When Armitage III: Polymatrix was released in the mid-90s, it brought a wave of new fans who were attracted to the cyberpunk aspects of anime. Several years later, Pioneer is releasing the original four OVAs from which the movie was compiled. With the total disc running time lauded around 140 minutes, viewers are definitely getting their money's worth on what is arguably one of the most stylish humanoid series ever done. In fact, any fans of the compilation movie should automatically add this release to their shelves, as it's something that no Armitage fan could ever pass up. In addition to the four OVAs, the disc also includes a small picture gallery of the LD covers that graced the original Japanese release. There is also a concept art gallery that showcases preliminary sketches and drawings of the various characters. The character design for the series is remarkably well done, so this feature adds a nice touch to the release. To make the package even better, there is a collection of the backgrounds that were used in the series, as well as the Pioneer trailers for both
Poly and Dual Matrix.
One of the most appealing facets of the story is the political sentiment that flows through it and its corresponding human response. The protest against robots is interesting to watch from a sociological point of view, especially when the cause and effect relationships between the events in the series are assessed. Even more interesting is the human response that is triggered because of these protests. The most noticeable are the reactions of Naomi, whose emotions and tumultuous thoughts are passionately revealed throughout the course of the series. It is the portrayal of conflicts within society and the chaos accompanying mass upheaval that give the OVAs the gritty edge that differentiates it from any other humanoid-centric anime series.
While this series has its good points, it also has its flaws as well. One of the most noticeable ones is the fact that the episodes will often launch into tangents that are left unexplained until viewers figure it out half an hour later. In this respect, it's nice to give the episodes a second viewing to better grasp the plot twists. There is also a tendency to name drop without any reminders to the viewer as to who the person being discussed is until the end of the series. This gives the series an almost cluttered feeling, which distracts viewers from the other traits of the series, such as the art or music.
The art in the series is done exceptionally well. The character designs are innovative and classily done; at the same time, they retain a simplistic air that not only helps the bright coloration of the cels but also gives the leading characters a look of blank innocence. This blend helps the sweet undertone of the series, even if it's done unintentionally. Most notable is the background art, which is comprised of gorgeous watercolors of brilliant cityscapes that look almost real. The dark and somber tone that the backgrounds create fits the series perfectly and contributes to the overall class in the series. The animation is fluid, though there are times that the scenes don't transition to one another as well as could be possible.
Fans of the Armitage compilation subtitled movie will be pleased to know that the same Japanese voice talents are in it (naturally). They continue to perform their parts faithfully; the actress who plays Armitage especially deserves mention, as she flawlessly portrays the various facets of her personality with uncanny alacrity. The English dub cast also did a wonderful job, but fans of the movie release will be dismayed to know that the voice actors have changed. Even with the change, the acting is still superb, and with the exception of a few ditzy robot girl characters, most of the actors are cast accurately. Although slightly uncharacteristic of Pioneer, the English dub is not translated as well as it could be. The timing is off, as characters will say something even though there is silence in the corresponding Japanese scene. The meanings of the lines are also changed in some places, which is rather annoying given the anecdotes that are missed because of it.
Armitage III is one of the most enjoyable to watch series out. The plot is complicated enough to engross viewers, yet flexible enough to drive the series forward at a fast pace. The dreary mood of the series is interchanged at times with sparks of hope that are portrayed convincingly through the talents of the voice actors. For anyone who's seen and enjoyed Poly Matrix, this will undoubtedly be a terrific addition to your anime collection. For those of you who have never even heard of the series, then this is perfect time to start.