I currently have over four hundred DVD’s in my collection, with about 90% of those being anime. Finding a place for all of them, as you can probably imagine, is a bit of a challenge. My organization methodology is simple: completed collections, box sets,movies, etc…go to the front shelves where I can easily get to them should I want to watch a series. Incomplete collections and series that I don’t plan on completing either due to rarity or waning interests go to the back shelf, all but out of sight unless you move a few box sets out the way. There is one exception to this rule: completed anime series that honestly don’t deserve exposed shelf space. Shows that I’m so embarrassed to say that I spent money on, let alone gave the time of day to watching. One such show is the object of today’s review: “The Candidate for Goddess” or as it’s more commonly known, “Pilot Candidate”. This show, admittedly a source of great awe and amazement in my early anime viewing years, before I got my mitts on “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, has now turned into something that makes ask myself, to quote Tomo, “Why in the heck?” Why in the heck was this anime even made? Why in the heck was this anime licensed? Why in the heck was this DUBBED? Why in the heck was this released on DVD? And above all else…why in the heck did I BUY it? I suppose it was for nostalgia purposes; after all, “Pilot Candidate” was apart of that blessed “Adult Swim” action lineup and it came on, if memory serves, right after “Cowboy Bebop”. Perhaps it was the fascination with the animation; the computer generated fare that was, at the time, so cutting edge and vibrant. Or maybe it was the inner V/A fan boy in me that was fascinated with the fact that Tai’s voice was coming out of a completely different character. Whatever it was, when I finally came of age [and money], I decided to buy the DVD’s and have a good old fashioned nostalgia binge. What I found, however, made me purge; this was not the show I remembered watching with awe and admiration all those years ago. This was something that…well…It’s like when your parents told you the story about Santa Claus and how he magically flew through the sky dropping off presents in one night to all the good little boys and girls. You trusted your parents because hey, they know EVERYTHING! And then, later on when you talk to your friends about Santa Claus and they stare at you blankly and say “Dude, there is no such thing as Santa! You still believe that?” After some thought and a little research you realize that your parents blatantly lied to you…and what’s worse, you actually BELIEVED IT. It’s that same proverbial sock in the gut that greeted me when I watched this show again years later, and now, in my own unique way, I’m going to get some payback. No punches will be pulled, no critique held back. This is going to be long and ugly ladies and gentlemen, so strap in and hang on. I’m Cajun Samurai, and this is my review of “The Candidate for Goddess”.
Series Warnings and Other Objectionable Content – Unless the idea of Goddesses strikes a nerve with you, then you’ll likely not find much to object over with this one…save for the plot…and the characters…and some of the animation…and the music…and the acting, oh heck yeah, ESPECIALLY the acting…
Series Availability – There are two flavors of “Pilot Candidate” available. One is a 4-disk individual volume set, and another is the same four-disk volume set in one box. You’re not going to find “Pilot Candidate” in any brick and mortar store unless they sell used DVD’s, to be blunt, especially now that Bandai Entertainment has ceased releasing DVD’s. In any case, if you MUST purchase this series, you might wanna hit up eBay, Amazon, etc…otherwise, you’re out of luck…or maybe IN luck, depending on how you look at it. Don’t spend anything over $20-25 for this series because, honestly, it’s not worth it. I have yet to come across any sites that offer the series for streaming…and honestly, I don’t blame them. You can also find episodes on YouTube if you search for them.
