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Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Any time an anime adaptation finding its origins from the likes of a video game title is announced, thoughts of uncertainty are bound to run through the minds of longtime fans of the source material, doubtful as to how the universe of the game title will be refashioned to the confines of animation. What complicates matters even more so is if the game title significantly hinges on the element of user input as to influence and affect its storyline, ultimately leading to a range of potential endings that reflect upon those user choices. But what if you have a title such as Hyperdimension Neptunia, a Playstation 3 game whose premise was essentially a vivid homage of the “Console Wars”, acting as a literal interpretation of such a concept as regions battle for control and dominance within a fantasy realm. The game also shared many elements of Japanese pop culture as well, including having many of its cutscenes and characters being heavily influenced by the artistic styling of anime as well as parodying aspects of moe. With all this in mind, one would have assumed that the anime adaptation of Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation would work out rather fluently – an assumption that ultimately proves to be inaccurate.

Considering that the series is based upon an RPG title, much of what Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation delivers in terms of its comedic elements, parodying, and moe aspects reflective of the game’s narrative, are still present here albeit through a strong sense of awareness as to its length as a mere 12 episode series. For a game that averages roughly 45 hours to beat, much of the charm of the game has been compressed here for the sake of both expounding on its narrative and attempting to establish elements of what made the game such an interesting experience, a combination that ultimately struggles to do both. The pacing of the series is also conflicted to say the least, with numerous moments within episodes where it suddenly switches from being a solemn drama to that of a comedy at seemingly a whim. While the game was allotted a significant portion of time to establish a balance between being comical as well as dramatic in scope, the anime adaptation just does not have a sufficient amount of time to reflect the overall intentions of the game. One could say that the problems of the game are only heightened within the anime adaptation given it being roughly six hours in length as opposed to the average 45 hours of the game.

And while taking a significantly divergent path in terms of its narrative from that of its source material, the execution of the series is what leads it into the realm of mediocrity as it slowly becomes painstakingly obvious that series’ director Masahiro Mukai and staff were trying to fit so much in from the game that it ultimately led to plot developments that seemingly go nowhere and were simply placed in only to nudge and compliment fans of the game. This is not necessarily an erroneous approach for a series stemming from a popular franchise to take, but it also should not indulge in it to the point where it acutely affects the narrative as a whole. This can be especially seen with how the series views its characters, with many of them being introduced and subsequently forgotten through each progressive episode. Again, considering the substantial amount of backstory and development that the game series has, this would not have been a negative aspect of the series if done correctly, but it once again follows through on the apparent notion that these characters are only to be cameos and nothing more, a choice that does not effectively serve the narrative in a positive light.

Regardless of much of how Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation disappoints in regards to its execution, it still showcases some favorable points. For one, the characters – with the exception of some side characters being different from that of the game series – are still amusing given their interactions with one another. Their contrasting personalities do shine through, which was an important aspect of the game series and remain a strong point within the adaptation. Whether this is visible in Noire, a character whose tsundere tendencies make for some very funny tongue-in-cheek moments, to the likes of the titular character Neptunia, with her sharp humor and sarcastic personality, to the deviant scenarios cropped up by perverted Plutia, the characters are all distinguishable and very much likable as caricatures of the moe culture at large. And despite the fact the the series does not provide many of the characters with ample time to truly develop, it was great to see that some of the main characters and their interactions with one another were not entirely different from that of the game. Those who are completely unfamiliar with the game series though may not like many of the characters due to them appearing as simply exploitative examples of the attributes of moe, an ironic assumption considering that Hyperdimension Neptunia is a self-parody of such characteristics to begin with.

As a series, Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation does not exactly rise above its own fan service, performing more as an ode to game enthusiasts more than striving to be distinctively memorable in any other regard. Considering that the narrative of the source material is not exactly complex but sizable, the insignificant amount of time it has to elaborate upon the characters and their predicaments is sorely noticeable, even more so given the small episode count when compared to the ample time within the game series. Like many other adaptations before it, Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation somewhat stumbles because of the expansive breadth of its source material simply outweighing the framework of an animation series. Perhaps as a 25 episode series it would have fared much better, but without much of the background information and character development on part of having only played through the game, Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation is an adaptation that is primarily reserved for the most staunch fans of the video game series and really nothing more.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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