#198 : Hades Project Zeorymer

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the form of a four episode mecha anime… never thought I would say that statement. Here we have an OVA that begins a little weak and then evolves very quickly after the initial introduction into one of the darkest tales of the piloted giant robot genre. In the end who is the hero and who is the villain? Maybe it could be played from either side, or maybe neither side is truly on the side of justice, which brings up another topic, the aspect of self identity. Am I really who I think I am, or am I only the programming of someone else’s will? Wow this sounds deep, so this must have been well loved? By some yes, by others not so much… this was Hades Project Zeorymer.

HPZ_1Let’s now dive into this interesting stew. Mix part Izcer-1 and Dangaioh from director Toshiro Hirano; 80s mecha OVA experience check. Now add in some Silent Möbius from character designer Michitaka Kikuchi (a.k.a. Kia Asamiya); gritty cyberpunk attitude check. Now add this to a previously released mecha manga that was featured in a lolita hentai magazine and was created by the mind responsible for the Guyver (Yoshiki Takaya). What the?! Now how did this all work out as a mainstream OVA release? Easy… no hentai, or lolicon stuff… oh good that was creeping me out. The final product became a possible prototype for what became of mecha anime in the late 1990s. Angst filled, psychological, darker in tone… perhaps Evangelion was not as revolutionary as we are led to believe? After all Evangelion paid homage to the many things from creator Hideaki Anno’s past, including his mental journey states. Now let us return to Zeorymer.

HPZ_2How is it that I am so mixed about Zeorymer? The first episode was a bit of a let down and I was thinking that things were pointing to a plot direction of a mecha of the episode fighting against a wimpy hero. Then things change over the remaining three episodes moving into an extremely darker tone that shapes not only the characters, but the plot as well. We begin with our protagonist who plays the victim card and is taken by strangers to pilot a giant robot that was stolen from a large organization bent on conquering the world. With this renegade machine we find our protagonist change from scared and mild mannered into inhumane and cold. This is like shifting from Gundam’s Amuro Ray, or Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari into the archetype of M.D. Geist at the drop of a pin. Our hero is not a hero, or a victim, but perhaps a villain? Or is he? Several characters in this OVA, including our main character, end up looking inside themselves to realize what they thought they were was nothing more than a manufactured hoax.

HPZ_3Very heavy themes surround Zeorymer, but the shorter episode count format could have been longer in my opinion. The subject matter could have worked very well for a TV series, or at least a longer OVA run to develop the plot even more. We have to accept what is given even though for me this anime had a lot of potential. I am always a sucker for a deep intense story so when it gets good in terms ot being ‘serious’ I want to dive even deeper down and down and down. Even if darker themes are not your cup of tea what cannot be denied is the quality of Zeorymer in terms of presentation. Like many of Hirano’s directorial projects the detail and fluidity are very high in terms of quality. Spare no expenses here, this is a nice looking OVA.

HPZ_41988 brought many reinventions and presentations in the OVA market. Gunbuster, Patlabor and Dragon’s Heaven all brought a hope of light to the future of mecha anime. But what of the former dramatic titles from the past that filled either epic space opera, or deep sacrificial tones to the story that were on television? This all seemed to be a memory until the appearance of a lone dark figure, Zeorymer, who would appear against the previously mentioned titles as a both a call from the past and a harbinger of the future. Zeorymer may not be too everyone’s taste palette, but it cannot be ignored.

#196 : Cybernetics Guardian

A dystopian future, rapid scientific advancements, hidden secret societies, high intense action and the coming of a savior of darkness to cleanse the world… yeah that sounds fun, but what else have you got to offer? Well how about massive lion’s mane hair? Oh yes, now we are talking. A possessed beast with massive hair that defies gravity, yeah I don’t care how bad the plot is, or is not, I think we have here a hit for an OVA. But then a familiar name appears, Koichi Ohata. Oh no, not M.D. Geist… again! Never fear, this time we have something different. This time we’ll dive into Cybernetics Guardian.

CG_1Meet now our protagonist. This John Stocker fellow has a bright future ahead of him. His job is to test out a mech suit made of astenite, a metal that draws in transformative psychic energy and has been used variously in many medical applications to great success. All goes well until a test accident awakens hidden powers inside Mr. Stalker. A demonic presence named Saldo begins to emerge which heightens even more so after John Stalker’s body is kidnapped by a masked and robed figure. He is taken back to his childhood home, the slums of the city known as Cancer. There evil priests revive in process this beastly creature that was once John Stalker to lay ravage onto the city of Cyber-wood.