Story Premise –
“The Candidate for Goddess” is a twelve episode series based off a manga created by Yukiru Sugisaki, the creator of the “D.N. Angel” manga. “Pilot Candidate”
is set in a time and place in the distant
future, where Zion, the last surviving life-supporting planet
, is under attack by Victim
; mysterious beings in varying shapes and forms intent on attacking and destroying Zion
. The only defense that mankind has is the organization known as GOA
and the synthetic bio-mechanical robot known as the Goddesses or Ingrids
. Piloted mentally by a select group of teenagers between the age of
14 and 16
, and monitored off-site by a female repairer
wage war against “Victim” until the legendary “Day of Hope”
. Because only a select few can pilot the Goddesses, and because the strain of helming a giant mecha for too long would be detrimental, GOA is constantly accepting and training hundreds of pilots and repairers who are between 14 and 16 years old, and possess a trait known as “EX”, a mystical power that enables the pilot to sync and control the Ingrid. The series follows the enrollment and initial training of several new candidates including our main character, Rei “Zero” Enna who, after a life-saving chance encounter with the infamous White Goddess, has dedicated his life to becoming her pilot and fighting Victim, no matter the cost. However, the longing to become a pilot rings in the hearts of all the trainees on GOA as only five will be selected to be pilots.Did you notice the underlined text at the beginning of my writeup? Well, with the exception of the stuff that I had underlined, I pretty much copy/pasted my writeup of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and made appropriate substitutions as needed–it’s THAT much of a ripoff. Even if you have never seen “Neon Genesis Evangelion” or any other mecha show for that matter before this one, “Pilot Candidate” would still seem overly and needlessly complex and severely lacking. There’s so much put out there, storywise, that is never acted on, it seriously feels like the incomplete project that it is! “What is the “Day of Hope?” “What EXACTLY is EX?” “Who made the Goddesses/Ingrids?” “Where did Victim come from?” “What happened to all the other habitable planets in the system?” “What’s so special about Zero in particular?” “What’s the deal with Hied’s Emo Sasuke act?” All these questions and then some ring in the viewers head for 12 long episodes with NO sign of being answered. Each episode brings more questions with the promise that everything will be explained and it’ll all make perfect, logical sense. Spoiler alert, THAT AIN’T HAPPENING.The ending to this series is about as abrupt as abrupt can be. It’s as though someone dropped anchor, threw the engines into Full Astern, and had about 15 tugboats pulling on the back of this Failboat of a series. Ending? What ending? HA! This series HAS NO ENDING. It just…stops. No resolution whatsoever. No answers, no wrap-up, NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. What you see is what you get. Don’t even TRY to squeeze anything from that last episode or make excuses for it like “Oh, it’s an open ending!” or “The ending is whatever you make of it!” I call bullpucky on these execuses. There is absolutely no way that the last episode of “Pilot Candidate” can be even remotely considered an “Ending”. It’s more like a “stopping” than an ending if that makes any sense. So yeah, overall…this story sucks
Favorite Scene –
… Let’s move quickly on.
Our male lead character is Rei “Zero” Enna. Okay, hold it right there. Before we get started, I just want to let you guys know that I am serious. The main character’s name is indeed “Rei”. Though he prefers to be called “Zero” and is referred to as such by several characters in the series, his mother, seen only in shadows in the series, refers to him as “Rei”. In fact, the word “rei” is another way to say “Zero” in Japanese. So…yeah…if you needed any more evidence that this whole thing is an Evangelion knockoff, then I don’t know what more to tell you. [Oh wait, yeah I do…heh…
] In any case, our male lead is Zero Enna, and he aspires to be the pilot of the illustrious White Goddess which saved him from dying when he was little during a battle with Victim. Okay…umm…ambitious enough. Typical shounen hero stuff. But the problem I have with Zero is that, as a consequence of having such a short, poorly written series, you don’t really get to KNOW Zero. We don’t know what really DRIVES him. We don’t have time to form an opinion of him that would make us WANT to root for him. Granted, we can draw assumptions based on the tiny bits and pieces we’re given, but that’s not enough. We have to actually see what drives this young man to want
to be a pilot. In fact, that same thing can be said about ALL the characters; we don’t know what makes them want to become pilots or repairers. We don’t know much of ANYTHING about these characters, other than the very small bits and pieces we’re given in flashback. Why is Hiead Gner, the resident emo candidate [who looks like the illegitimate lovechild of Kaworu Nagisa and Rei Ayanami from “Evangelion”
] so angry all the time? Why is Clay Cliff Fortran [The doofus with the glasses…
] so intent on studying instead of being a pilot? Why does Erts Virny Cocteau, our candidate turned pilot after the death of his brother, so wishy-washy? I mean, seriously, this kid is pretty much a blond-haired version of Shinji Ikari, he’s so pathetic! No, no, I take that back–SHINJI HAD MORE OF A SPINE THAN THIS LITTLE DWEEB! Good grief, we haven’t even TALKED about our female lead/animal mascot Kizna Towryk and I’m already gone off on a tangent. And yes, I’m classifying her as being the
mascot and the female lead because…well…she has cat ears. Seriously. CAT EARS. Neko-Mimi mode indeed.
