Ok, first off, the minuses. The character design is very, very old school: 80’s, and the characters are pretty much expys from Galaxy Express 999, Harlock, Esmereldas, etc. Some of the plot points are a little too predictable, but the major reason I’m dinging it a grade is that the main characters are just a hair two-dimensional. Our zeitgeist has moved on, and we expect to see more than The Noisy Tsundere, The Impulsive Kid, The Drunk Doctor and so on. We want rounded characters, and this show doesn’t deliver that at all. It’s old-school, all the way. But what that means is, we get the good with the bad. It tells a dandy story, one that, so far, is hanging together nicely, rather than just flashing T&A in our faces and expecting us to not notice the dreck.
I’m not going to get into the details, but simply put, the Hero, an impulsive kid by the name of Sam, finds a mysterious macguffin in the desert. Of course it’s a beautiful woman, name of Maya, being chased by some dastardly military types. But after he rescues her, she’s remarkably reticent about who she is and what’s going on. Predictably, Sam doesn’t care.
Mimay, the jealous tsundere, definitely does. The doctor is intrigued, and Captain Binas is alarmed, since her tarot cards say this woman is trouble. Nonetheless, she doesn’t hesitate to piss off the Theusus military forces when they show up to claim Maya. Weirdly, Maya seems to have some authority over the forces of Captain Gido, who commands the chase; when she orders them to lower their weapons, they hasten to comply.
It’s an exciting story, and the science behind it is holding together nicely (if you’ll forgive a few handwaved technologies). The director that adapted Leiji Matsumoto’s story could have padded the hell out of it in order to develop the characters or background. Instead, Ryousuke Takahashi* had the sense to play to the strength: the story itself. Yes, that Ryousuke — multiple Armored Trooper Votoms movies and OVAs, Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto, Gasaraki, Blue Gender, etc. Note that he was original creator as well as series director in all of those — and the failures of those series probably lie in the creative area, not the direction. Here, Leiji Matsumoto is the creator, and I think that’s making a huge difference. Add to that, a huge heaping of common sense in the action scenes. Time and again during the battles, I found myself going “yeah, if thus-and-so were to happen here, it would make perfect technical sense” and sure enough, that’s exactly what would happen.
In episode one, which turns into a hunt and seek, this is kind of muted, but in the balls-to-the-wall battle during episode 4, it was just one twist after another as two brilliant commanders faced off. With one minor exception (ramming?), every single tactic was spot on, and the technology, given the adaptation, made sense. You see, while all this is happening in a desert, the conceit is that the “ships” have the capability to establish “Quantum fields” and travel underground through the sand. In short, although lasers and quantum fields and other buzzwords are flying, the template is WWII sub battles — hide and seek, sonar, torpedoes, etc. There’s a scene where Gido’s ship is chasing Binas’ through “reefs” (read, stone pillars beneath the sand), and she’s using sonar bounced off the various pillars to confuse Gido. My immediate thought was “Hmmm. if you could plot the timing of when each echo arrived, you could counter that trick.” Sure enough, Gido immediately orders his bridgebunnies (with which he is well endow- er, equipped) to use “doppler differential” to determine their actual location. And this kept happening — within the context of the contrived technology, the tactics made sense at every point, save the one I specified above (and I wouldn’t place any bets against subs ramming in desperate circumstances during WWII*). The result was a very tight, tense, and exciting battle that is that match of anything I’ve seen since the Battle of Aptic Gate in Battle of the Stars.
In short, definitely recommended despite the characters, unless you just can’t stand old school anime.
*Edit: This was not what I meant!