The first episode of Shangri-La shows plenty of promise which I hope Gonzo bears out for me.
What They Say
The story is set in a neo-futuristic age, in which aggressive "carbon trading" practices have been introduced in countries around the world to combat accelerating global warming. The Japanese Government promoted a project run by Atlas Corporation to reduce carbon emissions by turning Tokyo into the world's largest "jungle-polis." Atlas Corp started constructing an unprecedentedly high tower city called Atlas to relocate only the rich and privileged.
Kuniko Hojo, 18-year-old leader-designate of an anti-government guerrilla group Metal-age, returns to her town after 2 years of imprisonment. In concert with the Metal-age comrades, Kuniko rises in a rebellion against the government for those people left on the once-flourished ground of Tokyo.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the Japanese science fiction series by Eiichi Ikegami of the same title, Shangri-La is the latest title from Gonzo, who for me have been a bit hit or miss. They always seem to have some really great ideas, but the execution sometimes leaves a little to be desired. Much like the other Gonzo titles, Shangri-La has an interesting initial premise, and the first episode hints at the potential to be really good, but I will keep my mind open before I decide.
The series opens up with a young girl named Kumiko Hojo being released from prison. By the reaction from all the other inmates, it is obvious that Kumiko is a popular prisoner and is seen as somewhat of a leader of the others. Upon her release, it is discovered that she is destined to be the future leader of Metal-Age, an anti-government protest group. Due to a rapidly deteriorating environment, the governments of the world banded together to significantly decrease carbon emissions by placing a tax on emissions greater than a certain amount. This has put some countries that rely on coal and oil power into a state of virtual poverty, but it seems to be working on the whole. So far, it has not been revealed if this is why Metal-Age is anti-government, but there are hints there.
This episode has shown a number of plot threads that appear will all be interrelated when all is said and done. Aside from being the future leader of Metal-Age, Kumiko also appears to have a more important reason for existing as she is being tracked by Miss Ryoko, who appears to be in charge of the Japanese government. At the same time, Ryoko is tracking Mikuni, a princess of sorts who leads a completely sheltered life. Ryoko refers to them as the Sun and the Moon, respectively. The comparison is apt, as Kumiko leads a completely open and free life, while Mikuni is kept closed away from the outside world. Another aspect that will bear further exploration is the as-yet unnamed young girl who is playing the carbon tax market as one might play the stock market in an attempt to become extremely rich at the expense of all others.
The first episode of Shangri-La has started well. There are a nice variety of characters, and the plot premise has potential. I particularly like the very male sounding Momoko who kisses his/her enemies into submission. It has not been divulged yet whether he/she is transgender, a transvestite, or just very masculine, but I find him/her amusing. I do really like the design of this series. Shangri-La has the same artist as Last Exile (Range Murata), and it shows in the character models. I loved the “cartoony realism” of the characters in Last Exile, and it shows here as well. If I worry about anything, it is that there seems to be a lot going on for a title that is apparently going to only be twelve episodes, and I hope Gonzo is not trying to do too much. However, I will take a wait and see approach before I make any decisions.
The first episode of Shangri-La has left me wanting more. There is some really good potential here, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes. However, Gonzo has a history with me to set something great up and then ruin it all before the end, so I am trying to not get my hopes up too much. To me, Shangri-La has a lot of Last Exile in it, and not just because of the character designs. Much of the plot setup so far feels the same to me too. So if you enjoyed Last Exile, it might be worth checking this one out as well.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System