Wednesday, 11 October 2006 00:00

Innocent Venus (TV, 2006)

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Overview

It's been awhile since I took the time to really look at a Mecha series. Truth be told, Neon Genesis Evangelion rather turned me off to the genre after growing up with greats like Robotech and Go Lion. It's not that I didn't like a good Mecha story, just that I honestly didn't see much in the way of good Mecha stories out there. Enter Innocent Venus, a name that popped up on my fan sub RSS feeds one day. A quick look at AniDB didn't reveal much; just that it was about a post-apocalyptic world, and that there were, indeed, Mecha. I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have grabbed the first episode in light of that, except that a fair number of the series that I'd been watching were finishing up, and I needed something new to watch.

Review

The baseline story of Innocent Venus is that, somewhere in the late 21st century, a massive number of extremely powerful hurricanes strike, and effectively redraw the surface of the planet. Six billion people lose their lives, and the separation between the rich and the poor is greater than ever. Enter Surasawa Jin, and a little girl named Sakura, who are running from a military force through an abandoned subway station. Alone and unarmed, somehow Jin almost manages to get Sakura to safety, but their route is cut off with the exit within reach... until a man in a black plug suit appears and utterly decimates a full strike team. This is Katsuragi Jo, Jin's partner; both are Gladiator pilots, massive war mechs of incredible destructive potential. Former members of Phantom, a clandestine organization of Gladiator pilots, Jin and Jo were sent to kidnap Sakura and bring her back, but chose instead to defect and protect her.

The first episode actually did a remarkably good job of catching my attention, given the above synopsis. The animation is very good, and very smooth, something that I noticed right away as the action got kicked right into gear. There's a certain amount of situation disorientation present - note that that's a good thing in this case, as it suits the feel of the opening sequences. You spend a little time wondering who this guy and little girl are, and why they're running away from a military strike team, but the writers didn't force you to wait too long to start giving away little bits and pieces to get you up to speed.

The character depth - the main characters, at least - is actually surprisingly good, right from the start, something that isn't always the case in Mecha anime. I won't go into details for reasons that I'll explain in a couple moments here, but Jin and Jo make for a surprisingly stable center to base the story around. Calm and level headed Jin is always in control of the situation at hand, while Jo... well, to be honest, Jo is there just to scare the hell out of people. Jo is the quiet sort of impossibly effective fighter... y'know, the kind that barely even twitch as they rip the enemy to shreds? Yet, there is something deeper about Jo that becomes apparent the first time you see him pilot his armor. Incidentally, Jin and Jo's armor have a marked difference from the rest of the Gladiators piloted by Phantom - Jin's is pure white, Jo's pure black. Take that where you will; the reasons why will make themselves clear later on in the series.

I'll admit that I wasn't expecting the story to be as broad as it has become either. As well executed as the first couple episodes were, they were setting the series up to be a fairly simple 'Two Heroes and a Little Girl' type series. That effect gets blown out of the water - almost literally - in episode three as the main storyline gets going. Again, I don't want to risk spoiling anything, as Innocent Venus has a story that starts to get quite deep into the twists and turns of a good mystery. Good work overall on the writing. There is some cliché to be found, but not an overarching amount.

The sound quality is middle of the road, solid in general, mildly sketchy at points, and very good at others. The voice acting is clean and suits the characters, and while I haven't picked out any REALLY good voices in the cast, everybody seems comfortable in their roles. A high point is the series opening theme, done by Teikoku Yousei who did the Magical Pokan themes. Its high paced beat suits the overall feel of the action in the series, and it's just plain a fun theme. Kudos there. Background music is mostly average otherwise; no need to go over that.

Overall

I've been enjoying this series quite a bit, something that is probably fairly obvious by this point. It's not the best series I've ever seen - but it's well into the world of fun, enjoyable series. The writing is good, the characters are well balanced, and the audio isn't too shabby either. Add great animation overall and some very good action scenes, and you have all the makings of a great show. Go ahead and take a look at Innocent Venus if you're a fan of Mecha series or drama.

Additional Info

  • Title: Innocent Venus, イノセント・ヴィーナス
  • Genre: Drama, Mecha, Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure
  • Director: Jun Kawagoe
  • Studio: Brain's Base
  • Licensed: ADV Films
  • Network: WOWOW
  • Format: Television
  • Episodes: 12
  • Animation: Good (+2)
  • Writing: Above Average (+1)
  • Pacing: Below Average (-1)
  • Voice Acting: Above Average (+1)
  • Soundtrack: Very Good (+3)
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