Why? NEVER EXPLAINED IN THE ANIME. The only clue that we have is in the manga which states that the ears are fake because she lost her original ears in an accident as a child. I’m not even going to question it because, dawg gone it, this show has enough for me to rag on without talking about the cat ear girl with one pant leg missing. So yeah, she’s Zero’s repairer partner after being told that she couldn’t enroll in the Pilot program because of their male-only rule. [Even though they clearly have 2 female pilots…
] Like Zero, we don’t really know a lot about what she wants or what her drive is. We know she HAS drive to do what she wants to do, but we don’t know WHY. What is the underlying reason she wants to be a repairer. Did she seriously just wake up one morning and say “Oh well, I can’t be a pilot, so I’ll just be a repairer instead?” This is where I get frustrated with all the characters of this show; aside from the fact that the majority of them are just rehashed “Evangelion” characters, [Seriously, the trainer Azuma Hijikata and the doctor Dr. Rill Croford (not a misspelling) are pretty much Misato and Ritsuko respectively…
] we know what they want, but we don’t know why they want it. [2/25]
Well…if there’s ONE thing that “Pilot Candidate” does halfway
decently, it’s the animation. In fact, it does it quite decently, I have to give it that. Stuido Xebec worked in concert with Production I.G to put together this one, and admittedly, it looks nice. The battles between the
Victim are well done. It can look a little too polished and unrealistic at times, but seeing as how this was created in the early 2000’s when computer animation was just coming into its own, it’s understandable
that some of the creators probably wanted to make the most of the new-found technology and go for the gusto. Other shows, such as “Digmon Adventure 02”, “Android Kikaider” and “Boys Be” share a similar computerized look about them. [Ironically, “Digimon 02” and “Boys Be…” also earned some of the lowest ever scored on this blog….
]However, just like everything else with this show, the bad traits eclipse the good by leaps and bounds. Let’s start with character designs. Simply put, it’s “Neon Genesis Evangelion” all over again, just spread out amongst different characters. Zero gets the Shinji Ikari treatment with brown hair and blue eyes, Hied Gner gets the Kaworu Nagisa treatment with pale colored hair and red
eyes, Clay Cliff Fortran gets the Kensuke Aida treatment with his sandy hair and glasses, and even one of the Repairer candidates looks like she could be Misato’s younger sister or something! It’s almost as though this show was saying “We’re ripping the story off “Evangelion”, so we might as well use the characters too.” The mecha designs are about the most bizarre designs I think I’ve ever seen. Again, it’s another rip off of the Evangelion units, even down to the A-10 nerve connectors that float above the pilots in the same location as the ones in “Evangelion”. The one thing that they didn’t “borrow” from the Evas, sadly, is the chest and feet. Apparently, the creators decided to do a bit of mecha plastic surgery as every one of the Ingrids have a pair of breasts, and each one of them has feet that look remarkably like high heels. Ooooookay. I get their line of thinking; goddess…feminine…breasts & high heels. But to take it to such a literal extreme is just wrong to me. In “Evangelion”, everything on the Eva unit had a specific function associated with it: hatch covers, cameras, equipment storage, you name it. Everything is designed for functionality and not looks. What is the function of mecha breasts? Is there extra equipment stored in them or something? Sensors? Rocket launchers? Come on…A mecha should not require a visit to a Victoria’s Secret as part of its routine maintenance. Leave the breasts off the mecha. And high heels? Really?
