Armitage III OAV (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, November 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, October 29, 2002
What They Say
Mars 2046: The murder of a celebrity reveals the existence of a secret ?Third Type? robot so intelligent and sophisticated that they can pass as humans. The continuing pubic slaughter of these ?Thirds? by the hate-spewing D?anclaude fan the anti-robot sentiments of the human population into a firestorm of hate and violence. Assigned to the case, Ross Sylibus and his partner Naomi Armitage uncover a conspiracy of government sponsored murder and forbidden technology that threatens to kill them both - especially once D?anclaude discovers Armitage?s secret: Armitage is a ?Third?.
This is where it all began, the original four episode OVA series that spawned a strange English-only movie by excising practically an entire episode or more and then doing various rewrites. This is where people need to go to get into the mood for the Dual Matrix movie.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Being an early 90?s OVA series, it?s got some good directionality across the forward soundstage during the action sequences and an overall solid stereo mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we noticed no dropouts or distortions on either language track.
One of the last early releases from Pioneer to get the DVD treatment, this one has held up among the best as far as the materials themselves are concerned. Colors look good and mostly solid, with only some minor background breakup in some of the softer blue and light gray areas. Cross coloration is scattered throughout, but is very light around the edges and not consistent while there is also some minor aliasing, mostly during the cityscape panning sequences. Some bits of grain and dirt are scattered throughout, but nothing that detracts from the overall presentation in any significant way.
Using the original Japanese cover from the second OVA release, we have a very sexy spread legged version of Armitage in the midst of all sorts of technology while the large building of Conseption is behind her. The colors for the cover have been ratcheted up slightly, especially in comparison to the piece in the extras section. The back cover uses the foil a bit more and provides a number of good screenshots from the show as well as a brief paragraph summary of the plot. The discs features and extras are clearly listed as well as the basic production information. The insert provides a non-foil image of the front cover while the reverse side provides the chapter listings for all four episodes.
The Nightjar folks get another menu to play with, and this is a text heavy heads up display with the selections along the center while animation from the show plays underneath it. It?s a nice and in-theme menu that has some solid access times and easy navigation. It may just be a bit too much red on black in the end though.
There?s some nice extras here, though not a whole lot in general. The trailers for the movies aren?t much more than advertisements, but the extras that do some good include having the original four OVA covers, which were the same in the US and Japan. There?s also about fifty images of conceptual artwork and background designs spread across two galleries.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first question I get whenever I talk about Armitage is whether the OVA?s make sense compared to the movie. While the movie has a running time of about 90 minutes, the OVA?s clock in at a nice 140 minutes. So there?s a significant amount of material missing, material that fleshes out the larger storyline and material that adds some solid detective-like plotting and pacing to the story.
The setting for this series is Mars around 2046, and a vastly different world than the one we have now. Having not seen this since it originally came out, I was surprised to see Chiaka Konaka?s names in the credit for the screenplay, and as the opening episode played out, I realized just how much he was drawing in some ways from his previous works. The Mars of 2046 is a very heavily male society, with very few real women even shown for the most part. It?s not stated explicitly, or made mention of in a direct way, but the population of Mars is very low on reproducing, partially because so many of the women are Seconds, or second generation robots that basically have some personality, but otherwise do what they?re told.
Things are set in the sprawling multilevel city of St. Lowell, and the imagery is what you?d imagine Konaka would have done years prior in Armored Trooper VOTOM?s first block of episodes if he could. The Martian city is like a massive geo-front of sorts, with buildings sprawling across as well as up and down. It?s the epitome of a science fiction show visualized here, with thousand foot drops all over the place and not a lawyer in sight. We?re introduced to the city through the eyes of former Earth police officer Ross Sylibus. After losing his wife to a robot gone mad on Earth, he?s left to restart his life on Mars in their police department.
His arrival is a rather interesting one, as there are dozens and dozens of people there to greet an arriving country western songstress whose come to play the planet. Unfortunately, it looks like somebody killed her before she could disembark, and he ends up getting stopped by the young and wiry Armitage in the concourse. In a brief shoot out between her and his goons, we find that he had cut her up and stuffed her into a carrycase, intending to just wheel her right out of the spaceport. But it all goes awry after Armitage, with little assistance from Ross, takes him on.
But what really goes wrong is the revelation that the singer was actually a robot, and one that nobody knew about. This revelation begins to heighten an already political situation in the background about cleansing Mars of all robots, which is something that Ross is all too comfortable with doing. Through this case, he ends up assigned to work with Armitage to track down more information about these women who are being killed, as it turns out the man who did it is something of a serial killer. The women it turns out are all Thirds, a new prototype kind of robot that was illegally manufactured somewhere.
This all leads into the discovery of what the Thirds are all really about as well as the growing relationship between Ross and Armitage. It?s apparent very early in the game as to what Armitage is, as there is a lot of innuendo from fellow police officers all the up to the chief. Ross and his relationship with her is interesting, though he tends to be more of an absorber of her outbursts than a provoker of them, and the two begin an understanding that becomes more realized with the discovery of her past.
The OVA?s are in the end a pretty straightforward detective story, so there?s a lot of layers to it and a lot of subtle clues throughout that make sense during second viewings. It?s a show that does merit a second viewing, as Konaka has written a very good script here that provides an excellent backdrop of material in terms of both Martian society and the general feelings about robots, as well as two interesting leads. If there?s anything I fault him with, it?s going the easy route in after time having Ross gain some mechanical pieces himself due to combat injuries, which just makes part of the arguments with Armitage towards the end feel a bit forced.
I definitely appreciated this show much more this time around than I did back in 1994 when I first saw it. The greater scope of shows I?ve seen since then, plus seeing a number of Konaka?s works from VOTOMS to Lain to Big O, his style made much more of an impression on me this time as I could see some of his trademark bits more easily. This show is easily recommended, especially over the Polymatrix movie of a few years ago, as this is the original unaltered source of it. It?s a good science fiction detective story with adults and no kids running around in it. Very entertaining.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Conceptual Artwork,Original Laserdisc Covers
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 140
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Armitage III