Think back to 2005, when you unwrapped your brand new DS on Christmas morning. Getting a new system is always nice, but soon after the holidays ended people began to realize that the brand new handheld didn't have very much to choose from in the game department. Early DS adopters had the choice of playing Mario 64, Spider Man 2, Feel The Magic, Polarium andPolarium. That was about it. DS fans who simply couldn't wait for a good game turned to import websites and paid high prices for games not in their native language.
A handful of Japanese DS games gained notoriety here in America (Ouendan, Jump Super Stars, Diagasso Band Bros etc.), but some of the best were overlooked and still continue to fly under most gamer's radar even today. The two best examples of this were Croket DS (an SRPG/Smash Bros - style fighter) and Bouken Ou-Beet (an action RPG). Both games were based on little known anime television shows, and after putting in hundreds upon hundreds of hours with these games, I wanted to see the source material. Sadly, my search for Croket still yields no fruit, but imagine my delight when I received the first four episodes of Beet: The Vandal Buster for review. So, how does the actual show and this DVD release compare to the excellent DS game?
Since the DS game was an import-only endeavor and this DVD just released in the U.S., it is safe to say that most won't know the story or the characters in Beet: The Vandal Buster. Without giving too much away, the show centers on Beet, a kid who wants nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Zenon. Zenon is a member of the Vandal Busters, which is kind of like the National Guard if they could shoot fireballs and carried impossibly huge swords. The Buster's job is essentially to keep innocent people safe from the group known as the Vandals, who seem to only want to cause trouble and push the boundaries of just how weird character design can get. Anyway, Beet desperately wants into this group, but he's too young and too brash for the older Busters. That is really about all a first time viewer would need to know.
The series borrows heavily from nearly all the other anime you've seen. You've got cards like in Yu-Gi-Oh, an adolescent's journey to be the best like in Naruto and fight scenes ripped right out of Dragon Ball Z. If a story or idea has been done before in the anime world, there is a good chance Beet has probably already stolen the idea.
Being familiar and trite isn't the only problem with Beet: The Vandal Buster. The show goes so far as to assign the different characters (good and bad) ranks and levels, as if the animators started off trying to develop an RPG but switched gears halfway through and made an anime instead. What really rubs salt into the wound is that the DS game is so good, and the show it is based on is so blah. Isn't that supposed to work the other way around?
It would be impossible to review this DVD without drawing attention to what could be the worst localization since we were informed that "all our base are belong to us." The voice acting sounds very phoned-in and the song that plays during the show's main title is laughably terrible. The words (sung in English) make almost no sense and the song itself sounds like a slower Linkin Park track, if Linkin Park had no formal musical training outside of a couple of hours of Guitar Hero.
The DVD itself isn't great either. There are only a few extras and in this day and age, buying $20 DVDs for only four episodes just doesn't cut the mustard. Dragon Ball Z is currently releasing the episodes season by season, as is Naruto. The sets vary in price from $25-$35, so how can it be justifiable to pay almost that much for four measly episodes and nearly no bonus content at all?
It might seem as if I was a tad harsh on Beet: The Vandal Buster. I really wanted to enjoy this show after loving the game, but there just isn't too much to like here. Beet certainly isn't the worst anime I've seen, but it lacks any spark and is just wholly unremarkable. My recommendation? Use the time you would have spent watching Beet scouring the Internet for a copy of the DS game. I've been told it is getting rare, so get to it. All there is left to do now is wait until the powers that be bring Croket to the states; I hope I'm not as disappointed with that as I was with Beet.