This Week in Anime
What the Heck was ID-0 About?

by Nicholas Dupree & Jacob Chapman,

Netflix snapped this 3DCG sci fi adventure up last spring, only to finally release it this month to little fanfare and a lot of head-scratching. This week in anime, Nick and Jacob try to decipher what ID-0 was even about and whether it's worth anyone's time.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.





You can read our series review of ID-0 here!

Nick D
Hey Jake, I've got a question I'm hoping you can answer.

Ask away!

My God, her eyes are full of stars. It is hard not to be wary of such an audacious level of pink.

It also doesn't help that she's a terrifying CG doll who communicates entirely in creepy giggles.

Yeah, this image communicates both my favorite and least favorite things about ID-0 all at once. On the plus side, I honestly love the color palette. Everything is so bold and clear in color design, with just enough candy-coated shine to complement the whole 3D animation issue. It's not Land of the Lustrous level aesthetic finesse by CG anime standards, but the show doesn't look bad, and it has plenty of moments of memorable beauty. On the negative side...Alice.

Of course, we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Seeing as this series has been sitting in the Netflix coffers for the last 6 months, some folks probably don't even know what it is.

Yeah. I mean, it's my job to keep up with this stuff and I barely knew it existed! And in my defense, now that I've seen the whole thing, I'm still not entirely sure what the hell I just watched.

So this is ID-0, a new original show by Goro Taniguchi - aka the Code Geass director and only person who worked on that show who hasn't colossally embarrassed himself since imo. It's also by Sanzigen, the CG animation studio that's been kicking around for the last few years with such memorable classics as Arpeggio of Blue Steel and BBK/BRNK. (I promise I didn't make up either of those titles.) And I don't blame you for not being sure what the heck this series is because honestly, the show itself doesn't seem to either. ="D

It seems to be about Proper Nouns. Proper space nouns and Proper robot nouns and fancy space-time minerals...

Yeah, the series does a pretty iffy job of explaining its sci-fi universe, but this is the premise, as far as I can gleam:
- Humanity at some point discovered a space mineral called Orichalt that allows for FTL travel
- To get more of it, we started building I-Machines, 60-ft robots that can store a digital human consciousness to survive outer space
- Somehow all of this was done by like, two guys.

Two guys with big dramatic anime rival problems who pout around in tight suits.

The main story is - ostensibly - about a student/unpaid intern named Maya who gets betrayed on a mission by the higher-ups and becomes a falsely accused fugitive working with a crew of space pirates to clear her name.

That's actually a big part of why the story lost me. Our protagonist Maya, the normal human in this pack of formerly-human perma-bots, basically gets shunted to the sidelines right away and we don't ever learn much about her. Hell, I'm not sure she was ever connected to the Big Reveal Plot at all, beyond acting as moral support for Ido.

Yeah, the series ACTUALLY turns out to revolve around Ido The Existential Robot who has anime-amnesia and his quest to figure out his convoluted backstory so he can brood about it for like four episodes.

So there's essentially two premises battling for supremacy through much of the show, and the result is kind of like wrapping a Red Vine round a stick of beef jerky.

It is a truly bizarre flavor. Grand-scale politically driven Gundam-esque universal stakes war office comedy where all your wacky coworkers are robots. It could work (hello 08th MS Team), but in this case, it does not.

It's funny you should mention Gundam! See, while the series' most recognizable creator is Taniguchi, while watching I was struck by how similar it was to another series I'd seen recently. And lo and behold, when I checked the credits, who did I find but Yosuke Kuroda, lead screenwriter for Gundam 00.

Ah yeah, that guy's been working as an anime screenwriter for a long time. Hasn't done as much original work that I'm familiar with though.

He's mainly known for adaptations, but it was striking how many ideas in ID-0 - the existentialism, transhumanism as it relates to human nature, scientific advancement conflicting with the needs of morality - were present in Gundam 00. Granted, that show had 50 episodes to flesh out those themes instead of like six (post workplace comedy hijinks). So it had decidedly fewer lengthy bouts of infodumping.

I really like the themes ID-0 was playing with! But the execution was basically twist after turn after revelation being lobbed at your head without any time to develop these characters doing all the space mining, mutineering, coup d'etat-ing, conspiracy theorizing, and whatever else in god's name was happening in that back half or so. I couldn't tell you much about each character's personality, less about their motives, and nothing at all about their arcs except of course for Ido, whose dilemma can be hilariously summed up as "Is it worth regaining your memories and identity if it means finding out you were a Big Gaping Asshole?"

Yeah, Ido's entire thing basically consumes the show after the first half or so, and it becomes a series of Plots Happening without any time to contemplate them or let the characters react to anything. And his big identity reveal turns out to be absolutely not worth the wait anyway.

ID-0: Sometimes it's better to not remember [what happened in this show].

So where did this go wrong? I can't help but be reminded of Taniguchi's previous work on Active Raid, which had almost identical problems of too much plot and worldbuilding with completely inadequate characterization. And also robot suits.

It's hard to really say. I've read some rumblings that there were creative issues during production over what kind of tone or audience they wanted to aim for. For instance, Alice was apparently either not in the original outline or vastly different, but somebody wanted to make the show more...kid-friendly? I guess?

So we got this

But at the same time, it's also got all his Hard Sci-fi minutiae and lengthy discussions about what it means to be a human, to be alive, can robots be real people, etc.

The answers to all these questions and more will be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ followed by "friendship is great though isn't it, let's dice up some more moon rocks, team!" And I think there was an aborted apocalypse in there somewhere...

Look, it was a hot mess, kind of a tragic waste of both its honestly exciting aesthetic and premise. But without a human hook to tether down all these high-concept ideas, or some occasional breathing room to give us comfortable vantage point in this wacky space environment, it all felt like a lot of colorful noise assaulting the screen, in between long stretches of technobabble.

Which is a shame, because while I'm not wild about the CG, it does have some rather impressive moments.

The mech designs are great! The colors really pop, and the animation is just good enough to make them feel like they're being full-dive mind-controlled by humans, without verging into rubbery-metal motion.

The characters aren't bad so much as just flat and underdeveloped. There's a lot of little ideas that inform why the central cast have abandoned or lost their human forms, and how they all sort of formed a robot family to get by in the world. But those relationships aren't explored, and most of their banter comes off as filling space between the Big Ideas the series wants to talk about. I find the end result fascinating, but not good or even functional as entertainment.

Yeah. It's a real shame! But at least it's bound to find a wider audience on Netflix than it would on basically any other streaming service. Whether it deserves that attention or not. :'D

I can't say I'd recommend it to most unless they're the kind of person who will take apart an old cellphone or wristwatch just to see if they can put it back together again. It's a mess, and I'm somebody who usually enjoys dissecting weird and ambitious shows. But this is Maybe next time guys.

All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put ID-0 together again.

At least the OP is a banger

Just one more anime to throw onto my Spotify playlist and out of my streaming queue!

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