Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Baldr Force EXE Anime Review

Baldr Force EXE
Baldr Force EXE Resolution
Complete Collection - 1 disc
120 mins. - 4 episodes
$9.98 (2009) S.A.V.E.
$19.98 (2008)
ISBN 704400074844
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Takashi Yamazaki
Studio - Satelight

Synopsis: In the future the world wide web has become a totally immersive experience where users jack in and interact in an almost perfect mimic of the real world.  The line between real life and artificial is blurred beyond recognition with people spending more time online than in real life.  Sound familiar?  It was all fun and games until a mysterious serial killer showed up in the Wired.  Whole virtual city blocks filled with users and information are disappearing.  The worst part - if you die in the Wired then you die in real life!  A strange girl is seen before the killer strikes.  FLAK is the organization charged with policing the Wired and stopping terrorists.  They operate with cutting edge Simulacrums - virtual mecha battle suits built to navigate the Wired.  Every team sent in to investigate the roaming phenomena ends up with their heads popped after their Simulacrums are violently destroyed.
One of the FLAK divers just died in the Wired -- POP!!!
Toru Souma is a member of the elite hacker group Steppen Wolf.  They're ready to call it quits, but decide to pull one last major hack.  Their mission goes awry and Toru watches his good friend get killed by an unknown Simulacrum from FLAK.  The survivors end up getting pinched and Toru is given an offer - join FLAK or do major time.  He agrees to join, but only to find his friend's killer and get revenge!
Toru meets a girl in the Wired - is she the one linked to the killings?
FLAK is constantly locking horns with a terrorist group known as Fei Dao.  Now Toru is a warrior for FLAK and battling virtual terrorists with very real stakes.  One false move and he's dead!  The other surviving members of Steppen Wolf were also recruited to cyber groups and not all of them are friendly.  Another government organization called VSS jockeys for position with FLAK.  Are their motives hostile and what link do they have with Fei Dao?
Toru runs into one of his former Steppen Wolf team - she's working for VSS
Toru notices one of his diver teammates, Ayane, is acting strangely.  Why is she so driven to work for FLAK and destroy Fei Dao?  What is the origin of the unknown killer and the mysterious girl who appears before it strikes.  Will Toru find his revenge before the killer gets him?  Who is the strange girl and what is her link to his past?
Toru uses his custom Simulacrum with spray-and-pray automatics
Pros: Animation is top notch (CG is passable), good techno opening theme and decent music throughout, characters were believable and had a little depth, builds a coherent virtual world, nudity, dark and twisted!
What secret is Ayane keeping and how far will she go?
Cons: Too short to explore the plot lines and character relationships adequately, mecha designs for the FLAK Simulacrums have a silly flat-foot thingie (it allows them to hover) and in general could have been better, rape scene
This guy is a super-douche squared
Mike Tells It Straight: I had seen a lot of mixed reviews for Baldr Force EXE before watching it and enjoyed it more than expected.  The animation was really good although the CG was a bit rough by today's standards.  The mecha designs for the Simulacrums could have been better, but were passable.  Character designs and overall artwork were surprisingly good.  I ended up liking the characters and thought their personalities/motivations were well planned.  This show borrows heavily from The Matrix and other modern cyberpunk concepts with only a few original ideas (most notably the Simulacrum battle suits for virtual users in the Wired).
A standard issue FLAK Simulacrum
This show immediately got my attention with a bunch of gory heads popping after the military diver teams got wiped out by the unknown killer.  I immediately knew this show meant business and was for mature audiences .  Do not let kids watch this show!  The revenge angle was pretty exciting and the rape scene totally caught me off guard.  This last one might be offensive to some potential viewers so sorry for the spoiler.  The plot made sense and the story had a logical resolution.
Toru fights for FLAK now
The only major problem with the show was being too short and racing through the plot.  They could have easily added a few more episodes and explored/strengthened the character relationships.  I thought Toru's FLAK teammates didn't get enough screen time and they could have built up more suspense/tension with his old Steppen Wolf members.  Despite its flaws I thought the show was a major thrill ride and worth watching.      
Ayane pushes it to the limit!

TO BUY and Recommendations: