Rescued from the RAC forum with permission from BT
This is my first review, and infact the first time I have written something like this in years; so my word choice will be a little poor, and you might find it hard to understand what I'm really wanting to say. But I'll go on ahead and post up my review. If you have any comments on how I can improve please feel free to post. Likewise if you want to discuss anything in the review.
images taken from amazon.co.uk
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World (TUYBW from now on in) is an anime created by Gainax- the makers of the legendary Evangelion. The first volume of the DVD even comes with a little label proudly stating this fact, as well as being the 20th anniversary of Gainax. So you would expect this to be a really great anime, with a deep message underneath. I feel they have tried to put many themes in it, and leave open ends, which in some cases this works, but in others it becomes confusing and messy. TUYBW starts with a teenage boy, Takeru, wanting his life to be meaningful and have a purpose. He sees a bright light in the first episode, which turns into a girl of his dreams. This is Hikari, which Takeru swears to protect from monsters that decide to pop up when she is near. Already from this we can see the series is going to be full of mystery, which some of these mysteries are never solved and left to the viewer to decide upon. This series was made purely as an anime (no mange to base it on). So the story had to be made up from scratch, which I think has been done well, though plot holes and things that don't make sense appear frequently.
One reason why I liked this series was because of the well drawn and cute female characters. Some will probably call this Moe or whatever that word is, so it could put you off. There are scenes of nudity, as well as scene that I would class as beautiful. One example would be episode 7 at the beach where you get to see the characters in cute swimsuits. But also in this episode Hikari and Takeru kiss for the first time. Okay the kiss itself isn't great, but the lead up to it - where everyone wants to get Hikari away from the restaurant (causing trouble) and Takeru is able to talk to her alone - is beautiful. It shows he has a compassionate side, but he is fighting with himself on whether to open up to her, or just continue being a guardian.
Another reason why I liked this anime is the themes that make you think deeper and that I can compare my personality to. One such theme present in this anime is 'communicating your feelings to someone'. This is brought out through the character of Takeru who was abandoned as a child by his mother. He finds it hard to open up to other females, and even though he really likes Hikari, he is unable to tell her and keeps backing away. He hides behind his "I will protect you" statement to avoid getting close to her, but he cannot suppress his true feelings. Another example of this theme in the series is with Takrus cousin Mari. She likes him, but like Takeru, finds it hard to tell him her true feelings. Instead of telling him how she feels she nags him, but at the same time looks after him to make sure he is safe. Hikari on the other hand tells everyone about her feelings and how she feels. Perhaps the creators were trying to show it is only a human condition (since Hikari is an "alien") that is stopping us from expressing our true feelings to each other. Another way to look at this is humans show their affections through their actions, but we cannot pick up on this. For example Mari does Takerus laundry, but Takeru just takes this for granted. The contrast between the way Hikari acts and the human characters (Takeru & Mari) act I think is to show the difficulty we have communicating with each other. However this is only my view on this from my experience, so perhaps someone with a different personality to me can take a different meaning from the story. Here is a successful example of how the creators have put in themes that different people can take different view points on.
Probably the best part of this anime is the use music. The intro song "Metamorphose" by Youko Takahashi (the lady who performed the vocals for the Evangelion Opening) is really good. The music matches up well with the pictures shown at the opening, just like Eva, and the music builds up to a climax at the end, just like Eva. You can probably see this anime really is trying to be like Evangelion, maybe just a little too much. Throughout the series the music used matches up well with what's happening, and helps convey the mood more effectively. For example when there is a mysterious moment you will hear high pitched metal instruments and the pace will be slow; but for a fast paced fight there will be electric guitars and a fast tempo tune. Perhaps this is why I find the sub track and dub tracks to this anime to be similar, since the music I feel is more powerful in conveying the mood of a scene better than the word choice.
The first thing that I dislike about this anime is it is trying too hard to follow in Evangelions footsteps. They've even gone as far as getting the Intro song performed by Youko Takahashi (as stated previously). Towards the end you get the feeling they have left holes on purpose for us as the viewers to fill in, but some of these seem like red herrings or lacking too much information. Even in the interview with the director that comes as an extra, he tries to dodge questions about the unsolved mysteries to let the viewers come to a conclusion. Doing this isn't bad, but it's far too obvious he is copying from Eva creator Anno.
Another annoying aspect is the way the characters react to the situations. You find a naked girl in a forest, so the first thing you do is take her home to your aunt and uncles? Your school gets knocked down by a robot, so the next day you go to school just to see what's going on, and then everyone else turns up? Somehow these are a little farfetched. Of course so is monsters attacking people, and people falling from space as light, so some leeway can be given. The characters seems too much like statues when they are not in use. An example would be Takerus friends who are wanting to find a third girl. They are only there to add humour to the series, which at times is needed, but when they are not used they might as well blend into the walls.
Okay I've rambled on about what I liked and disliked in the series, but you might want to know what extra goodies you are getting on the DVD. The series is split across 3 DVDs, containing 4 episodes each. Sadly there are not very many extras. You get the usual ADV trailers, Clean opening and ending. You also get a small interview video with the director which is subbed. There are also translation notes, although I did not find them very useful and they are very short (unless I'm using them wrong). The DVD cover itself contains interviews with the voice actors and what they thought of the series which is an interesting read.
The DVDs come with English dubs and English subs on the Japanese sound track. I have watched both versions, and the actual words vary very little. Watching the sub track will have the exact same words as the dub track, so it's just a matter of preference. One annoying thing I found in the sub track was the Japanese voice actor for Ryo. He sounds too soft, whereas his dub counter part has a deeper voice. I felt this suited his character better, since he appears to be more emotionally stable (if that's the right phrase) and a deeper voice helps add to this image of being sturdy. However on the dub track I found the voice actor for Hikari to be far too squeaky. Perhaps it fits in with the character, but the high pitch screeches can get annoying. She sometimes sounds as though she's had too much air and is about to faint. Ultimately though, the dub and sub track tell the same story, so it is up to personal preference.
So to summarise what I have said; TUYBW is a really good series if you like moe and thought provoking anime. However if you dislike this type of anime, perhaps giving it a miss is not a bad thing. As great as I think it is, there are a few annoying things that run throughout the series. These include trying too hard to be like Evangelion and leaving strange plot holes; as well as having characters that react in strange and unnatural ways.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you will consider watching this series. Personally it's probably my third favourite anime that I have seen so far, and I hope you can enjoy it as much as I do. I should probably also say that there are two other main characters that I have not really talked about who also have an in-depth story (Akari & Ryo), but I'll leave that for you to watch if you choose to.
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