Ingress the Animation is a 3DCG sci fi action adventure that's just landed on Netflix with a customized international soundtrack. This week, Nick and Steve find out if this mobile game adaptation lives up to its hype.
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.
Nick Steve, I swear to christ ever since you and Micchy covered that godforsaken V-Tubers anime last season, those CG freaks have been haunting me. I'm cursed.
Steve Welcome to the future, Nick. Nobody is happy and virtual youtubers are hawking Google Glass but with a mind control app installed. This is where humanity has always been headed.
Well, thankfully we aren't actually talking about more virtual youtubers. Instead we're talking about the latest show Netflix has gracelessly dropped in our laps like a clumsy waiter, Ingress The Animation. It's a dark and serious action-thriller about tapping your phone screen to make lights change color.
I swear, all of these Netflix-original globetrotting procedural thrillers with supernatural/cyberpunk elements are starting to swirl together in my brain. From B the Beginning to Sirius the Jaeger to Hero Mask, and now finally to Ingress. I mean obviously the 'Flix is trying to capitalize on a genre it believes its audience wants, and maybe they're right, but also can we please just Stop.
Ingress in particular seems like it's trying really hard to draw in a western audience, even down to featuring OP/ED songs by a British indie band that do not actually fit the show in any way.
Until the OP kicked in, I had not even thought about alt-J in what feels like a decade. And you're right, they don't fit at all, but they were chosen 100% because Ingress is about Triangles. There's no other explanation.
The soundscape of this show is the most interesting part to me because it makes no god damn sense. Like, the entire original soundtrack for the show's TV airing was replaced for its international release, seemingly just to make it sound more like any given Netflix action series. With the occasional baffling insert song for some reason.
Holy crap, really? That's a new level of Netflixing that I neither understand nor am comfortable with. What a truly bizarre set of choices led us to this show in this form. And it's absolutely not worth it, mind you! The show's not terrible, but it does feel like an overlong advertisement for the Ingress mobile game.
I previously did not know anything about Ingress, but I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on its concepts now, if only because the anime doesn't adapt the game so much as it forces its main characters to start playing it.
Ingress the game is a geocaching phone app that's most famous for becoming the foundation for everyone's favorite glitchy exercise excuse, Pokemon GO. And the plot of Ingress The Animation is basically just what if the pretend story used for the game were real? And everyone had guns?
More importantly, what if the game were real and made you better at guns?
Ah yes that brings us to the breakout character of the show, Jack Bauer Norman.
I can't BELIEVE you stole my Jack Bauer joke, but yes, he spends the entire show shooting people and yelling "DAMN IT", so it's hard not to draw the comparison.
Jack Norman is every single super-powered suit-wearing action movie hero from the last 20 years crammed into a single person, and I kind of love him.
He's the best part for sure. He's big, gruff, and having none of this bullshit. I appreciate that.
Also, by far the cutest scene in the entire show is Jack getting really invested in Golgo 13 at a manga cafe. I can't not love him.
He's the best character in this thing, which sadly isn't saying much. Jack ain't any masterpiece of subtle characterization, but he has a personality and energy that our other two leads lack.
Yeah, our other heroes are Sarah, an ex-employee of the obligatory evil corporation now trying to expose their secrets without being captured, and Makoto, a guy who wears a glove.
And they don't have much character beyond that. Like they nominally have arcs about growing stronger and becoming friends, but 80% of Sarah's story is her being unconscious and strapped to a table—after she gets over her obligatory amnesia plot in about five minutes.
Please, it's like two minutes tops. It is the quickest anime amnesia turnaround ever. Also they have this big heartfelt "us against the world!" (and they LITERALLY say that) moment after they've known each other for all of ten minutes. Some stories can get away with that, but Ingress wasn't one of them.
Yeah, and that pacing is Ingress' biggest issue. Its first and final episodes purport to be about big ideas concerning humanity and evolution and yadda yadda sci-fi pondering, but the majority of this show is just gun fights, car chases, and exposition dumps explaining the mechanics of a phone game.
I do at least have to commend Ingress for feeling like it had momentum in its early stages. It was fun watching Sarah and Makoto bumble their way out of danger.
