Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation, based on the game series of the same name, was not on my list of the five anime you should have been watching this year, but it may be the anime of last season that gamers will get the most out of. This is because it is chock full of hilarious, gaming-related humour.
Good — Original Story
The Neptunia game series is a magical girl fantasy story based on the video game industry. Each of the four major kingdoms is based on one of the four video game console makers: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sega. Each kingdom world is in turn ruled by a goddess who is an anthropomorphization of each company's system — the PS3, 360, Wii, and Neptune, respectively. Together they quite literally battle against game piracy in the form of Arfoire — the anthropomorphization of the R4 cartridge.
Neptunia: The Animation is neither sequel nor direct adaptation of any of the games in the series. Rather, it takes characters and plot points from across the series and builds an original story out of them. For fans of the games, this results in something both new and nostalgic, while at the same time building a story that can be understood and enjoyed by people who have never been exposed to Neptunia before.
Good — Full of Game Shout Outs and In Jokes
When it comes down to it, Neptunia is filled to the brim with video game humour. The Nintendo country's theme park is filled with bricks, mushrooms, and golden coins while one of the goddess of the Sony-styled world has a pet: her own blue-pant-wearing Bandicoot. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
On the other side of the gaming-related humour are in-jokes related to the game industry itself. This can be anything from the creation and release of the Kinect to an entire episode making fun of that time the supposedly secure PSN got hacked. So if you have a history with gaming and are keeping up with video game news, Neptunia is bound to get some good laughs out of you.
Mixed — Perverted Humour and Beyond
The rest of the humour tends to be of a far more titillating variety — that is to say Neptunia has a lot of fanservice. Provocative poses, bouncing breasts, and crotch shots are the norm in the anime. One entire episode is even dedicated to the cast visiting R-18 (aka adult content) island where nearly the island's entire population goes around nude.
However, rather than just being fanservice for its own sake, the fanservice is more often for the sake of the series' sexual humour.
Moreover, Neptunia is not afraid to make fun of itself and the tropes it embraces. In the aforementioned R-18 island episodes, two of the characters are not allowed in as they look like prepubescent girls despite their protestations that they are older. Neptune, the main character, will often break the fourth wall to point out a cliché character or contrived situation that the group encounters during its adventures.
So between the game humour, sexual humour, and fourth wall breaking humour, Neptunia manages to be pretty darn funny.
Bad — More than a Little Hokey
Outside of the humour, Neptunia oscillates between exciting action and over-the-top melodrama. While the action scenes are generally pretty entertaining, the drama portions are rather problematic. This is because important things like character motivations and personal revelations tend to come in the form of exposition dumps.
To form emotional connections with characters, it's important that we see why the characters feel the way they do — or show, don't tell, if you prefer. Simply being told how they feel doesn't carry the same weight; and thus the triumphant, dramatic moments in Neptunia often fall flat and seem more than a little rote.
Neptunia: The Animation is one giant in-joke; the more you are into gaming and the gaming industry, the more you will enjoy this anime. So if gaming isn't your thing, you'll be missing out on the best of what Neptunia has to offer. If you love video games and the industry surrounding them and don't mind liberal portions of fanservice and sexual humour, you should definitely give Neptunia: The Animation a watch.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be seen for free with English subtitles on Funimation.