This is a short sci-fi ONA from 2001 – not so long into the slow rise of CGI in anime, and while it has a few problems for me, I didn’t end up abandoning Zaion.
Zaion: I Wish You Were Here (Anata ga koko ni Itehoshii) 2001
Most aspects were good enough without being outstanding.
Which sounds like not much of a compliment, I know but not every single second has to be outstanding, right? The storyline was the classic ‘save the city’ this time from out of control space-virus mutations, with a small team of human-nano-machine-hybrid soldiers having to bear the brunt of the attacks.
That is, except for Ai, whose psychic powers are the only guarantee of victory.
Sadly, she’s a prisoner of her military & their scientists – and while she develops a relationship with male lead Yuuji, it was just as interesting to see the mother-daughter relationship between her and conflicted scientist Misao, who is her first ally.
I won’t go deep into the story but it plays out as expected, though with a more sombre ending than say a typical action sci-fi.
Despite things that kept me watching, I will say that the CGI is not integrated too well – the age of it is clear, and obviously Gonzo and the industry would improve over the years.
When it comes to the plot, there’s some real problems with the obliviousness of the general population too… but to go back to things I liked, the themes around the futility of war worked for me, and Kenji Kawai’s OST really stood out too.
Not sure I’d recommend Zaion, however, unless you are a fan of the era?
As with my last post, I have a few weekly write-ups starting here from back when No Guns Life was airing and so I guess I’m going to kinda summarise some of them here 😀
There’s a fair chance that if you enjoy science-fiction, action and noir then you’ll like this series and I did for sure… but I do wonder if Madhouse has any plans to keep it going. (Looks like there’s plenty of material available with Tasuku Karasuma’s manga at least).
I mention that possible third season because at the end of No Guns Life I felt that there was still far too much to be explored and I want to see more.
That’s probably the main issue I had with the series.
There’s plenty of action, some eventual backstory reveals about mostly interesting characters and of course Juzo himself was a favourite element, but I wanted a more compelling central villain. It’s clear that the Big Evil Corp (Berühren) take on that role but the episodes here are often building up and then pulling back from developing that central narrative/mystery.
And without a future season there’s not going to be any payoff/resolution for me in that respect.
Instead of expecting that, I eventually started to focus on enjoying some of the smaller arcs or character designs of the humans and Extendeds who live in the almost perpetual blue-green-grey or brown-orange-pink of the city.
What I found really interesting was Juzo and other ‘gun-head’ designs – it obviously makes them seem more impassive, and for Juzo it feeds into the ‘detective with a past’ trope but it also created an issue for comedic moments or scenes that maybe required facial expressions.
And so I thought it was fun that when any given scenario needed to show Juzo as more human, you’d end up seeing stuff reminiscent of Alphonse Elric 🙂
Elsewhere, Kronen and Mary are other fav characters and Victor definitely remains someone I’d love to see more of too but when I balance out some of episodic elements that didn’t work for me (S2E5 for example) and my fear that the beginnings of a great central storyline will be abandoned by financial pressures, then I worry.
And I worry because No Guns Life feels like 24 episodes of establishing character, setting and stakes, all of which has left me invested enough to want more of the story, and it probably won’t happen…
Okay, so in an effort to avoid spoiler-territory I’ve been wondering how to phrase what I guess you’d call a ‘content warning’ about this one – something you’d see on the cover of the DVD, basically. Here in Australia, my copy says that The Perfect Insider contains “strong themes and sexual references” but that’s not very specific, of course.*
Instead, I’ll note that while indeed there are certainly shows and films that are far more harrowing, The Perfect Insider is still concerned with the worst of humanity.
But in other ways it’s a classic murder-mystery that uses the “locked-room” premise to tell its chilling tale. What is a little different here is that the detectives aren’t in law enforcement and instead we’re solving the crime with a university professor, Sōhei Saikawa and one of his students, Moe Nishinosono.
I do like police procedural a lot but it’s also nice to have a break, though this isn’t Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove either.
