This title is going to be somewhat difficult to review. I feel obliged to warn that my review will be somewhat colored by the expectations I had. Namely I thought this title might have some echoes of Yokohama shopping trip, which it doesn't really.
Ever felt really alone in the world? Well you haven't got anything on Haruka, a young teenage girl, who has a much better reason to feel that way. As far as she knows she's the last human being on earth, having survived in a cold sleep capsule while mankind, and the robotic troops of mankind, carried out an extremely complete destruction of each other. All that is left now is the wreckage, mile after mile of shattered remnants of what was once a city.
However while Haruka might be the last surviving human she's not entirely alone. Some robots managed to survive the war and now make up the dominant population of the planet. Most of them are mindless warriors, still following their final destructive orders, but others are intelligent enough to realise that the war has forever changed the world. Indeed it was five of these intelligent robots that found the resting place in which Haruka slept and awoke her, and who now form her impromptu family. But what future is there in such a world?
Some shallow stuff first. It amuses me greatly that peace-maker Kurogane is about people killing each other and that Kurogane communication is about being alone. I've no real idea why this series bears that title either. I'll also say that I really, really detest 10 minute anime episodes. It's not too bad for me, since I watch them one after another, although it does mean I spend a lot of time fast forwarding through opening and closing titles. But it must really suck if you watch one episode per week. There's so little time that stories inevitably bleed from one episode to the next. I can see 10 minute episodes for "joke" anime, where there is no continuing story, but it doesn't work for this one.
Then again, I do have a suspicion about that. I get a strong feeling that the original intent was to have small, independent little stories exploring this environment. A sort of quiet and wistful series about forming social bonds and shaping a future in this eerily quiet post-apocalyptic world. For example one episode explores her own sense of loss, another looks at it from the point of view of one of the robots, one episode is concerned with finding a source of water. Relatively mundane stuff given weight, depth and pathos by the environment in which it takes place.
Certainly the pieces are all in place. The city ruins, with the odd bit of threat from leftover warrior robots, forms a wonderful backdrop. Each of the characters has a role to play in the stable environment they have fashioned for themselves. It's to be expected that, being intelligent and having survived the war, each robot also has an interesting backstory to explore. Sadly the only one we see in depth is that of Angela, a duellist robot who looks a hell of a lot like Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, and kicks about the same amount of ass. She's a large part of the reason they're not really too threatened by the rampant robots. Discovering her past, and watching her forge new connections with Haruka, is very interesting.
Sadly they don't quite have the Shoujo talent for empathy, so the script feels a little bit blunted and overly direct. More seriously it seems like they lose patience with that direction and start moving more towards story based progression and a bit more action. The ruined city environment is lost, they start to get a more direct quest and they suddenly have active and intelligent opponents. Heck, we even get some robo-babes (who are awfully cute actually) into the bargain. It's not bad, but it does mean that some of Haruka's companions inevitably fade into the background. It also means the 10 minute episode limit starts to become really annoying. More seriously The slow and atmospheric ambiance the show started with remains to conflict and compete with the newly found action imperative.
So the end verdict is that it's a little bit confused about what it is. There's some slow moving character work which takes up too much time for the action people and is too shallow for the Shoujo crowd. Even Haruka herself, the theoretical lead character, starts to fade a little. She becomes more involved in the stories of others, than a driver of story herself. The rest of her companions, with the exception of Angela, becoming little more than background. I can't help but be a little disappointed, but it's possible this relates somewhat to my own expectations.
It's not actually bad though. The story does build up a decent sense of momentum, the nemesis figure is actually quite intense and the superb design and solid character work does give it some depth. So it's still eminently watchable. The violence, and sense of threat, actually calling out some interesting character work. Meanwhile the focus on story allows for some interesting events and a somewhat illogical but relatively satisfying conclusion.
One last niggle though. This title, like many others, glorifies robot technology way above humanity. Water gathers in pools, food grows on trees, but robot parts and maintenance requires an impressive technological foundation. Haruka could have been a bit more "useful" as a character if the robots had not been so perfect. It would have also given the robots a greater sense of realism if they had some needs and limits of their own.
I certainly can't fault the production. It's all rather attractively animated. The characters look good, although they cheat by making robot features malleable for the purposes of emoting, and the environment even better. Some of the shots over the ruined city, the remnants of civilisation or even the sad sight of a shattered robot have power. The technical design, which they don't seem to apply to characters, is excellent. Action is a little bit static, there's not really too much movement, but it works. The voices are good and the music equally catchy, although I remain confused about what the closing song is on about.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be the last human left on earth? Well Haruka is finding out the answer because it appears that the last war has left her as the sole survivor. Fortunately the 5 intelligent robots who awoke her from cold sleep have bound themselves into an impromptu family around her. A very watchable series, nicely animated, but that seems somewhat confused about whether it's character or action driven. Also hampered by 10 minute episodes.