Hatarki Man [Boxing Day Review]

Here’s something I haven’t really experienced for a while – a series where I really enjoyed the characters, the setting and the individual stories, but deeply disliked the message.

Now, whether I’m actually correct about the message – is there a message at all? – or whether I’m wrong, might certainly be up for debate.

I would like to be wrong actually…

Hatarki Man (2006)

In any event, here’s the premise (as per Wikipedia):

Hiroko Matsukata is a woman who works for a magazine company. She puts all she has into her work, and is known as a strong, straightforward working girl, who can at will turn herself into Hataraki man (working man) mode. Despite Hiroko’s success at work, her life lacks romance. Even though a hard worker, she would leave early anytime to go on a date. Too bad her boyfriend is an even bigger workaholic than Hiroko.

Okay, so what makes the anime work for me?

Well, aside from the almost ‘too-close’ character design of Hiroko (that was nevertheless compelling), I think it is the characters themselves. They’re all stronger than their flaws, and more, they’re able to reflect. And there is variety in both their look and personalities, their problems and the solutions they come up with. I wish it had a been longer anime.

For fans of episodic + overarching plot lines, Hataraki Man should satisfy too. And if you’re like me, with little idea of how print publishing works(ed) in Japan, then you’ll probably learn a few interesting things about the industry too – especially in the ‘Reward Man’ episode.

Throughout, the writing verged on dark comedy, but overall it’s a work-drama. And while I could very easily relate to some of the central struggles both Hiroko and Shinji faced, especially when they were doubting the value of their work, this point brings me to my problem with the message or theme (at least, as I see it).

And it seems to be something like “work is more important than anything else”.

Again, maybe I’m performing a bit of a shallow reading of the text here – I’m very curious to see if anyone else has seen the anime/read the manga?

Soon, I’ll finally present my ‘evidence’ as it were, but first I want to note that I’m basing a large part of my response on the final episode especially, and two moments in particular. (Okay, and a quote from the author, but I’ll include that at the bottom).

Okay okay again, I’m also basing it on a few other general things I’ll outline now:

That ‘work above all else’ thing that I keep harping on about in this review seems to be echoed in just about every character onscreen, since so few seem permitted to/able to make time for anything but work, and if they do, it is not shown to us very often.

Spoilers below:

More, the main long-term romantic relationship in the anime decays week by week in favour of work, and meaningful conversations between characters usually happen jammed in between other events or during periods of exhaustion.

The one character in the office who dares to draw a line between work and the rest of his life is scorned by our main character, and management is so void of compassion that even a water leak that destroys the MC’s apartment doesn’t seem to be relevant. (Of course, folks like that are a dime a dozen in management, but it’s always sad and ridiculous to see someone fight so hard for a company that will immediately discard and replace them the second they burn out).

And burn-out is a vital theme in the anime, and one that I reckon is handled really well too. I could probably recommend Hataraki Man for that aspect alone.

But at last, the notion of burn-out leads me to the concluding episode.

When finally Hiroko and Shinji drift apart enough to call it quits (initiated by Shinji who seems to have given up on the relationship first) Hiroko is stunned into something of walking-coma. Of course, she’s unequipped to process her emotions, but gets some advice from a colleague, which seems to boil down to “it wasn’t your fault you put work before your relationship”.

Which is not true. Both Hiroko and Shinji absolutely put work first, and that’s why everything falls apart for them.

The ending of the episode basically lets Hiroko snap out of her depression thanks to work, and Hiroko’s voice-over even tells us that she will be okay… because she has a job.

Now, obviously after something deeply painful, pouring yourself into another facet of your life can be great – necessary even.

But for every scene of Hiroko working until 2am or slumped over her coffee table in her day-clothes after having stumbled home from work, every time she rang to cancel a date, or was stuck at the office long after others left, it was clear this work ethic left her with nothing else, not even a fun hobby – especially since by end of the series, Hiroko doesn’t even had a boyfriend anymore either.

Once again, maybe I’m being somewhat unfair – many times the series is committed to show us the awfulness of a ‘work is everything style’ culture, yet after I finished the anime, I stumbled across this quote from the creator of the manga, Moyoco Anno:

“The traditional virtue of Japan was that people took everything very seriously. As those traditions have been eroded, the quality of Japanese work has been downgraded.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20080706032642/http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/markets/japan/article2806731.ece

The full quote contextualises the comment more around accusations of laziness, which struck me as rather thoughtless when I apply it to Anno’s own industry, one that seems rife with creators working themselves into the ground etc.

