Might contain spoilers.
It could easily be written off as generic shounen anime, but despite its many flaws, Getbackers is unique, idiosyncratic, and unforgettable. Its love for jazz and art are a recurring theme. Its animation seems basic; yet, you will regularly see unusual angles, interesting lighting effects, and novel perspectives and compositions to enhance the story.
That said, many of the trappings of the genre are admittedly present here. There’s the panning over still frames and the ridiculously verbose and technical descriptions of skills and exchanges, repeated in every fight. The absurdly grandiose and meaningless declarations. The overreliance on flashbacks we’ve seen many times before. The egregious amount of padding, to the point that I actively skipped episodes. In truth, the show could have been half the length and vastly more compelling with crisp editing.
Moreover, Getbackers has the very ordinary problem of squandering interesting characters and abilities in boring fights. The environments are rarely interactive. Most every fight comes down to moving and punching harder or faster, or someone ‘holding back’. My opinion on action may have been coloured by the superb animation of shows such as Avatar: The Last Airbender or Justice League , films such as Promare , and more recently the game DotA 2, but anyone can see the potential here.
It’s a shame the musical palette is so meagre. The scant score is well done, but it seems obligatory for each of the six available musical pieces to appear in every single episode. Unfortunately, while there are several opening and ending themes, they’re consistently terrible.
One small mercy is that the show doesn’t sexualize young girls, a disgustingly common anime trope. I even enjoyed seeing ‘High School Girl’ on the bumper in the episode where she hired them to retrieve a briefcase. It would have been nice if the disregard for convention had extended a little further: if Kazuki and everyone who followed him are queer, why not make that explicit rather than subtext?
I’m always confused by the size of the Limitless Fortress. The exteriors make it resemble an especially tall but not wide skyscraper, judging by the windows. Meanwhile, the interiors resemble a sturdy city that even holds another city (Babylon City) inside it, whereas the Beltline seems fairly small.
It’s both silly and pleasantly comforting how no one from a character’s past is ever genuinely an enemy (which is why they can never die: I lost count of how many times someone who was ‘fatally’ wounded reappeared to recover after the climax of the arc). In contrast, it’s incomprehensible to me how Dr. Jackal becomes part of the family, for all intents and purposes, considering he’s a sadistic mass murderer who torments Ginji.
Nevertheless, the greatest pity is that it ends after 49 episodes. Watching it this time—my fourth, if I recall correctly—I was disappointed to find I remembered the final arc as being much longer than the four or five episodes it actually lasted. That was a very large and important plot to leave unresolved, and I wish we could have seen it through. It might have been spectacular. As things stand, the ‘IL’ arc, from around midway through, is easily the best part of an imperfect but quirky, heartfelt, imaginative, and engaging show.
An alternative review from Shiv, circa 2005
Like sowbi, I too came across this series completely by accident. I turned on the TV one day and started channel surfing, and suddenly saw a new channel—‘Animax’—with these two guys with cool powers fighting off a few thugs. The voice acting was pretty laughable, but the series captured my imagination. I started watching from the "Venus di Milo" episodes, missed quite a bit, then watched around 47 of the 49 episodes almost religiously! As I said, the voice acting was pretty laughable. However, it wasn’t because the actors were bad. It was laughable for the simple reason that Animax appears to use the same three or four actors to do the voices for every single character in every single series. The actors themselves are extremely talented—they’d have to be, in this situation!—but it’s a little weird to hear one of the villains being voiced by the same guy who gives the voice for one of the heroes (no, they’re not supposed to be related or anything like that).
Get Backers is, as mentioned earlier, one of my favourite anime series. The cast of characters is amazing. Every single character encountered is fascinating. The animation isn’t all that great; the art is quite inconsistent. However, far from dragging the series down, it actually improves on it by lending it personality. Also, the series ending (which has a fairly long buildup) is probably the most well-executed ending I’ve ever seen.
In closing, let me voice my only complaint: Get Backers only lasted for one season of 49 episodes. I want more!
My IMDb review of the series, added here for posterity after publication and very slightly amended for our Unicode era (as well as to add the link).