If you are not a KuroSHITsuji fan, not a moeblob otaku, and not a Narutard, then keep reading. Otherwise, this show is not for you. It has more intellect than superficial entertainment and thus don’t bother if you don’t like to think.
Animated by Studio Sunrise, so the robots look nice. They are not cool though, and this show happens to have received very little positive feedback regarding the action; thus this is not their normal job at making poser action. Directed by Shimoda Masami, a guy I wouldn’t care about if he hadn’t directed this show. He doesn’t have any other interesting anime in his roster and they are all bellow average. Thus in both cases I was surprised to find out that the production studio and the director were not following their usual routine on how to make a show. It iwas nice to see them experimenting in different ways for once.
Presentation is more important than rationality; that is what this anime teaches its audience. Zegapain is, hands down, one of the best modern sci-fi anime, yet it was practically forgotten by most just a few years after it was made. Most anime are eaten up by oblivion because of bad handling of their themes and stories. And trust me when I say most anime have very interesting premises; they just rarely exploit them as much as they should or don’t exploit them at all and just use them as a shallow initial lure. Zegapain is not like that, it has a very interesting story, it develops it along with its characters, it has plot twists that are excused, it has very few scenes that are ridiculous, practically no plot holes, and it has a solid powerful finale. So what went wrong and this isn’t an all famous anime up there along with Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis and Gundam?
Well… it went easy with its own plot. That is all. You see, anime are an entertainment media and just like any Hollywood movie they need to be well-told first and well-written second. Why do you think movies like Avatar or Twilight are so famous and made a billion bucks? Not because they were good stories with interesting characters. They were simply nice looking and had very ideal premises, plus the masses are suckers for good looks and easy to follow cheesy stories. I am not saying I like that; it’s just the cruel truth. And that is why poor Zegapain never got the credit it deserved. To the majority, a retarded clown laughing is more captivating than a man dressed in casual clothes talking about the meaning of life. But you know what? Screw the retarded clown; I like to ponder about more important things than watching idiots throwing lemon pies at each other. And as long as you are like that too, chances are you will also love this show.
First of all, don’t make the mistake of designating this anime as a Matrix rip-off because it ain’t. There is no dependence on machines and vice-versa. The people can leave their fictional worlds with no problem and the machines don’t care about us in the least. That alone makes Zegapain a lot more mature than Matrix and its messed up excuses of man-machine co-existence. On the other hand it doesn’t have cool karate and bullet-time and fancy acrobatics that defy logic, so once again we have a case where entertainment is more important than plot-holes. Zegapain is a mecha show and almost every episode has a battle between humans and machines. Yet its action is not exciting and thus becomes a minor element in the longrun. It is not terrible either but that doesn’t make it worthwhile. The mecha are not poser-looking like in Gundam and they do not move smoothly and cool. The enemy units are to the most part mass produced mooks and again they look generic and not threatening. So if you so much expect great action in your mecha shows, you will not find it here.
Another thing is its characters. They are normal looking. And let me make clear they are NOT stock material as they are given lots of immersion and development along the way. Some of them die and don’t come back with any magic convenience. All the rest constantly ponder about the meaning of their existence in a world that is now nothing but an illusion and life is nothing but emotionless data. Their own illusion is also not a great substitute for reality, as the servers running the virtual reality can only allow a certain expansion of the data stored before they need to reset progress (of which feels to its inhabitants like time goes back). Then there are also the mechanized humans, creatures who sacrificed their emotions and turned to seemingly immortal and immoral killing machines. You get to see all that from various angles and in various points in the story and all of them are very well thought of. The problem is as I said, they are presented normally. The characters are looking and acting as almost normal people; there are no flamboyant personalities and no quirks to define them. That on one hand makes them great characters from a realistic point of view and yet not memorable for the same reason. Think of Suzumiya Haruhi for example. The world there was also a figment of imagination with little to back it up as how or when it was made. The backdrop story sucked. And its characters lack substance and are to the most part shallow, undeveloped moe archetypes. Yet they are memorable for the same reason. They are otherwise memorable but shallow next to Zegapain’s forgettable and highly developed ones; and ironic as it seems it is the hard truth.
So is this anime good? Yes, it is very good in elements and themes. I wouldn’t say “only in theory” because I did enjoy watching it on screen as well. I was simply not chewing my fingernails despite the very interesting story. I cared about the characters, even if their personalities were simple (but not blunt). I felt sadness when they did. I was happy to see the animators didn’t try to sexualize them in any way that would ridicule them. I was satisfied when their struggles paid out in the end, even in a bittersweet way. And the production values are good as well; the characters hardly deform and the OST has some very amazing pieces. All that are great and I am not afraid to place it even above the Ghost in the Shell series. I dislike episodic stories you see.
Other than that it is a show heavy on existentialism and good sci-fi elements. Just don’t expect bankais or nine-tailed demon foxes to sprout out of orange jumpsuit ninjas and you may love it as well.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of pretty colors)
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: 8/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 2/2 (solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10
Presence 1/2 (weak)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (everyone gets some)
Development 2/2 (everyone gets some)
Catharsis 2/2 (everyone gets some)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of the slow plot)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well-made to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 2/2 (sounds nice)
Story 2/3 (starts generic but improves very much later on)
Characters 3/4 (they are great past their weak presence)