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Monday, September 26, 2011

TwinBee "Double Feature": Enjoyable, But Too Short

This will be the last game-based review for the month of September, mainly due to the fact that a show that is still running will be ending soon and I want to review that one as soon as possible. Also, I'm coming up to my 50th review! I've done 38 reviews in total so far, and that includes my two video game reviews (Super Robot Wars Compact 3 & Ring ni Kakero [Super Famicom]), my one manga review (Ultimate Muscle), and my one live-action J-Drama review (Team Astro). So what better way than to get closer to fifty reviews than to do a twofer... That's right, this will be two reviews for the price of one and what better way to end a month of game-based reviews than to go back to where I started and look at an anime based on a shoot-em-up developed by Konami!


The TwinBee series of video games debuted in Japanese arcades back in 1985 and has gone on the become a bit of a cult-classic series in Japan. While the series is most well-known for its shooter entries, there are off-shoots that go into the platforming and RPG genres, with 1998's RPG/dating-sim hybrid TwinBee RPG for the Playstation being possibly the last "new" entry in the series. While the Gradius series has a heavy sci-fi element to it and it's main characters are known but not highly recognized, TwinBee exists in a comical world and thrives on its world and characters, and the first anime based on the series, 1994's TwinBee: WinBee no 1/8 Panikku/WinBee's 1/8 Panic, definitely shows that aspect off. Released as a tie-in to TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, a SNES platforming game, this half-hour OVA is a continuation of the 1993 radio drama series TwinBee Paradise and is more about the characters and not so much about the shooting.

Light, his cousin Pastel, and Pastel's baby brother Mint are the operators of Dr. Cinnamon's greatest creations, the sentient twinbee flying units TwinBee, WinBee, and GwinBee, respectively. The three of them protect Donburi Island from the evil Dr. Warumon, his legion of ZakuBee's, and his evil creations. One day, after school, Light, Pastel, and their respective twinbee units are with their friend Madoka, who works at the local coffee shop. Madoka offers her newest batch of cookies, which Pastel and WinBee try out, remembeing how bad Madoka's cookies actually are. Pastel is looking forward to the next day, which is the Miss Donburi beauty contest, and she is hoping to win.  Unfortunately, the next morning Pastel realizes that she has shrunk down a small size and that the same has happened to WinBee; Madoka unknowingly mixed in a potion her father, Dr. Mardock, created. Mardock can reverse the shrinkage with a gun, but he needs bells to power it. At that moment Light notices that the clouds have disappeared, resulting in bells not being readily available, and that a floating island has appeared. Dr. Cinnamon tells a story of Queen Juliana, a woman who wanted to be higher and more beautiful than anyone else and made her castle float. If Pastel has any chance to return to normal and win the contest, Light, and Mint have to go to Juliana's castle and recover some bells.

This TwinBee OVA actually does a good job here, with the half-hour time frame not getting in the way one bit in of the enjoyment. Even newcomers to the TwinBee series, like myself, can easily identify who the major characters are and though some extra detail would be nice it still works. The jokes can be simple and cliched at times, but none of them really fall flat. Looking at how the character designs are one would think that this would be aimed at really young children, but this OVA does go into some pretty fanservice-y territory at the end, where girls start growing large, resulting in them becoming naked (though cleverly concealed), and Queen Juliana's outfit in general definitely makes you look at a certain section of her body... While Light's facial reactions to it all says everything. The OVA in general has a very comical mood to it, and actually reminds me of Bomberman Jetters, a 52-episode anime adaptation of the Bomberman game series; some of you might be familiar with the GameCube game of the same name, which was released outside of Japan, unlike the anime. Jetters was very comedy-based but could do serious moments very well when needed, and this TwinBee OVA comes off fairly similar in execution, except that seriousness is definitely on the back-burner. Overall, it's a nice little watch but kind of leaves you wanting more in the end.


