August 10, 2010

Mystery Meat -- Makai Senki Disgaea

Today's Mystery Meat is Makai Senki Disgaea. I downloaded it because Etna looks like Agito in Nanoha SlayerS and I wanted to know if the characters were at all alike. (They're not.)

This series is loosely based on a video game, and I gather it tries to tell about the same story. I don't know what kind of tone the game sets, but the anime is pretty much purely a comedy.

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Here are our main characters. On the left is Laharl, son of the king of Netherworld. (It's makai, "kingdom of demons", but everyone seems to translate it as "Netherworld" and that's fine with me.)

On the right is Etna, another demon. She was a servant of the king, and now serves Laharl. She isn't totally trustworthy.

And in the middle, there's Flonne. She's an angel. She wears a powerful amulet that allows her to stay in Netherworld and operate normally.

The series begins with Flonne. She's been sent to Netherworld to find the king and kill him. She finally locates a large crypt, or something like that, and inside she accidentally falls through the floor and ends up in a garbage pit, where there is also a coffin which bears the king's sigil on the front.

Thinking that the king is sealed inside, she uses various attacks (including a 4-barrel rocket launcher that she conjures up somehow) and eventually manages to break a hole in the case.

It doesn't contain the king. Laharl is inside it. He started taking a nap about two years previously and someone sealed him inside that coffin. How it ended up in the garbage isn't explained.

Once Flonne finds out who he is, she apologizes for attacking him, because he isn't the one she's after.

They both manage to get back up to ground level. As Laharl tries to exit, two statues of ogres by the door come to life and attack him. He tries to fight, but his body doesn't move the way he's used to and his power isn't fully there. (Eventually they learn that he's been poisoned. Flonne cures him, and then he can fight the way he's supposed to, but that's a bit later.)

Things are looking bad, and then a spaceship (!) crashes through the roof of the place, and some clown named "Captain Gordon" (presumably a take on Flash) comes out, accompanied by a gorgeous babe named Jennifer and a Robbie-the-Robot clone named Thursday.

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And then it starts to get silly. (Ahem.)

Flonne tries to talk to Laharl about kindness and love and caring and he says those things have no place in the life of a demon. They discover that the king has been dead since shortly after Laharl began his nap.

But the king didn't die gloriously. He wasn't assassinated. Turns out he choked to death on a meat bun.

So since Laharl wasn't around, then a whole swarm of folks have tried to proclaim themselves as the new king. Laharl sets off on a quest to defeat them all and to become king himself.

And he tries to be heartless and uncaring, but somehow a hint of goodness begins to peek through. Flonne spends a couple of turns alternating between protecting him from others and trying to kill him herself, all the while dying because she'd lost the amulet. Via circuitous routes the amulet makes its way back to her, but is nearly destroyed except for Laharl saving it. He then gives it back to her.

So she becomes his servant and traveling companion.

Etna shows up at one point and declares herself to be his servant, as she was for the king before him. But she's actually plotting to become king  (queen?) herself and has plots and plans to get him killed.

And then we spend several episodes running around fighting against various people trying to kill Laharl for a 10 million Hell (a unit of money) reward that's been placed on his head, and various people who have declared themselves king or hope to do so.

I watched through ep 5 (of 12) and was decreasingly entertained by it as it went along. The first episode is brilliant, but it started to get in a rut by ep 5. And after I stopped watching it, suddenly I had a flash and figured out the story. Maybe.

Or at least, that's what I expect it to be. I think I'm going to watch the last episode to find out, but I doubt I'll watch any of the rest of it. In the end it's a two-joke pony, and I gather its main reason for being was to pimp the game.

Recommended? Mixed. It's not crap. But it's far from being the best thing out there. The biggest recommendation for the series is that Laharl has the same seiyuu as Yuuno Scrya, and I love her voice. This role gives her more opportunity to stretch.

But the story itself is a meh.

UPDATE: I was completely wrong about how it was going to end. Very strange.

I still don't quite recommend the series, though.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Mystery Meat at 05:33 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
Post contains 856 words, total size 5 kb.

1 Oddly enough the series came out well after the game.  I enjoyed the game's plot, but it wasn't enough to build an anime series off of without a lot of filler, so I passed on the anime.  The game itself contains a lot of filler, so it's not too surprising.

One of the ever-unsolvable problems with translating a video game to a series is how to pad out the plot to make a series, and I don't ever think anyone has solved that problem elegantly.

Posted by: Civilis at August 10, 2010 06:07 PM (ZhVNO)

2 Movies made from video games are cursed.  Prince of Persia may be the closest thing to a real success, and it started with a fairly cinematic property.

Is the same true with anime made from video games?  Are there any truly good ones, where the anime was made in response to the game, and not the other way around or as a tie-in?

