Reviewby Daniel DeLorme
In the year 4084, Humans have been overwhelmed by a mysterious foe known as The Victim. The sole surviving planet of humanity, Zion, must be defended at all costs by the 5 Goddesses, a team of gigantic mecha. Each of the 5 Goddesses is piloted by a special individual who is endowed with the mysterious "EX" power. Of the five pilots, all are male apart from one remarkable exception. Each Goddess is also given a female repairer who remotely monitors and controls the Goddess' systems in battle, and also repairs the Goddess when it is damaged. In addition, the mecha themselves seem to possess their own unique personality and soul. However, the war against the Victim is a brutal one and pilots don't seem to last very long. For that reason, the GOA (Goddess Operators Academy) has been set up in the orbit of Zion to train and keep replacements ready in case a pilot... can't be used anymore.
Pilot Candidate follows the story of 5 new trainees who are judged to be particularly promising due to their high EX power. Among them, we find the brainy Clay, the rather psychotic Hiead and the brash young lead character, Zero. And we're talking about BRASH. This guy brings the word "hothead" to a whole new level. He's also not the smartest boy in the world, managing even to get lost while trying to get to his own welcome ceremony. As he wanders the hallways of GOA, Zero finds himself being subconsciously called to the hangar of the Goddesses. A misstep accidentally lands him in the liquid-like cockpit of a Goddess. Worse luck, she suddenly starts to synchronize with Zero (where have we seen this before...) but since Goddesses are specifically calibrated for their pilot, this should mean his death. Of course, this being anime, the only possible outcome ensues: the Goddess connects successfully with Zero. And then, she speaks to him in a vision.
Although this is the first small hint that Pilot Candidate is more than just a giant robot battlefest or a school-for-superpowered-kids anime as the first episode can lead one to think, those two aspects are not absent in the least. The candidates are training to be pilots, after all, so there's no shortage of giant robot fights. On one side the candidates have training battles and simulations, and on the other the Goddesses fight against the Victim swarms. Unfortunately, this is where we find the biggest flaw with Pilot Candidate: the mecha battles are all made with computer animation that looks more than a bit primitive compared to most series that use CG. But then again, this is merely an annoyance. The 2D animation, on the other hand, is very good (somewhat reminiscent of Nadesico) and has outlandish costume designs. Fans will ask "sure it has giant robots and good animation, but what about the character development?" No need to worry there; a bunch of teens (including the girls assigned as repairers to the candidates) thrown together into an intense training environment is always a good recipe for friendship, competitiveness and other interesting/problematic relationships.
With a healthy dose of character development and some nice combat action besides, what else could one want? Ah yes, the plot. Pilot Candidate is certainly not lacking in that department. Although the first episodes may give you the impression that this is an unimaginative "formula" anime, plenty of mysteries are hinted at as the series progresses. Some of the pilots have secrets in their past, secrets that seem to link them to the Goddesses in a very special way. And the people in charge seem to have a hidden agenda, something about "the time being near". Not all is what it seems. What exactly are the Victim, and why are they attacking mankind? What are the Goddesses exactly? And what really is this mysterious "EX" power? How does it relate to the Goddesses, the Victim, and what does it mean for the future of humanity? The questions seem endless and the answers are well hidden. The only downside is that some patience will be required for the full scale of the plot to be revealed, especially since this first 12-episode season ends on a "to be continued" note.
So while in surface there is plenty of mecha combat and human drama, there is also a tantalizing plot slowly building in the background. All the ingredients of a good sci-fi romp are united in this anime and, despite some flaws here and there, they all work to make a very enjoyable show. This is sure to leave you wanting for more.
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