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A desperate battle in the contaminated future
The world of tomorrow is an arid wasteland; a forsaken place where nomadic communities take shelter within mobile, domed cities. Massive, mutant Contaminoid monsters swarm the planet's desolate surface and the lack of resources fuels constant conflict between cities.
In this bleak future, mysterious young Layfon struggles to escape his violent past. Unfortunately, his former life might be impossible to hide after he's forced to enroll at the military academy - his special powers are clearly stronger than those of his comrades. As he joins his fellow student soldiers in the desperate battle against the Contaminoid scourge, Layfon must fight to keep the origins of his enhanced abilities a secret because the truth could tear his team apart.
Based off a series of light novels and manga releases, Chrome Shelled Regios (CSR from now on) is a series that plays more on being a collection of 'best hits' than it is about carving its own path. That's not to say there isn't some originality to be found in the series or that the gathering of numerous reused ideas don't blend together well. If anything, it's this mix of borrowed concepts and clichés that ironically give the series some originality. As the age old saying goes, 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'.
As with many other sci-fi series, planet Earth in CSR is now a barren wasteland riddled with unsafe atmospheric conditions and large bug-like creatures that have a tendency to keep quiet until a food source (i.e., humans) comes within their striking distance. To survive, communities shelter in mobile domed cities known as Regios. Despite their high-tech appearance and abundance of futuristic gadgets, these Regios surprisingly lack a useful defence system to counter the creatures that roam the land. Instead, soldiers from their respective martial arts academy's use their empowered 'kei' (which is tied to their life force) as well as transformable weapons known as DITE to fend of any threats; which the norm for this type of series is pretty much every episode (although thankfully it's not always creatures).
The bulk of CSR occurs in the Academy City of Zuellni, a domed community run in majority by the students that attend it. It is here that the main cast of the 17th Platoon resides. Their members look (and somewhat act) more like as a cross between the cast of Full Metal Panic! and Blue Gender than they do original creations. Layfon, a near ringer to Sousuke Sagara, is the most skilled of the group who coincidently has no clue about women. Nina also looks suspiciously like a blonde Melissa Mao, and not surprisingly is the captain of the platoon. In keeping in tune, their third member Sharnid is for the most part a longer haired version of Kurz Webber, complete with womanising skills and favouritism of being a sharpshooter in battle. Fourth in the group is Felli, who once again also shares a few similarities to Teletha Testarossa, although thankfully these are more superficial than anything. Felli has the rare title of being a nen'i operator; a person who was born with a large amount of 'kei' and yet can only use it for telepathy and psychokinesis needs. Finally there's Harley, the least look-a-like (excuse the bluntness) of the group, long standing friend of Nina and the team's DITE mechanic.
As you would hope, the 17th Platoon isn't just a group that comes together and kicks arse for a living. Each character has their own back story that the series tries to tie in at various points that are usually done with flashback scenes at the start and occasional middle of each episode. The brief and often random scenes that these videos present themselves in however means it usually takes a while before the pieces finally come together, if they don't have you confused beforehand. By the end of this first collection it certainly becomes clear that the writers have at least given this area much thought.
Unfortunately the same can't be said for the rest of the story. For some reason it was decided that to lighten up the mood, it would turn itself into a harem-esque comedy at times. By the end of the first half, it's clear Leyfon has at least three girls in love with him, with a fourth strongly hinted to. The series of course doesn't pass up on giving us the complimentary swimsuit episode either. It just doesn't always mix well the serious tone CSR aims for. There is also many unexplained terminologies and a few main story questions that are yet to be answered in any form. The fact most of them could be explained rather quickly and simply makes you wonder if they'll ever get mentioned at all, especially with the series halfway in.
Produced by ZEXCS, the animation in CSR thankfully holds itself well. There's nothing that really stands out, however it does enough in all departments to avoid becoming too bland. The same can be said for the musical score, which is very much a hit or miss affair. The opening and closing themes "Brave Your Truth" and "Yasashii Uso" (and it's multiple versions) are very much paced at opposite ends of the speed scale, however they mix well into the series.
It's also very much the same for the voice work as well; it does enough to be enjoyable, but it isn't fantastic either. Not even with a cast of veteran actors can anyone character really stand out. You can tell they're trying, but it's almost as if the ever changing whims of the series drags even the impact of the voice work with it. On the extras side of things, CSR contains nothing more than a clean opening, a few clean closings, and a set of trailers. It's a bit of a disappointment, but it surprisingly isn't anything less than what was received elsewhere.
CSR is very much a series that can never keep its focus in one place. One minute it's a harem, the next it's action, and then finally it finds a comfort spot in between, dabbling partly both ways before randomly giving us a flashback and starting all over again. This would usually be fine, however the series tries a bit too hard in being serious that any harem-esque notion instantly brings everything down. There is still a lot to like about the series nonetheless, and it can honestly be a bit of fun at times. However if you're looking for something somewhat original, Chrome Shelled Regios probably isn't it.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Backstories are interesting, overall concept isn't bad, can draw you in at times.
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