Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Mar 13th 2008
Having secured the cooperation of powerful, opportunistic aristocrat BB, Michel and her merry band of freedom fighters set about securing the cooperation of other discontented nobles. However, never one to let the moss grow, Vetti strikes first. Michel and the People's Army are dismayed, but Cleo is ecstatic. He sets out to meet his nemesis head-on, with every man-jack of the People's fleet at his back. As the two forces battle themselves to a standstill, Cleo gets his wish as he and Vetti go at it tooth and nail, but the ultimate result is far from what he desired. Some truly awful political decisions on the part of the People's Army top brass ends the revolt in utter defeat, scattering Cleo, Michel, and the Glass Ship's crew to the four corners of the galaxy. Torn apart and deprived of their cherished freedom, the forces of equality and freedom must escape and regroup if ever again they are to kindle the flames of revolution. And if they can pick up new allies and learn a little something about Cleo's frightfully mysterious past in the process, then all's well and good.
In spite all of its niggling little annoyances, foremost among them the preposterous costume designs, the most fatal mistake Glass Fleet made in its first two volumes was being so terribly dull. Now that the series is dealing death and defeat to its cast, of the hundred different complaints that can still be leveled against it, dullness is no longer a member. It isn't dull; at least not terribly so.
After all of the political wheeling-dealing, inconclusive bickering, speechifying and alpha-male posturing, the plot finally gets off its fat backside and starts moving somewhere around episode twelve. People die, situations change drastically, and existing relations are mucked up by rape, murder and betrayal. Good stuff, that. Reducing the cast to the most miserable state possible before allowing them to begin clawing their way out shifts the series' emphasis from dully simplistic politics to all manner of derring-do, something to which a series of limited imagination is infinitely better suited. Prison breaks and narrow escapes, sword fights and fisticuffs pepper the plot. The execution of all that derring-do is one of the series' dull retentions—full of poorly-utilized shortcuts and lacking anything resembling visual panache—but the writers are smart enough to let the villains have their nasty way long enough to make the payoff worthwhile. Vetti's ugly treatment of the various women in his life fuels some interesting potential plot developments and makes volume four's climax far more satisfying than it really ought to have been.
Not that this in any way makes the series a shining example of narrative brilliance. For all of the status-quo-crushing and boat-rocking, the plot never actually strays from prefab plot structures (prison breaks, dead nemeses who aren't really dead, marriages of convenience gone wrong). Each cast member is still defined by a single behavioral quirk, Cleo still has the personality and charisma of an ill-mannered rock, and everyone in the aristocracy is still prone to flamboyant, loud and supremely irritating speeches. The prancing, sissy aristocrats in general are offensive stereotypes, and the director uses symbolism like a sledge, smacking us across the face with scenes such as the one in which the author of a false treaty runs over the offending document with an opulent carriage. And then there's Vetti's fiancée Rachel. When Vetti confesses to being raped by his stepfather and seducing his stepmother before murdering them both, admits to sleeping his way to power, and confirms that, yes, he does want to marry her only to satisfy his insatiable lust for power, Rachel finally decides that marrying him is a good idea. Huh? Derivative, obvious, and illogical. A shining example indeed.
But at least it isn't dull. Rape, murder and betrayal, anyone?
The space battles are still bits of slick 3D engineering, with their spiffy space explosions and translucent titular protagonist, and the background art and character designs are colorful and finely detailed, if not particularly attractive. Two-dimensional animation remains noticeably inferior, often clumsy and stiff—something made all the more obvious once the derring-do moves from space to the planetary surface. The loud orchestral score hits its stride when asked to support the little melodramatic sequences and provide broad backing for some of that derring-do, but is otherwise as forgettable as the visuals.
Like any dub, Glass Fleet's English version has its high points (Vetti's harrowing confession) and low points (BB's unfortunate Slavic/Germanic, or perhaps Polish, accent). As a whole, however, it's solid all over. Laura Bailey handles Michel's two moods—vulnerable and brusque—with equal skill, and ace pilot Eimer is a little less abrasive in her English incarnation. The Funimation folks have their dubbing cake and eat it too by getting their dialogue-altering kicks in by adding wit and sometimes changing altogether the unimportant incidental dialogue while displaying remarkable (for Funimation) fidelity during the more important exchanges.
With one extra per disc, volume three sports a dull interview with veteran mechanical designer Kazutaka Miyatake while volume four features a video of the seiyuu for Cleo, Eimer, and that code-deciphering kid who's always losing his glasses voicing a short, humorous "Glass Taxi" spin-off. Both discs have clean versions of the series' new, more laid-back end sequence, which features character art that clearly outclasses the actual designs used.
If you add rape, murder and betrayal to the series' single previous strength—its space battles—then its appeal should quadruple, right? Not exactly. Just as math isn't entertainment, neither is entertainment math. Stirring a story up, even with rape, murder and betrayal, doesn't automatically add up to an unqualified good, even if it isn't half bad. Nevertheless, when volume four draws to a close, you may find yourself counting the days until the release of volume five instead of sheep, and that's definitely a start.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Stirs up enough trouble to upset the status quo and generate real interest.
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