Review

by Theron Martin,

Ingress

Episodes 1-3

Synopsis:
Ingress—Episodes 1-3
Makoto Midorikawa has always had an uncontrollable psychometry ability that allows him to read the memories of both objects and people he touches. This hasn't always been a blessing, but it leads to him being called in on a crime scene where a young woman named Sarah Coppola has been left unconscious by a strange explosion. Through contact with her, he gradually learns about the existence of eXotic Matter (aka XM), a substance that can interact with the psyche of Sensitives, allowing them to harness and enhance inherent powers. He also eventually learns that two factions – the Enlightened and the Resistance – are struggling over XM, and he gets caught in the middle of that struggle when he decides to help Sarah, whose own ability makes her a linchpin in the plans of the powerful Hulong Group. With a Sensitive agent of the Resistance also pursuing them on an assignment to protect Sarah (unbeknownst to them), Makoto and Sarah find themselves on the run as they try to sort out the secrets behind the Hulong Group and the identity of the mysterious voice who seems to be helping them.
Review:

With an initial release in December 2013, Ingress was among the earliest location-based, augmented reality mobile games (the direct forerunner of Pokémon Go by Niantic). This anime series seems to be connected more to its revamped version, Ingress Prime, which was released in November 2018 – in the midst of this series' weekly run on Netflix in Japan. Because it's part advertisement, no familiarity with either version of the game is necessary or even all that helpful, as the first three episodes lay out the fundamentals well enough.

The real question becomes whether the anime version is just a promotion for gameplay or a story unto itself. The first three episodes offer a mixed bag on that count. Nothing about the first episode suggests a correlation to gameplay mechanics; this could be any other series about figurative games of intrigue being played over super-powered individuals. The storyline that develops over the course of the next two episodes could also function independently from the game, yet it doesn't. The more Sarah explains to Makoto about the mechanics of how XM particles are related to “portals,” the two distinct factions, and fields that can be established in order to augment the power of aligned Sensitives, the more it sounds like a tutorial for the mobile game.

That's a little disappointing, as by the end of episode 3, Makoto and Sarah are starting to show signs of developing into an engaging couple. Neither is super-powerful, but both have utilitarian abilities that tend to isolate them from others yet complement one another, so a rapport is already beginning to develop between them. The opener strongly suggests that they will eventually form a trio with Jack, the agent who's been chasing them all over the place under the mistaken assumption that Makoto has kidnapped the woman he's supposed to protect, and things do seem to be moving in that direction by the end of episode 3. With his puissant skills and physical capabilities, Jack should make a solid balance to the other two. That's good, because the story so far is a generic “secret organization is doing unethical experiments to control super-humans” scenario, and the plot mostly involves Makoto and Sarah being chased around by one party or another. There's nothing much to sell the series yet unless that kind of premise is inherently interesting to you.

Fortunately, the anime does have another selling point in its favor in that it looks pretty sharp. Director Yūhei Sakuragi comes from a CG animation background (he's worked on titles like Tiger & Bunny and Black Rock Shooter), and that experience shows here. The series uses extensive and impressive CG effects to depict the XM particles, portals, and fields, but the respectable character animation is the real star. Even ordinary character movements are more fluid than normal, the plentiful action scenes are highly detailed, and few shortcuts are taken overall. That still may not be enough to overcome negative reactions from those strongly averse to CG in anime, but it has much less of an artificial feel to it than various other CG anime I've seen from Netflix. The series also features high-quality character designs and notably good use of color in nighttime scenes.

The music for the series is an interesting case, as the version being made available internationally on Netflix has a different composer than the Japanese version; now it's an almost entirely techno-based production. It isn't anything spectacular, and it may be too video game-like for some tastes, but it does capably ramp up the tension and sense of mystery and danger. Contrarily, the original opener (“Tessellate”) and closer (“In Cold Blood”), both sung in English by the English indie rock back Alt-J, seem to be shared between the Japanese and Western versions. Both are solid songs that fit the tone of the series quite well. There are also a couple of insert songs, though credits for them are not yet available.

The review sample only had the English dub available, so no comparison to the original Japanese can be made. Bang Zoom! Entertainment is handling the dub, featuring Michelle Ruff as Sarah. While there are no problems with her acting performance, a slightly higher and softer pitch might have worked better. Most other English credits are not available at the time of this writing, but the other casting choices and performances seem fine.

Overall, the first three episodes show some issues in the storytelling department, but the series still offers a decent amount of potential entertainment value.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B

+ Good animation and CG modeling, strong character designs and potential in core character relationship
Content may not be able to sufficiently distance itself from source game mechanics, concept isn't terribly fresh

Director: Yūhei Sakuragi
Script:
Sōki Tsukishima
Tora Tsukishima
Music: Hidehiro Kawai
Original Character Design: Takeshi Honda
Art Director:
Hiroshi Katō
Hirofumi Sakagami
Cgi Director: Atsushi Furukawa
Director of Photography: Tatsuya Nomura

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Ingress (TV)

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