To wrap up our western adventure, we’re going to be taking a look at one show in my collection that truly personifies the overall theme of this month. “Wild Arms: Twilight Venom” [Shortened to “Wild Arms: TV” for the purposes of this review] takes the classic wild west theme and gives it a whole new life with mystical and scientific attributes. How does this show stack up? Could you possibly cram a feeling of the wild west into an anime only 22 episodes long? Saddle up and lets ride this one in!
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content: “Wild Arms: TV” is rated as TV-PG for violence and sexual situations. However, I would [and actually have] feel more than comfortable showing this particular series to my young pre-teen nephew. There’s violence involved, but it’s nothing overly gory or bloody. When it comes to sexuality, it’s not OVERT, but there are a few jokes here and there. It should also be noted that Episode 5, “Portrait of Lana” features a romantic relationship between two men. It’s a one-shot thing and does not occur anywhere else in the series. While this does not fall under my personal list of things that would be objectionable, I think it would be only right that I mention it.
Series Availability – “Wild Arms: Twilight Venom” was originally available from then-ADV Films and released both in individual volumes and a thin-pack collection with no extras. The series has since gone out of print with no other license takers, and is not readily available in brick and mortar stores unless you’re buying used. Online ordering would be the best option if you’re looking to invest in the series.
Story Premise – “Wild Arms: TV” is a 22 episode anime series based off a long running video game franchise for the Playstation platform. This series focuses on the mystery surrounding a young boy named Sheyenne Rainstorm whose body has been mysteriously converted to that of a 10-year-old, yet his mind, gun-slinging abilities and somewhat lecherous attitudes are that of a 25-year-old. Together with his freakishly tall scientist friend Dr. Kiel Aronnax and a talking Popepi Pipepo rodent named Issac, the trio travel across the land to find the mystery surrounding both Sheyenne and his uncanny ability to use ARMS; specialized weapons that only members of a race of beings known as the “Evil Race” can use at the cost of their life-force energy. The team is also joined [unofficially] by three females who are seeking their own riches; Loretta Oratorio, a card-wielding sorcerer, Mirabelle, a Crimson Noble [read “vampire”], and Jerusha, another Popepi Pipepo and former lover of Issac. The series as a whole is episodic one, following a typical formula that the viewer picks up on quickly: Sheyenne and Kiel travel to some mysterious land upon hearing about a treasure which Sheyenne hopes is his former body. The group encounters the townsfolk, one of whom has some sort of issue or problem. As it just so happens, our female group encounters the boys and through some mixture of dumb luck and contrived coincidences, the problem gets resolved and our group go about their separate ways until the next episode. This can get tedious at times,and I admit I found myself getting rather bored after a few episodes. I will concede that some of the episodes do break the mold, and a lot of them are quite enjoyable on their own, but for the most part, as a whole series, it’s extremely predictable. In a way, it reminds me of the “Detective Conan” series; chibi-fied protagionist, normal sized sidekicks, and a plot that is as repetitive as a broken record. [Seriously, how many murders WERE there in that show anyway!? And I thought Baton Rouge was getting out of hand with its crime…] The ending is remarkably satisfying, bringing everything to a healthy and satisfying close which is surprisingly remarkable considering the episodic nature of the series. [22/25]
Favorite Episode/Scene – There’s a moment in Episode 12 when, after being awoken from a graphic dream that was just starting to get interesting, Sheyenne goes ballistic, venting his anger and frustration in a passionate rant that would rival that of Edward Elric from “Fullmetal Alchemist“. Ian Hawk does an awesome job in this scene in particular, surpassing the original voice actress by quite a great deal.
Characters – The cast of characters in “Wild Arms: TV” can be summed up in one word; fun. Sheyenne carries himself as a young stallion in a foals body. While he tries to present himself as this 20-something year old heart-throb who can woo the ladies with a glance, he gets shot down quick due to his external appearance, damaging his ego. I admit, its funny to watch. Kiel acts as a kind of “father figure” to Sheyenne, both externally [as he is often confused as Sheyenne’s guardian] and spiritually; offering guidance and support. For being the tallest character in the series, he tends to be the most sheepish of the bunch. Sheyenne and Kiel, are very fun to watch interact with each other, coming to a head at the last episode. While it’s easy to completely dismiss the characters of Issac and Jerusha as simple mascot characters, I have to say that watching their interactions and learning their back story is almost as interesting as the main characters. Because they have a background and a history together, it gives you more story for your money, if that makes any sense. Speaking of, Mirabelle, Loretta and Jerusha are the “Team Rocket” of this particular series: two bungling yet lovable dingbats with a wise-cracking pet tagging along on the search for valuable items. These three characters play off Sheyenne, Kiel and Issac perfectly and it makes the series as a whole that much more enjoyable. [25/25]
