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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Legend of DUO: Twilight's Father's Brother's Nephew's Cousin's Former Roomate

Technology can be such a fast-moving category to follow, and one of the best examples of that is in the cell phone.  Nowadays "smartphones" can do everything from surfing the web to playing feature-length movies in "glorious HD" to playing actual video games...  Oh, and they can also make phone calls, too.  But back in 2004 & 2005 if a cell phone could play a super-low quality video it was ahead of the curve...  What does any of this have to do with anime?  One word: mobanimation.


Here's a quick primer: mobanimation (obviously a portmanteau of "mobile" & "animation") is a division of production company Radix that focuses on getting anime on cell phones.  Radix Mobanimation, as it's fully called, is probably most well known for being one of the companies involved in the aborted anime TV series Appleseed: Genesis back in 2008, but more astute anime fans might recognize that logo up above for another reason.  In 2004/2005 (October 27, 2004 seems to be a promo date, while January 19, 2005 was the actual debut date) the mobanimation name appeared on an anime series, made up of twelve 5-minute episodes, that is now pretty infamous for being one of the worst in recent memory: The "imaginatively-titled" Legend of DUO.


Humanity has been in decline for the past few years because of one reason: The "Disease of Death".  People are suddenly dying at random with no indications as to when it can happen, so naturally morale has sunk.  Luckily for humans, a vampire named Duo has revealed a secret that can save humanity: If a human drinks the blood of a vampire, which is filled with "prana/life force", he/she can not only become immune to the Disease of Death but also gain eternal life like that of the vampires.  Unfortunately, this reveal has made humans into greedy "demons" who will go after any vampire they see, all with the intent of getting prana.  Because of this act of "treason", Duo's clan has ordered one of their kind to kill Duo.  The man chosen is Zieg, who Duo had turned into a vampire & also has feelings for.

To be honest, the basic concept behind this anime's story is a neat one.  Usually in vampire stories the idea is that of humanity having to fight back the vampires who want their blood, but DUO flips that idea around & has the vampires be the persecuted group.  Also a nice touch is one of the major themes of the story, which is that in order to love humanity one must also accept its darker side, where concepts like greed run free.  Humans might mean well in their hope to become immune to the Disease of Death, but their eagerness to go after a vampire the moment they see one really does show the harsher reality of the situation.  In terms of the basic idea of the story everything sounds fine so far.

Another bonus is that, for something that only totals one hour long, it doesn't try to introduce a lot of characters, instead featuring only four characters of note.  Zieg & Duo are the main focus, with Zieg's conflicting emotions regarding his mission making him hesitant to actually (literally) pull the trigger when he's face-to-face with his target.  All the while Duo is downright smug in pointing out Zieg's flaws & telling him that revealing the secret of prana to humans was the right thing to do, because otherwise humanity would become darker & more somber if they felt that they couldn't do anything to fight off the Disease.  The secondary cast is made up of Stefan, a boy Zieg turned into a vampire when the Disease was about to kill him, & Lizzie, a vampire hunter who wishes to have a rematch with Zieg after suffering a humiliating loss to him previously, and while their overall importance is minor at the very least they do fit in with the story when they are used.

That said, there is nothing else to compliment about this anime.  This series is simply a mess, and that's due to a few factors.  First, the story is flying by a mile-a-minute; even when it's just characters talking there's always something being explained & there's absolutely no real moments that let the viewer reflect on what has happened.  Pacing-wise the show does work with its 5-minute limit well, but at the same time this is a story that really has to be told at a slower pace.  Scenes go by with abandon, making it impossible to feel for the characters in any way when a sad moment happens, and character development is either rushed or downright non-existent.  Sure, the show explains how Zieg first met Duo & why Duo turned him well enough, but that's the only backstory that's actually explained well.  Stefan's backstory is compressed into just a minute or two, Lizzie is nothing more than a "badass vampire hunter" (hell, you don't find out his name until episode 11!), & Duo's backstory gets nothing more than "He's the leader of his clan & he 'betrayed' them; also, he loves Zieg."  Sometimes a fast-paced story works but other times a methodical pace works better, & DUO is definitely a case where the latter would have been the better choice, though, as I'll get to later, there probably wasn't any choice that could be made in the first place.

