“I have a podcast.” The 2000s version of “I have a band.” It seems that anyone and everyone is a part of a podcast these days (Toonami Faithful included), so it can be challenging to find what you are looking for in terms of audio entertainment. Typically, when you think podcast (or at least for me), I think of a group of people discussing and analyzing a topic of something. However, what if you decided to put on a production, like a play instead of a talking head-type podcast? You’ll get that if you check out Xeno Realms: Sky Brother Force, a podcast project developed by English voice actor Ray Chase! We were approached to give an honest review about it, and considering my background of enjoying old radio productions in murder mystery theater and comedy (such as Nick Danger: Third Eye), I thought it would be fun to check this out and inform our fans on what to expect if they are interested. It’s always fun to hear prominent voices on Toonami venture out into new projects, and I was more surprised at how much I enjoyed the series!
Regarding the actual story, it’s a spoof on a space adventure series with anime tropes and comedy to give a rather wild picture to imagine; think Outlaw Star meets Space Balls, and you might have an idea of what to expect. It is hard to nail down exactly how to describe it accurately. However, there is a synopsis that might do a better job at telling the story over my characterization:
When the tyrannical alien Citizen Scorn threatens to enslave the Xeno Realms, it’s up to the teens of the Sky Brother Force to harness the awesome power of the mythical Space Beasts to save the day (even though they’d rather be pursuing careers as pop stars). It’s a mouth-full, but damn it tastes good. Teen hearts will be broken (repeatedly), Pokemon-inspired aliens will maul each other (violently), and ancient galactic prophecies will be fulfilled, in this Anime mash-up about family, legacy, and destiny.
You’ll get the typical tropes that come in anything anime-inspired, leading to Dash Ajitama taking center stage in the production—joined by his best friend Hiro and the new girl at school, Iris. The gang embarked on a wild adventure filled with battles, death, and discovery, with them learning more about their dimension and others. There’s a massive war going on, and it looks as if Dash is the prophesized individual to save the entire galaxy. And he might have been okay with that if he wasn’t trying to become a rock star. Sadly, fate dashes (no pun intended) Dash’s hopes, and it’s up to him and his friends to stop Citizen Scorn was taking over the galaxy.
As corny as that may sound (which was probably done on purpose), I found the story enjoyable to listen to as I reviewed it. It had the tropes you’d expect from anime, such as the power of friends working together, characters asking for things to be repeated to make sense, the gasps, etc. But it worked nicely with the added humor and tremendous acting from the cast. Plus, since this is all about audio stimulation, I loved how this series allowed my mind to imagine what things looked like, what was going on, etc., to flex my imagination which is seldom done these days. And while this story was quirky and enjoyable, the aspects I focused more on was the technical points of this production and how well it holds up.
The biggest thing that can make or break a podcast is how the audio sounds. A podcast is hard to enjoy if you can’t hear something or if any connection bugs out, giving dead air. Thankfully, you’ll have nothing to worry about in Xeno Realms: Sky Brother Force, as the quality felt that Bang Zoom! was available for everyone to record for the project. The characters, music, sound effects, everything sounded crisp and precise, giving the mind a ton to work with picturing what was happening in the series (more on that later). Both Logan Burdick (who created, directed, executive produced, and editor) and Ricky Watson (sound designer/mixer) made this production sound flawless. It was the quality you’d expect for a high-end performance and one I immensely enjoyed.
I was also impressed with the script-writing done by Jon Barnett, as a lot of the jokes hit well with me, primarily due to my background in anime and radio comedy. One of my favorite moments was when we learned about Professor General Ajitama’s family, where his brother mentioned that they weren’t twins but triplets out of the blue. It was the quick one-liner that comedy always will need. Also, hearing Jax hit on Niko left me smiling due to how smoothly the officer was grabbing Niko’s attention (in a cheesy way adding to the laughs). And I was dying from laughter when Drastic kept asking questions about the mark on his head from his father’s watch, wondering if he hit him. The series was littered with a ton of minor quips or one-liners that I greatly appreciated hearing giving a more authentic or improved feel to the entire production. And the actors did a great job delivering the liens (as one would expect from this cast), but I have to give a lot of credit to the writing due to how hard it can be. I was blown away by the ability.
What made this project more enjoyable was the length of each chapter. Xeno Realms: Sky Brother Force is nine episodes long, ranging from 20-26 minutes. That was the perfect time as size can become a significant issue for podcasts. Does anyone have time for one hour or longer to dedicate time for? Most casual listeners can’t spare as much time, so the fact that this team could nail the required time was a huge boon for me. It matched what a typical anime series would be, making this project easy for fans to check out.
