There was a certain amount of fuss over this one — made to celebrate the Twentieth anniversary of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, it also marked Mamoru Oshii’s first production for American TV, albeit made by the Japanese animation powerhouse, Production I.G.
However, while this one is frequently described as a combination of live action and CGI animation, this is only true if we consider the typical Hollywood SF film as an animated hybrid as well. The use of CGI to enhance live action is so common now that it it hardly worth noting.
Even before the mini-series ran, however, it was quite obvious that this was yet another movie set in Oshii’s Avalon, a virtual reality computer game. Or, more specifically, the separate realm of the game portrayed in his movie Assault Girls — which first appeared in a couple of short films. Two of that film’s cast, Hinako Saeki and Yoshikazu Fujiki return in their original roles. However, I suspect that few of the Toonami audience were familiar with the original film – and even the anime sites commenting on the original trailers seemed blissfully unaware of how familiar it all was!
The notion that they are players in a game is more obvious here, as we see things from the familiar third person view of a lot of modern First Person Shooter games, complete with stats, weapon lists and health icons.
However, ignore the claim that this one is 25 minutes long — yes, there are five, five-minute episodes, but each repeats the lengthy intro and all but the last one repeat much of the opening footage. If there’s as much as fifteen minutes of actual film here, I’d be surprised.
The actual storyline is fairly simple — the downed Mech pilot, KFC, tries to find something to eat, other than all the endless cans of “Green Peace” lying about. So she tries to hunt one of the giant Sand Whales which regularly “swim” past.
And that’s about it, except for an ironic surprise ending.
This one is mildly diverting, particularly for Oshii fans and those who’ve seen Assault Girls. Frankly, it’s mostly a novelty, but it doesn’t stay around long enough to wear out its welcome.
Still, it would have been far more interesting if Oshii had created something all new. Or a far larger and more complex series.
Or returned to Anime once again
(Many of the episodes are available on the Toonami Website)