Imagine if you will, a world centered around the very concept of video games. A world wherein companies are personified as heroines who fight the good fight for you, me and every other NPC that populates the similarly themed countries of said world. Of course, I ask you to imagine this as a way to draw you into the revelation that this fiction is reality (the fictional kind) vis-a-vis Hyperdimension Neptunia. This time however, the meta game franchise has made the transition to the format of anime, which is ironic in its own kind of way…if you care to think about it that much. But, for those who do not wish to do that, enjoy watching the adventures of your favourite CPUs in a 2D form that doesn’t require any additional controllers or peripherals…except for like, a TV…and a DVD player.
Building upon the not-so-hypothetical introductory paragraph that lies just above these current words, Hyperdimension presents us with the magical land of Gamindustri (pronounced just as obviously as it references), which itself is divided into the countries of Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee and Leanbox. Each possesses their own CPU, a guardian deity that defends their respective populace, more specifically known as Neptune, Noire, Blanc and Vert. Having been engaged in a Console War for some time, this series throws us into the fold during the historic signing of a Friendship Pact, preventing war between the countries in an attempt to gain Shares (essentially the faith of citizens, the force which sustains and powers the CPUs). Storywise, this allows each and every character to join the fray as allies, showcasing each individual CPUs personality and quirks, which makes you wonder just how the countries manage to function sometimes.
OK, enough preamble and exposition, I’m done. In case you couldn’t tell from my brief, yet brilliantly detailed , explanation, this is not a series that takes itself seriously. Rather, it is one that revels in references, cloudcuckoolander character types and utilising the fourth wall as its own personal punching bag. More than once Neptune notes her position as main character, citing it as the reason not to worry, as nothing bad happens to protagonists. As far as the others go, you’ve got your typical tsundere characters, the innocent ditz, the shy one with untapped potential and the one whose confidence directly correlates with the size of her chest, which is to say she is a very confident character, much to the chagrin of her peers. That being said, that particular character trait is toned way down from the level present in the video games on which this series is based, which leads me nicely to my next, and main, thought on the anime; the presence of omittance.
Now, as we all know, games are granted their length via the existence of gameplay, an interactivity not found in series. Following this logic, it would be natural to assume that a game converted to a series would lose a great deal of length, and such is the case. However, taking this process to a from of extreme, Hyperdimension Neptunia attempted to counter this by combining the plots of three games into one series. Now, despite the loss of gametime, it is not too difficult to see that this particular combination might be considered clustered. So, in a continuation and reversal, a great deal of plot from all three titles were omitted from the series, to the point where multiple characters don’t even appear. Now, to play devil’s advocate before I really delve into things, the series itself presents a cohesive plot and those who have not played the games won’t feel the same sense of plot loss, so there’s that. However, for those who have put some time into the franchise, this series feels like the Cliff Notes version of the story. It certainly hits all of the big moments of the games, that isn’t the problem, the problem is that it lack the build up that makes those moments hit home, the dialogue that makes you care, or feel angry, or happy, or whatever else people feel. That isn’t to say that the series lacks these emotional moments, just that there isn’t enough time for them to matter as much as you, and the series, want them to.
Another unfortunate thing about this series is, unfortunately, the animation. Now, whilst this is never a good area to be lacking in, it kind of hits harder given that this franchise already exists in another form, utilising anime as a method to retell its story. Having played the games myself, my main hope was that the anime would allow me to see the bevy of skill and techniques utilised by the CPU and their friends. The overly acrobatic, ridiculously energetic flurries that bring the pain to monster and villain alike. Unfortunately (as I may have already said once or twice), this is one of those series that has characters call out their attacks, before cutting to an enemy shattering into pixels and numerals. Do you see the issue there? No, and that’s the problem. All of the action is cut out, occurring off-screen, represented through a handful of still images. I just wanted to see some dragons, or goo blobs, or sentient visual novel screens get the ol’ one two from a Cross Combination or some such strike. I feel like you see more in the video game…because you do indeed see more in the video game.
Here’s the thing, I don’t like being negative during these reviews. I much prefer it when I legitimately enjoy a series or a game, so I can talk about how cool it was and how you should all check it out. But, as much as I don’t like being negative, I don’t like lying either. As it stands, I am a fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise, it’s goofy, it colourful and it is fun for the sake of being fun, which is an ever growing rarity in media these days, what with all the brooding an emotion. For that reason, I say check out the games, play them, enjoy them, maybe get annoyed that you didn’t raise all of the flags for the True Ending…then play them again. If however, you don’t have the time for all that, then I would recommend this series. It is in no way the worst thing I’ve seen, I could tally quite a few series under it, it just isn’t the strongest representation of this franchise and for that it just comes of lacking the luster that I had hoped for.
Only a Madman could keep their sanity around this zany crew…