Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
Distributor Manga Entertainment
Date 17 Feb 2006
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Tokyo Underground. It had a “direct to DVD” vibe about it – it’s unusual to release an entire series as a box set without milking it as standalone volumes first (especially here in the UK). Touted as a series that Beyblade and Pokemon fans would love, my heart was in my stomach when the six disc review pack landed.
Happily, the series was far better than I expected. The story hinges on the premise that a second Tokyo exists deep underground, shielded by a mysterious Company that has an agenda to avenge itself against the surface dwellers who locked them away.
This secret quite literally escapes in the first episode as the Maiden of Life, (Ruri) and her hot-tempered bodyguard Chelsea Ruric, flee to the surface world and straight into the lives of high school student Rumina Asagi and his nerd sidekick Ginnosuke Isuzu. Suddenly they find themselves drawn into the strange underground world in an attempt to save the maiden from the secretive Pyron and his elemental agents.
Tokyo Underground makes for a surprisingly enjoyable action adventure. The characters have plenty of personality, and the story is quite complex, with characters changing allegiance and plot twists aplenty, there’s plenty to keep coming back for.
That’s not to say the series doesn’t have its flaws. It really was done on the cheap, with countless pan-shots and static backgrounds to keep the costs down, only the sharp CGI-enhanced presentation and attractive (if generic) character designs save it from looking lacklustre.
The series also sags around disc 4, with the story grinding to halt to focus on a rescue attempt that takes an entire 6 episodes, which is a shame considering the pace and humour elsewhere.
The final weakness is wasted potential: there are hints at mysteries surrounding key characters like Pyron, which are mentioned but never explored. Similarly, the ending fails to impress, with all the fantastic characters fighting their last fight, before the whole thing dissolves into static shots. It’s a huge letdown, but only because the characters were so engaging that you feel they deserve better.
Luckily, the series has just enough charm and engaging characters to pull it out of its nosedive. My personal favourite was Ciel Messiah, the young lightning warrior who, whilst initially quite bratty, turns out to be one of the most self-sacrificing characters in the series, and very watchable just for her barbed one-liners.
The English dub is reasonable if a little wooden in places, but the Japanese dialogue is on here too for those who like it authentic.
Extras are non-existent, which is a massive shame. Some character profiles wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Overall, Tokyo Underground is a solid performer. The price is right and although its aimed at a younger audience, there’s just enough mature humour and wit to keep us older folks happy too.
Solid storytelling with some flaws, but enough charm to keep you interested.