Saturday, February 03, 2007

Zone of the Enders


It's a cartoon based on a video game...a depressing and dystopic video game.
It has so-so animation.
It has really crappy mech designs...
....and one of the more tedious scores in recent memory.

But Zone of the Enders is one of the most enjoyable shows I've seen in the last few years!

(Note: if I had known ANYTHING about the video game before I bought it, I would never have picked it up)

The show is rather unusual anime in several ways.
The protagonists are explicitly described as Americans (though the mother, a martian, is definitely of Japanese ancestry)
The main protagonist is 49 years old.

In the far future, a down on his luck freighter captain decides to reconcile with his kids, who have grown apart from him in recent hears after his wife left them suddenly and without explanation. So he buys his daughter a cat and decides to find a cargo that will take him back to earth.

The cargo in question turns out to be a super-secret, superpowerful Mech...which despite its disturbimgly Freudian appearance has the bubbly personality of a schoolgirl. Said mech, turns out has a message for James from his estranged's incomplete but it is clear that she is in distress. So James Links sets off to rescue his wife....unfortunately he quickly winds up a fugitive....fortunately he manages to contact his kids...uuunnnfortunately they want nothing to do with him....but they get labeled fugitives too....and the whole family must pull together to save mom...but that will involve traveling from South Florida to someplace they're not really sure of on Mars....and in their way lies the interplanetary mob, the UN military, martian separatists, The Martian Govt. and numerous space hazards....did I mention they are wanted (unjustly of course) as terrorists?

Dramatis personae: From right to left on the box art front row first...
James Links, a 49 year old American, is the pilot and sole crew aboard the Ender an interplanetary tramp freighter. A vet of the US military, while stationed on Mars he married a martian woman from the Japanese settlement. He retired, started a space transport business had a family and pretty much crawled into a hole and sucked his toes after his wife up and left him....since his kids went to college he's been pretty much in space all the time.

His nickname, "John Carter" is bestowed upon him by a particularly unlikeable UN official because he married a martian. James Links is a quite competent spacer, but he is fighting self doubt and alcoholism. He was a decent mech pilot in his day...but his day was 20 years ago...he finds he has a very short learning curve to rectify this. He spends a large amount of his time reading How to be a Good Daddy a self help book for insecure fathers by an award winning psychologist.

Leon Links, the younger of the 2 children, is 22 and fresh out of college. He nevertheless has risen quite rapidly up the corporate ladder by the tried and true method of sleeping his way to the top. A mommas boy through and through, Leon does not handle his sudden shift from golden boy to fugitive well. He has very few survival or mechanical skills, but he turns out to be a whiz at computers and his knowledge of corporate practices and protocols actually turns out to be a rather useful asset. He has a the most growing to do and is the most out of his depth.

On his head...the kitten... creature of entropy

Noel Links is The older sister and has just landed a job as a construction foreman and partner in a south Florida construction firm....untill she finds herself a fugitive wanted for murder because her dad tried to give her a kitten for her birthday...not that she' know...BITTER...

She is a skilled mechanic, which doesn't really prepare her for space combat at all...but mechanics are useful in soon as they acclimate to 0-gee. :) Like everyone else on the team she finds herself constantly punching above her weight, but she handles herself with grace and aplomb....occasional hysterics during re-entries notwithstanding.

And in the rear one of the more disturbing mech designs in a while...Dolores is an immensely powerful battlemech (Orbital Frame) which inexplicably has a charming, innocent and rather flighty personality. She vaguely remembers James Link's wife Rachel, and occasionally remembers other things....things that make almost as little sense in a battle mech as a bubbly personality....

AIs are apparently quite rare in the Z.O.E. universe and she is astonishing to all who meet her. She has almost no combat ability on her own, that is, she must be piloted in combat (this is initially assumed to be due to an Asimov program) but she is fully autonomous and self aware in every other way. She's a 37 foot child brimming with exuberance and curiosity...and enough firepower to take out a battleship....scary doesn't begin to cover it....

Of course the merry band grows and shrinks as the series progresses and there are a hoard of villains too.

The thinpack is now available and I highly recommend it. The show was a low budget production and is so unconventional that it likely wouldn't have gotten made if not tenuously tied to a video game property. It was never popular but it is a surprisingly charming and neat show. It has really good characterizations and the dub is unusually good save for one early episodes Deloris refers to herself as an "orbital flame"...rather than Orbital Frame...this is obviously a translation glitch...they cover this up in subsequent eps in a way that actually moves the plot.

The dub diverges a bit in points from the sub, but flows very well and the voice acting is top notch...another unusual and worthy feature.

This show isn't for everybody but I really liked it. It also had an ending....and a non-Gainax one at that...which is always a plus!

5 out of 6 bricks!

UPDATE: Blogger has eaten my pictures! After 3 days all of of the pictures just disapeared...I'm at school and obviously can't load image files on the library they will stay gone for a day or two...sorry...

UPDATE2: Well, new Blogger now stubbornly refuses to post the previous images So I grabbed 2 from the interweb and rewrote the review to reflect the box art.

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