Reviewby Theron Martin, May 14th 2012
On a distant future Earth, abnormal solar activity had devastated the world, mostly turning it into a wasteland covered hundreds of meters deep in sand. Still surviving on it are two major human populations: the Ideal Children of Theseus, who were essentially created through eugenics and propagate via cloning, and the Natura, who still breed the traditional way. Sam Coyne, a young man who is one of the latter group, is out searching for the legendary “sand whale” Ozma when he encounters Maya, a mysterious woman fleeing from Theseus Army sand tanks. He rescues her when an appearance by Ozma forces the tanks to halt and flees with her back to the Natura, where she is taken in by Sam's ship, the sand submersible Bardanos, and its Captain, Bainas. The Theseus Army units proves quite determined, however, forcing the Bardanos to go on the run. What started out as a simple attempt to help a woman in distress soon leads Sam and his compatriots into an affair with world-altering implications, and the Ozma lies at the heart of it.
Ozma is the 20th anniversary television project by Japanese broadcaster WOWOW, which may explain its unusual length. With six 23 minute episodes, it roughly equates to a two hour movie if one eliminates the redundant openers, closers, and recap prologues, and it has that kind of pacing. The result is a project heavy on action and light on just about everything else, albeit by necessity; to tell the story it wants to tell and still load up on the action, setting and extensive character development has to fall by the wayside, as does plot complexity. Despite a couple of twists, this is ultimately a simple and straightforward post-apocalyptic adventure tale tinged with just a taste of environmentalism and the dogma of human arrogance.
Keeping it simple and straightforward does not by any means make the story original, however; quite the contrary, in fact. The setting, plot, and course of events are all a mishmash of elements borrowed from numerous other post-apocalyptic and sci fi franchises, including, curiously, Gundam SEED. Other elements harken back to the earlier works of creator Leiji Matsumoto; anyone familiar with his past endeavors need not speculate on who young Sam, willowy Maya, or pirate-cloaked Bainas are supposed to be homages to. The name of Sam's like-aged female sidekick, Mimay, is also a little too close to the name of a prominent character from another historic anime franchise for it to be a total coincidence. In fact, the only semi-creative element is the “quantum transition engine,” which can generate a “quantum transition field” (or QTF), which essentially liquefies the surrounding sand so that big submarine-like ships can travel through it like water. Naturally, though, something so vastly technologically advanced is fed and operated by pipes and controls which look like they could have been lifted from any WWII-era submarine.
Personality types are run-of-the-mill as well, with Sam being the typically plucky male lead, Mimay as the prospective girlfriend trying to keep him in line, Bainas as the tough (but not too tough) captain, and Maya as the fragile and helpless Damsel in Distress – and those are the highlights, as the opposition cannot muster anyone even that interesting. The series does hint that the Bardanos has a colorful supporting cast which might be interesting to explore, such as the all-female gunnery crew, but the series simply does not have the time to do so.
Apart from a couple of early missteps in rendering quality, Gonzo's production effort on the series is a strong one which suggests a budget more on an OVA than a TV scale. Gonzo was the first anime company to experiment in a big way with using CG vehicle designs, and that experience shows here in design, rendering work, and animation on the tanks and ships that is so fine that one can easily forget that it is CG. The rest of the animation is nicely and fluidly-done, too. Backgrounds are mostly just generic desert wasteland vistas or fairly typical ship interiors, but the character designs use classic Matsumoto styling, even including a penchant for mixing ordinary designs with gross caricatures; if you have not liked his style points in his earlier works then this series will do nothing to change your mind. Fan service is virtually nonexistent and graphic content is kept to a bare minimum, so this one could probably be safely shown to older children (and was doubtlessly intended that way).
The orchestrated musical score does a fair but mostly unremarkable job of enhancing the visuals. The opener and closer are likewise rather mundane, save for the fact that the opener “Neverland” is sung completely in English. The Japanese dub cast is most notable for featuring the illustrious Rie Tanaka as Maya, but none of the performances will overwhelm anyone.
Ozma is by no means a bad series, and has just enough action and mystery to keep it involving. Beyond its production merits, though, it isn't a great series, either. Its lack of originality and ultimate inability to do anything special keep it from being a memorable viewing experience.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B-
+ Animation, CG artistry, plenty of action.
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