Now and Then, Here and There
This series has lots of kids, and in many ways is about young children...but it certainly isn't intended for young children. This series is grim and terrible, while being skillful and interesting. If you're in the mood for some fun, flee this show, but if you want a demonstration of anime as a serious art form, move on in.
The story begins and focuses on a young male. It's made abundantly clear that he's no genius, and doesn't think things out much, but he does have certain strengths. The main one being that he acts with such speed and strength of will (or lack of thought) that he often (with a lot of luck) survives some impressive physical sequences. Backing this up is a pure, dumb, faith in the fact that if you believe things will get better.
And, perhaps it would have worked. But he see's a strange girl sitting on a smokestack and is intrigued by her, and how she got up there considering the only path is broken. The answer is much stranger than he could possibly believe, as weird machines of war materialize and attempt to capture the girl. Naturally our hero leaps to the rescue, with some degree of success, but not before the vehicles return to their own world, taking both of them along. And this world is no pure fantasy-land.
Indeed the world contains a huge fortress tower in the midst of a desert. The entire tower is filled with high tech weapons and every individual appears to be part of the defense plan for this kingdom. And, even worse, the despotic ruler is a brutal and insane lunatic with a desperate desire to conquer the world and slaughter all who might possibly oppose him. His madness, and capricious and cold-hearted use of power, permeates the entire fortress. Which, as it turns out, is facing revolt by its once subjugated lands. In such an environment the mysterious girl, our hero, and a great many other people must attempt to survive and understand this nightmare.
There's a lot more story elements than this, and a lot more characters, but I don't want to spoil it any more than I have. And the main reason i've been so detailed in my synopsis is, at least partly, as a warning. The true essence of this show would seem to be on considering a world in which total power, over life and death, is in exactly the worst hands possible. Even more than that, a hemmed in world in which the culture of violence and brutality has become the accepted norm. A world with no escape and few limitations. Supposedly, according to a usenet comment, the inspiration being a documentary on child mercenaries in central Africa.
And as such don't expect too much cheer. The actions, the characters, the dialog and the ambience are all tinged with darkness. They're not evil per se, because this is simply the way this world works, but it is also meant to have an effect on us. And, while it's placed in another world to give some sense of seperation, many of the elements exist in our world as well. As such expect a fair bit of hostile psychology, character pain and terror and a fair number of, to use the proper word, atrocities. So far it hasn't been too graphic, largely because it doesn't need to be to get the point across.
It could be critized in being too `artificial' or selfish. Clearly the person behind this show has some things he wanted to explore and express. This means the world and events sometimes feel a bit too convenient or staged, even illogical. But really, this is what is required to get maximum ambience and psychological effect in as few episodes as possible. An example of this can be seen in the fact that the whole population is militarized. This means children being armed, sent off to war, and dying. This is potent stuff, and certainly too close to modern incidences, but it doesn't neccessarily make sense in a culture that does possess such high tech weapons. Still, it's interesting, ambitious and different.
The animation is solid and satisfying. The actual design is strongly matched to the mood of the story. There are terrifying weapons but the main feel is one of darkness, cold metal and rust. The architecture and scenes are epic but make it clear that effective machinery is more important than the human inhabitants. The coloring is often dark, with a very subdued but wide selection of colors. The action, when it occurs, is creative and well done. In all it's solid and skilled animation perfectly sufficient, but subservient, to the needs of the story. Voices are good and properly dramatic, I don't have strong recollections of much ambient music but sound is used well.
This is still pretty new, but I think we'll be hearing more about this title. But at the moment none of my regular sources has a review.