Alright class, let’s take a look into the archives a bit here. Nothing too dramatic though, let’s move forward from the originals like Astro Boy, maybe further past the Gundam, and little more over to when Anime started to make it’s way to the West…Ah here. Here is a good spot, this one is a particular favorite and with good reason. Everyone pay close attention, this will be on your next quiz. Now, how many of you have heard the tale of The Big O?
Every now and then we gotta look back at some of the greats that stood out here in the west. After all, even someone like me gets lazy and wants to talk about the better days when anime was new over here in the States and we honestly had not seeing anything like it before. It was something we never saw before, we grew up on Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and other great cartoons, but those were mostly comedy. Hell, Batman, Superman, and Spider-man had their cartoons around that time but those were comic book characters that almost anyone can recognize. None of us knew Vash the Stampede, Kenshin Himura, and Yusuke Urameshi, or what they’re powers and stories were, but as we found out, these weren’t the heroes created by Marvel and DC. These were the stories of a different version of heroes, something closer to actual stories we’d read in novels. These were stories of men and women who were affected by “Fate” in a different way. They didn’t usually put on colorful costumes (magical girl anime aside), but they would name out attacks, use more traditional weapons, and have casts that were more involved.
The Big O was one of these greats. The art style was reminiscent to the aforementioned Batman the Animated Series, but the tone was Film Noir. Oh and there is a giant robot, named the Megadeus, or as it was commonly called “The Big O”. The series follows a man that goes by the name of Roger Smith, a negotiator who will take just about any job so long as it paid well. Whether it’s a simple board room meeting or a kidnapping situation, Roger Smith is the best he is at what he does. However the things change for Roger Smith as he is set up on a job that takes a strange turn: the kidnappers deliver a humanoid robot name Dorthy, the same name as the kidnapped daughter, instead. From there we learn that Paradigm City, or as it’s called “The City of Amnesia” is a city whose populace have literally no memories of their past lives. Everyone from the common day worker, to the high profiled roller who controls the city, has lost their memory in a strange event known as….”The Event”.
Someone must have lost their memory on how to actually name life changing events. The only clue is of course the aforementioned Megadeus’, the giant robots that were present at the time of “The Event”. As the series unfold we learn the secret of Paradigm City, the role of the Megadeus, and why “The Event” happened. The answer was something that was even more confusing and will probably put off a lot of people. I’m not going to spoil it, or even give a reference to what the ending is because that isn’t really a lot of fun. Strange thing is, that I actually don’t mind the ending; I just mind that the ending meant we were never going to get a full explanation for it. Which is frustrating as all hell and I want to scream every time it I watch this anime. Yet, still I love this anime, but man the actual ending is the real huge fault in it. I guess this is one of those times where a good beginning and middle can make up for a lackluster end for me.
How about we discuss the more positive things about the anime first? For starters, the animation is the most unique in anime that I’ve ever seen, again the series could almost pass for a Western Style Animation instead of actual anime. Things are mostly straight lines and hard angles, different from the usual oval style of animation you’d see normally in anime. Want to know what is also awesome? The fight choreography between Big O and the enemy of the episode is satisfying to watch. Whether it’s a giant robot controlled by another robot using a keyboard, or a giant sea serpent that shoots a giant laser, the show does not disappoint when it comes to big action. The best part is when you see the finishing moves, whether it’s a literal explosive punch or the annihilating laser shot, it never stops being satisfying. However it’s not all giant monster fights, and really the strongest feature to this anime was the writing. The stories were almost always stand alone, sometimes the main plot would be moved further along but really it normally didn’t pick up until near the end of both seasons.
Character wise? Big O delivers pretty well, with Roger being our suave and sarcastic protagonist. His faithful butler, Norman is dry but loveable with a pretty awesome mustache and eye patch. Norman is also the mechanic to Big O, which pretty much solidifies him as the anime equivalent of Alfred. Dorthy also is another straight man for Roger, though her schtick is that she’s trying to understand “what it means to be human”, which may not sound the most unique thing you’ll have heard in a sci-fi noir series, but hey it’s all in the delivery and Dorthy is one of my favorite robotic companions. Saving that idea for later when I’m desperate for another topic. There really doesn’t seem to be a big bad until the later half of the series, but really it’s the interaction between Roger and Dorthy as Roger introduces her to a myriad of different characters. Each episode tells a self-contained story that also furthers the overall plot: the mystery of Paradigm City and it’s ties with the Megadeus, though each episode does basically end with “monster of the day” the overall plot does develop quickly.
Unfortunately, Big O is still a flawed classic of an anime. Where the first season ended on both a triumphant note and cliff hanger, it’s second season is where it stumbles. Again the ending of the second season is the huge fault for this anime, but it also lacks a sort of major antagonist. We do get one, but it comes a little too late to make much of an impact. In fact we get more than one, but the problem is that the anime is trying to both over-explain and yet over-simplify what is happening by the end. It’s not like at the end of Evangelion where everything goes to shit, but it does have one of those moments where you’re left wanting to know more while thinking you might be better off just leaving it be. Our major antagonists are pretty uninspired too, they’re motivations work but the characters themselves are very lackluster. If anything could be changed about this anime it’d be it’s ending and perhaps more emphasis on a major antagonist. This anime really wanted to tell something unique but familiar and it kind of faltered on both by the end.
Yet Big O is still a fantastic anime, that also has aged well, the first season anyway. I highly recommend giving it a watch, in fact I’d say watch season one and just stop there unless you really want to know what happens next, just brace yourself for what might not be a good anime to what is essentially a classic.
Next time we’ll be getting into something a little more heavy and uncomfortable but it is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. No worries, I feel it’ll be more or less a brush up on the subject and we’ll get right back to something more light hearted afterwards. After all, I can’t burn you all out too soon, eh class? You’re dismissed, please enjoy your viewings and see you next class.