Anime: Buddy Complex
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Retail Price: $54.98
For years, mecha genre animes have dominated Japan and the US. A genre that includes high-tech equipment and large scale robots used for battle. Think of it as Japan’s version of Transformers. There have been various series (like the Gundam franchise or Evangellion) that embrace the technological aspect of stories, with the most recent and prominent mecha being the anime series Buddy Complex. The anime begins with high school student Aoba Watase and his seemingly grounded family. Aoba starts of experiencing an average, normal day when arriving to school and interacting with his many friends and crush Hina -- until a blindingly bright light hits the city, followed by an attack from a massive robot. From the very first episode (before things kick off) the brief character introductions are enough to draw you in and become intrigued by the lead character Aoba and his interpersonal relationships. Instead of having the hard-headed persona I would have assumed (in comparison to other series) Aoba is known for being liked, and cherished by those close to him. When the first mecha appears, you feel as if you are jumping into an ongoing story with Hina, but are around for Aoba’s first interaction in such an unusual circumstance.
Aoba instantly becomes a favorite character, by showing his actions in times of danger. He makes his first attempt to save his friends, and realizes he is being tailed by the robot which ends up causing Aoba to warn everyone near. His actions show how selfless Aoba can be in the series initial moments, achieving the difficult task of creating a powerful protagonist from the earliest moments of an anime. Hina reveals herself to also have her very own robotic companion she controls, and Aoba begins to conclude that he doesn’t know much of anything. We learn that those controlling the robot weapons are actually a group from the future -- including Hina. Subtle hints are left on the future’s role in the series, giving us insight that Aoba could have more importance in the future Hina comes from. In fact, early on Hina sends Aoba to the future and she remains elsewhere, with the two being split up to his dismay. When they reconvene in the future timeline, the relationship is far from perfect and creates a gap to explore.
Another character I found as a necessity to the success of Buddy Complex is named Dio. Dio is a blonde young man, opposite of Aoba, with a unique relationship. When Hina sends Aoba into the future, she first tells him “Dio is waiting” before he even knows him. When entering the future, their fates become entwined when they realize their robotic fighters must perform something known as “coupling” to achieve their peak of power. Not only do the two require each other to win, they vary in personality traits enough to actually draw them closer together. From their early encounters, the Aoba and Dio dynamic actually reads a romantic undertone that is pushed through the stories subtext and plot. The coupling dynamic, interactions, and even the absence of Hina only perpetuates the theory. Though of course it is never confirmed (as in most anime series like this) it pushes further than other series of this genre would dare to go. Consequently, the relationship between Aoba and Dio is actually the most powerful concept of Buddy Complex, and what kept me intrigued by where they could end up.
The animation is sheer artistic, and utilizes beautiful selections for Buddy Complex. The robot/android weapons are of course drawn with extreme detail to show off the elaborate designs of the robotic beings. When in action, they are most noticeable – a huge shock to someone like myself who doesn’t usually focus my time on mecha series. The battles are well thought out, and eye catching with bright bold color choices to show the robots clashing on a regular basis. Other character designs are also widely accepted, with this anime containing some of my favorite designed anime characters in recent years -- being the one and only Aoba. The character doesn’t have unreasonable hair, he’s got bright green eyes, charm, and he’s the softie turned badass which makes the character one to watch out for. I also enjoy the relationship between Aoba and Hina, establishing the female protagonist in Buddy Complex as a strong character without being constantly victimized.
Buddy Complex really took on the tricky plot task of time travel, a complicated situation for certain series -- but does it’s best to accommodate viewers with a better understanding (using Aoba as a character who learns as the audience does.) The plot itself feels very introductory, and as it turns out, it really is. Knowing that the mecha series will receive a second season makes it more understandable as a premise and first arc of a grander tale. By looking at Buddy Complex as a whole, the pros far outweigh the cons, and prove to me that there are mecha anime series that can actually impress me. The various battles were adequate, and the characters were ones you actually want to learn more about. By the end, I would recommend Buddy Complex better than the average mecha, and a fun ride -- leaving you hopeful for a second season.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’ Final Thoughts:
-Aoba was a strong leading character, and I enjoyed his art, voice acting, protective loyalty, and other characteristics that made him one of the two most dynamic figures in Buddy Complex.
-The Aoba and Dio relationship was unique to most mecha series; I didn’t quite expect them to create such a romantic dynamic between two male protagonists in a popular anime genre.
-I liked the gender swap, making the female the more aware character in the plot with the male initially following her lead. Ditching clichés benefitted the series.
-The entire scope of art was, in my opinion, eye catching by having a variety of artistic appeal
-It was surprisingly not as focused on the time travel or mecha moments as I had predicted, and I found it to be a pleasant surprise.