Netflix continues to dabble in anime, working with BONES to produce this action/sci-fi story. If you’ve watched it, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.
I must admit before I get into this review, that I went into this anime expecting a lot. Firstly, it was from Bones and they are far and away my favourite studio. So even though this was part of Netflix’s push for more anime content, I kind of expected to see Bones’ usual love and attention lavished on the series and its characters. Secondly, it is an action/sci-fi, or at least so the promotions would have you believe. An action/sci-fi made by Bones? I was in for that.
The end result was one mostly of disappointment and when I finished the first watch through I had to put this on the shelf for awhile because I really couldn’t write a review at the time. With a bit of distance, some levelling out of my expectations, and rewatches of key sequences, I’m finally ready to take on this show in a review. All and all though, this anime is pretty average even if I’m feeling like being generous toward it.
There’s a few main points that generally lead to this being an average at best anime. The first one is the main character, Aiko. In addition to the confusion of A.I.C.O/Aiko, she really doesn’t have any notable characteristics or traits for much of the series. She reacts to things, and in filler moments she does the usual sweet heroine thing of feeling useless so she’ll cook for everyone, but it would be very hard to actually pin down a defining characteristic of the character.
She begins the anime in a wheel-chair and that actually had potential to be cool. It is very rare for a protagonist to have their movement hampered like that in an anime and it offered a lot of possibilities. All of which get shot in the foot before we move on from the first episode when she just stands up at the sight of the transfer student. See! All better! It makes you wonder why they even bothered with this conceit given the fact that she was living in the hospital was more than enough evidence that she was being treated for or recovering from something. Sticking her in a wheel-chair just to get rid of it by episode 2 seems very cheap really.
Furthermore, Aiko has no goal or direction. I know, I can hear the dissent right now that she’s trying to rescue her family. But she wasn’t. She didn’t even know about them. She genuinely wasn’t doing anything and then the transfer student shows up and shows her a dodgy video that might reveal her mother and brother are alive at primary point (or anywhere else considering video editing) and then tells her she has to travel there. It is his mission and his goal. Not hers. While she adopts it and commits to it from there, she’s never the one driving anything or making the decisions. She’s just kind of baggage being dragged through the plot.
While there are a few better moments for our heroine in the final episodes, I’m not going to go into details as that would involve heavy spoilers. That said, it is a case of too little too late. By then the disconnect from her has set in and any emotion that the final couple of episodes were aiming for kind of fall flat.
The second real issue I have with this anime is the ‘burst’ and the ‘matter’. It really has only impacted one small area and yet the characters act like it is life and death and people regularly risk their lives entering the zone. Why the whole thing hasn’t been properly sealed off or the matter cut back into a controlled region (given they clearly have the means of short term neutralisation) does not make sense. I understand that this was definitely a personal tragedy for a lot of people and a local ecological disaster, but the scale of response at times (as well as the sheer drama attached to events in one gorge) seems a little overblown at times and this could have been avoided by either explaining the ramifications of the whole thing on the rest of the world more clearly or just narrow the scope of the drama being presented.
So with the background setting of the story and the main character causing me some issues, the third thing I want to comment on before I look at some of the positives is the repetitiveness of some aspects of the show. I know the team are working their way along the gorge and the situation is meant to be getting more dire as they travel, but each fight sequence looks much the same and the final fight isn’t any more impressive than the situation the side-characters found themselves in back during episode 1. There’s no real sense that the danger has escalated. They try to put in some time pressures and other related dramas to build up a sense that things are critical, but it all misses its mark because visually we’re watching the same sequences of red stuff oozing around and characters make tense expressions while shooting it.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some positives here. The character designs are nicely done and each one is distinct. With a more impressive cast and plot, these character designs would have been quite memorable. There’s also the usual fluid feeling to the animation that I have come to expect from Bones. It may not be the best but visually it pleases and there are only rare moments where you are pulled out of the story because of either a visual or animation issue.
Also, the music is pretty ordinary. It isn’t good or bad but just kind of sits in the background.
There’s also a real attempt at asking some questions about the morality of synthetic humans and human clones for medical purposes. While the writing and plot don’t allow this the serious examination it needs, thematically it does work within this setting and that is probably the take away from the anime. Not what the anime does, but the questions it wants to ask.
So watching this may not be the best use of your time you would probably find other series that have a bit more bite to them, you wouldn’t be entirely wasting your hours by giving this some attention.
Thanks for reading.
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