Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Big O

Genre: Action / Mecha / Sci-Fi
Parental Guidance Advised
1999 Kazuyoshi Katayama, Bandai Visual, Sunrise, WOWOW. Images courtesy of Paradigm City.

The Big O DVDs
The Big O Art Books & Manga
The Big O Music
Toys and Accessories
Posters Etc.
Everything The Big O

Amazon.com Product Description:
Paradigm City. A City of Amnesia. Forty years ago everyone lost their memory, but humanity continues to survive. They've learned to operate machinery, produce electricity, and go on living each day at a time. Still ther's something missing in a town with no past, no history of what has come before. Roger Smith is a Negotiator, hired to negotiate disputes between parties. And Roger enjoys a reputation of being the best at his job. But he has an ace up his sleeve, a rather big ace! He contrls the Megadeus called the Big O, a wondrous piece of technology from befeore the age of Amnesia. Occasionally, fragments of memories appear, and with them often comes trouble. The Big O comes in handy for subduing such dangers, but does it serve some greater purpose? Together with the unusual R. Dorothy Wayneright and his loyal butler Norman, Roger Smith keeps Paradigm City safe from the nightmare of memories.

It's Showtime! >>> by MarkPoa

The first thing that would attract your attention about the anime show Big O (aside from its title that would probably be more appropriate for a hentai anime :P) would be its art style. Big O does not look like your typical robot anime. Instead, Big O is...

You know? Saying this series' title is fun! Big O. Big O, Big O, Big O-o-o-o-o...

Ahem... I was just, er, singing along to the opening theme. Anyway...

Big O features a different art and animation style from your regular anime. You might recognize the same style from Batman the animated series (for which, I'm sure, die-hard otaku fans have disparated this title). For good reason, though. Big O 's animation was done by the people who did the first half of the Batman animated series, so it wouldn't be farfetched that they looked similar. I think the animation is very appropriate for the series and fits the show's noir-style to a T. The art looks very sleek, clean, and classy. In fact, if they did this completely in black and white, I would have been blown away by the sheer noir feel. Alas, they only did that for the tenth episode, but overall, I have to say I loved the art.

Set in Paradigm City, described by the protagonist Roger Smith as a "City of Amnesia", the show features a very interesting premise. Forty years ago from the series, the Event happened. Everyone in the city (and maybe the world) lost their memory, literally giving each and every person a blank slate on which to live their future lives. Now and again, fragments of the years prior to the amnesia pop up in people's heads, giving them the Memories to perform tasks or learn information (such as how to work electricity, how to fix giant robots, etc.). This is the scene where we find our hero, Roger Smith, Paradigm City's top Negotiator, stylishly solve problems for a fee and combat menace with his Megadeus, the Big O.

First of all, I'd like to get this over with: despite appearances, Roger Smith is NOT Bruce Wayne. While they're both millionaires with a butler and crimesolving persona, Roger Smith is more of a suave big-hearted mercenary than a superhero. Unfortunately for this dapper personality, he ends up having to save the city time and time again by the natural progression of his cases and his own good nature. Not only does he come out on top of the situation, he usually does it with aplomb and style... and a surprisingly good strong hair gel. Roger Smith could probably give James Bond a run for his money in terms of coming out of an adventure looking cool as cash.

Roger Smith's partners in crime include an android, R. Dorothy Wayneright (Oy, I'm seeing Batman and Asimov references here), and his butler, Norman. Dorothy is a joy to watch as she banters incessantly with Roger in a monotone that would sound sarcastic if she were human. She surprisingly likable and human-like, especially when she shows a more human side, such as when she takes care of a stray or asks Roger questions on love. Still, I break down into giggles whenever I see her purposely irritating Roger with her piano playing and that trick she does by turning her head around 180 degrees.

The show's titular character and Roger Smith's Megadeus, Big O harkens back to those old school giant robot where size is might. Visually, you could see the power Big O possesses. Despite that, the robot fights are surprisingly well-animated and pleasant to watch. Big O might look like a lumbering pile of bolts that couldn't stand up if you tripped him, but watch out! Appearances can be deceiving.

The music, like the animation, is very very apt for this series. It's strangely stylish, resorting to symphony pieces and melodies which would not be out of place in a detective story. The soundtrack becomes more upbeat and heroic during the giant robot fights. A good mix.

The series is mostly episodic in nature. Each episode finds Roger handling a different case which usually involves someone troubled by newly-awakened Memories or the lack of it. The series' backdrop of universal amnesia provides a rich source for stories as well as opportunities for the exploration of themes on identity, emotion, and memory. The strongest episodes tend to be those that delve into these deeper themes.

In addition, the concept of amnesia allows the viewers to explore this strange future world along with the protagonists. As a good sci-fi series, Big O delivers, giving the viewers a sense of wonder and curiosity at the world it presents. It makes you asks questions such as "What happened?", "How significant is memory?" and "Do robots dream of electric sheep?" (Okay, so that last one was from another story...)

Although, the most nagging question that might plague any viewer's mind would be: Why did it end there? The series abruptly stopped at 13 episodes, right before a potentially climactic fight scene. Why? Why? WHY?!?

(Thankfully, if rumors are true, a second 13 episode season is on the way.)

An unorthodox giant robot series with an unorthodox anime art style, give Big O a try. If it weren't for the surprisingly unsatisfying ending (because I wanted to see more, more, MORE!), I'd be tempted to give this a higher grade.

I still say the title is weird, though...

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 7

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