I love shonen-style anime. The more big mechs, super-sized fireballs, humungous swords and crazy ninja antics an animation studio can fit into a show, the more I tend to let my brain go out the window and just let the mindless antics wash over me. Crazy morphing weapons and absurdly fast power inflation are some of my favorite parts of that entire genre.
For the most part, Elemental Gelade would normally fit my need for shonen anime very well. The main character, Coud “Cou” Van Giruet, begins the series as a rookie member of the Red Lynx sky pirates and is content to live out life as a sky pirate until he accidentally awakens Reverie “Ren” Metherlence from the coffin-like box that she is stored inside. It turns out that Ren is an Edel Raid, a human-looking creature that can “react” with a human being and turn into a living weapon.
And, in all honesty, the concept of Edel Raids is a fantastic idea. Not only do the Edel Raids come in all shapes and sizes, with each of them producing their own unique weapons, but the animators and artists can be as creative as they desire when they’re creating a “supernatural weapon” made of a living organism. When Ren reacts with Cou, she turns into an enormous sword that actually wraps around his arm. Cou describes Ren’s weapon-form as “light as a feather” and it’s clearly able to cut through steel easily.
Although Cou has freed Ren from this unexplained slumber, Ren immediately states her hatred for humans. Luckily, Elemental Gelade doesn’t quibble over strange quirks or unexplained personality traits for long. Immediately following Ren’s awakening, the sky pirates are boarded by a group of adventurers from an organization called Arc Aile. A young woman named Cisqua leads the group and is accompanied by Rowen and Kuea. Their mission is to protect Edel Raids, and they offer to buy Ren from the sky pirates. Of course, Cou takes offense at this and defends Ren’s honor by giving a noble speech about how people can’t be bought or sold. By the end of the first episode, Ren has forgiven Cou for being human and has reacted to the young sky pirate, making him her “Pleasure.”
And in all honesty, that’s about as deep as the show goes. The rest of the storyline in Elemental Gelade revolves around Cou and Ren and their attempt to sort out whether they can do more than just fight together, whether they can truly be in love, and if there is more to the relationship between humans and Edel Raids than fighting. There are a number of intriguing one-off episodes in the show that explore this continuing theme, and typically Cou and Ren are presented with individuals that offer a mirrored version of what they could become if they choose the wrong path.
The other sub-plot features the battle between the forces of Arc Aile and the Chaos Choir, which both argue that they are protecting Edel Raids from humans but each take a different tact on the subject. Although the characters introduced in the sub-plot are interesting (albeit short-lived and hardly qualify as “recurring”), they merely serve as tools to advance the main theme of Ren and Cou’s deep bond with each other.
While I previously stated that I have an affection for shonen-style anime, I couldn’t look past the glaring art and animation issues that are prevalent throughout Elemental Gelade. It’s pretty clear that the studio working on the show didn’t have a lot of support and their production values reflect that. The backgrounds are abhorrent and the non-fight animation is below average. That said, the action always seems to get the quality treatment, and the various transformations and reacts are definitely entertaining to watch.
Dubbing and subbing in Elemental Gelade are decent, and I would even argue that the dubbed English version is actually more enjoyable to watch than the subbed version of the show. They may not be winning awards for voice acting, but they are certainly entertaining and do their best to make the show easy to listen to for English-speaking audiences.
Perhaps the most noteworthy portion of Elemental Gelade is the show’s music. With a score composed by Yuki Kujiura, fans of .hack//SIGN will immediately notice the similarities in musical quality between the two shows. The opening theme may not be my favorite from Kujiura, but the actual soundtrack from the show is well worth a listen.
Elemental Gelade isn’t an exceptional anime by any stretch of the imagination. Although it certainly entertains at times, it doesn’t have the quality of Naruto or the flair of something like Dragonball Z. Perhaps if Elemental Gelade had focused on higher production values, it might have been a winner. But as it is, this is one you might want to take a pass on.
Company/Studio: XEBEC / Funimation
Rating: Not Rated