13 episode anime series
Original Manga By: Masakazu Katsura
Directed By: Osamu Nabeshima
Screenplay By: Atsuhiro Tomioka
Character Designs By: Hirotoshi Takaya
Runtime: Approx. 3 hours 25 minutes (using Marathon Play mode)
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
Zetman is the anime adaptation of the manga series, by Masakazu Katsura (Video Girl Ai, D・N・A²/DNA Squared, I”s). The story focuses on Jin Kanzaki, Kouga Amagi, and Kouga’s younger sister, Konoha Amagi: Jin’s struggle with what he is, Kouga’s growing obsession with becoming a hero, and Konoha’s relationship with them. In the beginning of the series Jin and Kouga are willing to help those in need, but their reasons for doing so are far from noble. While one will only help others for pay, the other helps people because he enjoys the praise and attention he gets for doing so. Over the course of Zetman, Jin and Kouga go from age 10 to 20, which I will cover later on in this review. Along with these central characters are monsters known as Players. Players were once an enslaved race of beings who were forced to fight against one another in underground death-matches for the entertainment of the wealthy. One day one of the more powerful Players grew tired of being a plaything for the rich and initiated the massacre of countless human douchebags, enabling several Players to escape the holding facility in the melee. The appearance and abilities of each Player differs, and they can hide themselves in human form. Jin, Kouga, and Konoha all have a strong connection to the Players and each other, which is an important plot point.
First off, TMS Entertainment did a great job on Zetman’s animation, as did Hirotoshi Takaya (Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt, Eyeshield 21) on the show’s character designs. The characters all look as they do in Katsura’s manga, and I appreciate that.
I have no complaints about the Japanese or English cast, although I do prefer to watch this show in English. I really enjoy hearing Jason Griffith (Cilan, Pokémon: Black & White; 009/Joe Shimamura, 009 Re: Cyborg) and Grant George (Uzu Sanageyama, KILL la KILL; Izuru Kira, Bleach) as Jin and Kouga, respectively. Jason Griffith and Grant George are great actors who really brought Jin and Kouga to life. Keith Silverstein (Char Aznable, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin; Sōjirō Kusaka, Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion) is awesome as Seiji Haitani; portraying Seiji as seductive, yet menacing. Konoha isn’t very fleshed-out in the manga or the anime, usually expressing two emotions: sadness or fear. Michelle Ruff (Anri Sonohara, Durarara!!x2; Rukia Kuchiki, Bleach) did the best she could with Konoha.
Now that I’ve gotten what I like about Zetman the anime series out-of-the-way, I’d like to get into what I don’t like about it, that being: the pacing, a shortage of episodes, and the fact that the anime is a watered-down, almost kid–friendly adaptation of the manga. By the time production began on the anime adaptation of Zetman Katsura had already completed 14-16 volumes of the 20 volume manga series. Again, the anime takes place over the course of 10 years, which is a lot of time to cover in a mere 13 episodes. As a result of the series’ rushed pace the personalities of several characters and their importance to the plot is lost; characters such as Kouga, Seiji Haitani, Hayami, Jiro and Ichiro Nakata, Mayu Hashimoto, and even Konoha. Jin and Kouga are shown at ages 10, 15, 17 and 20, with little time to become acquainted with them or most of the show’s supporting characters in-between. There’s no doubt Zetman would’ve benefited from having at least 12-13 more episodes, allowing more of the manga’s material to be covered, and giving viewers time to get to know and perhaps even care about its characters.
Zetman’s manga series is filled with bloody scenes of violence, nudity, and sexual content. But it is Masakazu Katsura’s work, so nudity and sexual themes are to be expected.
Even so, the story isn’t just fan service and gore. The violence comes in the form of awesome battle sequences or circumstances that impact the lives of the story’s central characters, and the nudity and sex serves a purpose, so I was pretty pissed to see that most (if not all of it) was erased from this anime. Both released in 2012, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc and Zetman are the products of different production teams and animation studios. Whereas Zetman deviates from its source material, Berserk’s Golden Age Arc practically mirrors its own, giving both longtime fans and newcomers a satisfying trilogy. I just can’t comprehend the reasoning behind Zetman’s production team’s decision to censor the series so heavily.
I don’t care for Zetman’s soundtrack. The BGM is over-the-top and really loud, so much so that it can distract from the dialogue taking place on-screen. In addition to that the BGM doesn’t even sound that good. I can’t believe it took five composers to create a mediocre soundtrack, when usually one composer is enough to produce a great one. The opening and ending songs are just…terrible.
Ultimately Zetman is a story of friendship, obsession, heroism, and all that being a true hero entails. Jin and Kouga discover that sometimes painful decisions and sacrifices have to be made in order to save lives. Humanity is also a recurrent theme in Zetman; while one becomes human, the other becomes a monster. Zetman poses the question: Is it our biological composition that makes us human, or our character?
As a fan of the manga series I was quite dissatisfied with Zetman the anime, but if you are unfamiliar with the manga, you will most-likely be able to simply enjoy the anime for what it is. I recommend purchasing Zetman if you can find it for $35.00 or less. Despite its issues it’s fairly enjoyable, and it has a pretty unique plot with likeable characters…except Hanako Tanaka. I highly recommend buying the manga…highly.