CG_2Simple and basic, this story is a generic tale seen in many comic book scenarios… “Unleash the beast within”, or “OMG, what has happened to me, I’m possessed!” Except this time our protagonist gets the ultimate coif… it has to be a weave! Cybernetics Guardian is definitely anime and has the feel we expect from Japanese hands, yet I can’t help but witness a more Western influence. The characters look more Caucasian than usual, which of course is subjective to my eye, but even the setting feels like Los Angeles from Blade Runner, which of course borrowed many Eastern elements. So perhaps we have a draw of sorts with no real side taken between East or West? Visually in terms of color and mood there just is something different in the palette that draws more into the more indie or underground American style. Maybe it’s just me?

CG_3For being a short one off production and a product of Koichi Ohata, Cybernetics Guardian is actually decent to watch. Nothing against Ohata, but many of his productions have a schlock feel too them with a touch of the ultra violent. Cyberbetics Guardian has a little of this as well, but there is also some substance under the showing off of hyper active macho gore. M.D. Geist I liked, though it is a bit on the ridiculous (so bad it’s entertaining), and Genocyber I could never get through a whole watching (just not my thing). Yet Cybernetics Guardian is a happy medium and can function well as there is humanity in the John Stocker character, unlike say Geist. By no means a top of the line OVA release Cyberbetics Guardian is well executed in terms of paint and pen and has enough of of an okay story to watch through, just not very often. It might be the crown jewel of Ohata’s early work?

#183 : Megazone 23 Part II: Please Give Me Your Secret

“Whatever happened to my rock n’ roll?” … Now the title says so and this plot says so, but this certainly don’t look like, or feel exactly like the Megazone 23 I remember? After the runaway success of the 1985 original in terms of sales, ¥1.7 billion ($21.3 million) from 216,000 copies sold in Japan, it became a no brainer that a sequel would be a viable option for 1986. If you thought the exploits of Shogo Yahagi and the Proto Garland as well as the songs of Eve Tokimatsuri were complete… think again. While this could been an attempt at a cash grab, the final product says otherwise. Megazone 23 Part II: Please Give Me Your Secret may be a sequel, but it has a message and heart at it’s core.

MZ23p2_1Shaken up I was initially with this sequel compared to the original OVA in terms of presentation and even the story. Gone are the familiar character designs of Toshihiro Hirano with that slick fashion magazine look and enter a more punk esthetic mixed with the detail of Yasuomi Umetsu’s handy work. Familiar faces like Shogo, Yui and B.D. have all changed, becoming unrecognizable, but Eve still retains her style with slight updates from the original design by Haruhiko Mikimoto. For a while I played the polarity fence of favoring the first part over this second part. Over time I have come to enjoy both installments, recognizing them as great anime titles on their own, but I will always have a deep place in my heart for Megazone 23 (Part 1). Now on with the show…

MZ23p2_2Months have passed in Tokyo since we last left Shogo Yahagi’s ‘final’ encounter with B.D. Shogo is on the run and has aligned himself with a bike gang of street punks known as the Trash. The war in space is still on with Megazone 23 going against a strange enemy that uses tentacle like weapons that drill through anything, including human flesh (not for the faint of heart). All the while to the general public it is business as usual, though there is some war that is still talked about on the news; bliss in ignorance. B.D. is still trying to crack the main computer controlling Megazone 23 and the EVE program from that mainframe continues to call out with, “Operator 7G please respond!” Operator 7G of course is Shogo and he continues finding Eve on various media streams calling out to him. The time has come to answer this call, but first… Shogo has to get the Proto Garland back! And this is only the beginning of this story.

MZ23p2_3Megazone 23 Part II has the familiar mecha action from the first installment, but with a new director Ichiro Itano. Itano was known primarily for his animation kills with action sequences that have lots of firepower and intricate motion. This is on full display during the heat of action. Yet this is so much more than an all out action fest. The moments of character interaction particularly with Shogo and his friends are where we get the real message of Megazone 23 Part II. A message of anti-authority distrust and attitude towards corrupt adults only bent on power and narcissism are of no concern to Shogo and the Trash. Though they may be street punks, they do have a sense of honor and respect for the simple pleasures of life and friendship. So ‘stick it to the man’… literally. … And as a side bonus, we even get another love scene for those of you who like hot romance… very steamy!

MZ23p2_4I still feel that the original version stands on it’s own as a total package even with an ending that was open ended, yet satisfyingly complete. I feel this second installment gives an alternate future of what could have happened to Shogo, but maybe not the definitive. The beauty of Megazone 23 Part II is the fact that we do get a silver lining at the end. After all the insanity, the violence and the hardship, we get a breathe of fresh air, some peace. Much like life when coming out of hardship, the moment you take a look at what’s in front of you and smile in content you realize it was all worth it. Megazone 23 Part II, in the end you are worth it… no grudges anymore.

… Hey! Side note… did you spot the references to the ThunderCats and SilverHawks?