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Blue Gender

Mar 13, 2019

Blue Gender Review

The following review is for the anime series Blue Gender, which is a twenty-six episode production released by Studio AIC back in 2000, which is the same studio behind several recognizable anime like Ga Rei Zero, Heaven’s Lost Property, and Strike Witches. It was co-directed by Ryosuke Takahashi (Flag, Cyborg 009) and Masashi Abe (Tokko), and is written by Katsumi Hasegawa. The entire series was binged-viewed with English subtitles on a DVD release on Funimation’s classics line. There is an additional movie that rehashes the series with some new scenes and a different ending called Blue Gender: The Warrior which also was viewed for this review. I’ll discuss this movie and its precise differences later at the end of my review.

Without going into spoilers just yet, I’d actually give this series a very good opinion because of how it pleasantly surprises you. It does not follow most modern anime conventions prevalent in most recently-released action series and I consider this a good thing. In addition, Blue Gender is full of unpredictable plot twists, with a high degree of ultra violence that is a downright hard to find in many other likeminded anime. The first 24 episodes are pretty strong considering the dated standards at the time of this release. I had it in my mind to discuss Blue Gender as a spiritual predecessor of sorts to modern “humanity-under-siege” projects like Attack on Titan or Knights of Sidonia. However, after finishing my view of it, I’d say that while the similarities are there, in retrospect, Blue Gender stands much closer to anime like Valvrave the Liberator. Its just so ridiculous that you can’t help but get into it. 

Spoilers Follow

Blue Gender begins by in a fairly straightforward way: a 20-something Japanese youth named Yuji Kaido wakes up with little-to-no memory and an Earth overrun by giant insects called Blue. Yuji went into a medically induced deep-sleep because he had an incurable disease, but is woken up and saved many years later by a group of skull-masked special forces led by an emotionless and cold squad leader, Marlene Angel. Right from the start, the series throws a lot at viewers and makes you feel uncomfortable. For example, seeing Yuji piss himself and run away screaming in his first scene did not impress me, to say the least, and it sends a punctuated message as to what kind of main character we’re dealing with. Likewise, seeing a soldier casually rape his female compatriot, along with the general levels of ultra-violence and gore, signaled to me at least that this was a much darker tale than most viewers would be accustomed to. Just re-reading this first paragraph, I already can tell that I may be misconstruing Blue Gender a sort of negative light. Quite the contrary, I applaud it for these darker elements.

The biggest surprise to Blue Gender, which begets an obvious comparison to Ga Rei Zero, is that every single one of Blue Gender’s early characters are all killed off over the first few episodes, leaving Yuji and Marlene as the last survivors stranded on a hostile world. Marlene and Yuji seem to rub each other the wrong way from the moment the show begins. Yuji sees Marlene as an embodiment of how humanity has already lost itself in its struggle against the Blue, and he also blames her for waking him rather than letting him die in his sleep. Marlene, for her part, sees Yuji as a weak and uncooperative test subject that won’t let her accomplish her mission—forcing her to risk her life needlessly over avoidable situations. It is frustrating to watch these early episodes because of how hard it is to sympathize with Yuji, clearly ignorant and out of his depth but nevertheless behaving very assertively and butting heads with Marlene. On the other hand, Blue Gender does start to grow on you with some character growth through these early episodes. It does this through a few well-executed key moments, especially once Yuji starts becoming proactive about being involved with fighting the Blue beginning in Episode 3.

