Do you ever have a post that you feel like you should write, but don’t really want to? Not because you don’t have anything to say about something, but because it feels too easy too because you don’t like anything about it? That’s how I feel about Cannon Busters at the moment. I am going to try to tone myself down a little bit when talking about this show because it’s still a somewhat original idea in a not so original package in a good sort of way kind of. Maybe. Sort of? Ok, not at all. Never mind, guess I am not holding myself back. Cannon Busters was originally a comic created by LeSean Thomas a few years back. You know, one of the guys behind animated series I haven’t felt compelled to watch like the first couple seasons of Boondocks, Black Dynamite, a series that I have watched by the name of Legend of Korra, and a few others. Thanks to a fully funded kickstarter, the series became a reality and appeared on Netflix in August much to the love of quite a few people. I’m not one of them.
Where does it all Start? On a desert planet by the name of Gearbolt where people live in a science fictiony Wild West like setting. A mysterious, immortal bandit by the name of Philly the Kid wondered the desert like he usually does to run into bounty and two robots by the name of S.A.M. and Casey who want Philly the Kid to take them somewhere to reunite with S.A.M.’s friend Prince Kelpy. The rest of the series is a road trip sort of episodic adventure with Philly trying to get rid of the two robots, but slowly beginning to understand them at some level. Sort of. Since Philly the Kid has an obscenely large bounty placed on him, people are constantly out to kill him even though he can’t die. So S.A.M. and Casey get involved in those battles and still stick around with Philly for some reason as they go from place to place.
Another plot element that gets attention in the beginning of each episode is about S.A.M.’s country of robots by the name of Boudica and Prince Kelpy’s journey through the desert. In the beginning of the season, the kingdom of Boudica completely falls. The king is over taken and everything by a mysterious bad guy, so Prince Kelpy, his bodyguard, and some robotic drones escape to the unknown rendezvous point with S.A.M. and the others. Kelpy is a city boy who has an arcs focsing on him slowly learning to deal with the terrain that he’s forced to walk in. Still, Kelpy never drops his heart and compassion on the journey despite his body guard wanting him to think about survival and himself. Too bad he’s such a bland character that is only a plot device. Seriously, the next season is about this group of people trying to find him again. Gah.
So you are probably reading this post and thinking that Cannon Busters sounds like Trigun and it kind of is. It also tries to insert some other anime sort of references like how Philly the Kid sort of looks like Spike from Bebop, a samurai who fights better the more he drinks, a ninja that turns into a log to escape from an attack, the car Philly the Kid rides in turning into a giant robot, S.A.M.’s transformation, and other things. The problem is that while all of these things are cool in essence, there is too much references and not enough understanding about why these things work. Or even effort to put them together better in a cohesive manner. Ok, giant robots, transformations, and abilities are fine, but a glue to put them together in a better would have made the show work? I guess there was a good starting point.
Trigun is a good piece to hang a lot of cool things on because there are a lot of cools things in it too. Trigun has a lot of awesome gun fights, tons of interesting settings where action happens including a train, and character drama from well written characters that connects it all together. Cannon Busters starting off with a Trigun formula was a good start, but it felt like LeShean went “Trigun is cool, let’s make another one” without ever understanding what made Trigun good by working without what made the show good. You know, good characters. Let’s talk about Vash dealing with past truama and learning to deal with it while also pushing his ideals of not killing to the edge in a great and interesting way. Even the side characters were great and dealt with this. Cannon Busters characters never had any ideals to push that far.
Let’s start this character talk with Philly the Kid. The concept of an immortal, immoral character that has a number form on his body every time he dies is a good start, but the problem is that he’s a nothing. Not only a nothing, but a creepy nothing that gets too handsey sometimes. I guess he’s a person with a bad attitude that just lives a no good life wandering from place to place dying and then coming back and that’s it. He only survives and that could be interesting, the Cannon Busters isn’t completely interested in exploring that. Not even the robot girls have any effect on him because his arc of maybe you aren’t as much of a jerk now as you were when we met you doesn’t mean anything. It’s some of the worst and lazy character writing there is fiction and Cannon Busters used it for it’s main character that we just shouldn’t care about.
He’s so bad that he drags down the other characters around him not only morally, but how well crafted they are. S.A.M. and Casey have a lot of places they could go. For instance, Casey being an outdated robot and S.A.M. not knowing anything about malice and friends are great places to start. Too bad S.A.M. just quickly learned about how to express herself like it was nothing or all Casey learned to do was sleazy like Philly. That’s just how it turned out. If only the drunken samurai was a main character because he actually has a personality and pathos. Him, S.A.M., and Casey traveling the waste land of Gearbolt would be amazing. Especially with how each moment between the three of them were just pure gold. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got here.
I think that another unfortunate part about Cannon Busters is that the visuals could save this anime. I do think this show has good character designs with personality and art work. It’s obvious that someone behind Boondocks was behind this anime, because most characters like African or African American, which is a unique thing for most anime series unfortunately. That’s not what all I have to say about this though, each character design is distinct, wonderful, and exudes some sort of personality. You can tell so much about these characters just by looking at their designs. The backgrounds themselves are the same way. Exciting, visceral, and exude all sorts of personality too. So that’s all good thing. If you want the world to feel alive, making it seem like it breathes with personality is a good way to do that.
Then there are the down sides of the visual. A massive down side here is that the animation is very lackluster. Nothing flows right or have that oompf and impact that most anime fights have. It’s all too stiff and using CG animation for robot moments don’t help these factors either. Especially since it’s very cheap CG that doesn’t meld well with the 2D Animation. There are so many characters to have awesome fights and all of this lackluster just doesn’t help it. I don’t think this is the lack of strong character in the show dragging these fights down, but it’s just strong lack of spectacle. At least give me some good food or animation to look at.
I think you are all know that I am just going to get this show my lowest rating right? Because I only found myself enjoying the show in moments, not in whole episodes. It was just a boring sort of ride all the way through otherwise and I think it’s because I’ve seen too many anime series. At this moment of writing, I’ve seen almost eight hundred series with other 200 total days watched. I know all the tricks that Cannon Busters is doing or know what it’s referencing when it goes through it’s plot. I’ve seen Gainax and Trigger anime with other series that reference other things while making them different in unique with their own since of greatness.
Cannon Busters doesn’t anything unique with it’s references and it just existing does nothing for me at all. Doing nothing with it’s characters is just another step off of a falling cliff. If you haven’t seen a lot of anime, I think you might enjoy this one. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s something anybody will get anything out of other then some mild entertainment maybe. Anyone would probably forget about it the time you finish Cannon Busters. I feel lucky and unlucky that I haven’t forgotten about it yet. Maybe I can now. If you want another view point of this series, Jon Spencer Reviews wrote a solid review that I think you read as well even if a lot of our points do match up quite a bit.