Argento Soma

TV (25 eps)
2000 - 2001
Fall 2000
3.309 out of 5 from 1,286 votes
Rank #8,683

Takuto’s relationship with his girlfriend Maki is on the rocks; she’s devoted to her research and keeps things bottled up inside, leaving their relationship uncertain. Life takes a tragic turn, however, when Takuto visits the source of Maki’s research: a giant metal being named Frank. While running an experiment to awaken Frank, the building collapses – and Takuto is the only survivor. Months later, Takuto awakens in a hospital with vengeance in his heart; and when the mysterious Dr. X offers him a new identity that he can use to bring down Frank, he accepts. With his new name of Ryu Soma and his new position in Funeral, a military organization charged with destroying alien invaders, Takuto sets forth to exact his revenge...

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This series is way too reminiscent of Neon Genesis but unlike the aforementioned anime, this one is neither that great nor that focused on religious allusions and dementia. It is less grim and more centered around human interactions rather than apocalyptic events. Beyond this comparison, it is still a good series to watch, with more meaning and feeling than almost every fighting shonen and mecha there is. PRODUCTION VALUES - The graphics are dated and rather simple but they definitely don’t give the impression that they are one of the same. Shapes, colors and visual effects are nothing out of the ordinary but the several original ideas of HOW to use something (mecha compartment arrangement, mundane weapon usage) make up for it. - Semi-realistic character figures. It is hard to decide if that is good or bad. They look appropriate for the atmosphere of such a series but there are plenty of times when you think that they look too cartoonish or inappropriately minimalistic with what is going on. The perky little girl and the edgy female pilot in particular are almost annoying to look at. Anyway, when the grim moments kick in you will pay little attention to how they look and you will focus on the events themselves. - Several things in the series feel repetitive, just because they are mass-produced. Earth aircrafts and alien invaders have very little variety that they almost feel boring to look after a few episodes. But perhaps this was an intentional trick by the animators, in order to show that it is not the appearance that matters but the powers that someone possesses. This way you pay attention on the Earth pilots and the alien powers instead of on one-of-a-kind cool mechas or aliens. And if you think about it, military weaponry truly IS mass-produced. Customized and unique-looking machines are things we only encounter on tv-reality. And even the identical aliens are almost excused towards the ending when the major revelation takes place. So, things look as they do for a reason. - Music Themes have a very sad feeling to them but are very atmospheric and nice to listen to the first 100 times without becoming annoying.- Several wonderful dialogues around emotional depth, psychological torment, scientific explanations and political interests really make all the talking to be meaningful. What DOES sound annoying and ruins the perfect mark are the voices of the perky characters. Voice Acting is wonderful, centered around the sad or angered voices of the main characters. Still, the little girl’s voice is plain stupid! And the ironic comments of the female punk-like pilot are quite sappy. In their attempt to give variety to the voices heard, the producers allowed some really atmospere-killing voices to crawl amongst the otherwise interesting cast. SCRIPT - Aliens attack Earth, military team of experts fights them. Nothing we haven’t seen a billion times already. Add a mysterious place the aliens want to go to and some sinister conspiracies in the background and you have a bad Neon Genesis clone. It is quite boring in the most part but gets really interesting when the origin of the aliens and their true purpose is revealed. Which is also the part where every relation to Neon Genesis ceases to exist and finally offers the series its individuality. I can almost say that it was the tension-building that led to that revelation than anything else that really mattered. Too bad we had to wait 20 episodes of lukewarm plot and unintentional plagiarism for it. It will make many viewers to give up on the series long before they get to the good part. But if and when they do, they will realize that the story is indeed wonderful. - Although there are no fillers with the broader sense of the word, most episodes do feel pointless. Sure, the characters are colorized and the story does slowly reveal its big secrets. The thing is, the same things could be done in half the time. All those battles with aliens-of-the-weak didn’t manage to make the series more interesting. It gave a bad “dorky mecha series” to it and ruined its credibility for seriousness later on.- The characters are the side stories. If the main theme is “beat the bad alien”, the secondary stories are “to get to know the characters”. Through their dialogues and several flashbacks, you get to see the big picture that led to all the mess in the series. And I can say their individual stories were very interesting. Still, there are 4 characters that do that and 40 others who don’t and are there simply as undeveloped stunts. You could remove most of the cast without affecting the story.- Although all the mysteries are answered or explained, there are still several points where reason is out for lunch. How did that renegade scientist / spy move around like a ghost? Why do things turn as you expect them in the nick of time?- Although not completely solid, the story feels quite fulfilling. You will not be left with the urge for a sequel or with any question marks hovering over your head. As I said, the last episodes are far more interesting that the rest of the series. CAST - Most of their merits have already been discussed in the above sections. Simple-looking, interesting dialogues and nice background stories for the main cast. What makes it even more appealing is that you don’t really know if someone is going to live or die. Several important-looking characters die quite fast and are seen again only in flashbacks. Others who are quite boring and secondary survive and plague us indefinitely. - Still, there are only a few interesting characters (the avenging leading male, the cheery little girl, the friendly alien and the mysterious spy) who had the bad luck of being part of a larger, uninteresting cast in a mostly boring scenario development. That is why I deduct some points. If the producers could remove the unnecessary characters and the unimportant battles, these guys alone would make a great mini-series. SUGGESTION LIST Successful mix of Mecha with Religion and Metaphysics series: Neon Genesis Evagelion, Ghost in the Shell, Zegapain, Ergo Proxy, Betterman, Soul Taker and Rahxephon.


