Of fighting teens and would-be rulers of Heaven

The conventions of shonen or boy’s anime require that the hero improve his skills as the show goes on. This entails beating up challengers who later become pals or rivals. The conversation in these shows usually features such gems as, “I’ll never forgive you!” and “I’ll avenge my master.” Expect simple or even crude-looking character designs and a color palette straight out of primary school.

Since this is not shoujo drama, you won’t see teary-eyed girls sobbing out, “Why?” to the hero. If there is a love interest, she would either be too shy to confess her love to the lead character or be too bossy and tough that she routinely smacks him upside the head. Aaah young love.

“Law of Ueki” is a show that never strays from these conventions. The current ruler of the Heavens or Celestial World has decided that his successor is whoever wins a certain competition. But here’s the catch. The candidates for ruler won’t be duking it out. That honor falls to their representatives, junior high school students they selected and given one power or talent.

The candidates cannot interfere in the fights between their representatives or they will be disqualified from the running and sent to hell.

Our unlikely hero is a green-haired 13-year-old named Kosuke Ueki who acts simple but has a good heart. His teacher, Kobayashi, is actually one of the ruler candidates. He picks Ueki as his rep and gives the boy the power to turn trash into trees. As with most shonen shows, this master and pupil relationship is an important one for the hero.

The trick to enjoying “Law of Ueki” is not to think too much about the plot or take it seriously. Just keep in mind the rules of the contest. Reps who get knocked out lose their power and are gone from the competition. Winners earn a skill after each successful bout. In Ueki’s case, it’s usually some useless skill. Any rep who goes after someone without power loses a talent or skill. In our teen’s case, he lost his ability to run fast and his math skills since he meted out justice to scummy people who abused those weaker than them. Cue the heroic music.

Ueki is not really human but the offspring of a Celestial Being who wanted a leg up on the competition. But this being’s plan backfired since he wasn’t picked to be a candidate for ruler of the Celestial World. Ueki gets adopted by a human family and raised to be a good kid. This background means Ueki can actually power up and have certain weapons only accessible to Celestial Beings. As he progresses in skills, he learns to wield these weapons. Obviously, a level two Celestial doesn’t have the arsenal of a level eight Celestial. There are 10 levels.

Along the way, Ueki befriends other reps and ruler candidates as well as learns more rules. But since this is an action show, there’s lots of fighting going on.

What gets old fast is the characters announcing their power every time they use it. For instance, one girl has the ability to turn beads into bombs so when she tosses the beads at her opponents, she has to yell out, “The power to turn beads into bombs!” Why do we have to know each and every time she does this? Last time I checked, I don’t suffer from short term memory loss.

And whoever drew the characters must have dropped out of art class. With few exceptions, they all looked like they got beaten with the ugly stick as babies.

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