive, there were enough elements left open at the end. If you can ignore the poor story being poorly crammed into the last episode then Photon is a good way to kill three hours. I myself really want to like Photon more, I really do. But I simply can't overlook such glaringly obvious faults in the story. Maybe another viewing in the future will change my perspective, though I doubt it.