Sprite: Between Two Worlds
I believe it best to explain all the positive aspects of this show, before I point out how it utterly crushed my soul. Sprite: Between Two Worlds is a 2 episode OVA from 1996, created by Toei and directed by Takeshi Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi has worked on quite a few big titles over the years, even directing a season of Slayers, but he hasn’t directed anything recently. Anyway this little anime begins like so many others with our main character, the perverted Toru moving in with his distant relatives in Tokyo. He comes from the sticks, and is a little taken back by the big city life, but this isn’t interesting so the show won’t focus on this aspect or anything original like that. Instead his first few seconds at his relatives house, he see’s his distant cousin, Manami, and take a liking to her. Their first meeting is very typical, Toru sprays her with the hose by accident, she has a white T-shirt on, we see bra, sexualization ensues. Anyway Manami is a shy, modest school girl who the boys seem to realy like. But she’d never do anything with them. After some plot stuff, we learn Manami is being bullied, most likely because of all the attention she get’s from the boys. During some of the worst of the bullying, Manami all of a sudden just changes personalties. It seems she’s hit her edge, and can’t take it anymore. Her split personality is known as Nami, a hypersexual, rude, arrogant and tough person. Pretty much the polar opposite of the weak (both emotionally and physically) Manami. Perhaps this split personality is a good thing for everyone. It’s a way for her to deal with the bullying (Nami is not afraid of responding to the bullies with tough action), way for her to finally do all the things she feels she can’t (repressed japanese anyone?), and just a way to be free. And hey maybe Toru can finally get some action? But wait a minute, what about Manami…oh wait who cares someone needs to show us some panties.
And that’s the premise in a nutshell. The anime is very cartoony, and it often breaks the fourth wall with “pop up comments” that make the show quite funny. And it’s exaggerated faces and other anime cliches are also quite humorous. I actually laughed a few times at this show. The show is also very fanservicey, if you hadn’t figured that one out already. I’m very far from a fan of fanservice, but I will admit the fanservice here was actually good. One of the best aspects of the show is it’s focus on multiple personality disorder. It tends to delve a little in the psychology behind split personalities. (***Slight Spoiler***) For example the source of the split personalty is examined. The series makes a good point about how these sorts of psychological problems often stem from issues during a person’s childhood. And the series doesn’t miss the chance to make even this perverted. (***Spoilers Over***). Another interesting aspect of psychology explored is the fact that split personalities may actually help people deal with issues beyond their control. Maybe having another personality is a good way for someone to adress problems that they can’t on their own, and the other personality does what is best for the individual? But I’m no expert here. Finally it even get’s a little philosophical with us, contemplating the deep question “if a personality dies, should you mourn them?” . I find this to be a great question. If one part of you dies, is that really a death, or is it just a cure? Is it good, or bad that someone stops having another personality. This is a wonderfully interesting concept the show brings up, which is usually thrown aside for us to see some boobies. But when the show brigs it up, and the whole split personality aspect for that matter, it’s much better for it.
The art in this is rather average, yet there’s something about it I like. Perhaps it’s the old school look of the entire thing, or maybe it’s the pastel colors that represents the 90’s for me. Whatever it is, there is something very appealing about the very generic look of this whole show. The character designs are average, although Toru looks really strange with those really weird and huge eyes. Also I must comment on Nami’s one red dress, when you see her walking in it in the rain, it looks quite nice. The animation is about average for this OVA. The music actually isn’t half bad. I find it very catchy. As for the dub, there’s some major problems here. But it’s not a total wash. Tara Jayne for example is the absolute perfect person to play Nami/Manami. She tones herself down wonderfully to play the shy Manami, and her more usual style fits Nami quite well. I really like her in this role. Toru is played by Gabriel J. Seador, who I am not familiar with. Seador gives Toru a strange voice. It’s a very different sounding voice, one I am not used to at all. Still it fits Toru, and I could really imagine that voice coming out that perverted character. (For those who know me, the notion of me finding a voice weird is really hilarious, considering I sound like a 12 year old boy who sucked on helium balloons for a few minutes). But my problem with Seador isn’t so much his odd voice, but rather his poor acting. More then a few times he gives really awkward lines, or his voice just cracks in the middle of a delivery. His acting is less then steller. He’s not horrible, and there’s more then a few lines in here that he delivers admirably. But this is far from quality acting in my book. The main bully of the anime is Chiaki, and in the dub she’s played by Lola Rivera. Mrs. Rivera (I doubt that’s her real name) does a decent job, but she’s not my favorite of the dub. And again she has a few (although not as many) awkward lines throughout the show. Mina Sands plays Manami’s Mother, and I thought she was really great. Overall the dub is a real mixed bag. Some of the background characters are frankly, terrible though. It was dubbed by Matlin Recording Studios (in NYC), who never really got much anime work. I wonder if even CPM got tired of their problematic dubs? (Although their dub on Maze was quite good). Central Park Media released this show on VHS, and later on DVD at least twice. I find the 2001 DVD Cover to be much nicer, then 2004 cover (version I own). I’m not sure if the video quality is better on my DVD though. You can still find this show for sale on amazon (1, 2 ), although it’s been out of print for years and will almost surely never be rereleased here.
Now why don’t I like this show? It’s not terrible, no far from it (I wouldn’t review and waste your time it if it was). But the show has wasted a great chance to examine a wonderfully interesting psychological condition. This could have been an immensely engaging series that delves deep into what it means to no longer exist, if you are a fabricated personality to beging with, along with having a very sexual element to it. But no, boobies are more important. It is really the wasted opportunity that kills my soul. Although the way-too-overly sexualization of the characters, jokes that often flop, and generic-ness of the whole thing certainly don’t make me a happy critic. Still at a running time clocking in at a little under 40 minutes for a whole show, you could do worse then watch Sprite. And there’s plenty here to like. I somehow manage not to hate it, and actually find it sort of watchable, if annoying. Don’t let the whole soul crushing thing get you down. It’s a show worth watching, but only if Pawn Stars isn’t on TV right now or something. But if Rick is buying a Minigun from the civil war, put this anime on pause. I guarantee you, watching the hijinks and history of Gold and Silver is more interesting. And beware there’s nudity in Sprite. Hide the kiddies!
Positives: Sometimes very funny, focus on split personalties, gotta love the 90’s, interesting characters.
Negatives: The wasted opportunity to do something really special crushes your soul. Also somewhat generic, too much fanservice, some jokes flop. But really that soul crushing thing is the big one!