The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) [Boxing Day Review]

The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) 1999

You can no doubt predict exactly what I’ll say about episodic storytelling by now, right?

This almost sums up the palette used throughout.

I’m definitely a fan of it – but The Big O ticks a lot of boxes for me outside its mostly episodic structure too.

First, there’s the slowly unfolding mystery in an unsettling but familiar city, then there’s androids, revolving villains, a dramatic multi-genre OST and finally; retro-looking mecha placed within a very 20th Century aesthetic – the mash-up is fantastic.

Having said that, if you don’t enjoy (almost) madcap mixes of conventions and genres, you probably won’t end up liking The Big O too much.

Despite the strong Batman/James Bond feel to the series, and despite the noir detective stuff happening on the surface, I still think that there’s enough dissonance and enough of the philosophical maybe, to deter folks who prefer a focus on a single genre or tone.

But again, that’s one of my favourite aspects of The Big O – that and the stylish character designs and art deco visuals.

I’ll take a shot at exploring the premise just quickly:

Roger Smith is a negotiator/investigator living in Paradigm City, known as the city of amnesia (for reasons which I won’t spoil). There, he is eventually pulled into the mystery of whatever event wiped everyone’s memory forty years ago, aided by former client, Dorothy – an advanced android.

To hopefully evoke a sense of tone here, I want to mention one person involved in the production – Chiaki J. Konaka. As with all collaborative arts, I think it’s cruel to point to only one person, especially in a review, but I think if I mention Chiaki then that might give a few clues as to the tone and direction of this series – especially the second season.

If I step away from my rhapsodising about the series for a moment, I’ll maybe get enough distance to point out some things that I didn’t love. Firstly, Roger is kind of a jerk and essentially mistreats Dorothy for nearly the whole series. And speaking of Dorothy, if you take a look at what she can do in the first two episodes for example, she is truly under-utilised by the story.

I believe more than a few people agree that Season 1 tends to be stronger than Season 2 (actually, I only took screencaps from S1 mainly due to time).

Three or four years later and the animation quality does get a boost for the sequel season, but for me, the powerful mysteries established in those first thirteen episodes aren’t all answered as satisfyingly as I’d hoped. (I also wished that Swchartzman got a little more screentime somehow, as I tended to really enjoy him and his monologues!)

In contrast to my comparative disappointment with the second season, there were still plenty of things that I continued to think about afterward. More, the audience does get a few answers in time, along with one reveal that had nearly as much impact as the stunning ending of episode 13, for me.

Okay, so now that I’ve finally reached this point in the review, I think it’s time to wrap things up – until my next post, where I want to try a bit of visual analysis on episode 3 of The Big O.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve made you at least a little curious about this ‘old’ anime! (It’s been in my top ten for a long time and I don’t see it leaving any time soon, but it did slip down a rung on the ladder at one point.)

5 Stars

(A few images to follow)

A merry time was had by all.

8 thoughts on “The Big O (Za Biggu Ō) [Boxing Day Review]

  1. I love this show. Now, just to clarify: Roger is a complete ass. Period. Secondly, Dorothy is the only acceptable love interest for the hero (still hoping to wake up and find out Roger was killed off during the night and the new hero is either Norman or Dan Dastun). Angel? Don’t make me laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I haven’t seen this show since it was on Toonami way back when. The aesthetics remind me a LOT of Batman: The Animated Series and (in hindsight) Giant Robo if it looked “new-school” at the time. This could be something I should rediscover at some point.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah! It’s clear that Sunrise was involved with both, huh?

      Though I don’t know who was solely responsible for the design – Warner handed production off to a few studios?

      I wish we had open access to Toonami back then (maybe we did but I think it was a “pay-TV” thing here) as I would have seen so many things sooner, I reckon 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I knew B:TAS had Japanese production with it, but I didn’t know it was Sunrise and that same department (Studio 6) worked on both. Wow!

        That makes sense. I heard that TMS worked on it, too.

        That’s a bummer. I didn’t know how easy or how hard it was to see Toonami in Australia compared to America.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s gotta be the same part of Sunrise that did the ‘Pierrot le Fou’ episode of Bebop too, huh?

          Yeah, there were a few things like that ‘hidden behind paywalls’ as it were, and it’s a shame as Toonami feels so pivotal to the expansion of anime internationally.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Probably so.

            Dang it. I didn’t know that about Australian TV with paywalls for Cartoon Network and Toonami. Yeah, it really was a gateway into anime fro so many people who were kids in the late 90s and 00s.

            Liked by 1 person

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