Yet the story does take place in an isolated setting and the production team has to address mobile phones and their impact on isolation as a plot device, since as society’s technology develops, I guess writers have to spend more time closing it off in realistic manners. And, considering The Perfect Insider is based on a novel from 1996, mobile phones might not be the only changes you notice if you’re familiar with the book. (Having said that, I haven’t read the novel, Everything Becomes F, but I believe some of MORI Hiroshi’s other stories featuring the same characters have been translated into English.)
Hmmm, as seems to be normal for me, I’ve barely touched upon the actual series so far – so I’d better do that now.
The Perfect Insider has the pacing and character-focus common to a Mystery, rather than the action of a Thriller, and I know some folks consider the series dialogue-heavy but I really enjoyed that. There’s some fun verbal sparring between the leads too and all the way through I was quite curious about the central mystery, so that worked for me, as did the pay-off for the most part.
Visually, don’t go in to this anime expecting a lot of flashy things but I loved the colour and lighting throughout, the character designs stood out for me too and there are a few great sequences like this one:
The show can be a little gruesome, and while that aspect is not relentless, there is the element I alluded to at the beginning of the review to keep in mind if you’re trying to decide whether to give this anime a shot.
I suppose you could argue that there were a couple of detours that didn’t add a whole lot to the central questions but they are generally character-building. There was one POV choice that I think didn’t work and I’m curious about the novel there, but again, I won’t mention specifics here re: spoilers.
I could possibly watch The Perfect Insider/Everything Becomes F again in a year or two, just to see how many more clues and hints I can pick up on this time around. I reckon detective or mystery buffs out there will figure things out before I did, but as is often the case with a murder-mystery the question of ‘why’ can be more gripping than ‘who’ or even ‘how’.
*I could circle endlessly around what I want to mention, I guess. Ideally, I’d just write: “this is a great murder mystery but be aware that it contains [aspect]” yet I still think even that much would constitute a spoiler here.
The song for the end credits maybe doesn’t suit the mood but it is pretty great nevertheless 😀
The first thing that struck me about Kurogane Communication was how clearly it evokes great robot-focused films of the past. There’s obviously a nod to Terminator in the form of Reeves (and maybe Robocop for Honi) but Ghost in the Shell is probably the text that’s referenced most often – from Major to the Puppet Master and even to the OST at times (maybe no surprise considering Kenji Kawai was involved there).
Kurogane Communication (Kurogane Komyunikeishon) 1998
Yet Kurogane Communication is probably pitched at a younger audience – it’s far brighter visually and fairly optimistic tone-wise, and most of the violence is centred around robots. (Somehow, the show evokes Astro Boy, though perhaps only vaguely). Most interesting to me, in terms of pinning down the target age group, is the fact that each episode is around 15 minutes (a little less without opening and closing). For me, that sorta had two effects – one was to give the impression of a show built for pre-teen audiences and their (perceived) shorter attention spans and the other, it seemed to compress the storytelling really well.
Each episode is a tightly constructed with a distinct problem being introduced and solved but slowly the bigger picture is also revealed and by the last act it’s a single, larger issue that faces the team. The show does squeeze in some characterisation too, and while the leads generally embody famous archetypes, there’s an interesting touch to some of them for sure. Part of the draw for me is the post-apocalyptic aspects and the mystery there – I think I am a little obsessed with imagingings of the future, and stories where humanity manages to persist in the face of its own grievous errors.
At times I think it was clear the anime didn’t have enough screen-time to set everything up, and if you give this show a shot, you’ll noticed a fair few things that feel like plot holes or unexplained conveniences. For one thing, for a while there the plot only moved forward if Haruka just ran off into danger despite solid reasons not to – but I was able to look beyond those problems easily enough. I will say that the anime worked the ‘accidental pervert’ trope far too hard for a young lead and the other bits of fan service didn’t seem to fit the tone of the show or the given scene.
Still, despite those things Kurogane Communication has heart; Spike is cute and the ending is sweet and welcome, there’s some touching moments throughout, a compelling setting, a steady pace and Angela’s backstory was a real highlight – in fact, I’d be more than happy to see a spin-off series about her life as a duelling robot 🙂