Very, very strange stuff indeed. And while two episodes is not really enough to know where this is going, who knows when i'll see more? In any case we start off following a boring, middle aged sarariman (salary man, see how easy Japanese can be?) as he mumbles and moans his way off to work. It turns out that once he was a potential rock star, but he's sold out, married, had a kid and now works as a trader in a straightforward company. Most of this is brought out when his wife throws his guitar out. Things become more complicated when various attractive, but otherworldly, females get involved. It isn't long before he's acting weird, staying out late, disappearing at odd moments and seeming strangely satisfied. His wife suspects he's having an affair with an attractive new woman at the office. But little should she worry, because really she's an alien space commander and all he does is play his guitar to help the aliens defeat their space enemy...although we haven't seen him try that excuse as yet.
With such a strange start it is almost impossible to guess where this is going to go. Will it continue to mess with interesting images of Japanese society, or will it wander into sci-fi territory. Either way, it has a strange ambience, slow pace and odd `taste' that is likely to keep it a show with limited appeal. Certainly the characters are unusual, and the domestic detail intriguing. Watching the lead at work, his relationship with his child and his wife, is all suprisingly interesting. Of course given that his wife actually has a `Japanese' stature it took me a while to work out it wasn't his daughter. The image developed, of a Japanese man not entirely in control of his life, or certain how he got to this state, has an odd appeal...although one that does not correlate to the expected `anime' demographic. Possibly this is an attempt to appeal to an older age group. The Sci-fi elements are currently only sketched in, more a `plot stirrer' than the true focus. The `ex-rocker' element doesn't really appeal to me, and the allure of wailing guitar solo's is not something I understand, but I guess it makes sense as an image of youthful energy and creativity now denied to a mature, working, man. Strange, subtle and not without a certain depth. Definitely one to try before you buy though, because there'll be many people who find good reasons to dislike this.
The animation style matches the story, being sparse and unusual. To start with the design's are realistically plain for most of the human characters. Which admittedly is a really clever way to make the `aliens' look weird, since they look like proper anime females. He looks tired and middle aged, his wife looks suprisingly plain (and, as mentioned, Japanese scaled), and his boss has a face that looks very natural berating him for tardiness. Likewise the settings, his small apartment, the office and such have a very realistic feel. The visual appearance of the animation is odd as well, simple and subdued color (most of the time), minimal motion animation and a feeling of low detail. There's also computer animation in parts, which seems to say, "we didn't care about this bit". It's almost completely with out the flash and richness we've come to expect from modern animation. And as a result it really isn't that attractive, but it does sort of fit the style of the piece. The production seems to have `gaps' and variation (the opening is simply an insane barrage of styles) which is either lazy or intentional to give it an alternative or arty feel. The guitar music does precious little for me, and situational music seemed pretty subdued.
This is probably pretty new, so none of the sites I source from had a review of this title. Incidentally the opening episode is titled `stairway to heaven' which gives an idea of how the `guitar' element may feel a bit corny to western audiences. Jokingly my musician brother started humming stairway to heaven until I informed him that under Australian law it is legal to kill anyone knowingly doing so. It also seems that this will be released in america under the name `Black Heaven'.