Because in my experience, it never is.
Under the Dog is a thirty-minute OVA backed by a bunch of naive fans on Kickstarter who looked at the cool trailer that was made before production had actually started on the thing, saw it was about girls with guns, noticed the director of that incredibly stupid Blast of Tempest anime was behind it all, and have gained nothing from their sixty dollars but a jar of betrayed tears and access to something I easily watched for free and the creators couldn’t care less because they’ve got all that Kickstarter money, yo. Yes, I wised up to the practice of Kickstarted anime after falling for it more than five times (thankfully, in time to avoid the dreadfulness that was Santa Company) and wasn’t paying a single cent towards a medium that has fooled everyone so much it’s a wonder anime still has fans at all until after they impressed me. Because a lot of things can look good before it’s actually released. Blood Blockade Battlefront looked to be pretty fun based on promotional images, visually interesting trailers, and a unique premise done by talented people, and that show ended up boring me two minutes in and somehow got even worse from there on out.
And good lord, the reaction to this thing is pretty negative. It’s gotten so bad that some forums are filled with nothing but deniers from another dimension who refuse to accept that they got scammed despite the fact that the silent majority says otherwise. I mean granted, it’s not the most unwatchable thing on the planet and it gave the audience what they wanted. But here’s the thing most creators need to keep in mind: most people don’t know what they want. You think people wanted Shirobako or Rakugo before they actually came out and blew people’s minds? An anime about the actual craft that goes into making these cartoons and a form of comedy that’s lost on people who don’t read one Eastern textbook or ever visit an Eastern country? I don’t think anyone hyped those up beforehand and look at the reaction to them now. Okay, Blood Blockade Battlefront still sells more money, but I say those shows are doing pretty well off for the original untested shows they were.
Still, I’ve never really cared too much about all the behind-the-scenes drama regarding products, especially on this blog, because all that matters at the end of the day is whether or not it’s actually good. We all know Stanley Kubrick is a monster behind the camera, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the greatest film directors of all-time. And if anyone took the health and effort of the average anime production team into effect when it came to reviewing this shit, we wouldn’t be able to criticize anything because the working conditions of your average studio are “unsweetened chocolate” levels of awful. So let’s get into this Under the Dog thing by introducing the plot…
The year is 2025. Five years have passed since the Tokyo Olympic Games were called off after deadly terrorist attacks. An international school run by the United Nations now stands in the former Olympic site on the edge of Tokyo Bay. Seven teenagers with special abilities, known as “Flowers,” are among the students.
Their student identities are only a cover for their real identities as members of an intelligence organization run by the UN. Their objective is to assassinate other teenagers who have the same abilities.The Flowers have no choice but to complete their missions without fail. Their organization has taken their family members hostage to ensure this. For the Flowers, failure would mean death not only for themselves but also for their loved ones.
This is the story of their struggle against cruel fate, and of how it is human nature to find hope, however bleak the outlook. – MyAnimeList
Yeah, that summary is incomprehensible to me too, so let’s go with what I could make from actually watching the thing. A young girl raised to be an assassin has to protect a boy with vaguely-defined special powers, a bunch of military goons and other superpowered females come in, a lot of shooting happens, the girl dies, the guy dies, and that’s the end. It takes me back to those terrible ultraviolent OVAs that made up the bulk of anime during the 80s and 90s, and all they ever cared about was how many explosions, blood, and boobs they could stuff into a thirty-minute window with a bonus “how nonsensical can we make our ending?” occasionally attached. And honestly, I have no idea how to go about reviewing something that I’m not even sure was designed to have a comprehensible story. But it was either this or Joker Game, and just the thought of the latter drains all motivation from my body.
I suppose the actual animation is pretty consistent for the most part, although the character art looks like a rotoscope job that makes the Hana & Alice prequel appear three-dimensional. Unfortunately, I’m not into praising the aesthetics unless they’re used to express something unique, and all that’s being expressed with Under the Dog’s visual style are basic badass emotions that a teenager masturbating to Taylor Swift photos could summon up. All of the characters can be described in one short sentence each, and some of them can even be described completely with just one word, so there’s not much point in me contributing there. Unfortunately, I prefer to focus heavily on the characters when I judge a fictional product because…well…it’s just what I like. Without those two things and no real story to speak of, what am I supposed to say?
I guess the main selling point is the action given that’s what all the advertisement, praise, and screen time is devoted to, and for what it’s worth, it’s pretty decent. Given what passes for action in anime these days, seeing a bunch of bullets actually have impact when something hits could occasionally be entertaining, even if it doesn’t really justify why you couldn’t be watching a Hong Kong action film instead. Although the fact that most of the action is against nameless soldiers means that it won’t have much lasting appeal unless Jet Li is the one doing all the ass-kicking. And since a lot of the action is shot so that you don’t actually see the bullets hitting people or really much of anything other than an explosion…well let’s just say there’s a reason the bullet-flying is only “occasionally” entertaining.
Aside from that though, I really can’t think of anything to say about Under the Dog. Not even regarding the studios who made it. It’s a Kinema Citrus project with help from a newbie studio named Orange, and both studios have not released anything that has made any impact on my life whatsoever. I’m aware of the production issues, but what do you want me to say about that even if I was interested in talking about it? So what’s left? The anime’s surprisingly good English? Well I guess we know where a lot of the Kickstarter money, but other than that, meh.
After all is said and done, I can’t really say I have much of an opinion on Under the Dog. I had no expectations for it going in and I got nothing getting out of it. It’s a relic of a bygone age that people are still trying to push as new and different, and those who backed it and came out disappointed should have realized beforehand that staff and concept doesn’t mean jack in regards to determining if an anime is good (only if it’s worth looking at, because I’m still avoiding Sweetness and Lightning, and nobody has given me a good reason to give it a shot). If you want anime to be good, do yourself a favor and let nature take its course. Because part of the fun in watching this stuff is the element of surprise, and there’s nothing surprising about a director who made an anime you like doing a concept you like unless it’s the negative kind.
- I actually did read some of the Sweetness and Lightning manga at the bookstore last week. Yeah, let’s just say I’m not touching that show anytime soon.
- “Girls with guns” stopped being special a long time ago.