In 1998 the WinBee's 1/8 Panic was re-released and came with Tulip Kaigan Monogatari/Tale of the Tulip Seaside, a new 10-minute anime short. To put it simply, this short is near-madness in execution. The basic idea is that every character from the TwinBee series has gone to the beach, and all sorts of things happen. Light and Pastel are challenged by Seeds and Salyut, two androids created by Dr. Warumon as rivals to the heroes, to a game of beach volleyball, but the heroes tell the two to fight the twinbee units instead; Mint and GwinBee are building a never-endingly gigantic sandcastle; Dr. Cinnamon and Dr. Mardock go to a beach-side food shack and get so drunk that they don't even realize that it's being run by Dr. Warumon, even when he's completely in front of them; Light & Pastel's classmate White is asked by their teacher Ms. Apple to rub sun-oil on her back. And while all of this happening, Madoka is selling cookies that are making people sick and sending them to the hospital. There is also a small storyline that links all of these things together which involves Pastel getting ready to put on the expensive sun-oil she finally bought, only to have it get knocked away, leading her on a crazy adventure on the beach, running into everyone in the process.

This anime short was made solely for fanservice, to put it simply. It's still enjoyable, but it really comes off as sheer insanity, or at least as much insanity as this series can believably create. Much like the previous OVA, though, seeing all of these characters makes one wish that Studio AIC, the people behind these OVAs, went with a full-on TV series. Yeah, the radio drama probably did the same thing in the end, but that kind of product is obviously only made for the Japanese audiences, which makes perfect sense, of course. It's really a problem that is only created in retrospect, so I can't fault these OVAs for that. But it is sad to watch Bomberman Jetters, which follows a similar idea and execution, get a complete TV series that lets the characters and world become fleshed out while TwinBee's OVAs are more supplemental material than anything.

These two OVAs feature the same cast and crew behind them, with Yasunori Ide (Please Teacher!/Twins!, Burn Up! OVA) directing and scripting both anime, keeping the pace very well-done; yes, even with a lot of stuff happening in in Tulip Seaside it still all makes sense. The voice cast is also well done, but considering that these people were already experienced from doing the radio drama it should be of no surprise. Kappei Yamaguchi voices Light and keeps his usual nasally voice intact. Hekiru Shiina (Hikaru from Rayearth) does a good, if familiar-sounding, Pastel, and by that I mean that Pastel doesn't exactly sound all too different from your usual female lead of the era... But that's not exactly a bad thing. Mayumi Tanaka does a fine job as TwinBee, and the same could be said of the rest of the cast from there on out; nothing truly bad, but no real stand-outs. And interesting touch to the WinBee's 1/8 Panic OVA, though, if that the cast lists themselves off in roll-call fashion during the credits, which I've honestly never seen done before. The music actually sounds very game-like at times, and I wouldn't be surprised if they remade songs from the game and possibly even re-used music from the radio drama. WinBee's 1/8 Panic opening theme is "Twin Memories" by Mariko Kouda (voice of Madoka), and it's admittedly nothing really special but maintains an upbeat style to it that might still make you tap your foot to it. The ending theme is "Lucky Rapper Party" by Kouji Hayama (game music composer) & Mariko Kouda and likewise is upbeat and catchy but otherwise nothing memorable in the long-term. Tale of the Tulip Seaside has no opening theme, but its ending theme is "Aikotoba wa Be!!" by Mariko Kouda and follows the same example lead by the previous OVA's songs.


Tale of the Tulip Seaside was also created to help promote a new TwinBee Paradise production, which was a 3-episode OVA based on the radio drama that came out from 1998 to 1999. I haven't seen that OVA yet, but if I ever get the chance I'll be sure to review it, as I certainly wouldn't mind going back into the rather silly world of TwinBee, though I do wish it was a longer adventure. For those who are interested in the games, though, and live outside of Japan, Europe has gotten more of the series than North America, but here in America you can get a port of the original arcade game on a Konami collection on the DS and just a few days ago the 3D Classics version of the original Famicom game finally got released in North America on the eShop channel, not to mention you can get Detana!! TwinBee on the Wii Virtual Console. So now we're finally starting to get TwinBee brought over, but it honestly looks to be too late for more of it to be made.

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