Photon: The Idiot Adventures

In my spare time, what there is of it, I enjoy writing music. I've written over 50 songs, many of which I've played with my band locally, and it's something fun to do. However, there's something infuriatingly difficult in the process. You can find that you have a great hook, a solid melody, and a good chorus, but something's still missing that makes it perfect. Sometimes the song feels OK anyway, and you go ahead with it, and other times you rework the song until it's just right. Photon is like one of those songs that has most all the elements, but doesn't always put those elements together properly to produce greatness. It's a relatively strong anime overall, with strong attention to production and a kindheartedness that's genuine, but with some flaws that keep it from becoming a top-tier title.

And what is there to say about Photon? He's a small guy, immensely strong, immensely brave, immensely devoted, immensely stupid. As the show begins, his primary purpose in life is to chase after Aun, a friend who lacks Photon's other personality traits but joins him in the immensely stupid part. Aun's run off after a new heartthrob singer, and Photon tries to catch her before she does damage to herself or others. Along the way, though, a downed spaceship sidelines him. In a case of misunderstood cultural norms, Photon finds himself married to Keyne, the pilot of the craft, who is searching for a device her grandfather created years ago. Meanwhile, the villainous Papacha, who has plans to become grand emperor of the universe, is after Keyne to not only impress the current emperor's daughter but also to unlock a secret that will give him ultimate power. Stir in a cat with two tails, 32 roly-poly space cheerleaders, heady amounts of gratuitous nudity, lots of comedy, stir and bake, serves 6 episodes.

Those who enjoyed the original Tenchi Muyo series should be in for a real treat--the show looks and feels very similar to that fan favorite. Animated by the same company, AIC, the production values are top-notch; the score is noteworthy, full of energy and pizzazz suited to this style of show. The character designs are even better, in my opinion, and the comparisons could go on. Those who appreciate eye candy above all will probably enjoy this a great deal. Especially in episodes 2-4, the humor is lively and the pacing brisk, and there's little more you would ask for.

Unfortunately, Photon has some weaknesses that both surprise and confuse. To start, the first episode contains a lot of goofy stuff that really isn't that funny, and so its tone is off. The show doesn't get moving until the second episode, where things lighten up and the show really starts being humorous. In the same manner, the last two episodes grind to a halt at times when the comedy is abandoned for long spells to bring in The Big Ending(tm). In the last hour, there are all sorts of battles and character revelations, but not much to keep the show moving, and I kept my eye on the clock a lot more during the final two episodes. Shows like Oh My Goddess and Video Girl Ai can get away with The Big Ending(tm) because they aren't intended to be hilariously funny and can better support the dramatic within their boundaries. Photon, on the other hand, misfires the moment it gets away from being humorous. It also misfires in some of its character development--in particular, Keyne starts off being sweet if somewhat egocentric, but then becomes distasteful in her battles with Aun over Photon's affections, only getting back a little bit of her original spirit near the very end.

While I'm on the topic of misfires, I'll also mention that Photon may have a hard time landing a solid audience in the US because it's probably too risqué to be seen by its true target audience (13-15 year old boys). Although the DVD box has a 13 and up sticker, there's a warning right up front that not all the material is suited for those under 18. That's probably true--besides the copious amounts of nudity mentioned before, there's also a whole lot of blood in the show. Papacha bleeds so profusely throughout the show, it's surprising that the Red Cross wasn't thanked in the credits. Granted, it's not violence in the standard sense, but combine those two with quite a bit of innuendo, and you may have a problem. These aren't big issues in the Japanese market, but they might be here.

All that being said, I still liked Photon a good deal. Photon is only a couple notches above Forrest Gump in the mental department, but he is as sweet and innocent a character as you could hope to find with a heart the size of the northern hemisphere. The story doesn't get in the way of many truly hysterical moments, and I was indeed a bit sad when it was all over. Great anime it's not, but Photon is a solid B-grade title, particularly worthwhile on DVD for the inexpensive price.

Photon: The Idiot Adventures -- nudity, violence, innuendo, profanity, and maybe a little bit more nudity -- B