Reviewby Theron Martin,
In the year 2050, Derrida Yvain is a young engineer who, along with co-worker Nathan, has just discovered a dangerous flaw in the DZ (autonomous robots who work as servants) that he helped his father design. He and Nathan have developed a patch, but corporate balks at the cost of a recall to fix the problem. After a birthday party for Nathan's daughter Mage, shadowy forces seek to eliminate both of them and Derrida's father. Derrida instead winds up in a cryocapsule at an abandoned facility, but not before experiencing a weird phenomenon: appearances by a girl who looks like Mage but claims instead to be Ange. When he wakes up, 10 years have passed and the DZ rampage he feared has happened, greatly prolonging a war that had started in 2050. While searching for clues about Mage (who had been given a copy of his work before the accident), he hooks up with a jack-of-all-trades and his daughter and picks up a pursuer in the form of a notorious assassin. Meanwhile he may be starting to slip through time as the mystery about Mage deepens.
This original anime series is going to get a fair amount of attention if for no other reason than because of the involvement of Yoshitoshi ABe, the internationally-famous illustrator behind the iconic look of Serial Experiments Lain and the haunting beauty of Haibane Renmei, who handled the original character designs. Even quality character designs are nothing without a good story and execution to go with them, however, and through its first four episodes this series doesn't do much distinguish itself on those or really any other front.
The plot so far is a melding of two distinct story elements: the “cryogenic trip into a semi-apocalyptic future” scenario and the “robots go on a rampage” scenario. The way the series does it is anything but graceful or integrated, as Derrida winds up cryogenically frozen through a series of circumstances that require an even greater suspension of disbelief than you might normally expect from stories like this one. The future scenario, where war has turned all but the core of a major city into a robot-infested wasteland, feels like it checks off a lot of the "dystopian future" boxes: all sorts of neat new tech accompanied by a plethora of destruction, killer robots, dramatic difference between the haves and the have-nots, and intrepid individuals trying to scrape by with odd jobs. Derrida and his escorts navigate these dangers as they seek information crucial to combating the robot problem and getting to the bottom of the sinister machinations behind it.
There isn't much here that feels particularly inspired, but the thing that saves the series from potential mediocrity - for me, anyway - are the time travel story elements, despite the fact that they're only lightly touched on in the first few episodes. In fact, it isn't until the end of episode 4 that the series definitively establishes that some kind of time travel is taking place. The possibility of it is discussed in the first episode, and the series' first scene suggests that an older version of Mage has somehow gotten herself involved in it, so its use is definitely foreshadowed. However, the series is remaining coy about the details of how it works, presumably because those mechanics are also tied up in the mystery of who Ange is. It might not be mindblowingly original, but the time travel stuff is enough to keep me interested for now.
For all of the potential inherent in its central gimmicks, the story is coming up short on generating any degree of depth. The first episode has a slightly different feel to it - a certain level of sincerity, perhaps - which promises more thematic or emotional depth than what we actually get over the next few episodes. By the end of episode 4 there has been no significant effort to richly develop the setting, explore the characters, or reach for any greater messages or symbolism. Perhaps that will change with time, but this is the entire first third of the series - it feels like there would've been some hint by now.
Technically, the show isn't anything to write home about. The futuristic cityscapes and some of the equipment designs are pretty good - I especially liked the car that Derrida's “bodyguard” Vidaux drives around in - but the animation isn't quite good enough to make the action scenes pop. The CG animation of vehicles is also very hit-or-miss. Musical accompaniment comes mostly from synthesized themes but is effective at hyping up action and dramatic moments. Rock number “Paradox” by QUADRANGLE, which starts with episode 2, makes an energetic opener, while closer “Toki no Tsubasa,” is a more mellow song accompanied by some of ABe's gorgeous artwork.
The first four episodes have already come up on Crunchyroll as a special preview; 8-9 episodes remain for the series to collect itself and make itself memorable. The possibility for it is there, but it will have to do better than what episodes 2-4 show.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Time travel angle is potentially intriguing, some nice tech designs
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