With my new found material wealth (as compared to a post-grad student) I've joined quickflix, a DVD rental by mail place. They'll happily deliver incredibly scratched up disks as long as it's a title no-one else actually wants to see... but then on the positive side I would have been a lot less happy if I'd actually bought this.
It's the primal stuff of nightmares. You go to bed in normality and wake up screaming with a monster looming over you and a world that has descended into madness. The guy we follow, Yugi, has a really bad case of this. Having gone into a long sleep, cryogenic suspension in the hopes that a cure will be found for an unknown ailment, he wakes up with an insectoid horror ripping apart the people who woke him and clearly intending to have a quick Yugi-snack.
He does get rescued (not too much of a spoiler) by a bunch of high tech military types, complete with battlesuits, but it's a full three episodes before he gets over the shock. Part of the reason being that the outside world is even worse. While he has slumbered mankind has fought a brutal war of attrition with a relentless and rapidly evolving race of insectoid monsters. And, what's more, we got our asses firmly kicked. The vast majority of humanity is dead, the world in ruins, and the few survivors traumatized by what they've seen. What sort of life is there in the twilight of humanity?
And, frankly, who cares? I only watched 6 episodes but that was more than enough for me. If someone wants to e-mail me and explain how the series grows into something wonderful I'm interested to hear, but I can't see it happening from this foundation. Not to mention that, when I left the series, the two leads (who also happen to be the only surviving characters) are walking from the Korean seaboard to Moscow... I figure given any sort of realism that should take them the next 20 episodes anyway. Actually scratch that, in a tragic case of self-abuse I rented another DVD to see if it got any better...the answer being an extremely firm "no way". They finally get into space at episode 12 but the question of why they have wasted so many resources to rescue one idiot (he was seriously annoying me at this point) remains a mystery... but not nearly enough of one to make me watch more.
So what's wrong with the series? The first is that the characterization is astoundingly unsubtle. Yugi is the lead, his long cybersleep making him an "alien" in this new age, so he can gaze upon the horror with fresh eyes. Although this often resolves to a lot of whining, pointless accusations and really idiotic, poorly thought out actions. I imagine he'll eventually become a bit of a bad-ass in time and kick some alien butt. Meanwhile Marlene (who reminds me strongly of Armitage in appearance) is already an incredible bad-ass, her character forged to steel by all the things she has seen. They're not too bad, and there's a little bit of chemistry there.
However everyone else might as well have "disposable cannon-fodder" written on their shirts. This show chews through extras, with extra large helpings of bright red splatter, at a shocking rate. For example at the start there are three females in the military group, marlene and two others. However we never get to learn the others names because the vehicle they are in comes to a stop at one point and both of them simultaneously splatter themselves all over the internals. It's just incredibly gratuitous. The rest of the cast, and anyone they happen to meet, can be certain to die in an equally gruesome fashion. It is probably supposed to emphasise the horror of war, but it actually just feels like the creator going overboard and enjoying drawing death a little too much.
If might work better if the mosters were more believable. But, when all is said and done, they're just really weird looking bugs... which actually look more robotic than insect like anyway. These monsters would fit right into any 70's anime. And likewise the high tech soldiery, who have been trained and equipped to fight them, seem to have accidentally been equipped with some of the most useless weapons ever invented. Machine guns that bounce harmlessly off the aliens? A mecha that specialises in hand to hand combat? This all leads to some of the most boring combat scenes possible, with the bugs having "story based immunity", being unstoppable forces of destruction apart from the one little spot that kills them instantly.
Ultimately it's a splatter movie, endless hordes of characterless bugs that can be shot at while equally characterless extras die on the sidelines. But it is not a good splatter movie, no action, no tension and little character. And life is way too short to waste on bad anime.
Actually this section is probably an even more serious blow than the lack of character or story. This show might work if the action was hot, but it definitely isn't. The technical design is really poor, the mecha look lame, complex machinery like trucks and planes looks poorly thought out and incomplete. And to top it off the animation isn't great, jerky movement, dull fight choreography and boxy, low detail environments. Some of the shortcuts they use are just way too obvious. I even got a couple of screen captures I couldn't use because they make the show look too bad. The voicework is average, not helped by a flat dialogue, nor was the music of much interest, (ambient music being largely absent).