Monday 31 October 2011

Anime REVIEW: Alien Defender Geo-Armor: Kishin Corps

At an anime convention I attended over the summer, Alien Defender Geo-Armor: Kishin Corps (or Kishin Corps for short) was summarised to me as "people fighting aliens and Nazi robots that shoot swastika lasers". With a description like that, obviously my interest was piqued and I immediately went home to download the 7 episode OVA series.

Based on a series of light novels by Masaki Yamada, Kishin Corps is set in an alternate history, specifically during World War II. Amidst the war and destruction, the planet is also hit by an alien invasion, but the two sides seem content on continuing their war despite this aggressive new threat.

An orphaned teenager named Taishi suddenly finds himself at the center of a struggle over a mysterious black case entrusted to him by his father, Professor Tokamura. The case contains the controlling mechanism for one of the giant Geo-Armor Robots, and the Japanese Kanto Army, the alien invaders, and the Kishin Corps all want to recover the device. Between the spies, the armies, the aliens, and the Giant Robots, Taishi is in for an epic adventure - that is if he can survive it.

So with only seven episodes (well, eight if you take into account that the first is twice the length of the rest) you'd think Kishin Corps would stick to relatively simple story, whilst remaining engaging to the audience? As far as I was concerned, it didn't really achieve this at all. The episodes were really drawn out, with the action usually taking place in the last five minutes or so of each episode. Now I know that not every mecha series needs to have gratuitous shots of explosions (as much as I'd like it to), and that Kishin Corps is much more a "gritty" war-time piece, but any series that's going to have GIANT ROBOTS as a centrepiece needs to have some sort of money shot.

The characters themselves are pretty balanced, but none of them ever struck me as particularly interesting. The antagonists are pretty one dimensional, just your cliché evil soldiers with pointy noses and scars. The aliens are extremely bland - looking like humanoid turrets from the Portal video games, but lacking the personality. Or any personality at all for that matter. Why exactly the aliens are there in the first place is never quite explained, and the OVA has is pretty open ended, meaning a lot of questions remain unanswered. With more time to spread the story across and less dialogue heavy exposition, Kishin Corps could have been a bit more interesting.

Which brings me to the question of why exactly Kishin Corps needed to be set in an alternate WW2. Other than the presence of Nazis (read: generic villains) the show also has the bizarre concept of having Eva Braun as a scientist who ends up joining the Kishin Corps. Other historical figures like Albert Einstein also pop up throughout the course of the OVA, but even then it doesn't feel like the setting is particularly integral to the story - any sort of fictional war or villains could have achieved the job just the same. Maybe even better, since its backdrop only worked as some sort of surreal incentive to watch the show in the first place.

The art style is...eclectic. While some of the characters seem particularly well designed, others are really simple by comparison - to the point where they don't really feel like they belong here. Characters with normal eyes and faces interact with ones with exaggerated proportions and black dots for eyes. And besides the aforementioned cliche villains, whoever designed the characters for Kishin Corps clearly thought that Taishi would look four years older by just stretching him. No, not quite.

The mecha designs are mixed. While the aesthetic certainly suits the tone and feel of the OVA (particularly the Nazi Kishin - the Panzer Knight, despite its lack of a proper swastika laser), the mecha won't really win any awards for being memorable.

This turned out to be a particularly short review, because I genuinely don't have a lot to say about Kishin Corps. It wasn't quite what I expected, and while I gave it a chance the whole viewing experience was ultimately boring. The series clearly had an idea of exactly what it wanted to do, but at the same time didn't quite have enough time to pull it off - resulting in a dull, dialogue heavy show that's settings and antagonists merely seemed there to promote interest in the first place. Kishin Corps isn't a completely awful OVA series, but as far as political flavoured mecha dramas go, there are some much much better choices out there.

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