Reviewby Tim Henderson, Oct 21st 2007
Solty Rei -
In a dystopian future society has rebuilt itself after a cataclysmic event. The result of which are resembles, robotic limbs that resemble human limbs and replicate their functionality. Roy Revant is a bounty hunter, gruff and with a negative outlook on personal relationships after his own loss. However when Solty comes crashing into his life he starts to have a reason to care again. Not to mention that the mysterious Solty is more than meets the eye.
Production Company: Gonzo
SOLTY, the protagonist which this piece of Gonzo animation is named after, has big ears. They're also oddly shaped. Maybe that's why she's still trying on new hats some five episodes into her series. Maybe, like the show itself, she seems to be a little uncertain as to how to present herself. And maybe as the show progresses, these hats are becoming increasingly silly, colourful and covered in polka dots. When it kicked off, Solty Rei was wearing something closer to a baseball cap, slightly battered with age, and honestly, it was a much better fit than everything it's tried on since.
Not that there's anything immediately wrong with being silly. Any kind of content can work to its own benefit so long as it's done well, and so long as its sense of identity is firmly grounded and understood. SOLTY's problem isn't that it's silly so much as it seemed to slip towards such content as a result of being dry for ideas; it's lost its sense of where it was once going. This has thus far accumulated in this disc's final episode, one that sees a lot of girls in swimsuits running around and making a lot of noise in a humorous episode that totally fails to even raise so much as a wry smile. Which is a shame, because that battered baseball cap identity on display at the beginning showed an amount of promise, and we can only hope that Solty Rei manages to regain what it once appeared to have. Because, when it comes down to it, this is a show that could become a little bit special.
Lets put this into perspective by rewinding back to the opening episode. Solty Rei appeared to present a high-tech cyber-noir thriller that mixed the slow and meditative with the odd bout of anime cheese and eccentricity to a considerable level of success. The lead character, Roy Revant, is a hardened corporate bounty hunter. An obvious archetype, his gruff no-nonsense attitude, single-mindedness and refusal to display any obvious feelings were traits that were nonetheless skilfully implemented and perfectly appropriate for the setting. Then SOLTY falls into his arms, almost literally, and accidentally saves his life while on the run for her own. This is a contrived coincidence of the most obvious sort, but it did an effective job of bringing the stories of these two characters together and establishing a personal relationship that would work agreeably with Roy's hardened traits.
The initial relationship between these two characters, while a little clichéd and predictable, is nonetheless well handled. SOLTY's immediate and overbearing affection offsets well against Roy's intentional communication walls; his refusal to show any underlying affection is at once haggard in concept, but effective in execution. SOLTY's attachment, by contrast, actually manages so seem genuine in its naivety. And then it turns out that SOLTY is more than just human, for reasons other than the size and shape of her ears. Her physical strength is more than enough to deal with large machines designed for battle, and after a trip to the mall on a girlish day out, she ends up with your typical anime super girl costume, despite how much more out of place it inevitably makes her look. This costume itself is problematic for the show, and a convenient marker for giving an example of content focus going away without official leave: as SOLTY slips from her own cloths into her new super-hero outfit, so the show she stars in slips from its own outfit and starts to put on one that is much more conventional, and one that doesn't have the best colour-coordination, either.
Fortunately, as far as colour is concerned, the city in which Solty Rei is set is an impressive creature to lay gaze upon. A workable fusion of European architecture and Asian aesthetics and layout, it bubbles with colour under a brilliant night sky, and up close the buildings that dot the streets show off details and intricacies that help to keep the experience of staring at the screen a pleasing one. Shame about the CG, while accomplished by its own standard, there's no escaping just how badly the 3D animation in this series stands out. For a fairly recent show it's especially bad, to the point where it looks as if no real effort has been made to try and fuse the CG with the drawings with any kind of believability. Ten years ago this may have been excusable, but with so many better examples out there these days, such jarring visuals are unacceptable and something of a nasty stain on an otherwise palpable sense of production value. The simple fact is that Gonzo can do better – they have shown that they can numerous times in the past and no doubt will do so again in the future.
Solty Rei does have an immediate sense of presentation as well as a fast-acting hook. For this reason it's likely to develop an early fanbase, although it will experience trouble sustaining it if it doesn't pick itself up, brush off the dust of the last couple of episodes on the first disc, and refocus the direction it wants to take quite drastically. Our review copy had no special features to speak of, which is a shame, as some decent interviews may have had something to say about the amount of promise there is for Solty Rei to regain the spark it once looked like it may have had. As it is, however, only the final retail copy will hold the answer to such questions.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
+ Occasionally solid animation; hints of developed characters.
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