I have to note that it’s obviously incredibly risky for me to take one quote (or even a full passage) and use it as evidence of ‘what the anime was saying’.

Even supposedly saying.

And it’s also risky of me to claim the quote as evidence that the anime conformed to more than it critiqued the dominant attitudes toward work that I tried to identify above. Again, I’d like to be wrong.

Because in the end of course, I obviously don’t (and couldn’t possibly) have a handle on what’s going in Japan right now, nor when the manga was written for that matter, or the anime aired, but the stories about burn-out that do reach me today certainly don’t fill me with happiness.

Obviously, overwork is a problem that’s not going away (not just in Japan but anywhere in the world) without radical change – and this rant from me won’t make any difference. Even so, I enjoyed getting it onto paper, as it were.

So… to crawl back to the review itself at long last, I still really liked this anime.

In fact, I love that it gave me pause and made me think. And I will definitely watch it again one day, but I find myself wondering now, weeks later, am I supposed to be happy for Hiroko at the end of the series, or worried that she’ll work herself to death, just like her poor interview subject from episode 9: “Full-Fledged Hataraki Man”?

4 Stars

This resolve and drive is more typical of her as a character, actually – I probably should have taken more similar screencaps for the review.

OVA Week – Day 4: Sorcery in the Big City (Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi)

OVA Week continues!

You can find a quick overview on the form itself below, then the actual review. (This time, the review is actually for an ONA).

Hope you enjoy these posts and as before, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Sorcery in the Big City (Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi) 2017

I do wish Sorcery in the Big City had been a bit longer – it was fun and had some nice, flashy action sequences to perhaps contrast with the moe elements. When I think back on it, I mostly remember it as a feel-good short film that focuses on Christmas and a little on family.

Released back in December of 2017, it’s an ONA from Sanzigen with nice CGI, some at times dazzling lighting and fun character and costume designs too. 

One thing I liked a lot was the fact that while main character Akari has lost her teddy bear, she doesn’t precisely end up being the one to find and rescue the toy (Apple), it ends up being the other way around, for the most part. 

Connected to the above, I also found it nice to see a little tweak on the “bringing toys to life at Christmas” choice, since in this case, that’s the actual source of danger.

I do wonder whether Akari’s partner drifts in and out of racial stereotype territory – as does our MC, perhaps. I hope I’m off-base, but I dunno. It’s also probably not too hard to see lazy cliches about police mixed in with some copaganda elements too. It’s actually a really odd mix.

Elsewhere, the scene-setting is really detailed – if a little quiet at times, but I suppose that’s part of the Christmas fantasy.

I also wanted a little more screen time for the true villain, and also probably more on the post-climax wrap up… but as I mentioned before, it’s a short and the focus on being uplifting was always meant to come first.

3 Stars

Blackfox

Over the last couple of years here in Australia we’ve had a few streaming services disappear, swallowed up by one another etc, the end result of which being that I now have access to and/or little choice but to use Crunchyroll.

Which is obviously better than no choice at all.

Blackfox (2019)

But more importantly, as a consequence of those changes I have now seen a few seasons of shows and also films I would not have otherwise had a chance to watch quite so easily.

Blackfox is one example, and while it’s not in my top ten films, I liked it a fair bit.

The action was fun, it was bright and clear and I liked the character designs and the costumes too. It’s animated and produced by Studio 3Hz who I recognise from Dimension W, Princess Principal (and the opening to Ys VIII), so if you’re familiar with those or other titles by the studio, you might get an idea of what to expect here.

Here’s some of the plot, adapted from MAL:

On Rikka’s 16th birthday, things are forever changed when a paramilitary group raids her family home in search of the drone technology. In the aftermath of the deadly attack, Rikka is now an ‘ordinary girl’ working as a private detective… but when night falls, she dons her grandfather’s fox mask and mercilessly hunts down those responsible for the attack.

From the above, you can probably guess at the combination of shinobi/kunoichi tropes and also sci-fi stuff too, with fun gadgets and serious threats to the safety of the city. And for me all those things worked a treat!

(If there isn’t one already), I reckon this would suit adaption into a game pretty nicely.

I enjoyed a lot of the interaction between Rikka and her roommate/friends, especially the wary ally she has in Mia, but if you give this film a look, I don’t think you’ll find any surprises in the archetypes being used throughout.

Black Fox might be aimed at a slightly younger end of the shounen-audience range in some respects, but at other times I thought I was wrong in that assessment. Hard for me to pin it down, I guess.

