27 August 2007
Battle Programmer Shirase is an odd anime. It aired in only 2003, surprisingly enough, but it very much looks like an early nineties anime. It was only 15 episodes long, and each of those episodes were only twelve minutes each. Then once you remove the opening and ending credits, in addition to the previous episode recap, it's probably only nine. Why they feel the need to recap the last nine minutes worth of story is a mystery. But basically, once you do the math, there's only a little over two hours worth of material there.
I discovered after toiling through those two hours that the show was cancelled halfway through, which explained why it ended right when there was actual hint of a developing story - perhaps a desperate last minute effort by the creators to keep the show alive by ending it on a cliffhanger? It's not surprising, and maybe even difficult to be upset by the move. Battle Programmer Shirase is essentially one of those 'wasted potential' sorts of animes. You know the ones - they have an intriguing premise or an original idea, one or two very interesting characters, and completely ignore all of that in favour of focusing on all the wrong things, leaving the meat of the show to rot while wrapping it in layers of pink fairy floss.
A quick explanation of the aforementioned wasted premise first. The show is basically about an amazing hacker known as BPS - the protagonist Akira Shirase, whose talents get him all sorts of odd hacking jobs, usually defending some sort of government or corporation�s system from another hacker. He doesn't work for money, but instead for old and rare electronics or other assorted otaku goods. Ignoring the fair bit of creative license taken in regards to technical aspect of things, any parts where actual programming take place (Could they be called the 'action scenes' of the series?) were all pretty cool. Unfortunately, these scenes are almost an afterthought, as the vast majority of the focus seems to be on a bizarre repeating comedy skit with Shirase's employers and the highly questionable relationship between Shirase and his great niece. It's pretty hard to avoid ecchi when you watch a lot of anime so you develop a bit of a tolerance for it even if it's not your sort of thing, but Battle Programmer Shirase manages to make it supremely awkward and leaves you feeling uncomfortable, which is odd given the PG nature of the show and the fact that such matters were mostly merely implied. Actually, maybe that made it worse, because then you could have at least pretended it was pointless gratuity and not a serious element in the series.
The already half squandered story was not helped at all by the rather flat and uninteresting cast of characters. The only one with any sort of mannerisms and development was Shirase himself, and indeed he was the only character to maintain any sort of intrigue whatsoever, but you don't even get any closure on that thanks to the series' cancellation, so in the end, there really weren't any redeeming features to make watching this show worthwhile. Quite frankly, the animation was rather low budget, and looks terribly dated for a series that aired only four years ago. The voice acting performances were wooden and the editing and cinematography were uninspired. The sound effects were also particularly poor, as though maybe they nominated a random individual with a bit of multi-tracking experience who only had a gag sound effect library and a cheap microphone on hand to be the sound designer at the last minute. That's the only explanation I can come to for the inexplicable inclusion of the badly distorted laugh track that cut in and out the end of each of Shirase's employers' tortured interior monologues. The music was similarly bland and poorly mixed.
All of this is a great shame, as Battle Programmer Shirase really did have some neat ideas that could have made an enjoyable show that would no doubt have lasted beyond fifteen measly nine-minute (okay, okay, TECHNICALLY fifteen minute) episodes. Had a bit more focus been given to the actual overarching story earlier on and had the execution not been so painfully amateur on all fronts, it could have easily risen from the ranks of 'barely watchable' to at least the level of 'want to see what happens next'. As it stands, though, it was mercifully chopped short, saving the few curious viewers the pain of having to sit through more episodes in the vain optimistic hope that something will come of it all eventually.
Hopefully in the future, someone else will pick up this premise and realise its potential, alleviating the frustration of the victims who were pulled to the show by its catchy title. Because honestly, who didn't get excited by the idea of a show about a BATTLE PROGRAMMER? That's geek gold right there. It's actually pretty amazing they managed to screw it up so badly.
I'm posting this review as a warning so that others are not similarly fooled into watching it for its intriguing premise. Go watch 'Hackers' or something instead. Sure, that movie has dated, but still not as badly as this.
Overall score: 1,001/1,000,000