I'm not even sure if this counts as anime, seeing as it's entirely done in 3D computer graphics. Then again computer graphics is a part of most modern anime, and this does look like it's produced in Japan for a Japanese Audience so I guess it counts. It's a shame it's not good computer animation though.
Writing synopsis for stories that incorporate time travel, like this one, can really give you a headache. In any case a young Japanese girl, named Alice, has been selected for a shuttle flight into outer space. During the trip something goes badly wrong and the shuttle is forced back down to earth, with only Alice and a hostess robot surviving the experience. However as they look over the frozen landscape, and note the armored soldiers on rocket propelled sleds closing in, they're forced to ask exactly which earth they have come down to.
Fortunately they escape and meet a young boy who is able to fill them in on some of what's going on. It seems that the time is 2030 and huge sections of the earth have been forcibly De-populated. On one side is a crazed madman with an army of killer robots under the control of a super computer. On the other side is a ruthless group of freedom fighters. And to make things even more interesting it seems they both want to get their hands on Alice. The question of why Alice so important, and what she will do once she knows the full truth, being a major part of the story.
Normally I talk about production style and quality at the end of the review, but in this case it is something that must be considered up front. This movie is completely computer generated. I couldn't spot any traditional cell animation or backdrops. Now I've liked computer graphics for a long time, I remember going to early `computer graphics festivals' and watching Silicon graphics show-reels and going nuts at the wonder of it all. On the other hand Final Fantasy opens this week and will push the expectations for what computer graphics can achieve to a very high level.
And computer graphics does have a certain complex and austere beauty when done well. It also has some severe weaknesses. The first is that the benchmark for what counts as `good' computer animation is constantly being raised. The second is that bad computer graphics, or even stuff simply below the current level of skill, can look really bad. And the final weakness is that computer graphics can lack life, the scenery looks too clean, minimal and simplistic while people don't move properly and their expressions just look weird or doll-like. This movie suffers from all of these problems in sizable amounts. The facial expressions and body motions just look really wrong, they move like weird dolls and the scenery has a real `plastic' feel to it. It has a certain charm at times, and it's interesting to see that the models have `Asian' eyes, but far too often your attention is drawn to the thousands of things it does poorly.
Ignoring the flaws and faults in the computer animation will not be easy. If you can manage this feat you'll find a reasonable story at the base of the show. It's not deep, or particularly novel, but it's interesting enough. The characters are, once again, quite familiar but it must be said they do manage a degree of presence. It is possible to see some complexity in Alice, and a surprising amount of life in the waitress robot. It might be due to some decent voice acting, the way the plot interacts with the characters or even some quite decent dialogue and a certain `stillness' that comes from the inert animation style. It's not great, and the conclusion is sort of weak and unclear in meaning, but at heart it is watchable.
The design is fairly weak, with many questionable technical decisions and some odd looking enemies, vehicles and equipment. In addition the computer effects, normally an easy way to add some flash, are surprisingly average and restrained. The environment has obviously been carefully planned to keep the number of characters down to a minimum. And, finally, there are some action scenes which are quite poor. The flash of computer animation failing to make up for the doll like movement of this computer animation.
In essence it's a reasonably familiar story that is badly let down by the animation style. The human eye seems to much more severe on computer animation than on drawn animation. And I also missed the life, energy and effect that is possible using more traditional techniques. Even worse I suspect this title will date very quickly.