#1 Lack of identity
The idea behind DNA² is one that conjures up a lot of question marks. It’s about a distant future where overpopulation is destroying the world. An issue that can be traced back to a boy called Junta Momonari; a legendary playboy whose offspring inherited his tireless libido. In order to save the world, a “DNA operator” called Karin travels back to Junta’s time. Her mission is to change Junta’s DNA in order to prevent him from ever procreating.
However, upon her arrival, Karin finds out that Junta is actually a gynophobic moron without a single point in charisma. He gets physically sick when interacting with girls. She proceeds with her plan anyway and alters his DNA, which actually has the reverse effect. It begins to turn him into the playboy that will doom the world.
It sounds like a funky idea for an ecchi anime, but DNA² doesn’t really know where to take itself. Junta gets romantic with various, boring side-characters while Karin tries to rectify her mistake. DNA² never pushes these ideas far however and always pulls back when things threaten to get too ecchi. Instead, these romances are used for short stories about helping these girls with emotional baggage. Such as one arc about a girl who is nervous for an upcoming performance.
On an episode-to-episode basis, I was left largely bored by the directionless nature of the show. It’s too toothless to work as an ecchi, the characters aren’t interesting enough for drama, the romance game is weak, and the comedy has… aged, if I am to put it kindly.
#2 The one decent character design
Masakazu Katsura’s character design I always find nostalgically old school. I haven’t seen his modern work yet, but when I first saw DNA² with a picture of Karin on the front, I was immediately curious. Her design is evocative, cute, and immediately makes you wonder what her story might be. A shame that she is the only character with these qualities that DNA² has to offer.
Karin is absolutely the best, but all the other girls in the plot have forgettable designs and no personality to compensate for that. Ami is a belligerent childhood friend, Tomoko is the resident popular girl of Junta’s school, and Kotomi is a gymnast who suffers from uncontrollable flatulence. Junta’s design is more out there, but feels shockingly B-tier for 90s anime.
His ridiculously spikey hair feels out-of-place in the setting since everybody not from the future tends to look so normal by comparison. It’s like throwing Yami Yugi into the middle of a Katsuhiro Otomo movie.
#3 Weak main villain
I had an inkling that DNA² might go downhill when episode 2 featured a very out-of-place action scene. Junta starts teleporting around the place to beat up goons with nothing beforehand signaling that such superpowers exist at all. Such action scenes then vanish until making a sudden return alongside supposed villain Ryuuji.
Ryuuji is Tomoko’s disloyal, possessive boyfriend, who grows jealous of Junta after Tomoko finally leaves him. I like his story context, but the way he is presented as a villain is handled poorly. After that showdown in episode 2, he disappears from the plot until the final few episodes. There he gains the power to shapeshift and begins causing problems while masquerading as Junta. Oh, and he gets poorly-justified superpowers on top of the shape-shifting thing. Being able to kick people through solid walls just came with the package apparently.
Ryuuji needed a more consistent build-up to make his role as main villain work, which also needed a different show entirely. Ryuuji goes from a selfish rich boy to a masked super-villain who takes on entire rooms full of tough guys. It’s yet another lurching shift to another genre & tone for an already conflicted show.
I could see this working if DNA² was an action-comedy anime to begin with. Perhaps having Karin try to stop Junta with force as his transformation into the mega playboy becomes harder to control, until eventually the two are forced to cooperate when Ryuuji becomes the greater threat to both of them. It would make better use of the cool sci-fi themes that are clearly Katsura’s forté and I know for a damn fact it’d be more interesting than watching Junta help a girl control her farts.