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"Mass Effect: Paragon Lost" Anime Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Funimation
As amazing as it sounds, there is actually something more awful and insulting in the Mass Effect universe for fans than the original ending to Mass Effect 3. The new anime, "Mass Effect: Paragon Lost", is the latest example of the extreme mishandling of the franchise over the last few years. Starring a character pretty much everyone hated, in a story that barely makes sense in the context of what we know happened during that same time and afterwards, and sporting some of the most bland and uninspired animation we've seen in a long time, "Paragon Lost" is a terribly wasted opportunity.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Funimation
  • Developer: T.O Entertainment, Production IG
  • Pros: Interesting details on the Collectors; almost makes you like Vega (until he totally blows it)
  • Cons: Awful CG; bland visuals in general; story doesn't add much to overall Mass Effect storyline; should have been released about 3 years earlier

Story

"Paragon Lost" takes place during the same time period as the early part of Mass Effect 2. Shepard is still believed to be dead, and the Collectors have just started abducting human colonies. The anime stars James Vega and his squad of Alliance soldiers who have been ordered to protect the colony of Fehl Prime. For two years everything is calm. Then the Collectors show up.

In a bit of a slap in the face of Mass Effect 2 fans, however, it seems like a lot of the important things Shepard accomplished or discovered (other than actually going through the Omega 4 relay, of course), apparently weren't that unique or important. Vega and his buddies fought off a Collector ship and won. Vega finds out the Collectors are actually Protheans. They even find out about the Terminator Reaper being built on the Collector homeworld. Vega and his buddies also, incredibly enough, made an antidote for the seeker swarms that paralyzed people. On one hand it sort of makes sense - Remember how the Illusive Man kept suddenly getting new intel that helped Shepard? Well, that is tied to what happens here. - but on the other hand, it is James Vega doing it all.

James-freaking-Vega. The anime was in the works prior to the release of Mass Effect 3, when most people decided that Vega totally sucked, but they pressed on with it anyway and Funimation eventually released it on December 28, 2012 - 9 months after Mass Effect 3 came out. After the awful reception Vega got, why bother to release the anime at all? The anime is supposed to reveal Vega's tragic backstory, but there is shockingly little character development here and what little progress Vega does take towards being semi-likeable (by being a genuine badass and not merely a dudebro) over the course of the movie is instantly and irreparably destroyed by the final five minutes of the film. If you didn't like Vega before, you'll probably hate his guts after watching "Paragon Lost".

Vega makes a gut wrenching choice - then immediately regrets it like a whiny git. Aside from that, considering the time frame of when this all happens, his choice didn't ultimately matter. Keep in mind that this happens roughly at the same time as Mass Effect 2. Well, Vega gives a ton of info to the Alliance about the Collectors and Reapers and all of that, and then Shepard gives them pretty much the same info later, yet the Alliance STILL doesn't believe that the Reapers are a threat until the Reapers show up at the beginning of Mass Effect 3. It is all just insultingly dumb to think that the Alliance and every other race has so much evidence (from multiple sources) of what is coming, yet they sit on their hands until they are almost at the brink of annihilation. I'll say it again. It is dumb.

That last paragraph comes from having knowledge of what happens after the events of "Paragon Lost" and Mass Effect 2, however, which brings up another issue with this movie. It should have been released about three years ago. If it would have been released alongside Mass Effect 2, everything would have made 100% more sense and not been so frustrating. It also would have made James Vega a character players actually cared about in Mass Effect 3 rather than just a random jock who I literally only used for his required missions and then switched to Liara and Garrus (the best characters in the whole series) for the rest of the game. Three years ago it would have been a fantastic addition to the ME universe and a great way to fill in some gaps in the story. Releasing it now, however, didn't really accomplish anything.

Visuals and Sound

So the story is a bust, but at least it should look good, right? Not really. Combining some of the most bland human character designs you could scrape up, the most hideously awful looking alien designs (the Krogan just look terrible with big beady white eyes ...), and an overuse of junky PS2-era CG graphics for vehicles and environments (not a problem exclusive to "Paragon Lost", unfortunately, but all of anime in general the last few years), "Paragon Lost" just doesn't look particularly good. Battle scenes have too many cuts and are generally shot too close up (think the first "Transformers" movie), so they are a bit hard to follow. Anime can do a lot better than this.

The sound is mostly okay, however. The sound effects for the easily recognizable Mass Effect weapons are all present and accounted for, which is a plus. The soundtrack was composed by the same folks who put together the music for the Mass Effect games, so it has that same futuristic electronic mixed with orchestral themes sound to it as the games. The voice work is only okay. English voices are the only option and the cast is made up of Funimation's regulars like Eric Vale, Monica Rial, Vic Mignogna, and Laura Bailey (who I love ... have I mentioned that before), among others, and they do a good enough job. Definitely not on par with the voice work in the games, though, unfortunately.

Bottom Line

"Mass Effect: Paragon Lost" certainly isn't the worst videogame-to-anime crossover we've seen, but it also isn't really anything fans of the franchise should be too excited about. You've more than likely already made up your mind about James Vega, and this movie won't really sway you either way. A clichéd tough choice for a clichéd character just isn't that interesting, sorry. Mass Effect fans will be able to find about a million plot holes and inconsistencies with the series here with little effort. And if you aren't already a fan, there is no reason whatsoever to watch this. You flat out won't understand any of it, and even as a generic sci-fi film about fighting against aliens, it is as forgettable as can be. Rent it if you are a die-hard Mass Effect fan, but you won't be missing much if you skip it entirely.
DVD version reviewed and purchased with authors own funds.
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