Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation (anime review)
February 24, 2016

I will magnanimously forgive you if you always assumed the Hyperdimension Neptunia video games were the result of a perverted man's hard work. After all, there's all that fan service, all of those posterior shots and cleavage close-ups! But no, the license came from the mind of a woman. It turns out you don't have to possess a penis to like boobs. Who knew?

Playing the games, things stay fairly PG-13. I figured--correctly, as it turned out--that the same would be true of the anime. Which I bought. And watched. And... sort of enjoyed. But only sort of, because frankly, there are much better entertainment options available.

Like the games on which it is based, "Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation" takes place in the world of Gameindustri, where old video game consoles are represented by goddesses. As the story kicks off, several of those celestial beings have come together and have signed a peace treaty of sorts, so they can all be friends instead of vicious competitors. It looks like peace is on the horizon, except that would be really boring, so of course a whole bunch of things immediately go wrong.

Though I haven't played the first PlayStation 3 title in the series in any of its iterations (remember that it has also been ported to Vita and PC), I have at least played numbers two and three. That prior exposure meant that, in general, I knew what was going to happen ahead of time as I watched the animation. There are some differences, certainly (including a fan service episode to fill in for the hot springs trip most anime efforts seem to have these days), and some battles are expanded or just more explicitly shown, but for the most part this is a story you've seen before if you played through the video games.

Upon reflection, I'm actually kind of wondering why I even bothered purchasing the anime. Plot was never a strong point for the series. The series has a clever conceit, but then it fritters it away with petty squabbling and a whole bunch of dialogue while the characters stand around and don't do much. I guess I was hoping to see them finally get down to the business of being awesome in a 12-episode series, but instead the story rushes through three games' worth of content. That means there's not a lot of time for meaningful character development. And although there is time for some awesome battles, they happen only very rarely.

Meanwhile, the animation is rather poor. A number of environments and backgrounds aren't especially detailed, and you'll see more than the usual amount of scenes where characters stand around, static, while voice actors talk (yes, Funimation dubbed it). Even in the intro, there are places where music plays while a few frames flash past, in place of a properly animated effort. I wouldn't say things ever actually look bad, but the budget must not have been particularly huge for this anime. That, or it was drawn in a rush that did it no favors.

Though the artwork looks cute and inviting, don't mistake it as a project for kids. You can perhaps dismiss the boobs, but there are still some extended scenes based around innuendo that warrant your consideration. In particular, there's a scene from the second game where two young girls are caught by a monster with a giant tongue, which licks them creepily (much to their understandable disgust). It is presented essentially as sexual perversion, and it feels gross. There's a callback to it in the OVA, as well. Someone on the original writing staff must be really proud of that scene.

Another element that some might find uncomfortable is a character who transforms occasionally into a dominatrix. It's played off for laughs, but it feels creepy just the same. My wife likes anime and video games both. She sat down to watch some episodes with me but fairly quickly grew bored and left after remarking--without even seeing the most risque scenes--that it was all a bit perverted. She wasn't wrong, but I have a higher tolerance level for such things.

I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this review, actually. "Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation" is an animated take on a video game series that didn't do much of anything interesting after establishing its awesome initial concept. Rather than expanding things in a meaningful way, the anime mostly treads the same ground and feels every bit as much like slightly better than average filler as the source material did. Pick the set up if you just plain love the license, but otherwise you're pretty safe ignoring it. Virtually everything it does reasonably well, some other cartoon does better...

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Feedback
forweg forweg - February 24, 2016 (07:12 PM)
Disappointed by the SJW bent of this review, Mr. Venter. I guess you were on that mailing list for a reason after all...
honestgamer honestgamer - February 24, 2016 (07:41 PM)
I don't keep either side of the "SJW" debate happy with any consistency, forweg, and I've made my peace with that. I'm glad Hyperdimension Neptunia gets to do what it does, because freedom of artistic expression is vitally important to me, but I'm not going to praise qualities the series doesn't have or give it a pass because boobs. I really do want to like Hyperdimension Neptunia, because I actually tend to enjoy risque anime and I love the clever premise that started everything. But I also like anime to have more going for it than titillation, and this one didn't really.
Never3ndr Never3ndr - February 24, 2016 (11:44 PM)
I'm taking a Japanese class at university and getting a bit back into anime to help expose me to the language. I recently watched One Punch Man...I was wondering if you had any thoughts on that? Probably one of the most epic I've seen.
forweg forweg - February 25, 2016 (01:33 AM)
Don't get me wrong, the rest of your review is entirely valid. This looks like a mediocre show. I haven't seen it.

But some of your complaints with the show appear to be about the fanservice, which is absurd. It's like reviewing the latest Call Of Duty and complaining about too many guns.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 25, 2016 (02:21 AM)
forweg - I'm not one to complain about fan service in general. To be entirely frank, I actually tend to enjoy fan service. Some people seem to feel that when you're a male and you turn 25, you're suddenly supposed to put all of that stuff in a jar marked "baser instincts" and toss it off a cliff before joining the more enlightened males of the human species. I don't go for that, though, and will continue to like fan service whenever it suits me. So no, I'm not upset that Hyperdimension Neptunia has fan service. I'm upset that it has thoroughly underwhelming fan service and relies on that rather than giving me any backup reasons to care about the series. ;-)

Never3ndr - I don't believe I've even heard of One Punch Man, but thanks for the recommendation. I tend to watch slice-of-life stuff most, so that might be part of my issue. Plus I haven't yet watched a whole lot of anime. I buy stuff I want to buy, rather than streaming on Crunchy Roll or whatever. Now that I'm completely broke, I hope to go through more of it that has been piling up, untouched. As for learning Japanese, that's awesome. I myself bought the Rosetta Stone software with that goal in mind, but I haven't done anything yet. I know it will take a serious time commitment, and I haven't had enough to spare just yet. I would love to someday be able to play games and watch anime without needing someone to first translate it for me. That is the dream!
Never3ndr Never3ndr - February 25, 2016 (02:44 AM)
Yeah, being a retro gamer, there are a lot of SNES and NES RPG's I'd be interested in playing if I knew Japanese :( I haven't even played through the English version of Phantasy Star on the SMS either, but I'd still be interested in playing both the English and Japanese versions since the Japanese version of that game uses a different soundchip specific to Japan (and old school RPG's are pretty infamous for not having the best of translations).

One Punch Man came out recently. It's one of the few manga I'd actually read a bit in the past several years. IMO it has a pretty nice blend of action and comedy.
pickhut pickhut - February 25, 2016 (10:00 AM)
As someone who never played a Hyperdimension Neptunia game, I'm not aware of the level of fanservice they have. There have been numerous HN reviews on the site that I've read as well, but I'm not remembering any specific details, so I found the mention of fanservice in this review helpful. Speaking as a pervert, I actually do believe that fanservice can actually damage the overall quality of a product, especially if it feels forced and/or out of place when compared to the tone of the rest of said product.

Though, I'm also inclined to believe that Venter also isn't a prude, considering he's reviewed more than a dozen hentai games for the site. xD
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - February 25, 2016 (05:50 PM)
Never3ndr,

A group did a translation hack for the Japanese version of Phantasy Star. The script is more accurate than the official one, and being based on the Japanese version you can use the special sound chip. Check it out!
Never3ndr Never3ndr - February 26, 2016 (04:39 AM)
Hm, that is interesting. When I grab some time to finally play Phantasy Star I'll def try to find it!

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