Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 6th 2007
The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye
DVD 1 - Encounter
In a future post-apocalyptic world, an upper class called The Third, who are distinguished by the extra red eye in their foreheads, governs and monopolizes the highest-tech equipment while the ordinary masses go about their lower-tech lives. A young woman named Honoka, who has made a name for herself as the jack-of-all-trades Sword Dancer because of her incredible skill and power with a katana, travels the wastelands with her A.I.-controlled tank Bogie looking for work and to make ends meet without having to kill any humans. A chance encounter with a beautiful, mysterious man named Iks, who seems to have an ability to heal, ultimately leads to him becoming a regular traveling companion as part of a job. Though he both intrigues and flusters Honoka, he is not her only concern; a powered suit she has recently purchased falls under the Technos Taboo (i.e. it's illegal to own), the automated soldier Blue Breaker is causing trouble, and Joganki, one of the leading members of The Third, not only keeps trying to court her but seems to have an undue interest in Iks.
Exactly why the series deserves its name does not get revealed until near the end of episode 4, but there is a very good reason why it is called what it is instead of “A Girl and Her Tank” or just “Tank Girl.” What bearing the name will actually have on the story must wait until volume 2, but at this time it suggests an interesting mystery.
Based on a series of novels, the setting, premise, and structure feels like a conglomeration of elements borrowed from innumerable other post-apocalyptic anime (and non-anime) tales. Mix elements from Desert Punk, the live-action movie Tank Girl, Kino's Journey, Blue Gender, any teenage anime romantic comedy, any series where a character cheerfully does odd jobs to earn cash, and any fantasy series which features leader-types in long, flowing capes and you have something approximating the first volume of The Third. Its early blend of action, everyday life, cool equipment, light character development, and the occasional humorous moment typifies the apocalyptic action genre.
But while the series could get by on its action scenes, pleasant characters, byplay between Honoka, Bogie, and Iks, and the cute overreactions of Honoka, its philosophical, even poetic, ruminations make it stand out. The first four episodes beautifully orchestrate several scenes where Honoka merely observes scenic vistas of stars and drifting sand, or clouds lazily passing overhead, while reciting mood-setting poetry from her favorite poet or just contemplating her feelings and place in the world. The tone these scenes set can be felt in other aspects of the series, too, particularly Honoka's dealings with Iks; her look of startled wonder upon first seeing him up close amidst the fireflies is an endearing moment. One gets the sense that the creators are trying to promote finding the beauty in simpler things, and perhaps also the notion that Honoka is a future version of the classic samurai, whose bushido code compelled him to act with restraint where possible and put as much effort into mastering the wordplay of haiku as he did into mastering the sword.
Another aspect which separates the series from many other apocalyptic tales is its pervasive and superfluous narration, which goes well beyond the narration used for Desert Punk. Here it not only explains the setting but Honoka's moods and emotions as well, something which it should not have to do. Most of what it describes about what Honoka thinks and feels could have either been gleaned from the specifics of the scenes or revealed by providing a window into Honoka's thoughts, which would have better fit an animated format where a viewer witnesses a story rather than merely being told one. Its overuse is the series' biggest flaw so far.
Xebec is not an animation production company whose name normally springs to mind when one speaks of quality visuals in an anime series, but they have turned in a strong effort here. The gorgeous early shots of space junk set the stage, while panoramic views of the night sky, detailed desert vistas, and even simple scenes like clouds drifting through the sky or sand blowing across ruins contribute to a pleasing visual effect.. Mechanical designs offer believable and eye-pleasing tank, vehicle, and mecha units, and while character and critter designs fall into more ordinary anime archetypes, they still look great; to see Iks, it is not hard to understand why Honoka might be thrown off stride by his gentle, pretty face. The Third project a vaguely elven look with their unnatural-looking astral eyes and flowing clothing straight from a fantasy series, and while Honoka's normal clothing gives a tomboyish, utilitarian feel, the inner suit she wears for using her PSP strikes quite the sexy look. Beyond that the title offers only a limited amount of fan service. The animation takes all the normal fight scene shortcuts but otherwise looks decent.
A highly eclectic but fully-orchestrated musical score colors and supports the content to varying degrees of effectiveness. Anchored by the wistful violin-and-guitar-centered opener, which gets used in variations throughout the episode content, it works best in the slow, graceful numbers accompanying the poetic moments. At other time it mixes light-hearted themes borrowed from romantic comedies and fantasy adventure stories with action themes which can be darkly ominous, high-spirited, or offer a retro '70s feel depending on the scene. So much jumping around prevents the first volume from establishing a consistent auditory style, but it does avoid boring repetition.
The English dub, courtesy of Headline Sound Studio on behalf of The Right Stuff International, stars relative newcomer Anna Marrow in the title role at the head of a cast otherwise mostly composed of seasoned anime dub veterans. The narration and supporting roles sound fine (although Bogie has more of an echoing resonance sound in Japanese than in English), but since Honoka is in almost every scene and does a lot of talking, hers is the performance that really matters. Well-regarded seiyuu Megumi Toyoguchi sets a high standard for the role, but Ms. Marrow delivers a passable effort in English by never making her sound older than the teenager she's supposed to be, generally giving a smooth delivery, and usually hitting the right tone and inflection for a scene. Her voices carries a bit more than the naturally soft-spoken Toyoguchi's, so she may sound a bit too loud and brash for the tastes of sub fans, but dub fans are unlikely to have issue with the performance. The script usually stays tight to the subtitles, although the minor variances in wording in the poetry make it sound a bit less graceful when spoken in English than when read in English.
The DVD itself features 2.0 and 5.1 English language tracks and stacks numerous Extras, among them the U.S. trailer for the series, lengthy interviews with Ms. Toyoguchi and Daisuke Namikawa (the Japanese voice of Iks), character art galleries with audio commentary by Ms. Toyoguchi, profiles for most important characters to appears so far, and a pair of image songs sung by Ms. Toyoguchi. (Fair Warning: many of these Extras contain references to, and/or spoilers for, characters and content which comes up later in the series. The second image song, in fact, contains so much content from what would appear to be volume 2 that one has to wonder why it wasn't saved for volume 2.) The casing includes a reversible cover and a stiff-covered 12-page booklet which includes additional profiles, illustrations, and poetic summations of each of the first four episodes – an especially nice feature, given the poetry in the episode content.
In some senses the first volume of The Third just retreads a well-traveled path as it gathers in elements from various sources, but in others it at least tries to establish its own identity. Only time will tell if it has enough stylistic and storytelling push to accomplish. Right now it has enough positives to merit a moderate recommendation.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Looks great, lots of Extras, some excellent philosophically poetic scenes.
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