We’re absolutely lovely, and that’s why we won’t lose!
Posted On June 23, 2009
I actually finished up Zettai Karen Children raw about three months ago on the flight over here to Japan, watched the sub about two months later, and am only getting around to writing about the show now. Yeah, it’s been busy.
However, I feel Zettai Karen Children is worth me taking about an hour or so of my free time to impart to you, the reader, how much of a fun, charming and crazy children’s cartoon Zettai Karen Children is.
Zettai Karen Children was originally a manga by Shiina Takahashi, with the anime version by Kawaguchi Keiichiro and the rest of the cool dudes down at Synergy SP. In other words, the dream team that made the better season of Hayate no Gotoku! The story takes place in a world where people who can use ESP–Espers–are common place. Our main characters three young esper girls, Akashi Kaoru, Nagomi Aoi and Sannomiya Shiho who are special, super powerful espers. Codenamed “The Children”, they do work for Babel, which is an organization of specially trained espers who fight crime around the world. Minamoto Koichi is the man in charge of these three espers, but he also functions as their surrogate father by looking after the girls’ day-to-day life, and even living with them. While episodes tend to be stand alone, the main plot focuses around Babel’s battle with P.A.N.D.R.A–a faction of espers who believe that they are superior to “normals”–people without special ablities–, and wish for a world in which only espers exist.
Zettai Karen Children didn’t really grab me with its initial episode, but I came to really like it as the weeks went by. The series from the get-go is kind of off-putting right down its more-’90s-than-’90s character designs, but once you give it a few episodes, it develops into a very fun show. As mentioned earlier, each episode is pretty stand alone, and the general routine goes something like this–something happens, be it a crime, a disaster, or just an accident; Babel is called, and somehow the problem gets resolved. There are however other more mellow episodes which focus around the girls’ school life, as well as the episodes that focus around secondary characters. The show is rather lengthy–52 episodes–so it has a lot of breathing room.
What makes the show good is just how well-written and entertaining each of the individual stories are. Each and every episode is simply very solidly written, and is complemented by very rapid-fire, fast moving direction that isn’t annoyingly crazy, but just crazy enough. The show is rather comedy-centric, with gags ranging from jokes based around character quirks, to full on parodies of shows you should have watched, but probably haven’t. It certainly does carry the parody show vibe of the first Hayate season (in fact, Hayate characters often make cameos), while at the same time delivering an entertaining plot episode after episode.
However, Zettai Karen Children addresses some serious issues. Sure, they’re presented in a very heavy-handed, kids show manner, but the fact that such ideas are even being presented to such an audience puts Zettai Karen Children a touch above your usual kids show. The issue of prejudice is a big one–espers aren’t normal people. They’re often separated from the rest of normal society, and there are even groups of people who actively display their hate for espers violently. There are often times scenes where our young, 10-year-old heroines confront this harsh reality, and try their best to just deal with it. Another rather mature-for-a-kids-show part of Zettai Karen Children is that P.A.N.D.R.A aren’t really portrayed as such bad guys. Much like Big Fire in Giant Robo, P.A.N.D.R.A doesn’t do what it does just to be evil–they’re simply fighting for their own idea of justice. The members of P.A.N.D.R.A are all fleshed out well enough so that you can really understand where they’re coming from. Especially their leader, Hyoubu Kyousuke. The rest of the issues the show addresses are kids show things like believing in yourself, but if you’re not a totally broken and cynical shell of a man, I still think such messages can be appreciated by adults.
Characters are the big thing that carry this show–all of them are painted with their own unique brand of insanity, but at the same time have multiple sides to them. The main characters, Kaoru, Aoi, and Shiho are of course very memorable for how adorably bratty they can be, but the show also has a rather strong set of side characters such as Umegae Naomi and her supervisor Tanizaki Ichiro, who has an unhealthy obsession with his subordinate, and always ends up with his face flat on concrete. Another amusing pair is “The Chief” and Kashiwagi Oboro, the former of which dotes on The Children like an overprotective parent, while the later has a sweet face, but a cold as ice interior. There’s also the hilariously perverted Dr. Sakaki, as well as the cheery welcome desk girls Tokiwa Natsuko and Nokawi Hotaru. Due to the show’s 52 episode length, all of the characters get a chance to shine.
The animation by Synergy SP is fine considering the length of the show–episodes never look especially terrible, and when they look good, they really look good. One note about the show’s visuals that I already mentioned is the character designs–they’re rather ’90s-styled, and will probably turn fans of more modern design work away. I will admit that they struck me as a bit odd as first, but I quickly came to love them. The only real problem with the character designs is that because they’re so detailed, some of the not-as-stellar looking episodes can kind of turn into slide shows–awesomely directed slide shows, mind you, but slide shows all the same.
Nakagawa Kotarou–one half of the musical talent behind Code Geass–provides a very swing, and at times big band inspired musical score that pays homage to 1970s spy movies for the show. Strangely enough, it complements everything perfectly. There are two opening themes–Over The Future, and My Wings, both by a group of young girls called Karen Girl’s, who made their debut with this show. There are four ending themes, and they’re all fun songs by the seiyuu.
Zettai Karen Children is simply a great time. While it is a kids show, it’s one of those kids shows that can appeal to adults, and clearly has certain portions aimed directly at adults. The jokes are all really good, the main story is rather interesting–even if it is unresolved by the end–and everything is presented in a solid, good looking, 52 episode package. While it may be something of an undertaking, I do recommend picking it up, even if you just want to watch it weekly. You’ll have fun with, I promise.