Story Here we are again, with one of Gonzo's later works. Being the Gonzo fan I am I of course watched it, and here is what I have to say about it.
What we have here is a special OPs group with lots of funding, lots of will power and four 'hot' chicks (pun intended). This group consists of women, girls, ladies, chicks -- whatever you wish to call them. Their mission in life is to bust some ass. They work for a corporation called Barren whose goal in life I won't mention.
Ohh yes, I almost forgot to mention their chef. He's 18 years old and wants to become a patissier in France (don't ask me what that is). To do so he needs money, which he gets from the girls who are in dire need of someone who can cook for them. They can shoot, kill, terrorize, shut down networks, etc., but they can't cook?! In other words, he's a part-time worker aka arubaita aka wage-slave.
Alright, on to the story. What they've tried to do is to pull a Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex (GITS SAC), meaning there are a bunch of standalone arcs that usually span two episodes or so (from bodyguard situations to others). There are very subtle things going on in the background that you might not notice at the beginning of the series, and in the end we discover an entire plot built around the small parts presented in each arc. Unfortunately, they failed a bit; the problem is that everything feels very rushed and it's easy to get lost along the way. The show kicks off great but loses itself somewhere at the end of the first third, only to find itself again at the start of the last third. I didn't find it very annoying though, it was still good entertaining action and there were small things being hinted at in the second third as well. it's just that these episodes didn't feel in synch with the rest of the show
The plot itself was quite interesting. It's something which brings me back to the good 'ol cyberpunk days with robots running rampant, monsters mutating and all that. Then we have a nice chunk of fanservice which was executed in an okay way, it didn't feel very forced at all. There is one thing though, and I don't know if it's my imagination -- but it felt like the bust size of a couple of characters increased after some episodes.
The second thing which drags down the score is the character development -- it's basically zero, and that's something which doesn't sit well with someone like me who likes to watch characters grow. Of course, I also have to ask myself "how much would be a reasonable amount of character growth in this type of series, in the time frame it was played out?". Still, though, it could've been done a bit better.
The show ends in a barely okay manner. I won't go into details. It is rumored though, that there will be an OAV and I will certainly look forward to watching that one as well.
Animation Ohh boy, this GONZO. These are *THE* animators out there when it comes to anime. This was by far the best show I've seen animation-wise since a couple of months ago when I saw GITS Innocence.
There are so many things I could say here but I'll keep it short. The CG integration is outstanding and doesn't clash with the 2D at all. The colors are great, the framerate synching (you don't want to have fluid 24fps CG if you've got the rest running at let's say 18fps), did i mention outstanding?
The mecha fights are outstanding and amongst the best i've seen visual-wise. The normal fights are executed well. Almost everything is executed excellently. almost...
There is one itsy bitsy tiny weeny bit which takes away the 0.5 point (10 is perfection after all) and that is the pistol animation. Sometimes it looks like one of the characters holds a piece of black plastic which spews fire -- no pistol movement, no recoil, nothing -- and that certainly took away some of the enjoyment in the fighting scenes. Just imagine it: you have two big Desert Eagle derivatives that spew bullets that go through god-knows what, and there are NO movements at all, just a muzzle-flash.
The character designs were great as well: very attractive and suitable! I do, however, refer to the bust size comment I made above.
Sound Ohh yes. Gonzo again. Not only can they produce great animation, they can also produce some kick ass audio. First of all, the OP tune kicks ass and fits the opening animation like a hand in a custom made glove. The soundtrack is great as well with varied tunes, everything ranging from slower stuff to faster wilder stuff.
The whole soundtrack follows some strange new wave of western inspired music. Think of the old tune "ghost rider" or other western tunes with spanish classic guitars playing in the background, while the electric guitar pulls off some guitar solo. Take that sort of thing and mix it with more modern rhythms and you've got likeable (yet different) stuff which I like. There are other more wild tunes with electric guitars and synths, as well as some chinese tracks. Also there is a variety of techno. Yes, it's a varied soundtrack with lots of different sounds produced to fit the given situations in the show. I found myself noticing the soundtrack several times in the show and thought "this fits the show". I'm actually listening to the soundtrack right now, and i've got a couple of tunes from the character CDs in my car as well.
The sounds are crisp and clear throughout the show and the VAs act out their lines well.
Why not a 10? The ED tune could've been better. It's a rock track but feels a bit stiff and doesn't have the depth I like. Some of the tunes on the soundtrack use synthesized strings instead of the real thing. Sorry -- a 10 requires perfection... this is close but not quite there. Characters We have the leader: tall, calm, acts with grace; the young computer girl who knows all about everything and can do all about it; the extrovert: a sensitive clutzy girl; and then we have the quiet and violent mystierious girl. Anyone noticing any patterns here? That in itself doesn't actually bother me, not at all. It's executed in a manner so it doesn't feel overused. The only real problem with this quintet is that the clutzy girl always conveniently screws up. One would think that one would learn from mistakes made in the past, especially in a special OPs group, but i'll leave it at that.
The problem here spells "Character Development". The characters act almost the same in ep 1 as in ep 26. There were moments in this show when I actually thought they'd develop a character, but at the start of the next episode it was like it had never happened. Also, the chef was very undeveloped and sometimes I wondered why he was in the show in the first place.
The character interactions were alright. There were some interesting secondary characters introduced every here and there in the show, whereas some returned later on.
By the end of the day though, I didn't feel very connected with any one of the characters. The moment could be sad, tragic, hectic, violent, people could be dying, crying or going berserk but I wouldn't feel very emphatic towards them. There were characters that I found myself liking, but the characters' past and such were never really explored. Overall It almost pains me that I have to give this show a mere 7.5. With visuals and audio that are amongst the best I've ever seen or heard, with a promising plot and nice set of character designs, it had a great chance of becoming something. It falls flat, though, on the character development part, and the story feels split and can't decide what it wants to do.
In conclusion, I'd say that this is a very enjoyable action/sci-fi entertainment show. I recommend giving it a try. The visuals and audio DO make the other problems less apparant, and thus makes everything more enjoyable, but the problems are still there nonetheless. If you're like me you will feel a bit dissatisfied since it could've been so much more than what it ended up being. It was, however, definitely worth my time.