Animation – “Wild Arms: TV” was created around October 1999 and only the third production from animation studio Bee Train [a former subsidiary of Production I.G]. That being said, “Wild Arms” has that old-school animation look that I really enjoy, without all the grit and jumps that is sometimes common with series as old as this. I’m not 100% certain if “Wild Arms” underwent a restoration like “Trigun” did, but either way, it looks awesome with great character designs, nice backgrounds and scenery, epic looking monsters, and very fluid and nice action scenes. I will have to deduct points for some inconsistency in the animation–in one episode in particular, there’s a scene when Sheyenne is lounging in bed with his boots on when Kiel walks in the room. The two share dialogue, cutting to wide shots every so often until, at the end of the scene, there’s one last wide shot and, TA-DA! Sheyenne is shoeless with no indication that he took them off. There are some other examples, but this one stood out. Other than that, “Wild Arms: TV” is very consistent with its animation and has a look that stays fresh even 13 years later. [11.5/12.5]
Music – The opening theme for “Wild Arms: TV”, interestingly named “Main Thema” by Sho Wada, is the epitome of awesomeness, and ranks as one of the best anime opening theme songs I’ve ever come across. The combination of the old-school western sounds with new school synthesizer and orchestral queues are the PERFECT match for a series of this nature, with opening animation that makes you excited to watch the episode to come. The ending theme, “Hoshizora Jet” by Guitar Wolf is absolutely horrible. There’s no redeeming qualities about it whatsoever. I have no idea what the creators were going for by adding this acid rock song to the end of this western series, but whatever they were going for, it ain’t work. The instrumental music is nice, however, without being too overdone. [6/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Wild Arms: Twilight Venom” was directed in Japan by Itsuro Kawasaki, a director noted for such productions as “Arc the Lad”, “Listen To Me Girls, I’m Your Father!”, and a few episodes of “Love Hina”. At the helm of the project in the US is Wendee Lee and the crew at Bang! Zoom! Entertainment. We’ve already had our fanboy moment for her in the last review, so let’s get into the cast. Ian Hawk as the 10-Year-Old Sheyenne Rainstorm is very well done. There were times when her performance surpasses the original Japanese actress Mayumi Asano. On the flip side of the coin, there are times when she says a sentence that either doesn’t sound quite right or comes off as being flat. James Lyon as the gentle giant Kiel is also well cast and well-played. He has this versatile voice that, while it makes him sound the same in a lot of roles, it’s always a good match however he is cast. Steven Blum rounds out the male cast as the male Popepi Pipepo Issac, and I’ve got to be honest, until just thirty seconds ago, I did NOT know that was him; his voice is COMPLETELY different from any other role I have heard him in, and that’s a good thing! He literally has me laughing each time the character speaks. On the female side of the cast, we have Wendee Lee, once again serving double-duty as an actress, playing Lorretta. Its your typical performance from Lee, playing the greedy heroine as she did in “Cowboy Bebop”. It’s good, but sadly predictable. Julie Maddelina as Mirabelle is really good; not sounding to cutesy as the character appears to look, but still giving her a girlish lift to her voice that fits the character. Rounding out the cast as the female Popepi Pipepo Jerusha is Sue Beth Arden. I admit when I looked up her record I had no clue in the WORLD who this actress was, but then, when I found that she voiced, of all people, Mimi from “Digimon Adventure”, THE MOST girlie-girl you could ever get, I was blown away. Her performance as Jerusha is outstanding and there’s no trace of a girlie-girl in this performance, unless a scene called for it. Hearing her play off Blum’s Issac makes for some of the most enjoyable dialogue in the entire show. Other actors in the series, like Barbara Goodson as Olivia, Michelle Ruff Laila, and Dave Mallow as…well…extras…round out the cast effectively. [23/25]
Story Breakdown – 22/25
Characters – 25/25
Animation – 11.5/12.5
Music – 6/12.5
Performance and Production – 23/25
Final Score – 87.5/100 = 87.5% – (B)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra):
- Brianne Siddall worked under the pseudonym “Ian Hawk” for this production. It appears to be a trademark for her whenever she voices young male characters as she worked under the same pseudo when she voiced Jim in “Outlaw Star”. Steven Blum also worked under the pseudo David Lucas.
- Both Brianne Siddall and Barbara Goodson are veteran voice actresses from the Power Rangers franchise, each playing bad guys or monsters that the rangers do battle with.
- It should be noted that while this production was licensed and released by then-ADV Films in Houston, TX, the dubbing was done in the West Coast.
- In the english dub for Episode 17, when Kiel is searching for Sheyenne, he provides a description of him to a local inn keeper. He describes Sheyenne as being yea-tall, with BLACK hair. Not only is the “black hair” line not mentioned in the subtitles, it should also be noted that his hair, to the viewer at least, is NOT black–it’s actually a dark green color. This happens in other series as well…not quite sure why.
So, where does that leave us? Well, although it has a repetitive story style and an end theme that makes you cover your bleeding eardrums, on the whole “Wild Arms: Twilight Venom” is a show that I could, in good conscience recommend to anyone who is looking for a true western experience in anime. With amusing and well thought out characters, good episodic stories, and an acting cast of all-stars, “Wild Arms” is a show that is big on action and big on laughs…even though the main character is only three feet tall.
And so, that brings an end to Wild West July! I hope you guys enjoyed our trip through the sand and the dirt. August is going to be a HUGE month for “The Cajun Samurai”; from Day 1 until day 30, we’re going to show you the best of what we have to offer! I’m going to start bringing the pieces together to hopefully bring about one of the most epic of epic reviews for August. Keep your fingers crossed, ladies and gentlemen because heaven knows I am! As for my next review…heh…stay tuned.