The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
World Conquest Zvezda Plot
Rating: 4 (of 5)
Review: In the first 23 minutes of World Conquest Zvezda Plot, we see a) a giant, floating squid; b) robots; c) tank armies; d) bouncing jelly blobs; and e) a plot for world domination hatched by a girl so young she still has training wheels on her bike.
And yet, there's one scene that I just can't shake. There's a dialogue exchange between innocent-bystander-turned-minion Asuta and pint-sized-would-be-conqueror Kate, where he asks her why she's not home. She responds that there's a reason she can't go back, but becomes defensive when Asuta suggests that she's also a runaway. Later, she wonders about the aftermath of world conquest, and whether there would be a place where she'd still belong. Unhelpfully, Asuta counters, "If you want to belong, you're just looking for acceptance, and acceptance is a fickle thing."
I can't help but think that World Conquest Zvedza Plot isn't really about world conquest at all. It sounds an awful lot like it's about lonely people who can't find a place for themselves in the world, and rather than coping with it, turn to a fantasy where they call the shots.
But here's what I like so far about this show—I could be completely and utterly wrong. It's possible that it's not just an allegory, or a girl's delusions come to life. Maybe it is just a straight-forward show about world domination. But because I don't know for sure, I want to watch more. I'd be disappointed if it turned out to just be the latter, but I don't fully believe it just yet. That scene between Asuta and Kate was just too good to not be deeply meaningful, and surely we can't forget the significance (and symbolism?) of Kate riding off in anger, her training wheels getting torn off in the process.
Another thing that intrigues me about the series is Kate herself. She starts the series wearing capris and a shapeless dress, but ends the show in a tiny ruffly skirt bedecked with ribbons, a top that barely covers her, claw-gloves decorated with ribbons and fur trim, and heels. The training wheels may have signified her transition from an innocent little kid, but her outfit isn't anything remotely resembling sexy or powerful. It's the type of costume that a little girl would cobble together from her mother's closet, a mere pastiche of what she believes is "grown up." So once again, is she just playing pretend? If the world ends up conquered, who's to say it's the world we know? After all, if it's our world (and by extension, Asuta's world) being conquered, then, as he points out, where are the people?
It seems to me, there are several ways to enjoy World Conquest Zvedza Plot. For those who like wacky characters, crazy costumes, and who appreciate jokes about Lincoln (too soon..?), they will find plenty to like in the chaotic atmosphere of the series. But for those such as myself, who can't help but sniff out conspiracies in every corner, there's enough mystique in this show to keep your brain occupied for a while.
There's a line that Asuta says that I thought brilliant: "If you want people to dote on you, just spend your life acting stupid, cute, and bright." If that's not a dig at the archetypical moe anime character, then I don't know what is. So then the question becomes whether Kate designs herself to become "more moe," in order to gain followers, or purposefully breaks the very mold of what is considered "moe."
Am I thinking too much about the show? Maybe. But I like having a show that gives my mind the fuel to do so. I fervently hope that World Conquest Zvedza Plot isn't just a show about girl conquerors and giant squids and crazy characters… but until then, I will be waiting for more.
World Conquest Zvedza Plot is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
Review: Several anime series of late have focused on young characters with fantasy delusions of grandeur, but what if one of those individuals wasn't delusional? What if she really did have a secret organization behind her and really was out to conquer the world?
That is both the basic premise and conceit of this original series being produced by A-1 Pictures under the co-creation and direction of Tensai Okamura, the creator and director of the Darker than Black franchise and director of Blue Exorcist and Wolf's Rain. It is an amusingly different angle to take on the standard super-powered hero/villain show, one which seems intent on making the world-conquering villains be the protagonists. In that case that means Kate Hoshimiya, a seeming young girl whom veritable runaway Asuta Jimon encounters one night when he is stuck wandering around after martial law has been declared in his town. (Why? Because the military seems to be fighting a giant octopus-like creature.) Though he allows himself to be drafted into her “secret society” Zvezda, he does not really believe her claims of leading such an organization and seeking to conquer the world until other villain-types start popping up and doing and saying things which seem to support her claims. And then she shows her own powers as she offs a few tanks.
