Yuichi NakamuraKaori NazukaHiro ShimonoMamoru Miyano
The Marginal Service
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2023
Director: Masayuki Sakoi
Writer: Kenta Ihara
Actor: Hiro Shimono, Kaori Nazuka, Koki Uchiyama, Mamoru Miyano, Shinichiro Miki, Tomokazu Sugita, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Yuichi Nakamura, Yuma Uchida
Keywords: anime, rubbish, yokai, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=26554
Website category: Anime 2023
Review date: 20 February 2024
Marginal Service
The show fails. I don't see much room to disagree there. It's not even worth staying awake for, let alone watching. The cast is annoying, the plotting is forgettable and the whole thing's a homage to movie cliches that never really does anything with them beyond blindly parroting those cliches. Look, it's Men in Black! Or Predator and Commando! Or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Or Die Hard. Or Jaws. Or Dawn of the Dead. Or The Thing.
It could have been good, mind you. Ep.1 contained hints that they were going to have fun with their ideas... but they don't. Ultimately, it's stupid without being parodic. It doesn't have anything to say. Thus, for instance, Bolts Dexter and Robin Timbert are painfully one-note twats, almost reaching the level of the joke characters in Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra's Adventures in the Rifle Brigade. (Sergeant Crumb, Corporal Geezer and Hank the Yank have only one line of dialogue each, which they keep repeating.) The difference is that Ennis's version was funny.
Bolts Dexter is an American bodybuilder action hero, like Stallone, Schwarzenegger or the Rock... and he talks about nothing but bodybuilding. He likes protein drinks and will say "protein" in about 50% of his sentences. As for Robin Timbert, he's a former MI6 agent who loves himself and keeps bickering with Dexter. When posing as waiters at a high-class cocktail party, Dexter goes around serving protein drinks while Timbert (wearing a Union Jack) offers people English beer and recommends fish and chips. Is that meant to be parody? Those characters are so one-note that can't have been meant to take them seriously, but they don't get any jokes either. They're not funny. They're just twats.
They're not the lead heroes, though. That would be Brian Nightraider (no, really) and Zeno Stokes, a pair of ex-cops who seem to hate each other. Their characterisation and backstory is deeper than anyone else's, but that's not saying much. They ended up annoying me too. Both have been bolted together from 1980s cop movie cliches and they're why "those two twats" doesn't nail down who you're talking about in this show. You've got to be more specific.
The cast also includes The Sexy Woman (Lyra Candyheart and, yes, again that's really her name), the team's elderly administrator (Theodore Thompson), the gloomy team doctor (Cyrus N. Kuga) and their unfunny-but-at-least-deliberately-silly talking squirrel (Peck Desmont). Lyra starts out as the most tediously one-note character, but is soon overtaken in the race to be the most irritating regular. She also strips naked in ep.4, albeit with censorship light beams that mean you don't see anything. The only regular characters I didn't hate were Cyrus, Theodore and maybe Peck, depending on how generous I felt.
If I'd liked the cast, I'd have been okay with this show. The plot's okay. Nothing special and often stupid, but serviceable. (Stupidity #1: Brian's never heard of aliens, youkai, etc. in ep.1, but they're a legally recognised part of Japanese society who'll commit terrorist acts and even go on demonstrations against prejudiced laws. Stupidity #2: a key point in the finale involves sending a message about Earth's location to potentially aggressive aliens... but the aliens must have known we were here already and could send more motherships after that first one gets trashed. Stupidity #3: what's the deal with a twelve-episode TV series about Supernatural Entities Are People With Rights And Feelings Too, but its superintelligent spacegoing aliens are mindlessly hostile B-movie invaders?)
The show's principle is that supernatural beings (aka. Borderlanders) need a special task force to monitor them. That's our heroes, the Marginal Service. You could build a perfectly decent series on that.
In certain ways, this show isn't technically bad. (I liked Isabella, for instance, the hostile harpy Borderlander.) Its entertainment value, though, is miles below many shows that are objectively far worse. It's not just that I disliked the heroes. I had no interest in the show itself. I didn't care whether anyone lived or died and I didn't care about what happened in any of the episodes. It's an OTT cliche-fest that lacks the courage to commit fully to being comedic or camp. It's an unfunny comedy (arguably, perhaps) without jokes. It's forgotten to have a point.