But if you’ve like to see a mix between a ninja revenge story with high tech gadgets bringing in perhaps a touch of something like Batman, while also retaining some coming of age themes, then this film might suit your tastes.  

3 Stars

Bubble (Baburu)

The fable of The Little Mermaid gets its fair share of attention in anime, especially when it comes to the ‘doomed-romance’ sub-genre. (Further spoilers below).

Bubble (Baburu) 2022

And at a glance, the film is very much science-fiction. Or action, but despite the setting and the parkour sequences, the diminished curiosity the film shows for the cause of such a radically changed Tokyo allows the romance-side of things to take a larger share of the narrative.

Now, by ‘diminished’ I don’t mean zero.

Obviously Makoto is very curious, but the story isn’t about her and her ship or her research. It’s more of a gradual reveal focusing on how the two romantic leads were ‘always connected’ and so the science-fiction/disaster aspects are in service to Hibiki & Uta’s drawing together.

Which still worked for me, absolutely, but I think this would disappoint viewers expecting a complex science-fiction epic or something like writer Gen Urobuchi’s work in Blassreiter or Pyscho-Pass.

However, if you’re looking for a sci-fi (ish) Little Mermaid re-telling that is visually pretty gorgeous, then give Bubble a try. As with a lot of work from Wit Studio, their use of colour and detail is pretty ace, even maybe overwhelming at times – and the film does feature some thrilling parkour scenes too.

But even with its inevitable ending, Uta’s final moments are still sad.

And it seems also to me, that the personal growth and opening up of Hibiki is only rewarded by him simply becoming more vulnerable to new suffering, and so maybe that aspect left things a bit sour for me in the end.

On the other hand, the sheer spectacle of the visuals was absolutely worth my time.

3.5 Stars

Lunar Legend Tsukihime (Shingetsutan Tsukihime)

This short anime series is based on visual novel Tsukihime, and while I didn’t see Lunar Legend back in 2003 when it aired, I believe it garnered its share disappointed fans of the franchise.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime (Shingetsutan Tsukihime) 2003

And I know that’s not saying much – disappointing the average anime fanatic is not hard, but I was able to quite comfortably side-step all of that while watching, since I didn’t know anything about the franchise before I kicked things off.

However, by the end of the anime, I had noticed where some parts of an obviously fairly rich and detailed storyline had to be left out of the adaptation. So too, it was clear that wider context about certain characters had been omitted as ‘assumed knowledge’. Neither of those things detracted from the story too much, but I did do some quick reading afterwards to fill in a few gaps.

One of the things I found interesting was the blend of genres. Perhaps not an even blend, but there’s horror, suspense, gothic touches, drama, action and also romance. So there are a lot of balls in the air during Lunar Legend. I can see some viewers finding it muddled – but for me, what held everything together were unanswered questions about the main cast.

In that vein, I guess the high point of the ending wasn’t actually the confrontation between Arcueid & Roa but the reveals about Shiki’s past. I think that was what I was most keen to discover from the beginning.

I will say that nothing within the series quite lived up to what the OP seemed to promise with its drama, costume and setting, but that’s not to say I disliked Lunar Legend Tsukihime either. And even though Shiki was kind of a flat character, it was good to see Arcueid trying to get him to live.

Time for some dot points!

  • Despite some creepy moments and some memorable battles, my favourite episode actually comes from the amusement park, I was laughing at poor old Akiha’s childishness fairly often, I must say
  • The mid-episode title cards I really liked
  • The OST really adds to the gothic feel – as does Akiha’s mansion itself
  • Interesting to see a pocket-knife as a main weapon.

I suspect that if you’re a die-hard fan of the visual novels then you might not enjoy this anime a whole lot, but I was drawn in via the promise of slowly revealing secrets. I probably won’t watch it again but I could say that about a lot of things 😀

3 Stars

A-Z Challenge: “Z” is for Roujin Z (Rōjin Zetto)

I think I’ve seen Roujin Z described a dark comedy fairly often, but one that is set within the plot boundaries (I guess) of a science fiction film. Or even of a monster movie, since there is definitely something large and dangerous threatening the city here.

Roujin Z Rōjin Zetto (1991)

But one obvious theme that gets discussed just as regularly, is the treatment and care of the elderly.

It’s obviously a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention in any film medium, not just anime, so I was glad to see it in Roujin Z. It adds a lot of sombre moments, and painful ones too, the kind of ones that you’d hope policy-makers and bean-counters would take heed of.

