Season 1 Episode 1, Spring 2008: Real Drive
May 22, 2008
by: Jessi Silver
Shirow Masamune and Production I.G. are together again for a new show – can it stand up with their past collaborations?
An Introduction to “Season 1 Episode 1”
Hundreds of anime debut on Japanese television every year, with maybe a quarter of that hitting US shores. Some of those that don't make the cut are true classics while others are clearly not worth the time it takes to watch them. With “Season 1 Episode 1” we try to watch as many of these as we can and let you know when it's time to visit your Region 2 importer.
This Week: Real Drive!
Another collaboration between the dream-team of Masamune Shirow and Production I.G. In the year 2061 a network called the Metal has taken over human society. Individuals begin to chafe against this rigid system, and aberrations develop. People called “cyber divers” are called in to investigate these situations.
Fifty years ago, a free diver named Haru was helping to conduct some experiments in the ocean, when strange electromagnetic waves began to come from the ocean floor and draw him deeper and deeper into the murky depths. Though the scientist on the project attempted to save him, he was injured to the point that he was left comatose for fifty years. An old man when he awakened, and now possessing an electronic brain, he spends his days staring out at the sea, a place he can no longer visit due to the paralysis his body experienced from the accident. When his android helper Holon, someone who helps him by taking readings under the water, decides to go in for a three-day maintenance session, he’s joined by a student helper named Aoi.
Aoi seems to have a particular sensitivity to the ocean as well, and feels like she can hear mysterious sounds emanating from it. On a rainy day, she finds Haru in his wheelchair out on the dock staring at the ocean again, and he explains to her his history as a diver and what happened as a result of his accident. Aoi begins to hear things again, and sees the sea begin to burn – a vision which occurred fifty years ago during the accident. Haru is rushed inside to his bed while Aoi begins to look for help since the electromagnetic pulses which have begun to occur have caused the power to go out. Haru, not physically able to do anything, uses his mind to enter the network connecting all people, which looks much like an ocean. In this world, he has a body that is undamaged and youthful. Whereas before he was ready to die, here he feels he can be useful, and begins to swim through the network to try and figure out what’s going on and how he can help.
A series like this is difficult to summarize in a couple of short paragraphs, because it introduces a number of new concepts at once and doesn’t do a whole lot to stop and explain how they came to exist or what they entail. Many people may feel that this is too confusing, but this is exactly the type of series that I like – one which introduces a new, living world and which explains things organically, as needed. A lot of exposition would be boring and cut into the action. This way we know enough about what’s going on to absorb what immediately important and to file away everything else and process it later. For example, we know that people are connected by a network and that there was an accident in the past which caused the main character to miss a good portion of his life. But we don’t know what’s going on with the ocean or why exactly there’s this electromagnetic destruction going on. This leaves things for the show to answer as it goes on – someplace for it to go.
As far as that’s concerned, the story is exciting, mature and grabbed me from the moment it began. I can’t wait to see more. Part of what I liked is Haru’s tale and how he’s able to use his past as a diver to create a new job for himself in the cyber world. It’s a bit unusual to watch an anime where the main character is an elderly person, so I commend that choice (even though it seems as though Haru will be seen as his young self during the action scenes). This being a more mature title, however, there’s a bit of graphic violence that shows up at the beginning of the episode, but I’m not entirely sure that it’ll carry through the series if many events take place in the Meta Real network rather than in the real world.
The animation is top-notch in this title, and one of the reasons that I had been anticipating the series before I saw a full episode. The detail in the characters is phenomenal, the blend of CG and traditional animation is near-seamless, and the movement of the characters is thrilling to watch. There’s a short fight scene involving the android Holon where every movement, every kick and punch, is animated fully, and it’s entrancing. There’s certainly no skimping here. One thing I noticed about the character designs is that the female characters tend to run a bit heavier than one might expect. I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision or if it was just a result of a character designer’s particular style, but Holon, Aoi, and the briefly-seen and voluptuous Security General are all more realistically-proportioned than your average skinny-as-a-rail (with unnaturally huge breasts) anime woman. I found it notable and a little bit refreshing.
This definitely stands as one of my top picks of the season so far, and I’m hoping both the story quality and the absolutely phenomenal visual quality will hold out.
Absolutely beautiful, from the CG to the characters to the animation
Adult story that expects a lot from its audience
Main character who isn’t a brash young shounen hero
Things are a bit confusing until later in the episode
For more Season 1 Episode 1, check out s1e1.com!
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