Thursday 21 April 2011

Anime REVIEW: The Big O

The Big O is a 26 episode noir-style mecha series that possibly received just as much praise in the West as it did in Japan. The setting is Paradigm City, 40 years after a mysterious occurrence known as ‘The Event’ led to its citizens, both human and robotic, losing all of their memories. The protagonist is Roger Smith, an ex-military cop now turned negotiator. Aided by his faithful butler Norman Burg and later the gynoid R. Dorothy Wayneright, Roger provides the city with this ‘much needed service’. When it is needed, Roger is able to call upon the colossal ‘megadeus’ Big O, a robot that is a relic from the city’s past and may also be the key to its future.

The first season (13 episodes) provides fairly stand-alone stories, but overall work toward to larger story that is explored in far more detail in the second series. As stated earlier, the series is very much in the style of 1940s film noir – with Roger filling the role of the private detective type character and the mysterious Angel as the femme fetale. Another comparison that could be drawn from watching is Batman (except switch out costumed hero for giant robot) – Paradigm City having a similar look to Gotham City, Roger being aided by his faithful butler. Roger himself could be considered as some sort of Bruce Wayne/James Bond hybrid. He also has a fair few rogues in his gallery – from Beck - a crook who has regained some memories, to Schwarzwald – a bandaged former reporter bent on bringing Paradigm’s past to light, to Alex Rosewater, the series’ main antagonist and son of Paradigm City’s founder.

The second season contains far more continuity between episodes, exploring Paradigm City’s past and what caused everyone to lose their memories. While the animation certainly got a bigger budget (it’s simply gorgeous quality) the drive for a more focused narrative is actually the series’ only real downfall. The plot steadily becomes incredibly difficult to follow and the end result is a conclusion which makes Neon Genesis Evangelion seem understandable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent ending – just expect to do quite a bit of reading up on it afterwards.

The Big O robot itself is excellent, and its design has arguably become rather iconic over the years. From its humanoid head and clash of dark grey/black and bright orange to its chain weaponry and hulking arms, the megadeus stands completely apart from the rest of the robots present in the show (well, apart from Big Duo and Big Fau, O’s megadeus counterparts). That isn’t to say the other opposing robots are forgettable, because they are full of retro sci-fi charm. Big O’s battles aren’t simply confined to robots though, as it also does battle with a fair share of monsters. The monsters and set-pieces, even the sequences themselves pay homage to yet another film genre – this time Japanese kaiju (monster) movies such as the Godzilla and Gamera series’.

I’ve already briefly mentioned the animation so it makes sense to also talk about the music, which also pays homage to several different things. The opening theme (titled ‘Big O’) will be instantly recognisable to most people, since it’s a direct homage (practically a cover) of ‘Flash’ by Queen, albeit with different lyrics. The actual score of the series is also a variety of styles and musical homages, which nicely compliments both the film noir and kaiju elements of The Big O.

To summarise, The Big O is an excellent series that draws on a variety of different styles and genres to create a unique science fiction story, but becomes far too wrapped up in itself and thus falls a bit short at the final hurdle. Until then though, it’s almost flawless – top notch animation, great character designs, an engaging narrative and characters and a wonderful musical score. Definitely one to check out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolute favorite show ;<