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Neo Ranga


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Title Info

  • seen: 1-12,17-24
  • type: TV
  • grade: watchable
  • source: digital
  • form: sub
  • made: 2000
  • Review created: Thu Aug 23 20:57:10 EST 2001
  • mod: none

Another modern example of taking the concept of `mecha' and considering the social and political implications of such a thing. In addition there's also some good material to be gained out of considering the personal effects of such a thing, especially if the people being affected are cute young females. I must, once again, thank Aarsen Azizyan for making a large serving of this series available for my viewing...even if it did take me ages to actually get around to doing so.


The story opens with three ordinary young Japanese females attempting to live a normal life. This is made a bit more difficult because of their lack of parents, but the oldest of the three is mature enough to make do. She's the serious type, keeping her mind on the immediate and working multiple jobs to keep the money coming in. The middle female is a fiery high school student, seemingly the most sensitive and emotional of the three. Meanwhile the youngest has got the whole `intense' thing going, with a sideline in cynical.

Things go a touch strange when they are given three tickets to a small pacific island. On this island they are given one staggering truth after another that makes huge changes to their world. The first is that their brother married the local princess, the second is that he seems to have been lost at sea with the conclusion being that they now rule this independent, and weird island. An island steeped in myth and folklore including the myth of the island having it's own god to look after it. Although the girls are somewhat shocked to find that this myth is a little more immediate, as in `he lives over there', and active, as in the rather graphic punishment of a traitor to the island. In any case these sensible Japanese girls are having nothing to do with any of it and return to Japan. It's just a shame for them that Neo-Ranga, the huge mecha-like god of the islands, seems to have grown attached to them.


In other words it's `slice of life' drama when three girls inherit a huge, semi-sentient and awesomely powerful giant mecha. And since it stands 20 meters (or so) at the shoulder it's not exactly the sort of thing you can keep a secret. Especially when, in the wonderfully detailed opening episodes, it's had to walk through Tokyo to get to its new home. They also end up inheriting a new brother, a priesthood and the formal ruler-ship of the island. Although this last element is mostly required to stop the militaries immense temptation to have a shoot out with Neo-Ranga.

From there, as I hinted in the opening, it considers the outcomes that such an event would cause. For a start the three sisters react to having power, responsibility and being visibly different in quite varied ways. And, since they're quite different people, they disagree as often as not. Meanwhile the rest of the world can't help but be drawn into the story. The Yakuza doesn't like something `bigger than them' being around, the locals have a variety of feelings about it, while the military would very much like control it. It also means that when the sisters are drawn into a story, even if it does not focus on them, they do possess the power to become involved. Although it turns out that a huge mecha doesn't, in fact, solve all problems.

It's really a rather interesting premise. And the modern production, full of introspection, gritty reality meeting fantasy and varied characters with complex interactions makes for some different stories. And at the heart of it, the question of how the sisters will grow and change in the strange new world they inhabit. It's got everything needed to spin some interesting and innovative stories. Perhaps with some deep dark conspiracies and hidden mysteries in the shadows to allow for a continuing story line. It has every reason to be good.

Except for the fact that it doesn't seem to be working so far. The first thing worth mentioning is that these are `mini' episodes, each being 10 minutes long once you discount the (rather nice) opening scene. This puts a sizable time pressure on each episode, and the complexity the writing can attempt. The second thing is that there is a noticeable drop in the animation quality after the first four episodes. The girls start to look much more cartoony and while Neo-Ranga still looks broodingly epic the situations in which he acts are much simpler and less impressive.

However the final, and main, problem is that the writers don't seem to have much idea of which way to take the story. There's all sorts of story directions, but they don't seem to be followed with much enthusiasm or go very far. I applaud them for not taking the easy way out, inventing a `mission' for the girls and an `enemy' to oppose them, but it does mean that they have to meet their own challenge. And this seems to be harder than they thought. The character and nature of the girls seems to be in a state of flux, it's hard to really get a feel for them as characters. Meanwhile a lot of the challenges they face stretch credibility a touch too far. And, at the end of the day, many of them simply aren't dramatic or exciting enough to give the show the punch it needs. Had the character work been stronger the lack of action might not have mattered, had the action been more impressive and common the girls characters would not have been so important. And the addition of some humor into the mix doesn't actually end up helping either.

The production itself is quite decent, even if the first four episodes are clearly superior. It ends up feeling like the sense of drama, scale and over-lapping complexity of the start seem to suddenly vanish. The girls look quite cute, there's a fair amount of fan service (not least in the opening) and they've got different and interesting personalities. The depiction of other characters, and their emotions, is pretty good. Neo-Ranga himself is wonderful, fully expressing the sheer mass and power he represents, while his thoughts and purpose are expressed only in his eyes and actions. Although the military, and their own mecha, are considerably less impressive. Even at it's reduced level it is not the production that is the problem here. The voices are generally very good, and some of the music interpreting primitive music in a catchy J-pop way is rather enjoyable.

Other Reviews

  • Lord Carnage review How nice to find another review from the prolific Lord Carnage. We also seem to find ourselves in agreement that the show is taking it's time to get both character and story started along any definite path. Although he is a lot more optimistic about the show coming together than I am (3.5/5).


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:22 WST 2009