Okay, so here’s the premise phrased as a question – what if a high-tech bed, one that doubled as a life-support system for the elderly, went on a rampage? (Okay, there’s a LOT more to it than that, but I don’t want to go into spoilers here. Also, I’m feeling a bit lazy).  

Despite all of my reading about the film, it took me many years to finally find and watch Roujin Z, and I went in with pretty high expectations, noting director Hiroyuki Kitakubo and writer Katsuhiro Otomo (amongst others like Satoshi Kon), behind the scenes.

I was certainly not disappointed either – as it is amazing from start to finish, from animation to story and character, setting; it’s all executed so well to my eye.

Perhaps especially the characterisation.

It’s not jam-packed with one-note characters for a start.

Instead, the themes are played out via the conflicts both between and within the leads, as much as it is via the technology.

And more disconcerting than the militarised aspect to Kijuro’s bed, is the supposed dignified, helpful aspects – such as the management of bodily functions. The well-intentioned but misguided Takashi embodies the tragic need for such a device, and it’s great to see him drift away from antagonist to take a stand against the larger threat, military stooge Yoshihiko.

Other smaller characters are nice mixes of principled and cowardly, and even the ‘horny old guy’ trope so common to anime doesn’t just lumber its way through the anime; as the elderly residents who band together to save Kijuro reveal more than one facet to their actions.

Visually, I was of course super-happy to see lots of detail and integration of character and setting/background, to see the old school ‘solid’ use of colour to evoke different lighting effects. Another stand out aspect were the flashbacks, they had a sombre tone, matched by the softer colours, and the ‘disappearing’ of the characters.

Getting back to character now, before I finish, I meant to mention her before, but Haruko is a classic anime heroine, kind, strong and moral, and determined enough to get some justice without superpowers or gadgets.

Great ending and the final shot is a nice surprise too.

5 Stars

Vampire in the Garden (Vanpaia in za Gāden)

You know the very-real genre known as “not-quite-tearjerker”? Yep, that one – absolutely something real that you’d find in a video store, or in the list of categories via a streaming service.

Well, Vampire in the Garden (2022) feels like it meets the criteria for the above ‘genre’ to me, since it’s quite sombre and sort of contains little in the way of hope.

(Quick warning, there are fair few spoilers below, so if you’ve been planning to watch this one day and want to avoid spoilers, please take note).

However, to some extent, the action scenes and also the defiance and determination shown by the leads (Fine and Momo) sort of cloaks what is a tragedy, but I think it’s the kind that of tragedy that telegraphs its inevitable, sad ending very clearly. You’ll most likely be able to prepare yourself, if you know this kind of story will upset you.

(For example, the berserker/suicide drug that the vampires can use never seems far from Fine’s mind, and the series is careful to remind us with close-ups etc, that it’s always an option for her).

But it’s not just the ending that is melancholy and more; there is plenty of despair and hate and war throughout, and examples to demonstrate just how hideous humanity can be. It’s a clear a parallel with real-world war and prejudice, which makes the handful of upbeat scenes almost glitter in comparison.

Part of the mood is obviously achieved via lighting – and of course, it’s about vampires and so there’s going to be a lot of shadow.

But the scenes within grand manors or military encampments are often shadowed, or chilled by all the snow, leeched of vibrancy or sick with that nuclear green. It all feels like a clear sign that points to humanity being in decline from within, something clear when we see how little music, art and joy they have – and most of all, how hard they try to stamp those things out when they are found within the vampire’s culture.

On the other hand, the human race is caught within a war of survival.

Again, the themes are clear and heartfelt – something I certainly don’t begrudge the anime for in any way. War strips away the things worth living for, and Momo and Fine turn their backs on that during their search for a promised land of harmony. Well, both of them prior to the first episode – and Fine a long time prior.

I will note that the age-gap is undeniably suspect, even before the indeterminate age of vampire Fine. It’s a pretty common vampire trope, I guess – so perhaps no surprise there.

Both leads remained engaging for me, in part because they were each given time to open up, and I definitely wanted them to find what they were seeking. Despite the story giving me many reasons believe that they actually had no chance of success, I was still a bit surprised by how close the narrative permitted them to come to happiness.

A member of the supporting cast caught my eye too – Kubo and his samurai sword. Had he played a bigger role, I’d have been interested to see more of his back-story, but as things stand I felt like I was provided enough to support his motivation. (There was also enough time to see a bit more on other side characters too, which was nice).

