ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Ahhh, The late 70’s! The decade where disco was beginning to become a trend and mecha were starting not to look like round bulky buckets. This series is a fine example of that time; everything feels like those plastic toys the older of us were playing with 20 years ago. Long before computer games had 3D objects or even multiple colors, miniature robots, cars and spaceships were the only way to play war with each other without throwing rocks or stabbing others with wooden swords. Yup! The feeling is there in the series. A combining Transformer-like leading mecha, fighting ships that reminded me of a hundred cheesy sci-fi b-movies of the 50’s. I’ll be damned if those aliens ain’t a variation of the Valkans in Star Trek or if the leading mecka ain’t a rip-off of that red Gundam from the original series. It looks completely ridiculous by today’s standards (Ideon is supposed to be of alien origin? Not with those looks!) but it is not awful. It has a childish silliness to it, which was pretty mainstream back then.
But what is Ideon anyway? It is another work of Tomino, the guy who made the Gundam franchise. He tried to pull out something more ground braking with this work but unfortunately he didn’t manage to get the needed support to keep trying and thus pretty much returned to his Gundam franchise. But it is really praising how he tried to take the social-political drama of Gundam to a more in-depth level and to even attempt to insert psychological breakdowns. It was a very experimental work indeed that the few who still remember it today appreciate it for its aesthetics and the KILL THEM ALL finale and not for the action or the character dramas.
As I said, disco fever is all over the place and that shows in the anime all the way. Huge afro? Check! Big sideburns? Check! Funky outfits with lifted collars and bell wide trousers? Check! The detail of the character figures is quite low and full of inconsistency errors, the outlines are annoyingly big and the colors bluntly few. Not to mention how stupid everyone’s faces looks. But the facial grimaces are pretty good for their time and the animators made a fine job with what they had. You really do understand how somebody feels by his/her body language; fear, sadness, happiness, it’s all clear. That’s something quite rare in old series.
Voice acting was ok in terms of dialogue, although many characters sounded too fake, which seems to be an ever present curse with all Tomino’s works. THE GUY JUST CAN’T WRITE NATURAL DIALOGUES! Music themes were silly bood-boiling attemps to make everything sound serious but without much success.
In the story, humans find ruins in a far away planet and are attacked by aliens that consider them invaders and looters of forbidden technology. Some youths find three vehicles that combine into a powerful mecha in the ruins and use it to defend their people. Yes, it starts quite typical and ridiculous but becomes very good soon after. The aliens are not monstrous inhuman freaks, bound on destroying humanity and ruling the galaxy. They are in fact humans themselves that simply evolved on a different planet. And unlike those lame megalomaniac villains of idealistic series, these guys have emotions, ideals and positive traits as well. It is not a series about good humans versus bad aliens; it is more of a civil war amongst people who have different ideals and refuse to collaborate out of sheer egoism. You don’t think “Take that you damn aliens!”
The story is essentially a war drama, without clear good guys and bad guys, a lot more mature than most other series of its era. At the same time, it has many similar themes with the original Gundam and even seems to make some back steps in terms of interest. For example, the lead mecha is again one, when the original Gundam had dozens different ones. Plus here it is a clash between humans and aliens while in Gundam it was humans vs humans, and although there are no actual differences in practice, it still felt harder to sympathize with.
A major problem with the series is its very slow plot development. Almost 70% of its total duration is essentially dead time and pointless battles around a single unbeatable mecha, which again makes it less thrilling than the Gundam. Still, the in-between time is not completely boring; just repetitive and thus prone to skipping.
Almost all the characters have a story to tell, including most minor ones. Although none has an in-depth personality or a believable backdrop story, none is without one as well. Humans are your average liberal, open-minded Japanese people of post-war Japan. Aliens are the usual stuck with honor and ideals samurai of feudal Japan. In fact, the entire war feels like a clash of the two different lifestyles Japan experianced in a flash; 20th century way of thinking versus 17th century way of thinking. And there aren’t favors for any side, since both concepts have bad apples amongst them. Down to it, it is just people who want to live happy and people who do not want others to interfere with their way of life. There aren’t any imposing megalomaniac idiots who simply want to kill everyone and rule supreme. But there are many who are willing to sacrifice or humiliate others in order to win or take a promotion. Very good as a whole; since most series just separate the cast into the obviously good guys and the obviously bad guys and makes one-sided assumptions about their ideologies.
There is development for most of them. It takes its time but there is some. Romantic relations that transcend species, change of hearts and going crazy over the death of a loved one are included by the dozens. If only they weren’t so far apart… A huge minus is also the plastic way they behave; a trademark of Tomino storytelling. They don’t feel like they have the proper emotions in the proper moments. Most of their personal stories are similar but it does colorize the story nicely in those in-between episodes. As I said, they all feel too slow and similar and thus the feeling fades away if a good concept gets dragged for so long. Ok to look at but nothing great to bother remembering them.
It also brings out several issues around realism, which in an otherwise superficial mecha show they would go unnoticed. But this anime is actually trying to be mature and intellectual at times, thus many questions arise from time to time. Such as:
- How the hell do a few kids learn to pilot an alien Earth-like robot in a few minutes, during an invasion?
- How do the robot and the flying base take up human weaponry without any adjustment when they are otherwise made by aliens thousands of years ago?
- How do they refuel and fix damages for years while being chased all the time?
- Why do humans and aliens sound so surprised to find out both of them are so similar when they ARE SIMILAR LOOKING?
And many, many, many more like these will cross your mind.
The originality here is that instead of an open happy ending, we have a dreadful holocaust! Heck, Ideon is probably the first anime to kill practically everyone in the finale. It will feel quite stupid, depressing and miserable if you don’t understand the whole reincarnation fuss Japanese people believe in but it is otherwise implementing a very interesting concept around life and emotions. After that massacre and the cataclysmic event in the conclusion, you feel like the cast was given a second chance; not really a solution for all their worries. So it’s a half-good catharsis.
Still, that 70% of dead time was a toll to my patience. There were some good ideas and concepts in it; but I have seen many similar series that present them in far better ways. And Tomino’s storytelling is just not appealing to me. But I will admit that this series is the archetype used in many later famous anime, which greatly improved its formula.
Birth, Windaria, Andromeda Stories and Neon Genesis are dealing with the premise of rebirth through total annihilation.
The original first Gundam and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross are using the same core themes in a better way.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (rich humanitarian context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (KILL THEM ALL)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much dead time)
Memorability 2/4 (generic today but has its charm)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
It would be great with less episodes and faster pacing.