Bravoman Episode 1 Review

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Back at last May’s MCM Expo in London MCMBuzz covered a series of online comics created by game’s developer and publisher Namco Bandai under their ShiftyLook brand, based on old video games that had been lying dormant for several years. Alongside the more well known game series’ to be converted into comics like Dig Dug, we also got a glimpse of several comics based on lesser known game series’ like Bravoman, an arcade platformer/beat ’em up that was ported to the TurboGrafX 16 in the early 1990s in Japan, and then the Wii Virtual Console in 2007.

After the success of the comic over the past year, Namco Bandai and ShiftyLook have decided to convert the comic into an online animated cartoon series. The question is, does the cartoon capture the humour, polish and brilliantly timed parody of video game tropes that made the webcomic so good?

In short, yes. The quality of the animation is top notch, the voice acting is spot on and the way the dialogue mocks video game tropes is still there, enhanced by the new visual elements gained in its transition. However, in the journey from a limited panel size webcomic format to cartoon they’ve gained the ability to take more time over the story, which in this first episode was certainly not a good thing. Whereas the first page of the comic focuses on telling us Bravoman’s hilariously nonsensical origin story, the first episode of the comic spends too much time introducing elements that were not present in the comic, framing his origin with a slightly awkward tale of a bumbling villain who’s never really set up well enough at that stage to have much of a character of his own. The Evil Pit of Doom introduced just for the cartoon as a one-off character has more personality that the series’ primary antagonist just because they felt that sense of urgency to establish his character within a short time frame, something they didn’t seem to feel with regard to the primary villain.

The series’ intro and outro are both of a really high quality. The intro, a well written parody of the cheesy 1980s style Spider-Man intro theme tune, does a good job of setting up the narrative tone of the series. The outro, written and performed by Area 11, takes the opposite approach and builds a fantastic anime inspired tune. Titled GO!! Fighting Action Power, the track captured that childhood sense I had watching shows like Dragon Ball Z, wanting to be some super powerful hero able to reach untold potential. It’s fast, energetic, and the lyrics have just the right level of humour to them to reflect the series’ inability to take itself too seriously. At one point it makes promises that you can do anything you set your mind to, before reminding you that you may not, and if you don’t then it’s not the band’s fault as they’re just singing a cartoon theme tune.

All in all the series is looking pretty polished, and drawing from impressive source material, but whether it succeeds as a whole will depend on how they handle pacing in future episodes. While this first episode struggled a little to keep the blazing pace of the comic, I suspect that once we get into the meat of the story, that will hopefully sort itself out. It’s still a well written and humorous story that plays on gaming and anime tropes, but just be warned that Episode 1 has some minor pacing issues.

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