In terms of time, I thought I should note that Vampire in the Garden felt longer than its 2-and-a-bit-hours to me, probably due to being chopped up into five episodes.

Visually, it seems clear that Wit Studio have unleashed a torrent of stunning settings and backdrops, and elsewhere I have no complaints*, but Kazushi Fujii and Satoshi Takabatake (I believe it was) really captivated me with so much striking scenery. I kept watching at least in part to see yet another awesome background.

So, at long last – is this anime for you?

Maybe if you like bat-style vampires – or far more importantly, love stories that are bittersweet at best. And if so, then this should be pretty pleasing overall. If you prefer more conventional noble-vampire/thrall plots, or vampire-hunting stories, then I don’t think Vampire in the Garden will quite do the trick.

4 Stars

*Well, maybe the jeep’s landing and some general “invincible heroes” stuff, but it wasn’t enough to ruin anything for me.

Summit of the Gods (Le Sommet des Dieux)

This was a bit of a harrowing film, and I was transfixed the whole way through.

Having said that, I watched it in 3 separate sittings – partly due to the limited time I had free all the way back in March, and partly due I think, to good old tension.

Because mountain-climbing definitely = tension for me.

Summit of the Gods (Le Sommet des Dieux) 2021

And Summit of the Gods has a few scenes where the stress is right up there at 11 out of 10, even sitting at home on a couch. And it’s not a cheerful film either, mostly dealing with the costs of obsession. Or determination, if you’re being more generous.

That’s part of what makes both lead characters Makoto and Habu so engaging; they act in ways consistent with their overwhelming determination (again, or obsession). And so, of course, I certainly didn’t have to agree with their choices to understand them.

Summit of the Gods is a French film based on a manga by Jiro Taniguchi (and in turn based on an earlier novel), and follows Makoto and Habu as they pursue their separate but deeply connected quests.

The first hook for me was the historical, George Mallory angle – as I’ve long been interested in the grit, ability and oft-times tragedy of those who seek to climb Mount Everest.

And when I first read about Mallory (or folks earlier) doing what they did with less advantages than we have today, I remain stunned. Of course, it’s a hell of a big deal to attempt Everest today or any day, surely.

But as the film moves along, the focus expands nicely to a point where I was most interested to see not only if Mallory’s camera actually existed, but how and whether both lead characters would achieve their respective goals.

I also loved the way the narrative wove together past and present, in some scenes sort of overlaying them, so that the two times and characters could be brought together before the final stretch of the journey.

I haven’t spoken too much about the film visually yet, but there are plenty of great shots where the composition drives home the daunting scale of the mountain, showing exactly what the characters are up against.

And no need to expect variations of white snow only; there’s a range of blues and pinks too, and of course, scenes that aren’t on the mountain at all.

This film wasn’t one I was aware of before stumbling across it on Netflix, but I am glad I’ve seen Summit of the Gods even if I know I do not need to watch it again.

And to finish here, I know I say phrases like this sometimes, and it’s a obviously a judgement call, but probably not the kind of film that will end up being suitable for (nor satisfy) most kids out there.

4 Stars

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul (Fukaki Tamashii no Reimei)

The Dawn of the Deep Soul film continues with the ‘let’s do unspeakably cruel things to cute kids’ approach that featured in the first season of the anime.

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul (Fukaki Tamashii no Reimei) 2020

Now, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the movie – that would be a lie, but some scenes will probably be hard work for most viewers, so take note if you know you’re not up for that sort of thing right now (or ever).

To contrast all that was harrowing about the movie, I’ll say that the amazing perseverance of the kids who keep fighting, no matter what, ends up being uplifting.

Although, perhaps what I enjoyed most about the film was the expansion of the world featured in Made in Abyss, learning more specifics around its often twisted workings.

Another highlight for me was the first fight scene between Bondrewd and the kids – put me on the roller-coaster a bit, because I was well-aware that it was far too early in the film for a resolution.

I don’t really have much in the way of criticism, save for something that’s relatively unfair – which is that the sense of travel and encountering new wonders and horrors is somewhat reduced here. And of course – it’s one film, not one season, and one film focused on a very specific location, Bondrewd’s fortress of horrors.

And I’m not sure this is a criticism precisely, but there are times when it’s clear how the narrative is going to traumatise Riko and co, and even the seemingly more stalwart Nanachi, and so some scenes may or may not land as hard as intended.

