Neo Ranga Review

  • Neo Ranga - A Nation Apart (Vol. 4)

AKA: N/A
Genre: Adventure/Kaiju/Dramedy
Year Released: 1998-1999
Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally available by ADV Films)

Origin: Japan
Running Time: TV Series, 48 episodes, 15 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+
Related Films/Series: N/A

For Fans Of: Godzilla, Kurogane Communication, R. O. D. The TV, Dai-Guard, Full Metal Panic
Notes: 
The review is based on the ADV Films DVDs
.
Fun Facts:
-This was a part of Anime Complex which was a block showing 12-15 minute length episodes. Other shows that were on this programming block were Risky Safety, Steel Angel Kurumi, and Kurogane Communication.

-Neo Ranga was scored by Kuniaki Haishima who has also composed Blue Gender, Gasaraki, Monster, and the Metroid: Other M game.

This was a peculiar series to watch. 

I remember seeing trailers for it years ago on some of ADV’s DVDs, but I had no clue what it was about. The trailers showed the three sisters posing while some random shots of monsters and cities are all around. 

Now that I had a chance to watch it, I know what it’s about and it was nowhere near as abstract as the trailer presented it.

Neo Ranga deals with three orphaned sisters who get news saying that their long-lost brother is still alive. Their messenger is from the fictional island nation of Barou which is somewhere in the South Pacific. They have inherited this gigantic organic-robot deity known as Neo Ranga who is sworn to protect them. However, there’s mayhem with this god as he’s roaming around Tokyo where buildings are crushed and the Japan Self-Defense Force was going to have none of that foolishness there.

The three Shimabara sisters in question are Ushio, who’s the middle child and de facto lead character since most of the episodes spotlight her. She has a burning sense of what’s right, but she gets in over her head more often than not. There’s Minami, the oldest sister who is forced to be the mother figure given their parents being dead. She’s very snarky and very serious, but she works multiple jobs just to make sure her family is taken care of. The youngest sister is Yuuhi who goes to a fancy private school. Despite being young, she’s an insufferable genius who’s also selfish, but she’s incredibly brave like using Neo Ranga to threaten the yakuza, rival deities, and other villains that stand in Neo Ranga’s way.

The three sisters do have chemistry and have elements of humor. Minami was my favorite one given her responsible nature while also lacking the connection to Neo Ranga like her younger sisters. I did appreciate those flaws and how she was the voice of reason compared to most of the other characters. Although I felt that Yuuhi has character inconsistency. I do think her arrogant intelligence was funny at times, I did feel like she would flip-flop with her worst personality traits and I found her trying to get favors from her teacher to be very creepy. However, I saw better usage of the “three sisters” trope in ROD The TV given how all three of those characters grow and change over time.

The animation is nothing too spectacular. This was made by Studio Pierrot (Naruto, Fushigi Yugi, and Bleach to name a few), so I wasn’t expecting that much. The fight scenes were pretty good and felt epic given the huge deities that clash from time to time. Some scenes like Neo Ranga’s transformation felt huge, but some of the slice-of-life elements didn’t have as much effort, so there was some inconsistency in the animation department, but I’ve seen worse from Pierrot, so I couldn’t complain here.

The music is actually a strong element that does shine in Neo Ranga. The score mixes some pieces with some motifs like chanting and tribal rhythms. The opening themes are ones that I thought were alright at first, but they really grew on me. “Kaze no Nemuru Shima”, the first opening theme sung by the Shimabara’s voice actresses is a great track especially if you listen to the full version. It mixes pop, chanting, and some Indonesian gamalan-type melodies and percussion. The second opening theme “Kami to Nare” is an instrumental variant that changes up the chord progression. One could argue that it’s lazy, but I saw it as a nice extension of the original vocal track and it feels even more epic than “Kaze no Nemuru Shima”. “Prologue~A City In the Sky”, the first ending was a strange jazz piece. I liked it, but it didn’t gel with Neo Ranga’s aesthetics though. The second ending is “Kawaki no Miwa Ni Te” or “So Far So Good” depending on which version you listen to (it alternates episode by episode in season 2) is a decent J-Pop piece with a bit of a 90s hip-hop vibe with the tweeting synths and turntable effects. It is a nice track, but I prefer the original Japanese version instead of the English-translated version.

I do admit that while Neo Ranga had a good premise, the storytelling and themes can be hit or miss. To be fair, the quality is way more consistent in season 1 (episodes 1-24) with the overall plot and characterization. I also enjoyed the satirical elements involving the Japan Self-Defense Force with one soldier acting like a typical Shonen Jump “burning sense of justice” character despite being an antagonist in that part of the series. There are some tropes that get bent in the realms of kaiju of tokusatsu stories such as Godzilla and Gamera. Once season 2 kicked in, plot holes started to show up with the Neo Ranga character, the Kyo-Shin-Kai arc which was handled way too fast, and the ending was certainly anti-climactic. That bugged me because there was a lot to like about the first season and how it was more cohesive. Not to mention there were more filler elements in the last half of the series where the plot went nowhere.

Neo Ranga had some potential starting in, but a lack of consistency did hamper this anime. I wish there would have been more character development with Ushio and Yuuhi. More things should have been explained like Neo Ranga’s transformations which come across as willy-nilly. The music and some of the satirical elements were admirable, but they couldn’t hold up the series as a whole. While not horrible, I felt that Neo Ranga should have been better than what it was despite having a great first season.

Adjustable Rating System:

Add 1 point if you’re a fan of giant monster movies or tokusatsu
Subtract 2 points if you want substantive plots.

Pros:

-Good music especially the opening themes
-Funny military/political satire
-Minami is the most interesting and most developed of the Shimabara sisters

Cons:

-Plot holes and random plot points
-Messy plotting in season 2
-Some character derailment with main and supporting characters

Final Score: 6/10 Points

Content Warning: I’d say teens and up. While the show at large isn’t as potentially raunchy as the trailer makes it out to be, there are some things to watch out for. There is some fanservice, but it’s mainly in the credits scenes. The show itself rarely uses that much of that content factor. There’s some language and some violence that isn’t too severe. I will say that the most objectionable things would be an attempted sexual assault during the Kyo-Shin-Kai arc and also an off-handed joke about Yuuhi’s teacher being into his student which raised my eyebrows even though I know that dialog was in jest in the context of that scene.

-Curtis Monroe

Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

2 comments

  1. What would you say are some of the defining elements that separate, say, a giant robot anime from a kaiju one? I’m not real familiar with either genre, but I’ve at least seen a few big robot shows.

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    • Kaiju is really a subgenre of Tokusatsu such as Godzilla, Gamera, and to a certain extent King Kong. Even though it’s an anime, it does incorporate a bunch of those tropes. They are separate from giant robots since Kaiju is just a word referring to giant monsters. Yes, Pacific Rim naming the monsters in that movie is a nod to the tokusatsu genre.

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