From sheer fun to sheer disappointment – K.O. Century Beast Warriors

Released throughout 1992 to 1993, K.O. Century Beast Warriors is a little-known comedic adventure OVA series featuring animal people, Team Rocket-like villains and surprisingly charming and enjoyable comedy… throughout most of its run, at least. It’s an underrated and under-watched, generally well made show that nonetheless has a crippling flaw that might leave you with a bad taste in your mouth in the end. But despite that, I’d say it’s still worth a watch because there’s far more good than bad to experience here

The story involves a war between humans and beast-men, magic, ancient technology, the spirit of the Earth and a bunch of other things that make little sense, but that’s hardly a problem until the very end because throughout 80% of the series, the main plot takes a backseat to charming, well-animated and generally enjoyable slapstick comedy and character interaction mixed with the occasional cool yet silly action scene. K.O. Beast is a cartoon that isn’t ashamed of being a cartoon – it’s littered with gags, goofy violence and the characters go off-model for the sake of comedic expressiveness more often than not. The protagonists, despite having pretty one-track minds, always manage to be fun to watch as opposed to annoying and the aforementioned villains are total douchebags of the surprisingly likable variety.

There is also a mecha element to the show. This sometimes leads to very brief yet enjoyable action scenes where the characters pilot the main mech in a suitably ridiculous manner. It’s actually very fitting for a carelessly fun show like this – when the wacky humor gets a little old, they make up for that by having the characters use giant robots to go and tear shit up.

But sadly, all this well-executed, mindless fun has to end. Prematurely no less. The aforementioned crippling flaw of this OVA series lies in its frankly godawful finale. For some odd reason that I can’t comprehend for the life of me, the staff decided to turn this lighthearted comedy into a dead serious, pointlessly melodramatic and outright painful to watch technology-vs-nature story at the very end. It’s out-of-place, it’s stupid, it’s badly animated and leaves you wondering what the hell happened to the show you were just watching a minute ago and why it was replaced with something that is not remotely fun in any way. As I mentioned earlier, even the animation quality takes a hit; even the climactic mecha battle at the very end is painfully mediocre. They tried to go for a hyper-detailed, heavily shaded, Masami Obari-esque look during this sequence, but they forgot to hire animators that are actually able to make hyper-detailed robots move well. What you’re left with is mostly a choppy, floaty slideshow of an action scene. There are two, maybe three very brief moments that are technically competent, but overall this is one of the blandest final battles I’ve ever seen. There are some more cheaply animated moments scattered throughout, but none are as grating as the final episode where the main characters lose all traces of the free-flowing dynamism they’ve shown in the past, especially in episodes 1 and 4 which have the best animation work by far.

In the end though, the good far outweighs the bad and K.O. Beast still gets to keep its title of “flawed yet worthwhile underrated gem” as opposed to the far lamer “total waste of potential”. Also worth noting is the freaking awesome opening which mixes a great song with some very cool animation from key animator Shin Matsuo and is one of those rare cases where a good opening is, in fact, perfectly indicative of what the show is actually like.

So all in all, give this show a watch – just don’t expect a well executed ending.

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