Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Mar 18th 2008
Project Blue Earth SOS
DVD 1 - Invasion!
Billy Kimura, boy genius and multi-billionaire, meets Penny Carter, boy genius and non-billionaire, for the first time when Penny crashes the unveiling of a new train. Penny claims something is wrong with the G-engine Billy's company installed in the machine, much to Billy's chagrin. The train then disappears in a blinding flash of rainbow light. The two boy geniuses set out to solve the mystery, and in the process stumble upon proof of a vast impending invasion by hostile alien forces. They team up with Captain Clayton, who was discredited years ago when he claimed that flying saucers abducted his ace pilot James, and set out with Billy's friend/crush Lotta Brest and her private tutor Emely to gather concrete evidence. But the truth is much larger, and closer, than they suspected, and it involves Lotta's father, Emely, and even the presumed-dead James, along with a mysterious black-haired, red-eyed girl who spouts portents of doom. Faster than you can say "boy genius" the two prodigies are battling alien fortresses hand-to-hand and trying desperately to save humanity from imminent destruction. Good thing they're geniuses.
Animated with OAV-budgeted vigor by A.C.G.T., Project Blue Earth isn't a science-fiction revolution, but a throwback to the gee-whiz sci-fi adventures of 50's B-cinema and the likes of Tom Swift. Nothing is overlooked in its retro re-creation of entertainment past. Wholesome boy geniuses, secret agencies, beautiful female spies, brilliant upstanding scientists, daredevil pilots, unrelenting evil invaders, chaste puppy love, fox-trotting pace and simple plot, and naturally, cities being blown to atoms. It also makes a point of hitting most of the less reputable stylistic hallmarks, such as flying saucers that look like badly-formed clay models flying around accompanied by a loopy whistling noise, squirt-gun-shaped laser pistols that shoot circular rays accompanied by a (different) loopy sound effect, and goony jet packs. Nothing is left out; not the mix of preposterously optimistic future and obsolete past technologies nor the preposterously optimistic self-promotion ("grandiose sci-fi adventure that many will imitate but none will be able to duplicate!"). There's even a bumbling indigenous sidekick of sorts and a heroine who faints at the slightest provocation. In short, it's a blast.
And director Tensai Okamura (best known for Wolf's Rain) does his level best to keep it that way. He keeps the plot zipping from one confrontation to the next, filling each forty-five minute episode with aerial chases, fast-paced investigations, abductions, full-scale battles, and plenty of narrow escapes. His direction is simple but lively, his futuristic vision bright and colorful, with a clean look, especially in the characters, that recalls American animation as much as it does anime. He choreographs action with all of the fluidity and aplomb afforded by an OAV-sized budget and clean, simple artwork, and makes fine use of the jazzy big-band soundtrack. But most of all, he gets the details just right, from the pink hover-Cadillac with the big fifties fins, and the scratchy vacuum-tube radios and film projectors, to the downright dippy alien technologies.
ADV's dub acquits itself well, thanks to the decision to play it straight. Given Project Blue Earth's content, a little awkwardness is actually appropriate, but snideness or self reference would be disastrous. It has neither the enthusiasm nor the finesse to outcompete the Japanese version's cast of veterans, but it's decently acted, remarkably faithful in its adaptation, and hasn't any obvious blunders in casting. And the hammy edge often encountered in English dubs fits the show like a glove. The fun ADV has with accents will annoy some and amuse others, and the occasional acting snafu gets by the director (in one scene Penny calls Lotta by her cat's name), but there are no other major flaws. The subtitle script, however, is rather more prone to typos than is entirely professional.
Some will find Project Blue Earth silly, others will find it stupid. And they'll be right. The B-movie trappings are goofy and the plot a mere excuse to blow things up and run frantically about. Fourteen-year-old wunderkinds consistently out-think brilliant scientists, and alien fortresses that can withstand missile attacks can be reduced to rubble by dynamite. Hell, the series starts off with a scene in which a fighter pilot detects UFOs on his radar that are later repeatedly called undetectable. It's all kinds of silly and stupid, and it doesn't matter a whit. Some will inevitably be left cold by the series' deliberately campy vision. The rest of us, right around the time that the pink Cadillac decimates a fleet of pursuers with an array of James Bond gadgetry, will simply shut down our neural transmitters and enjoy the ride.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ A zippy, fluffy retro tale of boy geniuses saving the world from seriously uncool flying saucers.
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