STORY:PLOT SUMMARY: In the year 2059, the earth has been plagued by aliens for several years. In an effort to learn more about these aliens, Dr. Noguchi and his assistant Maki Agata try to revive the professor's experiment, a large Bio-Mechanical alien named Frank. During this process the alien comes to 'life' and the lab is subsequently destroyed leaving Takuto the only survivor and the alien disappearing into the wilderness. While Frank roams the wilderness he meets Hattie, an emotionally distressed young girl whose parents are killed in the first 'close encounter' war. Oddly enough she is able to communicate with Frank and soon after they are taken into custody by a secret agency known only as 'Funeral'. Meanwhile, Takuto wakes up in a hospital bed with his life in shambles, and his face disfigured. Motivated by vengeance and heart break, Takuto accepts an offer from the mysterious 'Mr. X' and receives a new identity as a ranking Funeral officer named Ryu Soma.The story is quite simple yet very intriguing....nothing to complain about.ANIMATION: It would be even more fun if this weren't such an ugly-looking production. The animation is a mixed bag, with plenty action sequences, but the design work is terrible. Character designer Shukou Murase, of Gasaraki and Gundam Wing fame, takes his penchant for drawing characters without noses to an extreme, and Argentosoma's players look less like humans and more like some species of alien themselves. The creature known as Frank, or EX-01, resembles nothing so much as a big heap of random geometric shapes. This wouldn't be so bad except the audience is obviously supposed to identify with the creature's feelings, and his lack of a face or anything like one makes it difficult. FUNERAL's requisite transforming fighter planes/robots, known as SARGs, are pretty cool, but the aliens they're sent to fight look straight out of Ultraman. That's probably intentional, but the rest of the show takes itself so seriously that these hokey aliens look decidedly out of place. This is one of the most visually unappealing series this reviewer has ever seen. It's nowhere near as crucial an element as story or character, but a more sensible artistic style would have made an already good show even better.SOUND: The music is wanting as well. Every time there is a dramatic moment or revelation it is accompanied by a ridiculous series of notes that sound like they're being played on a Casio keyboard from 1985. But that's not half as bad as the laughable closing theme: a bouncy, upbeat number that is totally at odds with the series' overriding dark tone. This cheery song about space exploration plays as the credits roll over a picture of a cheesily-grinning astronaut, and it cracks me up every time I see it. No complaints are to be had with the show's vocal casts though.CHARACTERS: College student Takuto Kaneshiro only wants to be with his sweetheart Maki, but she spends most of her time working on a secret government project to revive a giant alien being which crash-landed on Earth recently. So when Maki taps Takuto to help in the experiment, he reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately the attempt to revive “Frank”, as the creature is known, backfires with disastrous results, and Takuto is the only survivor. Frank escapes and forms an unlikely bond with a young Montana girl named Hattie, who bears a striking resemblance to Maki. Hattie and Frank are then taken into the custody of FUNERAL, a military group in charge of defending the planet from alien attacks. Takuto assumes the alias Ryu Soma and joins FUNERAL to get close to Frank and wreak his vengeance on the monster for destroying his life. But when giant aliens show up to ravage the planet, Ryu must team up with Hattie and Frank to save the day.OVERALL: Argentosoma is the latest in a long line of “Secret Military Organization versus Giant Aliens” shows. You'd think after so many years this anime cliché would be dead on its feet, but the creative staff at Sunrise has managed to once again work wonders with the old familiar setup. Argentosoma's premise is nothing new but it is an extraordinarily well put-together show, and there are enough creative spins on the formula to keep things interesting. Aside from some horrendous character designs and a really stupid closing theme, this is solid entertainment.The series skips around quite a bit at first but gradually weaves its separate threads together over the course of these first five episodes. Starting with Takuto's disastrous experiment, the story then jumps to the little girl Hattie and her encounter with the giant Frank. From there we go to the agents of FUNERAL, and then the convergence of the three parties. Along the way there is plenty of characterization, and the audience gets to know who these people are, not just what they do. Takuto/Ryu's quest for revenge is complicated by Hattie's friendship with the monster and soon enough the two are reluctant allies as Hattie's ability to control Frank becomes a key element in staving off further alien attacks. The contrast between the anger-driven Ryu and the innocent girl gives the show a lot of edge, and the supporting cast is great fun, particularly the mysterious Shakespeare-quoting benefactor who gets Ryu into FUNERAL.I was very lucky to come across this series....I found the complete series for only $10...and I couldnt pass it up. Overall this is a truly great series....but not the best.

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