by Michelle Villanueva

In the near future, twelve powerful multi-conglomerates control the entire world. Mysteriously, a small segment of the human population have developed psychic abilities. Not just spoon-bending or other parlor tricks, but full-fledged, "controlling things with just the power of your mind" abilities. A handful of these psychics (also called mutants, or E's) are brought together under the umbrella of Ashurum's special forces unit, known as AESES. Here, under the watchful eye of team leader Eiji Sagimiya, teens are taught to control their powers in ways which would benefit others. Most notably, AESES goes after rogue psychics who use their abilities to the detriment of society.

It's a story reminiscent of X-Men: young people with special powers above and beyond those of ordinary human beings are hidden away for their own protection and then trained to use their abilities "for good." But are the goals of Ashurum really for the benefit of humanity?

The anime series E's Otherwise focuses on one of the young psychics brought in by Ashurum for training: Kai Kudou. Kai goes into AESES because Ashurum provides medical care for his chronically ill younger sister, Hikaru. As long as they treat her, Kai believes he's in Ashurum's debt. As Kai attempts to fit in with the highly-trained AESES group, he is constantly harassed by one of the more hot-tempered members of the team, Shen-Long Belvedere. Shen-Long (and his twin sister, Shen-Lu) are from the "outside," where Ashurum has little influence and people treat E's with bigoted scorn. Somewhat understandably, the twins have no love for humanity. Since Kai grew up completely protected behind Ashurum's walls, he was sheltered from persecution and cannot, at first, understand Shen-Long's intense hatred for humans. Over the course of the series, however, Kai will learn about the real world, and will have to decide what his role in that world should be.

E's Otherwise, based on the manga of the same name, seems your standard issue action anime. While the characters are mildly interesting, only a few of the AESES team members seem to really leap out at you. Perhaps it's no big surprise that one of the more intriguing characters isn't Kai or even the bombastic Shen-Long. It's mysterious team leader Eiji Sagimiya who catches the most attention with his strange fascination with Kai's younger sister. Why does he go out of his way (even apparently forgoing work) to spend time with her? The mystery deepens when Shen-Long claims that it's really Hikaru's psychic abilities that Ashurum is interested in, inferring that her powers far outweigh her brother's. This may be because it's only the first disc, but other than Eiji, Kai, and the twins, none of the other AESES team members have really fleshed out personalities. The rest of the E's all meld together as a bland, generic, background cast.

While the overall premise of the show is intriguing, it's by no means original. Along with the aforementioned X-Men, viewers of E's Otherwise may find similarities in elements of Witch Hunter Robin and S-CRY-ed. It's too early to guess where the anime is headed, though Kai is sure to get a rude awakening or two along the course of the series. In respect to the action and portrayal of the various E's abilities, the show doesn't disappoint, but without stronger characters, E's Otherwise seems destined to be yet another action anime with a main character who starts to question his role as a "hero."

E'S Otherwise Vol. 1: Operation Gald City
Satoru Yuiga, Square Enix, Marvelous Ent., Pierrot, Sotsu Agency, TV Tokyo
Distributed by
ADV Films
Release Info
Volume 1
Bilingual DVD
Dolby Digital 5.1 Eng./2.0 Jap.
Run Time: 125 min

MSRP: $29.98
Street Date: February 15, 2005