As a bit of a break from long-running adaptations I saw S-CRY-ed had been added to Crunchyroll here in the UK a while ago and I remembered really enjoying the series when it aired on the ill-fated Anime Central channel many years ago, so I decided to give it a re-watch! I have to say the first half here takes a while to get going and me fourteen years later is now far more familiar with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and therefore the similarity of the Alter powers seen here to the Stand powers from that are extremely apparent! Still, let’s have a look!
It has been several years since “The Great Uprising”, a geological phenomenon in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo that not only separated the region into an island but also granted a chunk of its population special powers known as “Alter”. Now those in the “Mainland” have created a group named HOLY that hires Alters in order to police the Native Alters of what is now dubbed the “Lost Ground”, whether they want to be or not…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Our lead character, complete with cocky attitude and Mad Max jacket!
The setting is very Mad Max, with lots of destroyed buildings, deserty landscape and our main protagonist, Kazuma, has got the whole leather jacket with bits of armour on look to boot, so it’s fun visually from the get-go. The key relationship in the series is between Kazuma and HOLY member Ryuho, one is a wild and reckless “native Alter” who believes people should be free to do what they want while the other is a strict by-the-books officer who believes justice can only be achieved by order. They both have suffered loss due to their powers at a young age and took two very different paths to do something about it, so when they clash, as they do a few times in these episodes, it is entertaining in a very subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-face kind of way. Kazuma’s Alter power gives his arm some armour and allows him to do three very powerful punches via what he calls “Shell Bullets”, where as Ryuho just has a straight up Stand called Zetsuei that can fight with long range attacks like weird ribbon-like tendrils and what looks to be missiles.
In between their fights we have some episodes establishing them both, their past, powers and current friends and allies. Kazuma has a little sister-like relationship with a girl named Kanami and a best friend named Kimishima who gets him mercenary work, while Ryuho has his HOLY colleagues including Scheris, a young girl who is in love with him, Straight Cougar, a cocky would-be ladies man, and their boss Martin Zigmarl, who is your classic straight-laced boss type. Then there is Asuka Tachibana, who is your classic arrogant young man who becomes reformed when he and Kazuma bond when they’re left having to help each other out of a dire situation; and Mimori Kiryu, who is an old childhood friend of Ryuho who returns to the “Lost Ground” after many years away to see him but ends up sympathising with the Native Alters instead of what her old friend has become. It’s an odd and varied cast, though not without issues I’ll get to later…
Ryuho gives a faint smile as he tries to pretend Cougar doesn’t look like a complete knob.
Like I said the main crux of the show is Kazuma and Ryuho fighting. They fight in episode 2 and Kazuma is captured, eventually escaping HOLY HQ and striking Ryuho on the way out. Episode 6 sees them have a big fight then ends when Tachibana interrupts and causes himself and Kazuma to fall into a cave (leading to their bonding already mentioned), then they have an even bigger fight in Episode 13, where Kazuma had gained new power by confronting an Alter Stand that seemingly exists without an owner (and was responsible for killing Ryuho’s mother, sending him down this path) while also being filled with rage after Kimishima was killed in the previous episode. That last one ends with a “Second Uprising” due to their powers going out of control that seemingly kills them both, which is a nice mid-way cliffhanger!
Other sub-plots see Mimori finding a shocking truth about captured Alters that we won’t know until next half and being imprisoned for it, only to be rescued by Cougar, who despite everything seems to be a nice guy (and knows Kazuma from before HOLY…) and Kanami acts as narrator telling us about a “man she sees in her dreams” that also plays out more in the second half. The rest are mostly just Kazuma fighting a different Alter user each week, most of which weren’t that interesting. A fight against HOLY member Emergy Maxfel was fun though, his Alter took the form of a giant robot that only appeared when Maxfel was in a “super pinch”, all based on a traumatic childhood event. It was surprisingly deep for a one-off villain.
It’s funny just how different watching this show is with knowledge of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I mean, that’s very nearly just Jotaro’s Stand!
I think through these older eyes the biggest flaw in the series is how one-dimensional everyone is. Kazuma is just an angry wild child, Ryuho is straight laced, Kanami is the sweet young girl, Mimori is the gentle love interest, Cougar is the comedy ladies man and so on, and they just never develop past these simple archetypes. Some of the character designs are really weird as well, Cougar especially, he must be in the contention for the most over-designed character in history, and one-off villains Tatsunami and Unkei are way over-the-top in personality, the former talking about his “Big Magnum” (his Alter which takes the form of a giant floating gun, not his penis) and the latter his Alter having the power to compel people to follow his script meaning he got a crazy writer personality. They weren’t the too bad given it was just an episode each, but still… tone it down a little!
The animation is a bit poor too. Being created in the early 2000s means it’s crossing the line from traditional animation to computer-assisted animation so everything’s got that plasticy look and a lot of faces and bodies are misaligned when they’re at a distance (or sometimes close up) Again this wasn’t something I picked up on way back when but it sticks out now. Add in the already mentioned frequency for fillery episodes where Kazuma just faced a new Alter user and defeats them and the story had some flow issues. At least when JoJo did a single Stand enemy episode they’re usually a lot more interesting in design and powers…
Kazuma and Ryuho (‘s Alter) clash, and not for the first or last time either!
S-CRY-ed gets off to a rocky start with its first half, lacking in any character depth and having some wildy inconsistent character designs and wonky animation. That being said there is a fun world being built and some episodes are entertaining in their simplicity. I remember that the story really picks up in latter half, so let’s hope at least that part of my memory holds up!