You’ll see bodies crunched up, hear bones cracking, witness blood spattering everywhere, see those aftermentioned rape scene(s?), etc. The story takes on a sort of haphazard, no-effs-given nature to it, but the writing is never too out in left field that you disconnect from the plot entirely or are compelled to write it off as a train wreck. At select moments in every episode, the writing can actually come across as impactful. As is the case with Episodes 4 and 5, where Yuji bonds with a soldier named Joey and a little girl named Yung only to witness them both die in a brutal fashion right in front of him. The writing from Episode 6 to 11, showcasing Yuji and Marlene’s journey across Siberia probably stands as the strongest and most emotional “adventure” part of this series. It is within these episodes Yuji’s inner innocuous nature breaks through to Marlene, that Yuji matures somewhat and accepts the reality of this new world, and we the viewers see their joined romantic development occur in a very organic way. My personal favorite scene was Yuji and Marlene enjoying a short respite together at a desert oasis pool of water, where Yuji (and also viewers) see Marlene in a more feminine and attractive light for the first time. I'd also be remiss if I failed to mention Dice and Elena, which are two characters Marlene and Yuji meet in their travels that both breathe new life into the story, for very interesting reasons that I won't detail here.

This entertaining first-half culminates in Yuji and Marlene’s climactic escape from Earth as a station’s natural defenses are overrun by the Blue. By this point, they had journeyed together thousands of miles and fought together side-by-side through a suspenseful battle with a lot of believable hurdles—including an officer going rogue and a three-way conflict between the station’s malfunctioning AI, the overwhelming Blue, and a small number of rendezvoused soldiers. They share a thankful kiss while reflecting upon a still-beautiful Earth when a final twist is thrown at viewers: a small anamorphic Blue had made its way onto the shuttle and mutated on-deck; Marlene reaches to grab her weapon, but stumbles. Yuji jumps up to protects Marlene from the Blue’s piercing claws and is stabbed twice before Marlene can gun it down. Marlene’s reaction when she realizes Yuji’s condition is probably one of the most shocking/climactic moments in the entire series. Though I will say in retrospect here that this mutated Blue animorph is never explored or explained again in the plot outside of a quick cameo of its corpse being dissected in a lab. It is a small plot-hole, admittedly, but whatever.

Thankfully, Yuji ends up being just fine.

At this point, we’re only at Episode 12. And unfortunately, this is where the series starts to struggle and becomes sloppy. The next arc of episodes—and latter half of the series, really—basically are a complete narrative pivot. We now see the rest of the story from Marlene’s perspective, rather than Yuji’s, and from Episodes 12 through 15 she has to navigate a conspiratorial executive council and attempt to reunite with him. Episode 12 shows Marlene basically being court-martialed for the setbacks that occurred on Earth, while realizing that she cannot simply reintegrate back into a soldier’s life after her experiences and development with Yuji. When she tries to seek him out, she realizes that he’s being purposely kept away from her. The next two episodes proceed to showcase how Marlene goes rogue, finds Yuji, and confronts the leaders of space station’s high council to discover Yuji’s significance. These episodes seem a little redundant, in retrospect, because the stakes do not seem tenable. Viewers had just spent the last eleven episodes with Yuji and Marlene as they tried to escape Earth, so the subtle insinuation during Episodes 13 and 14 that Marlene was going to rescue Yuji seems…quaint, or unusual. In a worst-case scenario that Yuji were being dissected or something crazy, what is Marlene to do? Proceed to blow up the space-station and escape back to Earth with all the Blue?

Well actually, considering how the series ends…*Taps on forehead meme*. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

These episodes amount to what is basically a big nothing, as Yuji is in fine health and the council clarifies what the heck is going on to Marlene, whereupon she is excused from her tumultuous actions of the last couple episodes by the timely arrival and intervention of a new character named Seno, who is the space station’s highest-ranked scientific researcher. She is invited to join Yuji in forming a new elite division to wage war against the Blue. Yuji and Marlene are introduced to two new characters named Alicia and Tony, whom are fellow sleepers like Yuji rescued from Earth. Right away, these two sleepers cause trouble for Marlene and Yuji. Alicia seems to have an instant and unexplicible attachment to Yuji which creates something of a flawed love triangle. Neither Yuji or Marlene really consider her their equal, though, so this plotline feels a bit forced. Furthermore, Tony is immediately foreshadowed to be villianous by acting ominously and flat-out weird, despite being presented as incredibly adept in simulations. These two other sleepers are basically the central focus of the next plot thread lasting from Episodes 16 to 23.

