Title: Buddy Complex
Format: TV anime
Genre: mecha, sci-fi, action, time travel
Series Director: Yasuhiro Tanabe
Series length: 13 episodes
Original Airing dates: January 5, 2014 – March 30, 2014
Reviewed format: HDTV download with fan subs
“Buddy Complex revolves around the main character, Aoba Watase, an ordinary high school boy. One day, the girl he has a crush on, Hina Yumihara, saves him from being killed by a guy in a mecha, and then sends him into the future, revealing that she herself was also from the future. When he wakes up, he finds himself over seventy years into the future, where the Free Pact Alliance and the Zogilia Republic are at war with each other, each battling with their own valiancers; and Aoba is on the former’s team, teams up with Dio using coupling valiancers Luxon and Bradyon. He also learns that Hina is on the opposing team, and what’s even stranger, she doesn’t remember him at all.”
Buddy Complex is yet another in a long line of the Mecha Genre anime & also brought to you by those stalwarts of the genre, Sunrise. As noted in the title, some fans have taken to calling this “Gay Gundam” due to the main conceit/gimmick of the series, where male pilots have to ‘couple up’ in order to gain power. As always, I find this insulting: both to homosexuals & to the much superior Gundam franchise.
If I were to call Buddy Complex it would be bland.
No, that’s too sharp a word.
It would just be ‘vanilla’.
Vanilla is safe. Vanilla is acceptable. Vanilla is universal & basically liked by all no matter what your tastes.
& Buddy Complex is so very, very vanilla.
From the characters tropes down to the mecha designs, all so V.A.N.I.L.L.A.
This is exceptionally unfortunately because it started off with so much promise & some fairly interesting ideas.
It basically starts with little above-average modern day Japanese high school student Watase Aoba suddenly being attacked by a mysterious mecha that has fallen through a wormhole from the future. He is rescued by the girl whom he is attracted to & seems to be watching him, Yumihara Hina, in her own mecha unit. Destroying the rival unit, they then go back through the wormhole & Aoba finds himself in the controls of the experimental mecha Luxon in the middle of a fierce battle. Naturally, being the hero, Aoba is able to activate it & the special Coupling System, joining powers with the other Coupler, Dio. Forming a neural bond which enhances their combat & piloting ability beyond superhuman, they fight off the enemies & Aoba is forced to join the crew of the Cygnus. He then has to decide if he wants to fight with the abilities that he acquired from Dio via the Coupling System, protecting his new friends, or give up & try to find Hina, who mysteriously disappeared when they entered the wormhole.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it’s pretty much the plot from EVERY Mecha anime for the past 30 years (especially the aforementioned Gundam franchise). The military & scientists should just cut to the chase & throw random teenagers into the machines to see what happens.
Alas, I digress. . .
As I said before, this serious is playing it exceptionally safe & that’s its major drawback.
Aoba is the hot head, driven to both protect his new friends & find Hina (who happens to be fighting for the enemy for some reason that’s all Timey-Whimy [SPOILERS!]). Whilst Dio is an angry, taciturn pretty boy with daddy issues & a sister complex. Of course, that is a touch of hyperbole but they are pretty much standard tropes for the genre. As well as the innocent young (teenage) girl with a crush on Aoba, the mature squad leader, the lax but clever captain, the harsh but caring female vice-captain, boy-crazy comm-officer, annoying male flight crew, wise old mechanic, hot science lady plus an appearance from perverted sensei before his plot driven death.
Whilst on the enemy side we have the clever commander who is playing his own game, the psycho who wants to own Hina, the psycho who likes blowing things up, the female leader who risks everything for promotion & attention, the little blond shota who is a a surprisingly good pilot (may or may not have man-crush on his senpai) & cowardly power hungry two episode villains in over powered mecha that get smashed by our heroes.
The mecha designs also suffer a tragic visit from the bland fairy.
The mook mecha (the standard grunt models) are literally rejects from Gundam Wing (they honestly didn’t even bother to change the designs other than make them thinner) & the main mecha units, the Luxon & Braydon are your standard man-shaped hero unit. With the Luxon being white & blue, whilst the Braydon is red & black. Their appearances are very uninspired, with nothing to give them the visual punch of the Valvraves, even when they go into their superpowered Buddy Modes. Just some more glowing parts & a little transformation.
I think once reason why the series is so vanilla because the series is so short -only 13 episdes- & has to cover a lot of information, including why there is two main factions on the World (evil Zogillia & the useless Alliance, to which our heroes belong) & how the technology works.
On those two sides is also where things fall down.
There basically isn’t enough information to allow you to suspend your disbelief for very long. They keep changing how the Coupling System works to fit with plot develops, explaining it as going beyond expectations & it not being tested in the field (plus Aoba’s strange ability to Couple with anyone -the little He-Hussy!).
The lack of time to develop plot & characters, the hand waving of what’s happening & the rushed pseudo-science really do drag the series down but is there anything that brings it up so it at least is an average?
Well, the battle scenes are very well down -especially when they go into super-speed territory. You never once feel confused as to who is fighting who, even with the bland mook-mecha about. There are some nice little jokes, not a great deal of Fan Service, some good moments between characters & the lack of idiotic children running around the ship (take that original Gundam series!).
Still, the lack of internal logic is a let down & makes a lot of things unforgivable.
Same goes with the overall rushed, vanilla nature of the series. They’ve promised a 2nd one, with a To Be Continued in the post-credits coda & I’ll probably watch it but I am a bit of a mecha-diehard. To be honest: the series isn’t in any way or shape bad. It’s just tame & stuff we’ve pretty much all seen before. If you have a right hard-on for light sci-fi & huge robots, there are far worse series to see (coughEureka 7cough).