I'm not usually a fan of sci-fi; there are very few sci-fi anime I've seen, and even less which I've actually enjoyed. This series, however, I feel is an overlooked gem between the characters, setting, and especially the tone.
"Just what is justice"?
That's the theme of this anime, and it's done brilliantly. It really highlights the philosophical concept behind the word "justice". And of course for those who aren't as interested in that sort of thing, it's got plenty of mech battles to satisfy those who prefer action. There's also a "love vs violence" theme going on (though sometimes, even the side advocating for love has to fight).
Soya Kuroi is a high school student who lives, oddly enough, with a spunky green-haired girl and a giant cat. At first, he can't remember his past and attends school as any normal (despite his housemates) kid would, but when his memories return, he swears that he will defeat even the upholders of "Justice", the heroes, of Earth, due to the destruction of his planet.
But perhaps things aren't as cut-and-dry as they appear to be.
It's a fast-paced story which moves along quickly to get from one thing to another. On the plus side, that means no fillers or "padding". On the minus side, things tend to move too quickly at times.
I'm going to try something new in my review here; instead of going over each character who appears, I'm going to try and review about the characters.
The anime boasts a broad range of characters; from our protagonist Soya to the class rep Nozomi, and even to the seven heroes of Earth and the aliens (some of whom who look human-like) of the organization of galactic peace called "Nebula".
Where the anime shines is in how it portrays each of these characters, especially showing a very human side of Soya with the raw emotions he (and the others) go through as they walk down a path of their ideals and determination. Soya and Nozomi, especially, show a lot of character growth and development. A couple of the Heroes also do...
...however, that's also the downside in that since this is a 12-episode cour, there wasn't enough time to focus on each character individually for enough time to truly get to know them. We get to know some more than others, and their names based off of animals certainly helps us to remember them (not to mention that the designs make them easy to distinguish from one another), but this anime perhaps could have benefitted from being a 22-24 episode anime instead of a 12-episode one.
Even for a sci-fi action anime, and especially with the moral tie-ins of philosophical debates which some of the greatest minds have been asking and still talk about (simplified, of course, but still carries the deeper meaning), it would have been nice if the anime was able to slow down just a little bit to give some more focus on the Heroes and other recurring characters (aside from more than a few minutes in an episode).
No issues with the sound or animation; they both tie in together, and occur when appropriate and keep silent when necessary.
The animation is very smooth and flows well, which is definitely something desired for an action-packed anime with battles all over the place. There were some parts where it felt a little clunky and a bit awkward, but I don't recall any major issues other than that.
The opening and ending songs are upbeat and catchy, and the voice acting brings the characters to life. So, no complaints with the sound.
Again, I feel this anime is a gem...but would have been better as a 22-24 episode series.
There are a few things left unexplained, such as when/how/why Nebula was established...and just why exactly a particular character was going along with the first antagonist's plans.
It would have been nice to learn a little more about the Nebula organization and what caused the split, ect...as well as giving some more time to these recurring side characters (not that they're truly "side" characters as they all have important roles; mostly the Heroes from Earth).
It's also unexplained whether or not psychic abilities are things all Earthlings would be able to awaken in this universe, or if it just applies to certain people (such as the Heroes...and a couple others).
There is a time skip near the end which would have been nice to have been expanded on, but there just wasn't time to do so when such a huge concept was packed together into 12 episodes. It would have been nice to see Soya learn to control his own psychic powers, and see just how alliances were formed during the time skip (or at least a prelude to it).
And again, the characters definitely needed some more background. We do learn about a couple of the Heroes (some more than others) due to circumstances which occur over the series in a rather interesting way to learn about their pasts, but the story had to move quickly with only 12 episodes to cover it so I felt that all the characters didn't get the time they really should have.
On the plus side, that meant that battles didn't span multiple episodes (save the final battle), which meant no long and drawn-out fights. That was nice to see.
And of course, the question of moral decisions which is a theme of this anime.
Is it right to force one's own sense of justice on others, even if it seems to be for the greater good?
Could you forgive the creature which single-handedly wiped out your entire race and planet (not to mention your friends and family)? Or would you despise it and allow the circle of hatred to continue?
The theme of this anime is thought-provoking and deep; it can be summed up from in this quote from another anime:
"Justice is a weapon. It can be used to cause harm, but it cannot protect or save others." -Osamu Dazai
For there to be justice, there has to be a victim.
And yet, decisions still have to be made; moral choices still have to come forth. This anime delves deeper than even some of the 24 episode length anime does in its theme and the way the characters react to that theme.
In all of that is also a mix of fast-paced battles and an anti-hero amongst heroes. I honestly would recommend this anime to everyone.