Posted by: BigD at August 10, 2010 11:05 PM (LjWr8)

3 Some of the dating-sim type games have been made into successful anime, in fact it's often surprising to know which anime are based off of dating sims.  While I'm not a fan of the series, a lot of people seem to like Kanon, Air and Clannad, for example.  Though given a lot of these dating sims are basically 'visual novels', turning them into an anime isn't much of a stretch.

Disgaea is a turn-based tactical RPG (for the usual video game definition of RPG), where the plot, though enjoyable to me, is pretty much tacked on to the mechanics.  More gameplay-centered games seem to have a much harder time being turned into non-interactive media of any type.

Posted by: Civilis at August 11, 2010 01:57 AM (/MsTf)

4

I myself wasn't interested in it, but Kanon in its anime manifestation got huge ratings.

It's even stranger when you talk about H-game conversions. Those are all over the map. Popotan was a lot better than it had any right to be. Yumeria was just sillly. Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru is legendarily aweful.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 11, 2010 03:05 AM (+rSRq)

5 Fate/Stay Night, a show that'd be on my Top 10 Anime list (though towards the bottom), was based on an adult visual novel.  Surprised the heck outta me when I found that out.

Posted by: Wonderduck at August 11, 2010 04:59 AM (iJfPN)

6 You know, if I sort by rank in my database, there aren't many game-based anime at the top. To Heart, ef, F/SN, and that's about it.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at August 11, 2010 06:05 AM (/ppBw)

7 If I remember correctly, the very good series Petite Princess Yucie is based on a game called Princess Maker.

Posted by: Don at August 11, 2010 06:32 AM (M0Ixe)

8 The game's plot is basically a self-aware takeoff on Anime tropes; in between every "chapter" of the game, Etna gives what is claimed to be a plot summary of the next chapter which is almost always utterly wrong and is just a rundown of the tropes: Giant monster, space robot, cooking show (of all things), etc. The plot is basically irrelevant to the gameplay, so it doesn't matter what it is.

For example, in Disgaea 2, in which Laharl is not the main character, Laharl shows up in an optional battle after the main game finishes and battles the player for the right to become the main character. You're even allowed to let him, in which case your game ends, what with you not being the main character anymore. This is the sort of humor the series has. Good game, though, if you like that sort of thing, in some ways the ultimate expression of a certain type of tactical fighting game.

Making an actual anime out of it is like when the Wayans brothers made a parody of Scream. You're starting so far in the hole the miracle is that you made it to episode 5.

Posted by: Jeremy Bowers at August 11, 2010 07:04 AM (icSLm)

9 If I were to do an anime adaptation of a NIS game, I'd favor one of their more dramatic titles, like La Pucelle or Phantom Brave.

( or if you want something *really* dark, Soul Nomad. . . )

Posted by: metaphysician at August 11, 2010 09:57 AM (OLeXB)

10 I enjoyed the first Disgaea game thoroughly. The designers had obviously seen people playing Final Fantasy Tactics, and spending a lot of extra time to come up with a really powerful combat team, and said to themselves "let's turn that dial up to 11... million." Max level of 9999, the ability to reincarnate your character, leveling weapons, armor, and even consumable items through a series of "item world" dungeons, stacking up ridiculous levels of "specialist" bonuses... Don't get me wrong, the base mechanics were pretty solid too, but the game really shined in its ability to let you go nuts.

I didn't stop playing until, at the bottom of a level 100 legendary Item World, with the difficulty set to max (this done by ramming a series of bills through a Demonic Congress, either through persuasion, bribery, or main force), my Laharl character took a shot from the Item God 2 - literally the most powerful NPC character the game could possibly spawn - from which he took 0 damage, and immediately counterattacked for a number the game expressed in scientific notation, one-shotting the poor guy. (Did I have a girlfriend at the time? No! ;p)

I also enjoyed Disgaea 3 a lot - it's got a lot of the same setup (you're still the Son of Satan-ish anti-hero, treacherous sidekick, and a lot of the game mechanics are the same), but the addition of the school environment gives it a whole new set of tropes to play on, usually with good success. And the theme song! But once I beat it, I didn't go on to lol-level characters or beat the super-secret-insane challenges. Been there, done that, maybe? I'm regretting it a little, since supposedly they really put a lot more effort into them this time...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 11, 2010 10:17 AM (mRjOr)

11 Also a big NIS fan here, though not so much recently.  Ironically, I managed to get decently leveled characters *because* I have a girlfriend. . . who loves the game and can level it for hours.

I'm not sure its as direct a derivative of Final Fantasy Tactics as you, though.  I suspect there was at least one degree of intermediary influence.  Particularly since I *think* the first game in the 'series', Rhapsody, predated Tactics.

Posted by: metaphysician at August 11, 2010 05:45 PM (OLeXB)

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