What an experience. This title roars off from the station like an angry express train bound for anime stardom. And continues on like one as it veers off the rails and explodes into a tangled mess of half-baked ideas and stories. It's a wonderful example of why putting `everything' into an anime doesn't guarantee success.
Which is a shame, because the start is really pretty cool. The setting is Japan at the height of the economic boom well after world war two but previous to now. While wonderful new technology is becoming common, and many people are living good lives not all is as peaceful as it seems. It turns out <puts on trench-coat and whispers> they are amongst us. Yes, your closest friend could turn out to be an invader, a powerful alien force who have infiltrated humanity for their own fiendish reasons. And they have super-tech powers that put them well beyond humanities power to resist.
Fortunately such things tend to call forth a small but brave band of earth defenders with their own power. And indeed it turns out that there are a small number of people, generally teenagers naturally, capable of calling power from mini dimensional gates. A huge, and rather over-dramatic, secret government agency known as Aegis has been set up to discover, recruit and support these individuals. The only weapon capable of defeating the invaders. In particular we get to follow a young rough, tough and fearless (yet also sensitive and vulnerable) male student as he discovers he's got both potent gate powers and a new job.
It's almost hard to believe it started out so well. The sort of retro environment is pretty cool, and the alien invaders have a sort of dramatic air about them, while still being plenty dangerous. Meanwhile Aegis, owner of the worlds most stupid salute, is alternately happily over-the top, almost corny, and at others deadly serious. Add in some interesting characters, each with a cool characteristic power, which matches and reflects their personality, and it was looking good. It even starts laying some cool character groundwork for the lead, and a romantic interest between the leading female.
However it all starts to go terribly, terribly wrong. For one thing they lose control over when to stop adding characters. The first 12 episodes are almost all about introducing new characters, with their own funky new powers, which beats the increasingly silly invader menace. But after introducing all these cool characters, and powers, they don't seem to actually know what to do with them. Character development is either nil, or goes backwards (for the leads). And the show seems to sense this, introducing ever more exotic characters in an attempt to retain interest. This while it battles whether it's a parody, a light comedy, or a `serious' action show.
Needless to say all the new `core' members, barring a couple of support or comedy relief characters, are attractive girls. And at least two of them have a romantic interest in the lead. Clearly this is going to be a `harem' comedy, one male surrounded by females who play off one another. While we get to watch the cute females and imagine ourselves in his position. Sadly, it just doesn't work. The character writing, dialog, interaction and actions are some of the most poorly written examples I've ever seen. It lacks spark, meaning and direction and it's all crashingly unsubtle. And their attempt to do `character crisis' type stuff, the old lack of confidence, lack of faith bit, is woefully inept.
Meanwhile the `plot' of the show just continues to get sillier as new gadgets are introduced. I must admit even I was surprised when, at about episode 13, we suddenly have gate powered mecha making an appearance. Meanwhile the invaders, who started out as malicious `men in black', suddenly decide to morph into silly `giant vehicles' for no good reason what-so-ever. And then it turns out that the invaders we have seen are only foot troops, and it's actually a bunch of incredibly silly generals who are important. These being three individuals with such insanely simplistic characters that even the most primitive `giant robot' anime would be embarrassed by them. I really wish I was actually spoiling anything, it's just so meaningless, direction-less and downright silly it's almost embarrassing. The quality of writing is low, the stories are simplistic and the holes in the plot are ever-present.
And just as they seem to be getting it together, and manage a couple of actually decent character episodes, you look at the episode numbers and realise you're in the conclusion. And, unsuprisingly, it's bad. Effectively the nature of the alien invaders get's revealed in a single spiel, the ultimate bad guy turns out to be a pissed off child and the resolution is a mecha battle. Not to mention the required scene where love conquers hate. There's simply so many plot holes, revelations that even the dimmest audience member realized ten episodes ago and pure corn value that it's embarassing to think about. Meanwhile it becomes obvious that not only is the leader stupid, and un-observant, but that he's easily confused by just about everyone. The fact that the story makes this baka the center of the action simply making it all the more painful. And then it ends suddenly and ambiguously as all the bad guys are suddenly sucked into the sequel. Normally I would never give even semi-spoilers like this...but it's all so obvious and simplistic i'm not overly worried.
It just doesn't make sense that it could be this average. It's got every element that should make it a sure-fire hit. The characters designs are interesting, their powers are varied and cool and the old `alien' concept has a bit of life left in it. The animation is sufficient to make the characters look quite attractive, the powers (using computer graphics) look excellent and there's some nice computer work for the aliens and alien powers. There is money behind this, and skill in its production. Which is why it takes so long, and comes as such a shock, to realize that behind the somewhat erratic but quite competent animation there's absolutely no substance at all. The interesting basis, design and characters are wasted on this show. The voices are decent, although the dialog ends up making them look a bit like idiots, and the music is a touch over-enthusiastic, but nice enough.
This review might sound incredibly negative...which I guess it sort of is. I've been more polite to anime much worse than this. However this is the worst sort of anime. It's a title that could have been great, should have been great, and simply doesn't work. And it largely doesn't work because not enough time and care was taken with it. Thus the heat comes as much from seeing a potentially great anime simply fizzle away. I can't even imagine what it would be like if you were buying the tapes and were up to episode 15-20 before you realized it wasn't going to come together.