Viewers are then treated to what is probably the second best episode in this entire series in Episode 15, where we get to witness some out-of-nowhere orgies happening around the space station and another touching Marlene x Yuji scene by the end where they reaffirm their feelings for each other. (Though not without an incredible cringe moment where Yuji calls Marlene Alicia…whoops.) By Episode 16, the series is back to its action roots. It becomes clear how Yuji and Tony are to be utilized as Second Earth’s secret weapon(s) to wipe out the Blue. A new mecha is developed that only they can utilize—called an Armor Shrike—and the sleepers can utilize it by activating the very same cells that doctors explained would eventually kill them. Unsurprisingly, Tony and Yuji prove to too good as killing machines, and exhibit very aggressive, or sadistic behavior on the battlefield. The degeneration here is progressive and built up well. Episode 16 Yuji is focused, but does not emerge as a sadistic adrenaline junkie until Episode 17. Marlene’s reactions to Yuji’s degeneration are quite heartfelt though definitely a bit slow to catch on to what's going on: its pretty obvious that Yuji and Tony had transformed into psychopaths well before Seno provides an explanation in Episode 19. 

Not quite good enough.

That's what I have to say about this group of episodes. The action scenes themselves feel a lot more disjoined and not as well choreographed as the constrained and suspenseful action scenes of Blue Gender’s first eleven episodes. Telling apart Tony and Yuji during battle scenes is practically impossible, and most of the new fight scenes with the Blue are Tony and Yuji just mowing them down, often-time featuring recycled animation and designs, so there isn’t really a sense that the stakes are genuine anymore. In addition, the 180-degree personality swap between Marlene and Yuji feels like an injustice to the series’ first half, where Marlene could be argued as one of anime’s greatest gun-slinging badasses (literally!). Whereas now in these later episodes she becomes the helpless bystander sitting at Yuji's side, who has de-facto subsumed Marlene’s role as a squad leader.

And I must admit, I never quite bought into Yuji going berserk as this genuine or believable development to the main conflict, despite the core idea of Yuji degenerating psychologically being sound. For one, Yuji never really comes across as this terrifying monster just as evil as the Blue, in lieu of coming across as this bratty immature teenager who is just way too overconfident to the point of hubris. Secondly, there are just too many plot strings neatly tied together for the sake of plot-convenience for these developments to not feel downright forced. For example, the new Armor Shrikes only being operable by those with B-Cells, or those B-Cells being tied to the Blue themselves? Come on. At that point, why even try and address these obvious plotholes? Things only get more ridiculous from there. Yuji is rescued from the point-of-no-return from his B-Cells by a now-aware Marlene, who breaks through his insanity with a thematic kiss following a brief fight where she literally throws herself at him. I’ll admit that this is pretty ridiculous, but I thought the precise moment she breaks though to him was satisfying and well-done. There was a second or two in this scene that I thought Yuji would really kill her, and I'm glad that didn't happen because that would have ruined the show.

By Episode 20 Tony and Alicia have become the new series antagonists and invade the space station with a bunch of Blue. And my question, given how the series ends, is why they didn’t just let them be successful in this. Episodes 21-23 showcase how Marlene and a now-redeemed Yuji save the day for Second Earth, which they do with the help of Seno, of course, who succeeded in overthrowing the High Council with Marlene’s help. The high council ends up as their own disappointment because they are laughably stereotypical and arrogant antagonists. We’re talking Saturday morning cartoon-level stuff here. In Episode 21 they literally open the space station to a Blue-ified Tony and Alicia and stand there for, like, ten to fifteen seconds reacting adversely to Tony’s betrayal before they’re killed off. (“What! This is impossible!!) While it was probably supposed to be this dramatic plot twist, I just sat there and laughed at them. But fine, whatever, Tony and Alicia had to get back into the space station with a metric crap-ton of Blue somehow.

And thus, our plot progresses.

