Superhero stories don’t exactly tend to extol the best of all virtues, if the excess of face punching hasn’t tipped anybody off. But while Spiderman at least preaches that with great power comes great responsibility, Zetman’s message is that there’s no amount of violence that can’t be justified under flimsy pretenses and jerky camera angles. It’s because of this that I feel more ambivalent about Zetman than anything else that’s aired thus far this season. While the core elements work to a certain extent and it doesn’t offend to the point that I want to stop watching, there are a million flaws that detract from the overall package.
From what I can glean about the story thus far, since I long ago gave up the practice of reading the manga before watching the adaptation, it’s about a test tube baby taken away from a research facility after the mutants manufactured therein, called Players, go crazy and turn everybody into piles of leaky red goop through means of impalement and dismemberment. The kid’s guardian, a professor who apparently decided to take up vagrancy as a career after his escape from the facility, has made some rather questionable parenting decisions. So instead of teaching the kid, Jin, various life lessons, he lets Jin have free reign and fight crime as long as he’s back by supper… or something like that. The show’s pretty vague about his intentions, really, so it all reeks of inconsistent development. Inconsistency as a whole defines the show more than anything, but I’ll get to that later, since it gets more pronounced as the episode wears on.
From there it quickly devolves into one mess after another, with Jin dealing with his guardian’s death before moving in with a woman that she saved from a group of thugs with silly hair. After being accosted in the street with no warning by an escaped Player, Jin fights the prehensile-tongued lizard thing before being taken to the hospital. And meanwhile, a Bruce Wayne in the making argues with his father about hanging out with Jin, because all aristocratic parents don’t understand the plight of the poor.
If it sounds like a jumbled bunch of half-baked narrative, that’s because it pretty much is. Before a situation can be given a semblance of gravity, it’s off to the next scene, jolting the audience’s attention to the point of whiplash. The only time that’s allowed to really build on a scene is when Jin takes a bath with Akemi, the woman that he moved in with. Even then it felt somewhat out of place, something that I don’t think needed to be included. It’s not that it was particularly mishandled, it’s just that it could have easily been left out in favor of developing other, more important parts. It’s a little strange when the most shoehorned scene is also the one that’s built on the most. Or maybe that’s just me being overly critical, I don’t know. Point is, the pacing’s an absolute wreck.
But hey, Zetman’s an action show. It’s nice if something of the ilk can have good, believable development given the inherent absurdities, but it’s forgivable if they’re absent so long as the action is interesting to watch. Most damning of all, this is where Zetman falls the flattest. We could have gotten well choreographed, visceral action scenes ala Samurai Champloo or even Tiger and Bunny. Hell, I would’ve settled for a little Ben-To. Instead, we’re given two sequences, each less than a minute long, made up of nothing but rapid cuts and odd camera angles. It flagrantly disregards the fundamental action rule that a fight scene should get your heart pounding, not your head, but at least it doesn’t dwell on its mediocre material for too long.
There may be little to like about Zetman as it is, but I can see how it’d be good if the crew would stop dicking around. If only it took the focus away from that bath scene and distributed evenly between the actual drama and action, then it’d feel like a much more fluid work. As it stands though, there’s not enough to recommend and depressingly low promise that the crew actually knows how to adapt the work into something remotely engaging. I mean if they want it to be as “gritty” and juvenile as Deadman Wonderland, they can just say so. To put it a more entertaining way, if something like Samurai Champloo is a refreshing dip in an icy pool, then Zetman is being thrown into shark infested waters with bags of chum tied to the ankles, while having a woodpecker hammering at the skull.