Just about worth the wait, this is a solidly-executed anime with an old-school feel and a fun misfit dynamic.
After a delayed release, the latest Netflix anime to grace the already-overcrowded thumbnails is the anticipated Cannon Busters, and it’s a pretty good one. Is it good enough to be included in the streaming giant’s next propaganda piece? You’d think so. But either way and jokes aside, Cannon Busters Season 1 manages to impress with an old-school flavour and a new-school misfit cast that makes for a nice balance of humour, action, worldbuilding and character development.
Welcome to Gearbolt, an interestingly-realized world brought to life with tried-and-true animation reminiscent of some genre classics. Our heroes are S.A.M., a high-end, state-of-the-art robot, and Casey (Stephanie Sheh), an outdated repair model, both of whom team up with Philly the Kid (Kenn Michael), a wanted fugitive who reluctantly agrees to help them track down S.A.M.’s best friend Kelby, the missing heir to the kingdom.
There are more wacky characters who float in and out of the plot as it progresses, and Cannon Busters progresses with a fair amount of wit and pace. A lot of the humour stems from that played-out miscommunication between robots and humans, which can get tedious but is mostly well-implemented here, and the character dynamics evolve in consistent and interesting ways. Healthy dollops of action help to break up the twelve episodes, which predictably lead to an open conclusion which might be unsatisfying for some but will also whet appetites for a second season, which Cannon Busters will hopefully get in a timelier fashion than its first.
Mostly hand-drawn, Cannon Busters Season 1 looks refreshingly old-fashioned, which isn’t a criticism, and even though some instances of CG can’t be fully hidden they don’t really take that old-school vibe away. The tone of misfit adventure is rampant here to great effect, reminiscent of a classic Japanese role-playing game party in some respects, helped along by some solid worldbuilding. It might not be the best anime of the year, but it’s up there, with the self-awareness not to overreach and the focus to deliver what it’s trying to be as efficiently and likably as possible.