And while I am singing the praise of the production, there are a few things I hope can change for future seasons (if that happens). There was one running joke throughout the series that felt off, which was the repeating of things over and over. The best example was when Iris and Hiro kept repeating Professor General Ajitama. It seems a bit childish, and while anime tends to do that type of joke, I think there are other ways to accomplish that feat less annoyingly. I’d suggest doing what Konosuba does when you have someone repeating the name a couple of times where the person being called replies, “yeah, that’s me, what do you want?” It’s a rather clever gag that the series pulled out, and while I may be biased, I think it’s a great way not to make the bit feel off.
Plus, I was surprised at the tonal whiplash that would hit at certain moments. You’d have your typical high school banter between Dash, Iris, Hiro, Drastic, Chance, etc., but then came some brutal deaths that took me off guard. When the synopsis says violently, they mean it. Hearing Professor General Ajitama dying was a bit much at the time, and while I didn’t hate it, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the theatrical acting and sound effects. It’s more to bode as a warning cause hearing the guts and body was more gruesome than I thought. And I wonder how that will resonate with other listeners. Maybe they want more than myself, who enjoyed the comedy aspect more. So while I’m knocking it a tad, I can admit that this is more of a personal preference for me than anything else.
Finally, I left the series on a sadder note due to how Dash ends up when the dust settles. I feel for the guy and hope that things turn around in his favor considering a lot of things went poorly for him from start to finish. I’ve become invested in Dash after following everything he’s done and feeling sad due to the amount of loss he’s faced. And considering how the last episode ended, it might be in the galaxy’s best interest to help out Dash instead of leaving things as is. However, there’s another threat looming, so our hero can get on the right foot in a new season if it happens.
I was impressed at the cast list for Xeno Realms: Sky Brother Force, as anime fans will recognize a ton from previous work, whether it be from Toonami or streaming now. Headlined by Ray Chase (Dash Ajitama), he is joined by other amazing actors and actresses like Robbie Daymond (Hiro), Ben Diskin (Hirato), Allegra Clark (Tina Thrash/Ms. Gold), Zeno Robinson (Galactisaur), Bryce Papenbrook (Drastic Thrash), and even Steve Blue as the narrator (just to name a few)! However, it was the performances of Erica Lindbeck (Iris), DC Douglas (Mr. Platinum), and Sungwon Cho (Citizen Scorn) that I enjoyed the most! Hearing Iris as the rock for both Dash and Hiro made the main cast much more balanced, and I loved her quick wit toward the two boys and Professor General. I understand why she was chosen over Dash and felt Lindbeck’s performance was spot on for what I’d want in a main heroine. Plus, Douglas’ rendition of the music mogul Mr. Platinum was a massive highlight due to his ability to deliver a line with that difficult-to-measure comedic timing. He nailed it and found his appearances to be some of my favorite. And finally, I could not get enough of the long speech about death and the limits of human lives between Citizen Scorn and Professor General Ajitama. I loved listening to Cho’s voice for the villainous role and had a rather soothing yet imposing tone that made the character more impactful. But the entire cast for this production did a fantastic job where; everyone deserves a round of applause.
Like the project “CONfessionals” spearheaded by Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh, or the hit phenomenon Critical Role, I found Xeno Realms: Sky Brother Force to fit the niche entertainment I rarely have these days. It gave a little extra for fans of any of the VA’s involved! I was impressed with all facets of this project and cannot recommend it enough to those who enjoy more audio entertainment. It was an easy listen, had some hilarious moments, and I loved the time and care put in to make it a full-on production that has the potential to reach more. I cannot wait to hear how things turn out in the second season (if one is made), and I hope other podcasts like this will come my way to make rides late at night go by faster.
Rating: Super enjoyable and an easy listen that made me laugh. And if you need a number (if you’re into that thing), 8.5/10.
Pros: Post-production was excellent, especially with the musical score; fantastic scriptwriting; length of episodes was perfect; wonderful voice acting; very clever anime references.
Cons: Some tonal whiplash that took me off guard; one joke where characters would just repeat things over and over (tended to get a bit annoying); leaving Dash where he is in the final episode.
You can check out Xeno Realms: Sky Brother Force on a multitude of platforms such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon, and Google Play, among other places where people get their podcasts. Check the link here to see where you can listen to it!
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