#228 : Megazone 23 Part III

And I thought this was a 90s anime… goes to show I need to read the release dates more carefully. Megazone 23 is supposedly not done telling it’s cyberpunk mecha storyline just yet. The original from 1985 is a personal favorite of mine and the 1986 sequel is quite good as well, but I thought the story was over? As much a sequel as well as a reboot, Megazone 23 Part III would bring back the legendary red Garland motorcycle and virtual pop star Eve Tokimatsuri one more time to finish the decade of the 1980s with this third installment in the guise of a two part OVA.

M23_3_1Here is a question… can you have too much of a good thing? In terms of Megazone 23 I sometimes say yes. I was satisfied with the original as a complete stand alone story. I accept the second part as a possible alternate ending to conclude the first, but where do we go from here? Into the even farther future after mankind has resettled onto the Earth and yet similar problems have re-emerged, such is the fate of humanity. The more we change, the more we stay the same? Potential is possible here, but much of Megazone 23 Part III feels like borrowed re-hatching from the initial installment of Megazone 23 from a certain point of view. The dynamic of young man on a motorcycle meeting a girl and a stoic rival and unraveling a mystery of the underpinnings of the structure of society are very, very similar. So how much is truly brand new here?

M23_3_2Welcome to the world of Eden, the new civilization for humanity, and meet a new face Eiji Takanaka. Our new protagonist has been hired by EX, a large tech giant, for his computing skills as well as his exception abilities in the arcade galleries. Eiji’s game of choice is the big hit of the moment, an immersive cockpit shooter that makes the SEGA classic Afterburner look like amateur child’s play. The name of this game he dominates with his friends is none other than… Hard On? (yes you can laugh here) Yet there is another name that seems to follow Eiji’s high scores and that name is Sean, a name that seems to be familiar to the girl Eiji just met, Ryo. Eiji’s later meetup with Sean would become a twist of fate where Sean parlays to Eiji to meet Eve in the heart of Eden. And when I mean meet Eve, I mean the real Eve… wait a minute… I thought she was a virtual idol?

M23_3_3Design consistency is something this series needs to learn. Following the trend from the previous two incarnations of Megazone 23 we get yet another character designer to join the group and new directors to run the show. Hiroyuki Kitazume would lend the his hand to character designs and as a fan of his work (Starlight Angel, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counterattack as examples) I welcome it, but I miss the originals from Toshihiro Hirano. Directors Kenichi Yatagai and more importantly Shinji Aramaki would run the show behind the cameras. Aramaki had been with Megazone 23 since the beginning, as a mechanical designer (a skill he is quite good at), but now he flexed his directorship muscles which for this OVA came out pretty good… just don’t give this guy CGI films, the are really a snore fest (my opinion).

M23_3_4There was a song and album by the band King Crimson known as Three of a Perfect Pair and how fitting it is for this final installment of Megazone 23 as this was the third part and comprised of a pairing of episodes. But is it perfect? Well… It’s a sharp looking OVA, perhaps one of the most polished looking cyberpunk stories I have ever seen. And by being polished I mean very fashionable. Cyberpunk usually gets a little gritty, or has an air of danger, but Megazone 23 Part III is like a mix of Vogue and GQ stylings circa 1989, gamer and hacker culture, a sterile dystopian fantasy aesthetic, that could pass in Hollywood, and mecha fighting in the even farther future. Megazone 23 Part III parlays a whole lot of style and even adds to the progression of the history of the Megazone 23 universe. So in its own way, Megazone 23 Part III is kind of perfect. …except for Hard On, lol.

#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?