Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
The Super Dimension Century Orguss (includes series carton)
Sub. DVD 1-2
Hot-shot pilot and polygamistic ladies' man Kei is piloting fighters for one side of a futuristic world war. One day, while attempting to bring down an orbital elevator, he detonates a dimensional weapon prematurely and sends himself and his plane to another dimension where fragments of various Earths from many dimensions all occupy the same planet. He falls in with a band of essentially peaceful itinerant merchants, the Emarn. With them he dodges attacks by the Chilum, a warlike people who are determined to lay hands on him since he is something known as an "idiosyncratic point" and is apparently very valuable. Between attacks he tries to learn the ways of his newly adopted land and seduce an Emarnian maiden named Mimsy.
ImaginAsian's release of older anime series on cheapo DVDs is a grand idea. Every hardcore fan has an older show or two that they would love to see get official treatment (anything by Adachi Mitsuru, please!). Given that it was once released in part back in the early '90's and was directed by Noboru Ishiguro of Macross and Legend of the Galactic Heroes fame, Orguss is probably on a few people's lists.
It isn't terribly difficult to see why. It's a fun little giant robot lark that never takes itself too seriously and never devolves into complete frivolity. The basic plot—a ship on the run through enemy territory armed with one powerful mecha—will be familiar to Gundam fans (or, for that matter, to practically anyone who has watched anime) while the alternate world with its pastoral landscapes and mecha will be familiar to Dunbine fans. However, it distinguishes itself from both with its more laid-back pace, light humor, and self-possessed lead. Kei isn't a hothead and isn't heralded as a "savior" (rather he is seen as merchandise), and the rest of the cast isn't composed of self-obsessed jerks. The Emarn are all highly sympathetic with decently differentiated personalities, and even the enemies are soldiers doing their jobs rather than megalomaniacal psychopaths.
For all that it's as likely to crack a joke as break a heart, the series has enough hard little edges to hint at the promise of something a little less fluffy later on. Nevertheless, it isn't yet the stuff classics are made of. The scene in which Mimsy calls Kei shallow for suggesting that the Emarn don't grieve, on top of being one of those hard little edges, points out something important: he is shallow. He's a frivolous little playboy with hormones for brains, and not terribly sympathetic. Think Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura in a giant robot. The mecha fights that break out every episode get tiresome, aided in that endeavor by the prominent use of repeated animation. In addition the stabs at drama fail spectacularly almost as often as the humor succeeds. When Kei's hormonal motivation for rescuing a group of nubile female hostages is foiled by the engagement of the object of his lustful intentions to another man, he says in all seriousness: "It's hard being a hero." Nothing wounds a hero's soul more than not getting free sex for his services.
Visually the series has aged quite well, considering. The natural backdrops in the world of the Emarn are quite pleasing, the mecha are detailed and interesting (if not particularly believable), and the character designs quite attractive—with an indefinable something around the eyes and lips that makes them very easy to look at. Animation is reasonably fluid and detailed, and has that warm human quality imparted by traditional cel animation. The limitations of the budget are apparent in the occasional stiffness, repeated animation, and the supremely unrealistic way that some of the mecha fly. The art finds its own setbacks in Kei's initially goofy legged fighter jet and Javiet, the Emarn's hideous sentient dinosaur crewman.
Other than the supremely cheesy mechanized "ORGUSS" noise that begins each episode and the occasional ham-handed musical exclamation, the series' score is pleasant and unobtrusive. Both the opening and the closing are low-key but catchy male-vocal pop songs while the background music does its part to support the story and then takes its leave from one's memory, never to return.
The dub on these two discs is the original 1993 dub. ImaginAsian classifies the dub as an extra and they are definitely right to do so. It certainly isn't good enough to serve as a selling point. The performances are all over the map. Mimsy is good, Kei is okay, and Javiet kind of grows on you; otherwise much of the acting is decidedly unnatural, and most of the incidental and background characters are downright awful. It's also carelessly recorded; the "studio echo" gets so bad in some scenes that it sounds as if the characters are talking from the other side of an empty church. The rewrite sticks fairly close to the subtitles, which have their own issues with consistent naming conventions. Shaia, one of the Emarn crewmembers, has her name spelled fully three different ways in the subtitles.
Enjoyable but otherwise unremarkable, Orguss makes for a quiet respite amongst more strident shows. Its nostalgia value will be high for those familiar with it and those who miss the cel-animated mecha tales of yore. If these eight episodes hardly present anything revolutionary—outside of some early proto-moe involving a little-girl servant robot—that's hardly a damning criticism.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Light mecha fun with a largely gentle sense of humor and enough hard edges to keep it sharp.
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