Second, the Disease of Death is poorly handled.  Simplistic name aside, the idea of a mysterious disease that kills humans & can only be fought against by drinking the blood of a vampire sounds like it could tell some nice, somber storylines...  But in DUO this "disease" is almost anything but.  There are absolutely no telltale signs of if someone is infected with the Disease and how much time they have left; hell, there isn't even any infection!  Literally, the Disease of Death is nothing more than people's skin drying out & them dying at any moment.  There's no lead-up, no hints of it coming, & no chance to rescue someone.  At any random moment a person will just up & die, or, at least, that's what the show tries to convey.  In reality, the only time people die from the Disease is when it can come off as a sudden (& ironic) surprise in the story.  A rich man holds a gala for Duo so that everyone can drink some of his blood?  His wife dies right after celebrating how they can live together forever.  An old woman thanks Zieg & Duo for saving her from some vampires, but then tries to kill them herself?  Nope, she dies right then & there.  In a flashback Zieg convinces a boy to not commit suicide after his mother dies from the Disease, only for the boy to slip & Zieg just barely saves him with help from Duo?  Too bad, because the boy dies right after he hugs Zieg's leg & Zieg promises he'll live a long life.  This is more like the "Disease of Ironic Deaths" than anything.  Finally, the Disease is downright indecisive in how deadly it is.  Normally people die right away, but when Stefan was hit with it he was able to live long enough for Zieg to turn him into a half-vampire.  Also, Lizzie is literally able to stave off the disease solely because of his dedication to killing Zieg; his right arm is the only thing affected.  This disease just sucks for all the wrong reasons.

Third, & most importantly, the animation sucks.  There is barely any animation at all in this show, with seemingly 98% of the footage being a slow pan, a side-view shot, or a profile shot.  Granted, there is that 2% of actual animation, but it's usually nothing more than a couple of seconds when it is seen, & more often than not it's done when there's an establishing shot so that detail isn't needed.  Now, yes, I do defend a title like Zaizen Jotaro, which also has little animation, but in a title like Zaizen Jotaro the show worked with the limitations by utilizing a variety of cut-ins & giving it an identifiable look; also, the characters had more than three faces.  Yes, not only is the animation nigh-non-existent, but there are literally about only three or four different drawings for each character.  See that shot of Zieg up above the synopsis?  Get used to that face, because Zieg will be looking like that 90% of the time, even when he's in pain; hell, Zieg actually had more faces BEFORE he became a vampire!  The only reason I can think of the animation being as sad as it is here is because this was likely made for cell phones, i.e. mobanimation's main focus.  Back in 2004 cell phone technology wasn't quite at the point where it could handle full-on animation that was fluid, fast-moving, & highly detailed, so this was the safest way to go.  Still, this is a perfect case of why one shouldn't always try to do something if the technology isn't quite there yet.  Also, why the hell would you air this on television if it's meant for cell phones?!  On a television the detriments just become more & more obvious!  God, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

To be fair, the character designs, done by "Project DUO", aren't too bad, with the bishonen style working well for the shonen-ai/"Boys Love" story it was also telling.  The show was written by Daisuke Ishibashi (Papuwa, Sumomomo Momomo) & Toshiki Inoue (Sumomomo Momomo, Galaxy Angel Series), but this must have been something the two were doing on the fly, because while the story itself makes sense it still comes off as a little too stilted & awkward at times.  The music, likely also done by "Project DUO", is also fitting, mixing in some synth, some rock, & a piano piece or two; nothing great, mind you, but nothing unfitting of the theme.  Finally, the show was directed by Koichi Kikuchi (his first & only time as director), and you get the feeling that he did what he could with the extreme limitations that he was obviously given; too bad this is the only chance he ever had at directing.  The main cast isn't too bad, with Tomokazu Sugita (Gintoki in Gintama, Switch in Sket Dance) pulling off a Zieg that you can tell he put some effort into; he actually gives Zieg a slightly different voice depending on if it's pre or post-vampire on screen.  Duo is voiced by Nobuhisa Nakamoto (Asakura in Ishida & Asakura, Takeshi in Weiß Survive), who does an okay job at being the smug yet caring titular character.  Rounding out the cast is Yuu Amano (Stefan) & Haruhisa Okumura (Lizzie), who also pull out serviceable performances.

No DVD, so you get a promo image.

Legend of DUO isn't just bad...  It's legendarily bad.  What could have been a neat, slow-paced story of vampires being hunted by humans while one specific vampire hunts the one who started this persecution, with a shonen-ai seasoning, ends up becoming a mile-a-minute mess of a story that has the gall to even hint that there's more of the story.  Oh, did I forget that part?  Yeah, the last episode ends off fine enough with a sense of closure, even if it's kind of half-assed, but then afterwards you get a shot of a never-before-seen character with a message of "To Be Continued.."!  Considering how there has never been anymore Legend of DUO made in the 8-9 years since this show first aired I'm going to guess that nothing more was ever made.  To be honest, though, as bad as this show is I still have to say that Gundoh Musashi is still worse, mainly because Musashi is a 26-episode downward spiral of badness; at the very least, Legend of DUO can be "one & done" in an hour.  If you're still curious the show had been fansubbed years ago, so it's not hard to find out there.  Let's just say that you've been warned, though.

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