Armitage: Dual Matrix
I liked the first Armitage-III OAV series. Sure, the plot was incredibly unlikely, but it worked as a driver. And, despite the fairly dire english language dub, the characters came through and the action was a pleasure to watch. So I was really interested to see there was a sequal to it, how cool.
Discussing this title will require revealing one of the plot secrets from the original OAV. If you haven't seen it yet you might want to consider waiting on reading this review until you've seen the first. Although I don't think it would really ruin your enjoyment that much.
This story takes place a goodly distance into the future. A world in which science has made some dramatic scientific advances. Robotics, cybernetics, artificial intelligence and space travel are all a routine part of this world. And indeed mankind has continued to increase their numbers on earth and expanded both into space and to setting up a permanent colony on mars. But as individuals mankind is still deeply flawed. Man hates the robotic puppets that ape their manner and take their jobs. Earth hates the upstart martian colonies who challenge earths authority. While greed and hate still drive men to acts of violence and destruction.
The story follows Armitage, a third type android, designed to be indistinguishable from humanity and to be capable of bearing children to solve the Martian population problem. Something she has succeeded in doing, with a family of her own. But when her fellow thirds are massacred she is forced to respond, to find the truth behind this act. But the truth she finds is that it is her, and the secret she carries, that they're truly after. And they're willing to use any tool, including her family, to get what they want. Of course, those who have seen the first OAV series, know that it's a bad, bad idea to piss off this little android.
It's really strange that this movie managed to capture all the weaknesses I remember from the first one. It would have been nice if they'd tried to have less flaws in a sequel but I guess that's just too much to ask. To begin with the plot is pretty much out there. It sort of changes tack halfway through, lacks consistency and readily fades into the background once the action starts. It's more sort of a creation to join the scenes together than anything terribly convincing in its own right.
Armitage and Ross (her hubby) are actually meant to be really competent individuals. Since they're both ex-cops they know all about subtle detective work and keeping a low profile while they find out the truth. Well, they used to anyway, but they don't here. They're very straightforward and unsubtle which robs the show of any tactical interest or sense of mystery. It's all rather straight forward which is quite disappointing. They also seem to have lost a lot of their combat skill, with both of them seemingly relying on luck, and Armitage some sort of secret power-up mode, to win the fights. If they're not clever, and they're not cool and skilled, then they're a lot less interesting.
So really character and plot are secondary to having some nice set piece action shots. And these are an interesting mixture. They're really strangely animated, as if they've been really cheap on the number of frames per second. The movement is not smooth at all and almost feels like it's flicking from position to position. It's not very pleasant to watch but it does get away with it because the overall sequence is interesting enough. One of the environments, a space elevator borrowed from Akira apparently, forms a great arena for a whole series of fights. I'm not so sure about the use of roller skates in combat by her enemies, but it ends up working well enough.
The sad thing is that, when all is said and done, there's enough to draw you in. The connection between Ross, Armitage and their daughter is not done particularly well. But you almost can't help getting sucked into caring, at least a bit, because it's so primal. Armitage is fighting for her fellow thirds, her life and her family so you can't help but be on her side. Ross is a bit of a loss character wise, as he was in the OAV, but he's loyal. And the daughter is cute and, when she accepts her mothers non-humanity, it actually manages to get close to having some intensity. The plot doesn't make much sense, and the drama is laid on with a shovel, but you still want Armitage to both win and find happiness. That was the formula that made the first one work and they've manage to retain it.
Having been moderately polite let's get back to the flaws. Like the screw-ups all over the production of this title. What the heck is with the puffy and unattractive character design in this title? Sure the colors fine and the finish is glossy but she looks strange and definitely without much in the way of sex appeal. Which considering the clothing she wears is an almost criminal waste. I've already bagged the movement animation but I'll also give a serve to some of the lame computer graphics used very half heartedly. But most of all, what atrocious voice acting. The character of mouse, meant to be a robot repairman, is up there for the most painfully over-acted character in anime. And Armitage's voice actress, spitting the lines out so they fit the lip-sync, does a dramatically poor job. And she's meant to be a feature of the title? I don't think so. Western voice actors normally can't do the little sub-audible emotes the Japanese female actors do, the little breathy sounds, but most come closer than this. I didn't really notice the music.
It might be obvious that this review has wandered a bit. Perhaps i'm tired or perhaps it really summarizes this tape. A competent but relatively half hearted insta-sequel. Some sections that work, combined with lots of squandered opportunities to create something better and deeper. It's watchable, even moderately enjoyable, but it's far from being anything special.