The year is 2179: humans and robots have colonized Mars. A newer Third-Type robot has been designed to interact undetected in human society. That is, until a man named D'anclaude discovers their secret and starts a movement to wipe them out. Armitage is a Third-Type that works for the police with her partner Ross, and now these two must rid the planet of D'anclaude and his evil plans.
Spawned in the cyberpunk boom-years, Armitage III may take its themes from Blade Runner like many other series, but it's another Dick story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, better known as Total Recall, that provides the setting. Interesting as the prospect is, however, the Armitage III series does little to make use of its relatively unique setting, instead merely supplanting an earthbound high tech, low life Hell-hole for a Martian one. A slew of great ideas and poor execution, Poly-Matrix lacks any real storytelling verve - when it should be constructing a dark and gritty world, it throws in awkward attempts at humour that only make the heroine seem infantile. The plot, too, feels wrong, with the pacing thrown off by exposition dumps, badly scripted antagonists and confusing attempts at 'art' cinema scenes. Poly-Matrix is not just one good film done wrong, but a whole mess of films done wrong, lacking in focus and throwing everything it can at the viewer in an attempt to have something stick. The sounds in the film fall flat, with fight scenes seemingly ill-timed and punches sounding like a pillow fight, but it's the English voice acting, especially, that offends the ear. No doubt Funimation considered getting Kiefer Sutherland on board as something of coup d'etat, but his delivery is all off, sounding more like a line-read than a finished product. There are moments his timing is so off you are left wondering if he was even watching the film, and it's clear from his tone that he'd rather be elsewhere. With the title a reference to Armitage, a central character in William Gibson's Neuromancer, Armitage III has numerous allusions to other cyberpunk works, and I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and assuming the people involved really cared about making something great, because there are nods that only real fans will appreciate in this. However, the constant references only make it all the clearer that Armitage III is not as entertaining, clever or interesting as those things. Great potential, scuppered by confused writing, poor sounds and dull animation.
This is the 1996 edited movie version of the Armitage OAV episodes that were released in 1995. It was only released in English, and in a sort of an experiment they hired somewhat big name actors to play the leads, Kiefer Sutherland (24) and Elizabeth Berkley (Saved by the Bell). The result is hit and miss, but a lot of fans will remember this anime movie as one of their gateways into the fandom. After watching the OAVs in their entirety, looking back at the movie version a lot of important scenes were cut out for it, most notably a lot of background on Naomi's brother, also a third. Not to mention information about Naomi herself. The ending of the movie version is aftermath of the final battle with the wounded Ross and Naomi everlooking the city. The OAVs ending gives us a lot more of the aftermath and a different ending with the 2 characters reuniting, and Naomi revealing a secret that would set up the Dual Matrix film. If you only saw the movie version, you wouldn't know that secret until you saw Dual Matrix. English dubs were still in it's infancy back in 1996, but to boost more interest in anime they got Kiefer Sutherland and Elizabeth Berkley to do the main 2 voices. This was Kiefer's first foray into voice acting, but he does well with the material and acting. Elizabeth Berkley's voice acting isn't bad, but with her lower register she makes Naomi sound older, and not like the higher cutesy voice heard from the Japanese voice actor Hiroko Kasahara. But if you haven't seen the Japanese version, then Elizabeth's version is probably acceptable. The same music soundtrack from the OAVs is used in the movie version, just less of it, plus english versions of the songs heard in the background such as "Phantom World." The country songs in the series, particularly "Cheat Cheat I'm Crying" are sort of annoying. The sound has been remastered for the movie version and there is a difference. But in the end the movie is still enjoyable despite the series being in truncated form. Some fans will sight Poly Matrix as being one of the first anime they saw and exposed them to the genre. I always enjoyed the movie, though now I prefer the original OAVs as they told a much more thorough story and took it's time with it. The movie version attempts to clean it up and streamline it, but actually does it too much leaving out essential elements. If you see this first, I would suggest to seek out the OAVs and see what you think.
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