Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD 2 - Metal Hearts
Despite Big Mighty's solid previous defeat at the hands of Junerin, the Mediterranean island nation of Genes's resident giant robot, team leader Jin Ohya is compelled by his boss's directives to try again. When another battle proves even more disastrous for Big Mighty than the first, Jin sacrifices himself to assure the escape of Big Mighty and the rest of the team. Ultimately finding himself in the “custody” of Kana, the creator of Junerin, he discovers a connection with the reserved teenager that he has been unable to establish with his own daughter. Allowed to escape, he and his team try to salvage what they can of Big Mighty.
But Mr. Shimada, Jin's boss, isn't about to let matters drop so easily. He staked his reputation and company's well-being on the success of Big Mighty, and seeks his pound of flesh. . . er, metal. Out comes The Perfect, an experimental military model whose dreadful Super Mail Bomb attack (think spam email used offensively) even Junerin may not be able to handle.
The one true fault in the first volume of this OVA series was that it couldn't seem to make up its mind whether it wanted to be a total parody piece or an action-oriented/comedy drama. The final two episodes in this second volume show that such a concern is irrelevant; it can be both and an homage to giant robot mecha, too, and be very good at all three. In fact, the overall quality and caliber of execution in this project are amazingly high given how silly the concept is at is core.
The ridiculous cuteness and comedy antics permeate all the content, with Kana's shape-changing robot Rincle maintaining her ditzy ways, youngest princess Nene continuing to bouncy-bouncy around with her overly enthusiastic efforts to confront any problem head-on, the Krone Rose Knight Brigade making their flashy and impassioned declarations of loyalty and intent to take action (but never actually being given a chance to do so), and the comical manner in which the Big Mighty team goes about trying to rescue Jin. And remember all those action-oriented comics and animation you've seen where the hero ends up with her clothes in tatters but otherwise basically unscathed? Try imagining that applying to a giant robot built to look like a giant doll – and yes, that means more panty-flashing female giant robots. It's hardly the naughtiest thing that's ever been done with giant robots (seen Godannar?) but it makes for an amusing or annoying joke, depending on your point of view.
Episodes 4 and 5 don't disappoint on the action front, either. Both episodes serve up generous doses of giant robot action which are so faithful to classic mecha series that the homage they pay actually becomes a plot point, but the battles also offer the occasional new twist or complication, and that's without considering the almost nauseating levels of cuteness which pop up at times. The giant robots don't get all the fun, either, as Nene and a few others get into the action without relying on their robots. They are definitely the star, though, so at least a mild appreciation for this quintessential anime genre is necessary to fully enjoy the series.
For all its comedy, parodies, homages, and action, though, the dramatic elements are the best aspect of the final two episodes. Exceptional effort and attention to detail went into the heart-to-heart between Jin and Kana in episode 4, where Kana sees in Jin her long-deceased father and Jin sees in Kana the kind of daughter he wished he had, creating the most serious and poignant moments of character development in the whole series. Its content drops some hints that perhaps Jin has some old connection to Genes, but unfortunately the series ends before bringing that thread to any kind of resolution.
As with the first volume, the visual highlights belong to the CG effects used to create and move the giant robots. Their movements find just the right balance of being robotically stiff and smoothly fluid, the contrast between CG and normal animation is not as stark as one normally expects to see, integration with background and non-CG animation is nearly flawless, and the quality of their renderings is superb; these are some of the best-looking giant robots you'll see anywhere. Junerin's melding of doll-like cuteness and robotic framing works beautifully, but Big Mighty and The Perfect have sharp looks, too. It's enough to make any giant robot aficionado salivate. Robot fan service returns, as does some of the more human variety, especially in the ridiculously busty builds of Nene and Shimada's secretary.
The soundtrack continues to be serviceable in playing up the tone of each given scene, whether more comedic or dramatic, in a slight improvement over the first volume. The soundtrack highlights are still the cheery, cutesy opener and pleasant beat and lyrics of the J-Pop closer. Without an English dub, all the attention goes on the Japanese voice acting, which retains the full overblown, grandiose style of classic giant robot titles. The star performance is the almost impossibly squeaky-voiced Tomoka Kaneda (probably best-known to American fans as the voice of Chiyo in Azumanga Daioh or Marie in the Please Teacher/Twins series), who embodies Rincle like she was born to play that role, but all the other seiyuu do fine jobs, too.
Although Anime Works apparently decided it wasn't worth the cost to make an English dub, they did at least include some decent extras. Amongst them are typical stuff like alternate openers and closers, a promo reel, and a character art gallery, but the most notable one is the 25-minute continuation of the Behind the Scenes featurette begun on the first volume. In it Tomoko Kaneda returns to Studio Fantasia, the company which did the 3D CG work for the series, for further lessons on the process behind animating Junerin and the other giant robots. It is quite a worthwhile view if you are interested in learning about the technical aspects behind CG work in animation.
Yeah, this ultra-cute parody of/homage to giant robot series is ultra-cheesy, but that doesn't keep it from also being ultra-good. Though decidedly a niche title aimed squarely at hard-core otaku, it still stands among the past year's hidden treasures.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Excellent CG renderings and animation of giant robots, good mix of comedy and drama.
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