It was a cold and rainy November day, and I was trying to make the best of it by going for a bicycle ride. Despite my high spirits, I ended up getting rained on and the day was called short, and bicycling back, I stopped by The Dollar Tree to find some snacks to lift my cold and weary spirit. And while finding those, I also, of course, checked out the box of DVDs they had. Now, I might just be making this up, but I think this box of DVDs was just left on the shelf, because it was surrounded by auto accessories. Shifting through the box, I found something that looked promising: "Tenkai Knights", something that would provide for my mind what Dollar Tree potato chips would provide for my body: a cheap and lazy way to feel warm.
So what is Tenkai Knights about? Within a few minutes of watching, I got the basics: Transformer meets LEGO meets Sailor Moon (only with teenage boys). It is an anime, or animeish, story about four color-coded heroes fighting evil and finding the true meaning of friendship. First we are introduced to Guren Nash, a middle school student whose father transfers to work, moves to a new school. Guren might be Japanese, or might be North American, and all of this might be taking place in Japan, or North America. Guren feels dejected at having to make friends, but when he and Ceylen Jones, a kid from his school, find a mysterious shop, they get magical artifacts that lead them to the world of Quarton, a big cube in space where two rival factions of transforming warriors fight each other. The boys find that they are now mentally fused with armor suits, and must battle the forces of The Corrupters, to recapture fragments of an ancient technodragon. The suits, and the enemy warriors, have design reminiscent of interlocking bricks, or, as they are usually called, LEGO. Later, I found that this anime was produced as a line promoting a line of interlocking brick toys. Along the way, the boys meet two other middle school boys/robot armor warriors, and together, they must fight evil, while discovering the meaning of teamwork and friendship. Will the final battle come down to them learning to fuse into a giant, Voltron like robot to overcome what seems like certain defeat? And will this fusion depend on the boys finally learning to trust each other fully? I think you can guess the answers to these questions.
At this point, someone might think "An anime bought at the Dollar Tree used to promote a line of LEGO knock-off toys, based on a combination of every cliche available? I bet, sarcastically, this must have had great production values!" And, I would have to answer your sarcasm by saying, first, the term is "interlocking bricks" and I have had good experiences with them at The Dollar Tree in the past, and secondly, everything here was technically well-done. There are points where the background wasn't animated, the characters talking and moving in front of a static background, but that seemed like a possible stylistic choice. The plot is cheesy, but its done well enough. The voice-acting is good.
The real problem is with me. I keep on desperately wishing to find the most brainless and escapist of entertainment, to stop worrying for 72 minutes of run time, to enjoy a simple story of good versus evil, to float happily in a warm cocoon of rapturous laze in something that is childish and inane. And yet, when I sat down to watch this, despite my happy attempts to be stupid, I found myself unable to absorb. About 40 minutes into it, I started looking at the clock, waiting for it to tick down to the finale. By the time the plot came to its predictable close, I was ready to do anything but watch color-coded anime battles for technomagic dragon fragments.
So, my overall review would be: this is a competent, serviceable anime for the middle school years that doesn't break any new ground, but that is sadly unable to make an unemployed 41 year old man forget the unfulfillment of his life.