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October 05, 2000

Big Robo

Cast your mind back over the last couple of years and ask yourself what has been
the coolest series to come out of anime? Admittedly there are several candidates,
but I think hands down, one series rates head and shoulders above all others for
cool factor in those last two years. With clever retro graphics, archtypal cool
cats and an eclectic musical mix from all over the map, supplied courtesy of Yoko
Kanno, that series would be Cowboy Bebop. It's soooo cool that my television
screen often frosts over when I watch it. Trigun comes in a respectable second,
and there are several ties for third, but Bebop reigns.

Now I'm going to say this just once. Will the person in the back of the room who
shouted 'Outlaw Star' slink out quietly before I kick his ass?

So now that you're all primed for a review of Cowboy Bebop, which everybody's had
a chance to see by now, let me put your mind at ease. This ain't about Bebop.
It's about a new show airing on WowWow, 'The Big O'. My fixation with coolness
comes from watching the first episode of this series (unsubbed) at the behest of
Tom Jansen, resident mech-head. The show places both feet firmly in the cool camp
with its choice of music (jazzy, symphonic, again eclectic), characters (James
Bond via Pierce Brosnan, rather cute android girl) and yes, Big O! Does it
measure up? Not to the benchmark, of course, but it is pretty cool.

I know, I know, it's hella unfair to rate a show on the strength of a single
episode, and it's way hella unfair to compare it to Cowboy Bebop. But when you
walk in the Crips' neighborhood, wearing Crips' colors, you better be a Crip. And
Big O isn't content to walk in Crip neighborhoods. It also traipses over to the
Bloods' block as well, borrowing style and imagery and hardware from 'Giant
Robo', the Roger Maris of anime cool to Bebop's Mark McGwire. So the Big O team
is obviously itchin' for a fight!

But enough of that. I am certainly willing to look at another episode, and Tom
can be my supplier for at least a few more after that. Thereafter, we'll just
have to see (says smartass Don). In the meantime, what's it about (so far)? In
the first episode, we are informed (fleshed out by the magic of Internet-supplied
synopses) that the series takes place in Paradigm City. This is a reasonably
modern-looking burg, sorta like a well-lit Gotham City. It's got that little
extra flair, though, with partially collapsed skyscrapers, looking like a cross
between the leaning tower of Pisa, and the Empire State Building. Has Godzilla
been here?

As a backdrop, we know that forty years ago a mysterious event left everyone with
no memory. In the aftermath, folks are left with no education, no knowledge how
to work all them newfangled devices that make life so sweet. Somehow, in the
intervening years, folks figured out how to work a refrigerator and open a beer,
and things are back to more or less normal. But as a side-effect, technology is a
premium good, and those who can procure it, or work it, can write their own
ticket.

Into this ragout rides Roger Smith, 'the Negotiator', complete with upper-case
'N' and quotes. He's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about,
Roger! Oops, that's Shaft. Roger is a rather cool, debonair fellow who
negotiates for a variety of things, among them technology and poor kidnapped
souls. On one of these negotiations, he becomes attached to R. Dorothy
Wayneright, who turns out to be an android, and has a certain charm of her own.

Clearly there are multiple parties after all the riches that technology can
bring, but I'm afraid that I lost track of all the threads about the time that
the first villain robot showed up to steal a buncha cash out of a bank with
seemingly endless snake arm vacuum cleaner attachments, extruded from it's
lobster-claw hands. This was the cue for Roger to summon forth his neatest
technology toy, The Big O. Yes, it's a giant robot, and yes, it's rather
steam-punkish. At least Roger rides inside of it, instead of perching on it's
shoulder in short pants while it slugs it out with the current Bad Bot.

This serves to explain why there are tilt-a-whirl skyscrapers in Paradigm City (I
was kinda hoping they were the result of Donald Trump suffering an aneurism and
trying out new architectures as a result). It's a little harder to understand why
Roger the Profiteer hasn't sold the damn thing and retired to the South of
France. At least until you see him sitting in the cockpit in his double-breasted
suit throwing roundhouse punches without actually soiling his immaculate outfit.
Of course a stylin' guy like Roger would prefer to beat the crap out of his
opponents without incurring the heartbreak of sweat stains!

Anyway, a lot happens in the first episode, and I'll eat my Ginrei Fanclub
Membership Card if there isn't a Bigass Robot Stomp at least every other episode.
I'd also like to see the relationship between Dorothy and Roger evolve. This
alone could raise the series out of the blood and organ bits of failed coolness.
So now that I've hammered you with spoilers, it will come as no surprise that
Dorothy appears to be smushed at the end of the first episode, ironically by the
villain-o-the-week robot just Smacked Down by Stone Cold Roger Smith (and Big O).
Wonder how she gets outta that there jam (robot sandwich with android jam)?

Posted by dpwakefield at October 5, 2000 11:29 AM