Again, whether you experience something similar or are even bothered by it is probably not going to be a big issue, if at all. Sometimes anticipation heightens the suffering too, lol.

Other than that, the film was often harrowing, occasionally uplifting, and pretty much every minute of it compelling.

(And also – before season 2 happens during the ‘summer’ of 2022, I reckon this film is a must if you’re planning to keep watching the Made in Abyss series).

4 Stars

Agrento Soma (Arujento Sōma)

After a slow start that wasn’t actually slow – I was transfixed.

Agrento Soma (Arujento Sōma) 2000

Argento Soma feels like a bit of a rare story for me, where the pay-off definitely matched the mystery and tension that had built across the previous episodes. And in an industry littered by the cast-off bodies of so many unfinished shows only given a single season, it’s nice to come across a story with a conclusion.

In regard to the pacing, what was ‘slow’ for me was warming to most of the cast.

Without Commander Ines and Sue or Michael (and to a lesser extent Hattie), I wasn’t invested in anyone’s outcome precisely. At first. Actually, unless you were to count how much I came to want Ryu to fail, to receive his just desserts.

Instead, it was the central mystery of why the aliens attacked earth, why they continued to seek the mysterious Pilgrimage Point, that kept me going until I warmed to the cast.

Right off the bat I knew Ryu was a jealous loser, and even when he became tolerable later on – usually at the cost of the emotional well-being of others – I don’t think I actually wanted him to succeed. He was a fantastic character in that respect. Not quite anti-hero, not quite antagonist, and amusingly absolutely utterly unaware that he was not the hero of the story*.

*Trying to paraphrase something iniksbane brought to my attention with that last sentence – and also, thanks heaps for the recommendation 😀

So, now that I’ve got all that out of the way – what’s the anime actually about? Well, it’s about people trying to defend the earth from aliens. And:

[From MAL] In the year 2059, the earth has been plagued by aliens for several years. In an effort to learn more about these aliens, Dr. Noguchi and his assistants Maki Agata and Takuto Kaneshiro try to revive the professor’s experiment, a large Bio-Mechanical alien named Frank. During this process the alien comes to ‘life’ and the lab is subsequently destroyed, leaving Takuto the only survivor and the alien disappearing into the wilderness.

And further, there’s mecha, mystery, science-fiction and drama aspects all neatly woven together as events expand from the premise above – even a bit of mind-games, especially when it comes to Ryu and Mr X, whose scenes together often have interesting staging and lighting, really selling the duplicity.  

If you like to compare things (as I do), there are clear classic science-fiction themes, something of a War of the Worlds feel here, and for some fans no doubt you’ll find that Neon Genesis comes to mind also, especially with the escalation of alien attacks used for some of the anime’s structure, but Argento Soma still stands quite apart from the two texts I mentioned.

Some of what differentiates the show for me is because Argento Soma feels a lot like a character study before anything else, a vehicle for Ryu to become a better person – and it’s a long redemption arc too (if you’d want to go that far). And while most events and other characters often serve that purpose, Argento Soma shows a wider cast that is notable in its own right. (A shame that Sue’s past only sneaks into the OVA, however).

Another thing that I think separates Argento Soma from any cries of ‘Eva-clone’ might be the classic, big science-fiction ideas most commonly seen in 20 Century science-fiction cinema… but I won’t spoil them here.

I will say that the somewhat nose-less designs (courtesy of one of my fav directors, Shukou Murase) took me a little while to acclimatise to, but it’s definitely memorable. And also in regard to design, I definitely felt that Frank’s look was top notch. It had a less organic but more human feel compared to the other aliens, to my eye.

Bob Newhart cameo!

In addition to the above quibble, I will note that Ryu spends most of the show as a terrible person – not just ‘flawed’ but really, a bad dude. This means he abuses everyone around him, especially women, both before and after the tragedy that inspires his childish (but not surprising) drive for revenge.

But as I said before, he does (for the most part), have a redemption arc, and in the context of the whole series, his shitty behaviour is not front-and-centre. For instance, you’re not going to be confronted with an endless parade of graphic psychical or verbal abuse, but just be aware that he’s no hero.

(Also, Hattie can be a bit shrilly repetitive).

But finally, is this anime for you?

In short, if you want a twentysomething-year-old mecha show focused on adults, on revenge, with a great cast and a lead character that is far from ‘clean-cut’, then this could be for you.

It also has a deeply satisfying conclusion to its central mystery – another reason to give it a shot if you can find it.

4 Stars

Finally! My first review in over a month 🙂