I'd been sent some artwork from this series quite a while ago, and it was certainly impressive enough to get me interested. I still don't have enough material to be authoritative, and the show is a mix of the novel and familiar, but it certainly is interesting enough to open an entry for.
The setting is a sci-fi world some time in our future. It is also a world very different from our own, although many fundamental `human' elements continue. For example technology has made huge advances but imperfections, and bugs, remain. Society itself has also been remodelled, based on an almost complete understanding of genetics, but human flaws, competition and conflict are only amplified by the existence of `perfect' people. And, at a higher level, questions of politics, control and rebellion remain as insoluble as ever.
The particular story, however, is triggered by on outside occurrence. An immense artifact, a huge ring in space, has appeared in earths orbit. This, along with artifacts and discoveries, causing turbulence at the highest levels. One specific outcome being the formation of a project team, and new technologies, to investigate and contain any threat that these events may contain. Then again, it might be that the team contains, or even is, more of a threat than anything else the galaxy may contain.
The first thing to say is that this is real sci-fi stuff. A world derived from our own but different in so many ways. And a great deal of attention is paid to design, detail and appearance. It makes us feel that this world not only could exist but could be a real future for us. There are all sorts of references, and effects, from the `way this world works' that are both interesting and give a great feeling of solidity to the series.
The other thing is that it is not a `nice' world. Things can go wrong, accidents can happen and people can (and do) die very easily. This may well be due to `hostile' forces, but it can just as often be due to human failings or conflict. It's an imperfect and somewhat callous world and gives a somewhat dark and mature feel to the show that is rather good.
Another nice fact is that some aspects of technology shape the story. The first element being the inherent complexity of being dependant on such complex items. Watching their huge mecha experience a software crash, the constant human battle with uncaring mechanical systems, is rather novel. It also gives the feeling that technology is not always the answer, not always dependable, or may be downright dangerous. It adds to the reality of the show that these downsides of technology are called out to balance the power that technology offers (and on which mankind depends, especially in space).
Technology also shapes the human interaction. This is a society where genetics is not only a science but the basis of society and personal relationships. I hate genetics as a story basis, since DNA really ain't that dominant, but this does it well. It doesn't say that genetics is absolute, but it does say that the society treats it as if it where. Thus we have a society with few, rigorously controlled, males in order to reduce the inherent aggressiveness of this genotype. We also have a genetic elite on board, who demands respect on that basis. Meanwhile the lead character is a `white', one whose DNA does not match the patterns for `mature' DNA genotypes. As such she's both an unknown force and a second class citizen.
The familiar bit comes from the human `team'. Due to the rather convenient `genetics' explanation there's lots of female crew members, never a bad thing for an anime. Although, due to the unusual nature of the mission, it actually does have three males (who are in command). The `character' females form the active part of the mission, piloting their huge and extremely ornate mecha and doing the physical stuff. They're interesting characters, but the `bitchy' girls and genki lead kept reminding me of other anime series. I'd assume they'll grow as the series does, but at the moment they seem so dominated by their archetypes that I didn't feel them to be sufficiently unique or even particularly interesting. Likeable enough to not be annoying, and support the story, but feeling more like a mixture of previous anime characters rather than new and exciting people.
Oh well, it's still a very interesting series that seems to contain great potential. It shouldn't be a bad thing to run into a series where the design and story are actually stronger than the characters. And there are so many story mysteries, conspiracies, and the feeling of a huge plot in the background, that I'll be actively keeping my eye open for more. I fully expect to be re-writing this review from scratch, and taking back much of what I say, when that happens.
The production is very capable. It uses computer animation for hardware and effects but thankfully refrains from letting it dominate. While the models are impressively complex, detailed and original it restricts fancy rendering effects, giving them a `dull metal' look that is very cool. The human animation is also quite good, giving a good sense of character, motion and expression. The leads have an interesting conflict between being `serious' sci-fi characters and cute, saleable anime characters though. The voices were good and easy to tell apart, the music didn't really call itself to my attention.
The other review sites I source from have much better sense than I. They're going to wait until more episodes are around before they risk a review.