What possible purpose could they
serve other than making the Ingrid look like it should be striding down the runway than in battle on the front lines. Apparently, the creators really liked the heels because they felt the need to doll up our only female pilot with a pair…and not much else. Seriously, she wears less than the other pilots, if that’s even possible. Her outfit is pretty much a swimsuit with extra material flowing around it. Yeah, that’s not objectionable at all… Speaking of the pilots, lets talk about their wardrobe. Seriously, all the outfits look like something the losers of “Project Runway” would make if they were given the challenge to make an outfit that was as over the top as humanly possible, while also trying to show as much leg and shoulder skin as possible, especially with regards to the males. Which leads us to the titular pilot candidates. While I do get the idea that having something light and airy during physical training would be ideal, this is taking that concept a bridge too freakin’ far. I mean, that stupidly high collar with those super-short shorts with garters [For lack of a better term…
] and those strange boots are enough to make any guy question becoming a pilot in the first place. [3/12.5]
The opening theme for this one is a stirring little number called “Zion! (Aim to The Star Of Your Dreams!)”
organized and composed by Tomoyuki Asakawa. This has to be one of the most uplifting all-orchestral pieces I’ve heard in a long time. It’s very well done. The animation used, featuring our male lead Zero going off into battle in his flowy pilot’s uniform is amusing and is about the closest thing to a resolution we get in this show, and the music accompanying him gives the whole thing a grand atmosphere. However, the ending theme, “Chance”
, also by Tomoyuki , has about as much atmosphere as the moon. I mean, I get nothing from this one. It’s boring elevator music that’s more apt to put me to sleep than anything else. In that regard, it matches the ending animation flawlessly; pictures of our entire cast floating about in corny positions and poses. It’s like someone quite literally took screen shots and promotional art from the show, took the backgrounds out, and plastered them on a star field backdrop before popping the whole thing in Windows Movie Maker and adding fading/slide effects and stock Free License music. The incidental music is a hodgepodge of the “Meh…” and the “Oy vey…” with some pieces genuinely adding atmosphere and feeling to the scene being used while other pieces come off as being either corny, campy, melodramatic or all three. [3.5/12.5]
Performances and Production –
Heh, oh yeah. Now we’re getting down to the heart of the matter. “Pilot Candidate” was created by Studio Xebec with director Mitsuru Hongo at the helm. His record is pretty spartan, but it has a few notable inclusions including “Crayon Shin-Chan” and “Outlaw Star”. However, Hongo-san’s record is practically arms length compared to his English counterpart. In the US, the project was handled by Bandai Entertainment with the dub being handled by Mix Magic Studios and director Wiley Isa at the helm. Never heard of Mix Magic or Wiley Isa? Not surprising because this is the ONLY project they have listed for them ANYWHERE. And honestly, I’m not surprised as this is, far and away THE
WORST ADR project I’ve ever heard. And believe me, I’ve heard some whoppers in my day. And here’s the ironic thing: on the DVD extras, there’s a whole lesson on, get this, HOW TO VOICE ACT IN AN ANIME!!
I am NOT making this up. In this “Behind the Scenes” feature, we see some of the main cast run lines together in front of the mic and doing multiple takes in an attempt to get everything right, and they give the viewing audience the chance to dub a couple of scenes as different characters! CRYING SHAME
that the English Production crew couldn’t give that little extra a once over, because they could learn a thing or three from it. Before we get started, let’s have a look at our offenders. Playing the lead male Zero “Rei” Enna is Joshua Seth, working under a pseudo. Playing Kizna Towryk is Michelle Ruff, again, working under a pseudo. Clay Cliff Fortran is played by Jim Taggert, and Jessica Gee plays…stay with me here…Alacudo Repair, Calesu, Dr. Lill Crawford, Green Nurse, Ikhny Allecto, Instructor, Kallisto Repairer, Launch Control, Phil Phleira, Purple Nurse, Quarval Voice, Rome, Saki Mitchall, Wrecka Toesing, and Zero’s Mother. Matthew Dunn plays Gareas Elidd, Melora Harte plays our Narrator and Teela Zain Elmes, Peter Toll plays Roose Sawamura, and Richard Hayworth, working under a pseudo, plays Azuma Hijikata. Good grief, do you think she got enough roles? I mean, come on…Now that we got our list of offenders, let’s take a look at their offenses and examples of them from YouTube:
- Un-synchronized Lip Flaps – It’s not that hard, people. When the characters mouth is open, you speak. When the mouth is closed, you close your mouth. Apparently, our motley crew of actors seem to take such delight in saying their poorly written lines, they all but ignore the fact that their characters actually have lips. There are several examples of this throughout the series. Characters mouth is closed; dialogue continues coming out. Either these actors suck at matching flaps or the sound engineer sucks at lining up dialogue.
