Back around April when the spring anime season was kicking off, I had made a bet with my good friend Hardy regarding a Dub Talk episode we were planning for Ultimate Otaku Teacher. The bet was, whoever got the most predictions correct got to subject the loser to a series of their choosing. However, both of us lost very badly so we decided to go through with the bet either way. I ended up giving Hardy School Days, Zenith was given season one of High School DxD, and Hardy ended up giving me the series I’m reviewing today. I didn’t have to review it, sure, but you know what? Screw it! I’ll take this on!
Wanna Be the Strongest in the World is a 12 episode Sports anime based on the original manga by ESE and published by Earth Star Entertainment. The anime from director Rion Kujo and studio Arms aired during the fall 2013 season. As of this review, the series has been licensed by FUNimation Entertainment (NA) and Madman Entertainment (AUS) with the english dub of the series directed by Joel McDonald.
Sakura Hagiwara is a pop idol and member of the fictional Japanese idol group Sweet Diva. However, one day, a female wrestler named Rio Kazama beats up Elena Miyazawa, a fellow Sweet Diva member and Sakura's rival. To avenge Elena, Sakura is introduced to the Berserk Wrestlers team, of which Rio is a part of. Eventually, Sakura proves to be a natural athlete with potential and joins the team.
Studio Arms is rather infamous when it comes to their properties, because they tend to produce a certain kind of anime. That being the rather ecchi and fan service kind where full on boobs are shown. Elfen Lied is probably one of the most well known series from this studio that goes really out there. Wanna Be the Strongest doesn’t go that far, however the tons of fan service are there, and the series is animated to highlight it. While, at times, it does work, other times the unrealistic preportions can be rather cringe worthy. But while the animation is used to highlight the fan service, the rest of the series looks about average. Anything outside of the wrestling matches or shower scenes where those boobs are let loose is just ok looking, telling me that the majority of the budget certainly went to one specific area. I do, at least, have to commend the animation used for the wrestling matches as it does manage to be fluid, keeping it from getting stiff at times. The soundtrack, on the other hand, isn’t something to really write home about as it is rather forgettable. Using many tracks that you see in typical slice of life or even drama series, there isn’t a lot of innovation in that department.
While this genre isn’t my cup of tea, and most of the series isn’t that wonderful, Wanna Be the Strongest does, at least, sport a rather solid dub. More so then it deserves, but that’s just me. With a variety of veteran and relative newcomers hiding away, there are solid performances from Lydia Mackay, Morgan Garrett, and Cristina Vee among others. Martha Harms (Assassination Classroom, Guilty Crown) turns out the best performance of the dub with her portrayal of Rio Kazama, with both a mix of tough badass along with her awkward lack of social skills. Meanwhile, Leah Clark (Maria the Virgin Witch, Baka and Test) takes on a very different role than I have seen her in as Misaki Toyoda. While there were points where the mature demeanor seemed a little bit odd for her normal range, Clark manages to win me over in the end. As for our two so called leads, Monica Rial’s (Tokyo Ghoul, Yona of the Dawn) take on Elena worked for the most part. It was rather logical to place Rial in this role however there were two things working against her here; the first was some of the more serious moments the character had didn’t quite work in the tone of voice being used and second being Elizabeth Lewis (EDIT 10/3/15: Lindsey Seidel [Assassination Classroom, Selector Infected WIXOSS] used the name Lewis for this role). Lewis, who has Wanna Be the Strongest as her only voice acting credit, and her performance of Sakura was the most difficult to sit through. There were two versions of her performance and both were equally irritating. Her normal voice was more obnoxious the longer I sat through the series, and when she wasn’t outside the ring, she was in the ring screeching and making it even more grating on my ears. I know Joel McDonald did the best he could with the series, in general (and honestly he deserves better shows to direct than this), but I feel like if Lewis and Rial were flipped, it would be a little less painful to sit through.
Once the match is over, Wanna Be the Strongest in the World aims for a specific demographic and manages to accomplish that well enough. While the story and characters could have used much more development and writing, it at least is aware of what it is and doesn’t give a damn about good story. Never leaving cliches or even considering obvious ideas until the bitter end, this is a series that is moderately ok if you want some mindless entertainment. The only real saving grace for this series is the animation, which works in it’s fan servicey favor, and the dub, which I think the people involved deserve better things to work on. In the end, this series isn’t my cup of tea, but I do at least understand it’s aim and it’s one that doesn’t do the worst job in achieving it.
Also, f**k you, Hardy. I got through my end of the deal! Now go watch School Days!
Next time, we deal with some crazy mad scientist or something. Until then, otaku on my friends!
Final Rating - 4/10 All the pain and torment I can handle…