Suspect I might be risking getting some hate mail with this review. But if it teaches people to regard my reviews with suspicion then that's not a bad thing. In any case this anime is both new, exciting and stylish while being somewhat empty and even a bit too traditional. What do I mean? I'm not sure either, perhaps we can work it out during the review.
A church on a dark night. Lightning flash. The evil light cast into a million hues by the stained glass windows. A woman, dying in a pool of her own blood. Her son desperate to help, to understand. His shock, and confusion, as her last act is to ram a knife into his chest. He expires amidst a series of nightmare visions. Truly alone in the world.
Released from the rest of the grave by his sister. But not his sister. A copy of his sister, one of many. Somewhere there is power, perhaps in his sister, perhaps in her copies, perhaps in himself. Dangerous organisations want this power for their own. No cost is too high, no one too important, to stand safe from this desire. One a corporation, sleek technology, massive installations, deadly robots. Another full of mutants, charged with exotic and potent powers. And in the middle his many sisters, the victims. Does he have the power to discover the secrets, oppose the hunter, protect the victim, save himself?
As you can see there's a reason why I'm not an author. On the other hand it felt like the very best way to give a feel for this show. Because it is dominated not only by `Style', but even STYLE in all caps. Every element of this show is bent towards impact, even at an unavoidable cost in clarity. And the extent to which this is appreciated with vary from person to person, although I suspect I'm amongst the least likely to enjoy it.
I'll start with the story, although the production is probably more important. The story is told almost entirely through events. Something happens, an image passes across the screen, or perhaps a statement is made. And these must be assembled, often sometime after the event has happened, for form the story. The ultimate feeling is that of many scenes strung together to form a rough and discontinuous sequence. It has an energy, an edginess, and a deep sense of darkness and confusion about it. It can also make it fairly challenging to work out what is happening, and what it means. It is primarily a story told through vision and effect.
The production, something I normally discuss last, thus has pride of place. Lots of motion effects, characters and images made out of flat slabs of color, and a huge focus on light and darkness. Our vision of the action is often reduced, cutting between parts of the event, focusing very closely on something then moving elsewhere. We see things through the eyes of the characters, restricted by the almost ever-present darkness and focused on the few sources of light. Even the motion itself happens in `bulk', objects tend to move as an `element' rather than be animated in detail. And backing this up is a focus on sound, loud and aggressive, to give it more punch.
Is it style over substance? That's the question, and I think different people will see the answer very differently. While the production and story-telling does have energy and atmosphere there is a suspicion that there is less depth behind it. It can almost feel like a long video clip, keeping secrets because the story is actually simple. For example, when you actually look at the plot, it's basically devilman with angst and atmosphere. Young kid with a good heart suddenly gains awesome powers and finds himself in a conflict with powerful opponents and `monsters'. Although one group has monsters while the other has giant mecha and killer robots. Meanwhile he keeps his heart pure by protecting the innocent caught in the middle. And in the background is an advisor, who knows much more than he about what is actually going on. It's all rather traditional once the unusual production is removed.
For myself, and this one is a very personal choice, I find it watchable but a little over the top. At times the dialog, character and story are so dominated by the style of the show that it becomes irritating. Likewise the action, which looks really cool, is often completely obscured by the broad shapes, darkness and `fuzz' of the production. On top of this is the somewhat hyper-active editing. I suspect it depends on whether you are a `visual' fan or a `story' fan. If you want something new, different and exciting then this might meet your needs well. If you want to visit new places and people through events and interaction this might end up feeling somewhat unsatisfying.
The one thing I will say is that some of the style is caused by a TV level budget. The animation here has clearly had to make some short cuts. There is some cleverness in how they have done this, but it does not change the fact that their vision would be stronger with more money and time than they probably had. I will also admit that the existence of many clones of his sister is clever. It means that while he has filial bonds to them all they can be very different people, with different pasts, stories and attitudes to the fact that they are not entirely original. It's very easy to be on their `side', and thus cheer the lead as he protects them and seeks to understand the secret of his sister and the people who seek her. It's a rather novel, and effective, plot hook.
None of my regular sources have a review of this title, so far.