Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Feb 3rd 2007
Gruff, cold Roy Revant, a mercenary with a tragic past, lives in an aurora shrouded city that has been ravaged by an inexplicable disaster. It's a town of sharp division between the haves and have-nots, and is run by a mysterious corporation called RUC that manufactures replacement limbs called resembles. It's business as usual until a girl named Solty drops out of nowhere and imprints on Roy. But Solty is no normal girl, she's a super-powerful robot of unknown origin who happens to suffer from a supremely convenient case of total amnesia. Roy's heart, frozen when his young daughter died in the mysterious disaster, begins to thaw under the golden rays of Solty's radiant innocence. Things are complicated by the arrival of Yuto, a bumbling resemble technician smitten with Solty, and Rose, a flamboyant warning-card-delivering thief with delusions of philanthropic largesse. Meanwhile sinister forces lurk in the background, watching Solty with evil smiles on their ominously shadowed faces.
For the record, the above synopsis averages two clichés per sentence. In fact, stating the premise without a knowing smirk and dripping sarcasm is virtually impossible. But immediately upon doing so, you feel like a total cad. Solty Rei is so good-natured, so fundamentally harmless, that criticizing it is like bullying a defenseless child. It's light, disposable entertainment, and has no pretensions of being anything more. That said, let the bullying begin.
The show does have some bite, even if it is all gums. Roy's cold attitude towards Solty is also surprisingly persistent, and during one scene, Solty pays a hefty emotional price for one of her displays of power. There's also plenty of violence (though the majority of it occurs off-screen), and let's not forget all of the exploding robots. Displays of credulity-straining fighting prowess are the norm for the action scenes: giant crab-bots are disposed of with a single harmonic-convergence punch, bullets are snatched from mid-air, and mechanical limbs are reduced to shrapnel. Some of the action conceits are exciting—particularly the execution of the bullet-grabbing scene—while others go too far, most notably during a preposterous, and pointless, poolside pursuit of a stolen emerald. Equally preposterous plot developments proliferate like rabbits with a lifetime supply of Viagra, weighing the story down with coincidences that even willful inattention can't entirely filter out.
But ultimately this is all little more than a backdrop for the irresistibly sappy relationship between Roy and Solty. Shopworn as it is, it's still damn hard not to enjoy the sight of a hard man softening under the influence of a happy child. Their mildly dysfunctional father/daughter bond goes a long ways towards explaining the lingering warmth of what is an otherwise formulaic exercise in sci-fi action/comedy. Solty's insecurities about her relationship with Roy, and Roy's desperate attempts to hide his concern for Solty's well-being are so unbearably cute that it's impossible not to root for the two.
Gonzo is back in its stomping grounds for this series: futuristic settings, healthy doses of fan-service, and—of course—giant robots. There's enough 3D CG inserted into the visuals (usually the mecha) to please fans of Gonzo's trademarked blend of 2D and 3D animation, but the larger robots look like refugees from Burst Angel and Rose's bike is a marvel of mechanical improbabilities (it even comes when you whistle!). Though the contrast between two and three dimensions is often Gonzo's aim, there are a few moments of interaction (Rose mounting her bike during the pool chase) that are inexcusably awkward. Animation of the slow motion ballets of destruction that highlight Solty's more intense fights complement these scenes' careful editing regardless of the shortcuts utilized, while lesser action sequences are shortchanged to the point of exclusion. Characters and backgrounds are gaudily colored (shockingly so in the case of Solty's preferred ensemble) as befits the tone of the series, muting when a more somber mood is sought. Everything is drawn in suitable detail, but settings are desperately generic and utterly devoid of personality and atmosphere.
The cast is heavily skewed towards the fairer sex, with only two recurring male characters. Even a trio of Robin Hood thieves is soon reduced to their sole female member, the insufferable Rose. And is there a reason (other than the sight of their liquid powersuits being applied to their naked bodies) that the entire special security force of RUC is female? Male designs are cursory, a parade of interchangeable toughs, except for Roy who is a convincingly fit middle-aged mercenary powerhouse. Female characters fare better. While less than entirely unique, they sport a greater variety of hair, eye color, and body types, and, with the exception of Solty whose hair bears a disconcerting resemblance to an astro-turf jester's cap, are passably attractive.
An uninspiring mix of modern sounds, the series' score is wielded with a ham-handed force that leaves one craving silence rather than a copy of the soundtrack. The opening and closer are disposable bits of pop fluff. Indeed the only remarkable things about the soundtrack are the unusual number of vocal insert songs, and its willingness to back up the action with crunching electric guitar.
There're plenty of little quibbles about the dub but they are just that, quibbles. This kind of dub—professionally performed and faithfully cast—has become the base-line for dubs in America. It only suffers in comparison to some of its more effective Funimation brethren, a result due more to the source material than any shortcomings on the part of its English cast. There are no weak links in this dub, but there are no real standouts either (with the possible exception of Christopher Sabat's startlingly accurate rendition of Roy). More faithful to the original script than is the norm for Funimation, this dub will satisfy most dub fans but is unlikely to convert any of the sub-preferring crowd.
Extras aren't exactly thick on the ground in this volume, but the twelve minutes of casting decision explanations by English director Christopher Sabat are a nice addition to the usual previews and textless songs.
Sure Solty Rei is a hackneyed patchwork of worn genre tropes, but that's what puts the "mindless" in "mindless entertainment". Once you realize that no thought is required, these six episodes pass swiftly, leaving a vaguely pleasant aftertaste, if precious little else.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : C
+ Heidi of the Swiss Alps with guns and giant robots.
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