Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zaion: I Wish You Were Here Anime Review

Zaion: I Wish You Were HereADV Films
Complete Collection - 1 disc
120 mins. - 4 episodes
$29.98 (2009)
$24.98 (2003) Vol. 1 Epidemic
$29.98 (2003) Vo1. 1 w/artbox
$24.98 (2003) Vol. 2 Devastation
ISBN 702727175022
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Seiji Mizushima
Studio - Gonzo

Synopsis: It's been four years since a mysterious virus carried by a meteorite started infecting humans and transforming them into super-powerful, mindless monsters.  The virus has claimed 3% of the world's population, but remains a well-kept secret by CURE (Committee of the Universal Resolution of Ecocatastrophe). 

In order to battle the virus CURE has developed remote-controlled mecha units (called MOB units) and nanomachine-enhanced super-soldiers (called NOA).  The MOB units are the first line of defense during an outbreak, but the virus has evolved to a point where the infected can easily overcome the robots.  Only the NOA super-soldiers have become truly effective, but they suffer from a high mortality rate and are extremely costly to replace.
NOA soldiers battle an infected human
Yuuji is a talented NOA soldier who becomes disillusioned with CURE after a particularly rough mission.  He dislikes CURE's view of the NOA casualties as acceptable losses after witnessing many comrades killed in action.  He hears about a newly developed weapon which could save lives and becomes angry because it hasn't been deployed yet.
Yuuji stews after losing more comrades on another mission
That weapon is a young psychic girl named Ai.  She is little more than a test subject to the researchers and higher ups at CURE.  Her abilities have a profound counter-effect on those infected by the virus when used with enhancing technology provided by CURE.  Lacking any emotional support Ai has no confidence and cannot function as a reliable counter-weapon.
Troops look on in horror at a massive amalgamated
infected monster
She meets Yuuji and they both share a moment together talking under the moonlight.  Yuuji does not know Ai is the new secret weapon yet and is nice to her.  Things change once he discovers Ai's inaction is costing the lives of his friends.  Another mission gone awry intensifies the dilemma for Ai as the virus mutates once again and poses an even deadlier threat. 
Yuuji and Ai under the moonlight
Now Ai is the last hope for humanity, but her fragile emotional state has rendered her helpless.  Can Yuuji get past his frustration and form a connection to support Ai? 
Ai's astral projection takes on a giant infected monster
Pros: Decent animation, okay soundtrack, budding love story between Yuuji and Ai is touching, some good action scenes, liked the nanotechnology/super-soldier concept, tons of extras - sketches, promotional clip, and half a dozen creators/staff/cast interviews
At first Yuuji is very cold to Ai
Cons: No opening sequence or theme song (had an ending sequence/theme though), MOB units (mecha) CGI was clunky and didn't mesh well with the traditional-looking animation (kinda typical of Gonzo), seems implausible that 3% of the world's population could be infected/killed by an extraterrestrial virus without a major media break (not to mention all the property damage when the things run amok), protagonists are not very endearing
A NOA soldier juggles a MOB unit
Mike Tells It Straight: Zaion's premise sounded interesting and I've enjoyed a lot of Gonzo's other works (Speed Grapher, Desert Punk, Yukikaze), but the show had a lot of negatives and didn't make a great impression.  I didn't initially like Yuuji and thought he was just another annoying anime hot-head main character.  Ai's character was pretty standard as well - she really didn't have much personality, but the pair won me over in the end with their ill-fated love (call me a romantic).
Yuuji and Ai form a strong bond in the face of adversity
My main gripe was the brief, implausible storyline and goofy characters.  The NOA team were color-coded like a group of super-sentai (i.e. Power RangersKamen Rider).  Keeping the virus under wraps with 3% of the world's population wiped out didn't seem possible when infected humans turn into raging monsters.  Entire hospitals are destroyed during an outbreak - try keeping a secret like that after the third or fourth hospital is trashed.  Not gonna happen.  
The Power Rangers prepare to fight for and protect Ai
The other gripe (with Gonzo overall at this point) is the CGI for the MOB units and how poorly it contrasted with the rest of the visuals.  The rendering was blocky and movements were terrible.  I've seen a lot of other Gonzo shows with CGI figures that just don't move properly (organically) and kind of ruin the show for me (Dragonaut, Blassreiter).  Might just be a preference from this old otaku (me) who grew up with fully rendered mecha and can't wrap his brain around all this newfangled tech-no-lo-gy.
SYou never feed them after midnight!!
Overall Zaion was a somewhat mediocre watch despite some potential.  I got the message the creators were trying to send, but it was too late for me to care.  The animation was good, but the CGI pieces were downright bad.  Too many story flaws killed it for me.    

TO BUY and Recommendations: