Cidolfas's Anime Reviews: Saber Marionette J
I'll be honest here: I'm entering this arena about ten years too late. Saber Marionette J is a decent anime, but one that hasn't aged very well, thematically, graphically, or musically. It has its positive aspects, but it isn't one I particularly enjoyed sitting through.
The basic idea is an interesting one. When humanity tried to colonize another planet, the colony ship malfunctioned, leaving only a single shuttle to land on the planet - with six crew members, all male. Three hundred years later, there are six countries on the planet, each one consisting entirely of male clones of one of the original crew members. The closest they come to having females are "marionettes", female robots who lack any kind of emotion or personality, but are used for everything from housework to fighting wars.
Into this mix comes Otaru Mamiya, your average anime guy, who accidentally awakens a "saber marionette". But not just any marionette - this one comes with a "maiden circuit", which gives her the emotions that the other marionettes lack. After some hijinks, Otaru finds himself living with not one, but three marionettes: Lime, the perky, childish one; Cherry, the demure housekeeper with a sharp tongue; and Bloodberry, the sexy fighter. And then there's his incredibly annoying neighbor Hanagata, who has a rather freaky crush on Otaru (obsession is more like it). And of course they can't just live normally, no: they have to help fight a war with Gartlant, run by Faust, the evil empire-building guy. Funnily enough, Faust has three of his own marionettes with "maiden circuits", and as you might expect there are plenty of battles involving all six of them.
That sounds pretty good on paper. Unfortunately, SMJ falls flat on its face most of the time. The animation style looks extremely dated by now. The script is embarrassingly corny, and the themes it tries to present have been done dozens of times in much better ways. Neither the English nor Japanese performances offer much, with the exception of Lime, who's a breath of fresh air in both languages, and Otaru's English actor's pretty good as well (his Japanese actor sounds like he's about twelve years old). The rest of the English cast ranges from decent (Cherry and Bloodberry) to god-awful (pretty much all the bad guys). The Japanese cast is a bit better, but you have the disadvantage of having to dart back and forth between the subtitles and the action, and sometimes the action goes pretty fast.
To be honest, I didn't enjoy most of the story. The last two episodes were pretty touching, but way too clichéd. There are some good parts, but it plods through most of its episodes and never really lives up to its potential. I suppose it's still a classic, but viewing it ten years later removes most of the fun.
Favorite Character: Lime
Overall Rating: 5.0