Long story short, the good guys beat the bad guys and win. Tony and Alicia are killed off, but not before Tony is revealed as having this messiah complex; which strikes me as just as laughable and stereotypically cliché as the high council. This conflict takes a whopping three episodes to resolve, from episodes 21 to 23, and features a kind-of forced situation where the part of the station Tony and Alicia are holed up in contains thousands of sleeping humans that need to be rescued for quintessential(?) reasons. One of the side characters is killed off rather brutally, which was probably the single moment in these three episodes that genuinely shocked me. By Episode 24, however, everything is back to being status-quo and the plot seems resolved, and I cannot for the life of me wonder if the writers should have just ended things here with the same sex scene and a they lived happily ever after dialogue. But instead, the writers chose to fill out the remaining runtime with a final mini three-episode story arc where humans reclaim the earth.

These final episodes are a flat-out trainwreck. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about this. The Blue basically commit mass suicide because of vaguely-specified reason pertaining to the Earth itself being alive spiritually. Having facilitated the creation of the Blue to wipe out the humans and more-or-less succeeding, the Earth activates a “kill-switch” to get rid of the Blue too, which proceed to migrate and die in mass droves. After some soul searching and a uniquely satisfying and rare sex scene that may have not been altogether necessary, Episode 25 shows a final expedition down to the now-unclaimed Earth where Marlene and Yuji find some sort of spiritual core under a nest and square off with a “Super-Blue Queen” (I made this term up) which, while an incredible and breathtaking final action sequence that makes Episode 26 the best episode in the series, is slightly hilarious because it kills of a character named Teddy that was introduced like minutes earlier.

After this exhilarating battle, there’s like five minutes of anime left and things become near-incomprehensible. There’s an emotional fake-out goodbye between Yuji, who demands Marlene go back to the surface while he enters the spirit core, and Marlene, who likewise reveals to Yuji that she’s pregnant. Yuji wins the exchange and the scene cuts to Marlene crying on a mountaintop while Yuji enters the core and realizes the truth of the world in a hallucinogenic montage. Most bewilderingly, however, rather than end on the implication that Yuji saved the world by sacrificing himself; he reappears before Marlene and embraces her. All the while, like fifteen seconds of footage is shown where the humans on second earth all spontaneously go insane, hilariously gun down Seno, and blow up the entire space station . It’s one of those moments where you sit there and say to yourself “what the fuck was that” before straight-up laughing out loud. Words do not do justice to the ridiculousness of the moment. 

All in all, I thought that Blue Gender was a very engaging and worthy series of my time, and I think it will be for you too if you’re a viewer inclined for it. The second half of the story is undoubtedly weaker and the ending itself is a trainwreck, but right up until Episode 24 the series is a comprehensible and very entertaining story. A few of the plot-holes can be rectified by viewing the reimagined compilation film, Blue Gender: The Warrior, but I don’t recommend it.

For the sake of analysis I’ll talk about it, but long story short is just don’t watch this in lieu of the TV version. That film is a two-hour compilation film cuts out like a third of the series’ story and has maybe 15 minutes total of new footage. The three key points that really stuck out to me were, principally, how derivative and choppy the movie felt to compared to the tv series, even despite its numerous plot points being re-adapted into a movie format. Only viewers from the original series could realistically watch or understand Blue Gender: The Warrior. Let alone enjoy it. Second, that the story does try to keep Marlene consistently as a soldier more instead of becoming a glorified damsel in distress, but to little effect given how choppy the film as a whole feels. Third, there is significantly different ending than the TV series, where Yuji basically becomes an uncorrupted version of Tony. At the final moment when Marlene and Yuji are about to perish, he’s in complete control of the Blue yet but isn’t driven insane by his B-Cells.

Again. Stay away from the movie unless you’re a huge fan of the tv series and for curiousity’s sake want to know the little differences. But even if you’re a fan I doubt you’ll get much entertainment out of it. Otherwise the actual Blue Gender anime series is an excellent, underrated watch for any modern dark shonen or seinen fan.

Thank you for reading,

- Blitzburns4

7/10 story
8/10 animation
6/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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