The giant robot genre gets another title that likes to philosophise, this time throwing reality on its head very little, but in some strange ways.
Roger Smith is a negotiator in Paradigm city: a city of amnesia. Forty years ago humanity lost its memories, and since then they and their similarly afflicted androids have pulled their lives back into some semblance of normality. However, during what should have been a routine negotiation Roger finds himself taking an android girl called Dorothy, the only android to be created since the amnesia struck. She proves to be a piece of a vast puzzle as Roger goes about his work, both negotiating and using fragments of his memories to pilot the immense robot named the ĎBig Oí. But why he is able to do so he has no idea, a fact that he will eventually have to confront as he comes up against Paradigm cityís administrators, an insane seeker of the truth, foreigners to Paradigm and ultimately the reason why everything that happened in the last forty years ever came to be.
Essentially these two series are the same story, the second being made based on the popularity of the first in the west after it ended on a cliff-hanger. For all the deep thought and bending of perceptions that this series contains it is for the most part just about Roger, Dorothy and what they get up to, usually with some reason to get Big O up and running for a large scale mecha battle. In fact the first season has almost none of the philosophising at all, and seems like a fairly regular mech show, albeit one with an interesting approach to its characters. The setting seems to be rather film noir in style, so the character and setting do seem to clash with the high technology at times, and it takes a while to get used to that, but it does give a lot of interest to what might otherwise be a rather generic mech show. At least up until they start messing with the concept of reality. Most episodes are pretty self contained, which means that the feeling for this anime doesnít quite hit the mark. The consistency of what they go up against each episode is rather lax, from big robots to maniacs to huge almost magically powerful beasts so it doesnít gel as well as it could.
There is also the fact that when it does mess about with our perceptions it doesnít quite have the finesse or the depth of a show like Evangelion or Lain. It can seem a bit like itís playing the same tune a bit too often without giving enough away each time it does, and likes to substitute answers for mech battles or other such action. Much of the deep stuff happens in the last few episodes of the second series, and only peppers the setting with it before that, adding more and more hints to the oblique picture rather than giving us something to get thinking about as the show progresses. That said the characters are great. The repartee between Roger and Dorothy is superb, and most of the cast are either entertaining in the way they play about with expected behaviour or are just plain fun to watch. Very few characters feel plain, although they are in larger supporting roles. The mech action is passable since I have little interest in it as a genre, but the characters are very nice. Itís just a shame that the Bigs get thrust into centre stage so often, because it is nice seeing how the characters deal with the situations when they donít have that kind of power or focus for testosterone.
This show is fine for teens. Plenty of random violence and one or two really psychotic villains, but it never really gets nasty. However, plenty of adults might have the mind bending go over their heads, so the younger crowds will very likely get lost by that.
The animation is very atypical for an anime. It looks pretty westernised, like the kind of thing seen in Batman of the Future for those who know that one. Like the setting it takes some getting used to coming from a Ďregularí anime style but I actually became quite attached to this form of stylising and the characters all look good for who they are. Visually this is a good one for a TV series.
This dub is one of Bandaiís good ones, drawing on main voice talent that will be recognisable from some of their other releases. Roger and in particular Dorothy sound right for most of the time, and for once the supporting and minor cast are all voiced to a fairly good standard. Itís not perfect by a fair way, but itís better than most. On the other side of the sound is the music, which is fitting and gets the mood going very well, but itís just used to often. There are several signature tunes and they get played a lot. That didnít really bother me, but some people might find that it gets old quickly, especially if they watch these seriesí fast. And the opening theme is really hammy. Every time I hear it I want to break into a chorus from the Flash Gordon movie, they sound so similar. ďFlash, ahh-ahhh, heíll save every one of us!Ē
In the end this is a good show that will please mech fans, those wanting a more cerebral show and people who just like something a bit different. The problem is that it needs to be flawed in order for the premise to work. Much of what feels slightly off about it needs to, because when the end comes that is part of what makes up a fair bit of the many and various interpretations of the ending. It makes sense for it to be episodic, oblique and occasionally confusing, and it could be said that it tries to hard to be meaningful because that is the point of it, but in the end no matter how you read into the ending it just doesnít quite feel as good as it could. Some will hate the rather sudden appearance of the reality bending ending, with all the self referencing and soul searching that leads up to it in the final few episodes, and it may well not make a great deal of sense the first time you watch it. On the other hand I like that kind of thing, with its various interpretations and tipping the world in its head every now and then to get there. Personally Iíd recommend it if you liked Eva, but expect a more formulaic approach to each episode and a similarly strange ending, or if you donít want to bother with all that brain teasing you could just watch the first season and miss most of that!