Key The Metal Idol Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 14, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2000
I must confess: an anime show hasn't confused me this much since Lain. The back cover of the DVD has a blurb that describes Key as a "New, Darker take on Pinocchio." I guess that's accurate, but I feel it's more of a Frankenstein story. The anime itself is a patchwork of themes and characters that you've seen before- evil corporations, robotic soldiers, best friends who are severely and emotionally disturbed, pop idols who are actually artificial creations, religion vs. technology in the modern world, robots trying to become human, comparisons to Eva, Bubblegum Crisis, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Macross Plus and Lain are all appropriate. And yet there is nothing quite like Key: The Medal Idol.
I'm getting ahead of myself. The disc itself is quite a jewel in terms of production and value. You get 7, repeat, 7 episodes on one disc. That's 210 minutes. It retails for about 20 bucks on Express. Wow. It kind of makes my Trigun DVD's, also by Pioneer, look like highway robbery at a paltry 75 minutes per disc. And while the packaging does not come with any shiny Trigun-esque cards, it is rather well done. The design on the front is engaging, and the blurbs and description on the back are fitting. The menus are also well done- a Pioneer trademark with Lain and Trigun- with a fitting mechanical design. The text is sometimes hard to read because of color choices, but that's a small detail. The extras, a FAQ and interview with some conceptual art, are nice bonuses.
A word about the video and audio. The dub is well produced, but it started to grate on me and I watched only the Sub after episode 3. (Key's monotone voice, while appropriate, is just plain annoying.) The video is fantastic- bright and vibrant and everything you would want- after episode one. Episodes 2-7 are all well done. Episode one is a nightmare. The video jumps around and the colors are faded and the image looks fuzzy. It's hard to get much out of anything in the first episode because it's so glitchy. The problem goes away soon, though, so stick with it.
That brings me to content. Hmm. Where to start? I don't know how I can rate this show. It starts off rather simple- Key is a robot, built by someone she describes as her Grandfather, and if Key gets 30,000 friends, she will become human. Which is what she wants to do, because that's what her grandfather wanted. So, off she goes to Tokyo. Fine.
And it is there that the series goes in a million directions and goes well beyond confusing. Key meets pornographers that claim that she will become famous if only she'll strip for them. She meets an old high school friend, Sakura, who seems like a younger version of Evangelion's Misato: bubbly on the surface, deeply disturbed underneath. She meets Tataki, a self-proclaimed martial arts enthusiast and 'major geek' who's the head of the official Miho fan club. Miho is the world famous pop idol that is, of course, just an illusion (a la Macross). Then there's Wakagi, who was part of the team that built Key, and watches over her from afar.
The list goes on. There's Ajo, the head of the evil corporation that is up to no good in Tokyo. He is, to put it simply, deranged. He veers from the theatrics of a James Bond megalomaniac to the paranoia of a tormented soul to the pure hysteria of a mad scientist. This guy is all over the map, and wherever he goes, evil things happen. This makes him a very bizarre villain indeed. Unfortunately, he has had absolutely no direct involvement with the lead characters thus far. In fact, he spends most of his time torturing the pop idol's puppeteer, making robotic warrior 'sons' with mad scientist glee and plotting the demise of his second in command, Sergei.
Sergei's another very strange fellow. Referred to as 'D' by his underlings, he drives around in a truck and pilots Ajo's robotic sons. He is often unsuccessful, as they go out of control and run rampant every time. He is also often insane and cruel, and he appears to be obsessed with finding Key. Why, I don't know. Something to do with her Key's grandfather and builder, who he used to know. But he likes to be cryptic and as evil, just like his boss.
And there's more. Oh so much more. The priest, the company underlings, the bizarre recordings at night on the radio, the fact that Key becomes human for a few seconds and changes hair colors and styles and to what purpose? It's interesting, to be sure, and intricately designed. What, exactly, does this all add up to?
Damned if I know. What I do think, though, is that this may be one of the most complex series to ever hit American shores. From this first sampling of episodes, I'd say that this show might be more complex than Evangelion, Lain or Ghost in the Shell. There's enough material to sift through that this disc alone merits several watchings. And for 7 episodes a disc, it might just be the best value in town.
P.S: The wrapper says that this show is recommended for 13 and up. This is the most bogus rating since Batman Returns got a PG-13. It has loads of violence, random nudity and some plain cruelness. It's fine for mature kids, but don't give this to your 13 year old who loves DBZ. It's not appropriate.
Philips Magnavox Region One DVD Player Model DVD405AT, Magnavox 14" TV/VCR with Sony Speakers, Regular AV Cables
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
Running time: 210
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Key the Metal Idol