- Incorrect Gender Casting – Umm…yeah, I’m not sure if the person who was doing the translation for this project just got confused or decided to take some creative licenses, but there’s one scene when the character is male in the Japanese, and remarkably female in the English dub. As we’ve already established, with one exception, all the pilots are males and the repairers are female. So just why in the heck is there a FEMALE voice coming out of a MALE character?
- Pronunciation of Names/Words/Terms – Okay… Just because the Japanese, by dialect, tend to pronounce their “L”s like our “R”s, that does NOT give you the right to do the same. Seriously, if something is spelled “Leena”, then you pronounce it as such with an “L”. There’s no excuse to have your characters sound like Japan from “Axis Powers Hetalia” and call the girl “Reena”.
- Overall Bad Acting and Script Writing – …this one is self-explanatory and everyone is guilty of it to maximum extent; even the veteran actors like Joshua Seth and Richard Cansino. These guys should know better. As an actor, you should know when and how to read a line. Punctuation is there for a reason, guys. When you’re reading a line like “Oh you’re all here. Sorry for the wait. Shall we go now?” you’re supposed to PAUSE when you see a period, otherwise you sound like you’re in such a big hurry like “Ohyoureallheresorryforthewaitshallwegonow?”…which makes no sense when you consider the scene. That being said, you can’t FULLY blame the actors for the poor showing; part of the responsibility goes to the Dub Script writers, but still, as an actor, you’re supposed to know when something doesn’t sound quite right and make adjustments. Also, there’s a scene where Kizna, our resident catgirl is, inexplicably, singing a song to the training Pro-Ing mecha…if you could call that singing. It’s like they just took a translation of the lyrics from the Japanese and just told the actress “Hey, just read it and don’t worry about those silly lip flaps or whether or not it has a beat or rhythm or makes sense at all.”
Take note, Mix Magic Studios and Wiley Isa; as harsh as this sounds, THIS IS WHY YOU NO LONGER EXIST IN THE WORLD OF ANIME. [2/25]
Story Breakdown – 2/25
Characters – 2/25
Animation – 3/12.5
Music – 3.5/12.5
Performance and Production – 2/25
Final Score – 12.5/100 = 12% – (F)
So where does tha–you know what? I’m not even going to go there. This score should suffice enough to express my personal opinion of this show. And the crying shame is, I really hated to do this! I remember this show being one of my favorites way back in the day. I actually enjoyed it! But as I matured in my anime tastes, I realized that this show was only good for a few brief moments of nostalgia and not for any kind of enrichment or enjoyment, which is a shame because this anime would’ve been one of the greatest mecha shows of the 2000’s and a ground breaking one at that with regards to the CG work used. However, for every positive you give “Pilot Candidate”, there’s at least two or three negatives that overwhelm it, and at the end of the day, the negative aspects outweighs the positive, and you get an anime that’s disappointing on so many levels. So many, in fact, that it’s quite painful to even watch all the way through. Back to the rear shelf.
Well…that was…interesting…to say the very least. My longest review for the lowest scoring anime on the blog. It seems appropriate, somehow. You know, there’s only one show that I can think of that I can watch that can make me forget about the complete slaughter I just had to do…only one “Adult Swim” show that can redeem my hope that actors know how to act, writers know how to write, and a story can both make sense and not make sense, and still be enjoyable all the same. A coming of age story that is unlike anything out there, and a show that has been LONG overdue for a review. Oh yeah. Stick around, dear readers, as I take a look into the insane world of…