Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I guess I have at least one CPM appreciation post in me

Part of the problem of basing your business around releasing short OVAs is that the format is basically dead, and the few that do squeak out nowadays usually aren't worth the time it takes to watch them. Case in point, Bee Train's Murder Princess, which was so lily-livered and indifferently animated that I had to rewatch Hades Project Zeorymer to wash away the taste of mediocrity.

Zeorymer revolves around the internal and external struggles of Tekkoryu, a.k.a. Hau Dragon, your standard elementally-themed giant mecha committee for world domination, opposed by two also seemingly standard-issue plucky teens in the titular stolen, never-to-be-duplicated unit. So far so generic, but two things make them stand out from the rest:

Firstly, these guys live the dream of every rap video and Bond villain, rocking a sumptuously decorated floating dragon-head fortress absolutely dripping with overdesigned clothes and equipment. These mad rococo stylings are the calling card of director Toshihiro Hirano (a name we'll revisit as soon as I finish watching Vampire Princess Miyu TV), but the important part is this: if Tekkoryu wants you dead, they will shoot you in the face with a gold-plated gun. That is just how Hau Dragon rolls.

Second, they are the world's single most dysfunctional and gossipy crime syndicate, largely due to being founded by one of the most sadistically pragmatic mad scientists I've seen in anime. His master plan is surprisingly clever, so much so that I'm not going to go into the plot in any real detail-- it's only four episodes, just watch it-- so let's chat about the animation for a bit.

The animation quality is consistently very good, but in some ways curiously wasted. The main problem is that the Zeorymer outclasses its enemies so badly that it barely expends any effort taking them out-- it just shrugs off their attacks for a bit then shoots a single beam, or worse, just crosses its arms, and then boom, on to the next challenger.

Still, all the energy blasts, exhaust trails, and incidental mecha greebles are lovingly detailed (you can even make out the labels on the various control panels) and the set designs are lush. It's only now that animation standards have dropped so low across the board, that I appreciate little details like the Hakkeshu Empress' elaborate bangles and hair decorations swaying with every step she takes.

It's all very '80s, but in a good way-- sometimes all you want is a nice-looking, coherent robot fight show that gets in, struts its stuff, and gets out. If you're watching, say, the new Mazinger, this might make a nice snack between screenings. It's mecha comfort food, but made from very rich ingredients. It's a shame CPM couldn't be bothered to put all four episodes on one disc, but at this point I'd say they've paid for that sin.

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