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The Big O

The Story so far:

Paradigm city is vast metropolis existing sometime in the year 2099. Situated beneath an enormous protective dome and secluded from the rest of the world, it is slowly recovering from a great disaster that occurred forty years ago. For some unknown reason, the memories of Paradigms’ citizens were deleted. Although Paradigm still continues to function as a city, some of its people are growing restless and, consequentially, this has resulted in a rise in crime.

Into this scene comes Roger Smith: A successful criminal negotiator who uses his vast fortune to combat crime. A cunning and resourceful man, Roger always to seems to have a trick capable of overcoming various situations.
But should things get out of control, Roger calls in on his secret weapon: A giant mecha, dating back from the era before the incident, called the Big O.

I like big mecha anime. Maybe it’s a good example of the machismo sense within me, but I always find some pleasure watching some giant robots smack the crap out of each other. However, mecha anime is one of the most populated genres in anime. Thus, for every one good series, there is also lot of series that are either appalling or unspectacular.

So in the case of The Big O, I would have to describe this series as different from the usual norm.

What The Big O represents for me is an attempt to do something unique with the tired and tested mecha genre. Here, this series replicates elements of US fiction and places them within the context of a Japanese invention. The most obvious in this regard is the inescapable similarities to Batman: Roger is a millionaire who fights crime with an impressive selection of ingenious gadgets - much in the same vein as Bruce Wayne. Likewise the animation style is clearly reminiscent of the US cartoon.
And being in a primarily science fiction setting, this series even treads into Isaac Asimov territory with the inclusion of various robot characters. Chief among is the android Dorothy R(obot). Wainwright who becomes Roger’s ward. It is amusing to see Dorothy mimicking the actions of humans (I particularly enjoyed her skills in piano playing) and to see her argue with Roger.
Also incorporated are elements from 1940’s film noir. This is evident in the general atmosphere, the use of long dark shadows and various moments when Roger’s voice provides a narration with an accompaniment of a lone saxophone.
Of course it may sound dangerous to throw this much into the one series but here it works so well. Through in some solid action sequences and a protagonist, in Roger, whose charisma will give Spike Spiegel a run for his money, and you have a promising set up!

So this series certainly shows a lot of potential, but does it do something with it?

Well not quite.
The main problem here is that this series is terribly formulaic: Nearly every episode (and there are thirteen of them) has some huge monster wrecking havoc and the Big O is the only thing that can stop it. And that’s all there is! Sure there is the mystery of what created the disaster forty years ago but the surface of that concept is only scratched. Likewise, the presence of the mysterious woman known as Angel isn’t properly explained. Indeed, throughout the series, many questions are asked but not all get fully explained. Matters are not helped when the series ends with a cliff-hanger. Another problem I found with this series was that the music is rather inconsistent. Sure there are some moody pieces but there are also some moments which are completely absurd – a good example of the latter category is the completely ridiculous opening theme.

Nevertheless, this was certainly a fun series and it certainly had me hooked. Indeed, it is refreshing to see a mecha show that certainly has a unique presence in amongst a rather populated genre.
I’m certainly keen to see more and, fortunately for me, more is on its way: Although The Big O wasn’t much of a big deal in Japan, it did however find success when it was screened on Cartoon Network in the US. But when the series reached it’s (lack of) conclusion, the demands for more urged Cartoon Network to conduct negotiations for a second series.

Thus, if The Big O was designed as a pitch to a larger audience, I do believe it is fair to say it has well and truly succeeded.

By: Spike

Last Updated Saturday, September 18 2004 @ 09:03 PM
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