The concept is patently ridiculous, but it is handled in a clever enough fashion to be interesting as long as one recognizes quickly that the whole thing is one big joke. (The bishonen guy who appears in the after-closer scene supports that interpretation.) The artistry seems determined to shoot the series in the foot by flashing a couple of scantily-clad lolis, and if that drives some potential viewers away then the series deserves it for needlessly tweaking what could have been a more accessible concept towards a hard-core corner of fandom. Why couldn't Okamura have had more confidence in his ideas? The artistry is nothing spectacular, but the series still has all sorts of potential if one can ignore or bypass the big roadblock to acceptance it has established.
World Conquest Zvezda Plot is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: The concept may be jokey, but the show is no joke. Tensai Okamura's indefinable kitsch action/comedy/drama is a series-sized gimmick steeped in an abiding love for the cheesy shows of Japan's collective youth. Zvezda is an evil organization, one of those world-conquering secret societies whose members wear masks and have specialties and would normally be getting their butts handed to them by a team in color-coordinated spandex. The organization is led by Venera-sama, a little girl who dreams of world domination. Its latest member is Asuta Jimon, who is inducted after he saves Venera from falling off of her training wheels.
Like I said, jokey. And the show is a comedy. A damned good one too. One look at Venera trying to maintain balance as she poses grandiosely atop her pink kiddie bike leaves no doubt as to the series’ comedic chops. But there's more to the show than yuks. Between the cleanly realistic city, eerily empty nighttime environs, spookily beautiful score, and the outlandishness of Zvezda's costumes and otherworldly weaponry, World Conquest has the subtly surreal quality of a carefully controlled dream. That is, if your dreams feature eye-popping camp spectacle and a potent undercurrent of sadness and inevitable doom.
The prologue lets you know right off that Venera will succeed, and that her success won't have happy consequences. Okamura wraps the whole production in a fine layer of melancholy, and allows the darkness at Venera's core to seep poignantly through her deadly cute exterior. Zvezda's members are fun—and in the case of swordswoman Plamja, jaw-dropping sexy—but also stinking cool and more than a little terrifying. The show doesn't let you forget that they're villains. For all Conquest’s gimmickyness, there are depths to be explored here as well as fun to be had. And the show's origin—it's a TV original—means there's no source material to hem it in. Go Zvezda!
Review: World Conquest Zvezda Plot is ~sooooo randumb you guys~! Get this! There's a little girl named Kate who says she's going to conquer the world, riding around the city on her pink tricycle and hiring a hapless milquetoast loser as her bodyguard, even though she accuses him of being a pervert when they meet! Ho ho ho! But all is not as it seems, because Kate really is the leader of a plot to conquer the world as her alter ego Lady Venera who wears an oh-so-scandalous leather strap negligee and wages war with stuffed animal explosives. SO QUIRKY! This anime has tanks blowing up psychedelic jellyfish who turn into bouncy candy creatures, so need I say it? Greatest anime EVER! So wacky!
Okay, I'll shut down the obvious derision here. The reason I bothered with the sarcastic review at all is because this show practically begs for one. It has that specific moe-bouncy-shine animation and art style built to play hard to otaku, complete with shine-bubbles on underage girls' elbows, knees, and boobs. It's loaded up with loud overreaction humor and fetishized character archetypes tossing around overcomplicated weapons while flashing their panties. It has a huge host of stupid terms for clumsy worldbuilding that has no reason to be as complicated as they make it out to be. It's puerile junk constructed to sell the hype before the content and colorful collectibles before any comprehensible story. Well, I'm not buying it. It's a comedy that isn't funny, an action show that's all splash with no waves, and with characters this dakimakura-ready, it isn't likely to be a compelling character drama either.
I'm no enemy to mindless fun or randomness for the sake of randomness. But the combination of sleazy fanservice and poor overwritten dialogue isn't fun to me, and neither is the feeling that I'm being sold something every time a new girl or monster or weapon appears onscreen. World Conquest Zvezda Plot tips the line from "fun" into "transparent commercialism" too hard to abide and just makes me feel icky.
For anyone seeking a competent story that doesn't feel like it's trying to sell you girls-with-eyepatches! and girls-with-pigtails! every two minutes, move right along.
World Conquest Zvezda Plot is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
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