Then she gets captured and trapped in a Dark XM tube for half the show while Makoto and Jack get sidetracked doing something completely different in another country, and it ultimately just fizzles into gobbledygook about quantum particles and glyphs and mind control.
Oh right, I forgot this show's magic science thing is called XM, which makes all their exposition sound like they're excited about the power of premium radio channels.
Oh good, it wasn't just me then.
I guess that makes Dark XM like, the Howard Stern show.
Incidentally, Ingress is a spectacle across the board when it comes to acronyms.
They got ABADDON out of "Advanced Biological Augmentation Dimensional Node".
You know you're an evil science corporation when you stretch that hard to name your laboratory after an angel of the abyss!
I mean, is that better or worse than naming your top secret science project after the developers of the game? I don't know!
But yeah, after six episodes of constant gun fights and crash-landing planes and questionable portrayals of foreign countries, Ingress finally reveals its big bad's plan, which is just the illuminati using airpods to mind control everyone.
To be fair, mind control is the most likely explanation for airpods taking off in the first place. But my favorite part is that we learn about this plan over halfway through the show, and then two episodes later it's rendered completely moot because there's ANOTHER even EVILER plan our heroes have to thwart.
And that plan turns out to be, say it with me folks: Instrumentality
Take a shot, everyone! Seriously, they go through all the trouble of setting up these evil Collaborator guys, and then they all die (mostly offscreen!) almost immediately. I almost kind of respect its lunacy.
But it's not even a surprising twist because the true villain was saying shit like this from the very first scene.
I mean, it makes sense. If your ultimate climax is about defeating a group of powerful billionaires and titans of the tech industry, you can't exactly promote your smartphone game. So instead, make it the crazy cult guy and his evil red science magic.
That way, you can have everyone around the world save the day by literally playing your game!
As soon as I saw that the Ingress app just literally existed in this universe, I knew the climax would involve everyone using it together to beat the bad guy. Thanks Ingress, for disappointing me with your predictability.
What gets me is that it makes no sense for the "Collaborators" to let their super-important tech get used by random people in detrimental ways. Like, you could just get that de-listed from the app store no problem! But instead you let everyone and their grandmother constantly wreck your plans by accident.
Ingress is not in the business of making sense, Nick.
True. For instance, what even was that whole story about Jack being a lich made of antimatter?
Please, you have to clarify that he's not merely a lich, but a lich that's quantumly entangled with his original body. Because science.
It's bonkers, but it's also the closest thing anybody in this show has to a character arc so I'll take it.
It's only important because it gives Jack a time limit before his body wastes away, and even that ultimately doesn't matter because of the quantum entanglement thing. What really gets my goat is that the creators should have just made Jack and Brandt boyfriends instead of dancing around it for the entire show.
Oh good, I wasn't the only one who got that vibe. They play it off like Jack sees Brandt as a savior, but there's only so many times a guy can Matrix fight a billion people in search of the only person in his life he cares about before your subtext starts to look like text.
Their flashbacks together contain the most genuine displays of mutual affection in the entire story. Just make them kiss, cowards.
What, you weren't convinced by Sarah's heartfelt embrace of two guys she's known for a combined 18 hours?
Nah, I'm all about this sappy tragic shit. This is my jam. They just could have made it hurt so much more.
Really, that's my main issue with Ingress. The predicable plot and questionable pacing are just hiccups to what could be a solid show, but there's just not enough character to latch onto, so the whole thing feels like mild time-killing. It's nowhere near as boring or vacuous as Hero Mask or even Ultraman, but I finished watching it hours ago and can barely remember anything besides the broad plot points.
Yeah, it's just mediocre across the board to a fault. Maybe people who actually use the app will get more out of it, but I can't imagine this having much staying power beyond teaching rubes like me how Ingress works. I just can't believe I've reached a point where I'm looking back on B the Beginning with nothing but fondness. It's been a hell of a year.
Oh I'm sure the game's diehard fanbase will love this anime, because they're actually in it!
And there's certainly a subset of anime fans who want series like Ingress that are all about shooting guns at glowy sci-fi stuff. In that regard, you could do a lot worse. But as it stands, I can't think of many people who would find it very engaging.
Just one final thing: it was super weird when Jack addressed me by name like this.
Maybe Netflix's algorithms are becoming too powerful.
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