Blue Gender Vol. 1

Why are bugs from space such a big deal? We've seen them in Starship Troopers blown apart six ways from Sunday. The title creatures in the Alien series are, in essense, large bugs. And Blue Gender has them in abundance. Maybe it's because nobody really likes bugs. I don't, anyway. I'd just as soon squash one as see it invade my living space. But isn't there something uncreative about it? Yes, the crawlers in Blue Gender are gross and they have mouths that, well, I can't really say what they resemble on a family website, but if you're old enough to understand, you'll know the moment you see them. However, uncommunicative arachnids from beyond the galaxy aren't all that interesting as villains. When it comes right down to it, there's nothing much interesting about the uncommunicative humans trying to escape from said insects in Blue Gender, either. Lots of blood gets spilled on both sides of the battlefield, but in the three episodes that make up the first DVD volume, I would have hoped for more.

Yuji has a disease. We don't know what it is, but we assume that it's terribly nasty. Though he's got friends and a life back in the early 21st century, he decides to be cryogenically frozen. There're hopes for a cure, and the best way for Yuji and the other sufferers to profit from it is for them to wait until it's done. All seems well and good...except that Yuji's awakened around 2035 not by a doctor standing by with an antidote but by armed militia battling huge creatures called the Blue. Apparently, these buggies can digest almost anything, and modernized Earth is a gigantic feeding playground. Yuji is rescued, but he's not certain that he wants to live in a world that's torn apart at the seams. Although Yuji is not much more than cargo to his liberators at first, they have a need to get him to an orbiting space station where Earth forces have gathered to coordinate a unified front against the Blue. As members of the militia get taken out along the way, Yuji becomes a part of the team. He may not like the idea, but he realizes that fighting back may be the only way he'll stay alive.

Blue Gender aired in Japan in 1999 and 2000, yet it looks to be of an older vintage due to the animation style. AIC was in charge of the show, and there are little in-jokes on the production house throughout, but it's too bad the studio didn't spend more time working on the quality of the look instead. Although there's more motion than the Colorforms look of a few shows I've seen, the character models don't say on target and the machinery is hardly detailed at all. The look of the show is severely unimpressive. The soundtrack doesn't stand out either. Frankly, the show must live or die on its storyline.

I wish I had better things to say about said plot, but I don't. We simply don't know enough about what's going on to think there is much of a plot except for the violence, and so we turn to the characters to keep us interested. However, Blue Gender has a huge problem in this department too. Although we get a very brief explanation of Yuji's past, we almost never hear his name mentioned until episode 3. (In fact, there's a joke in the show itself about this very phenomenon!) The members of the team that rescue Yuji are even more non-descript. There's a potential love interest in the character of Marlene, but I had to look her up over at Anime News Network just to find her name. With all the bloodshed that occurs, it's obvious that talk is cheap and individuals meaningless in this big war, but for the first hour, there's no way to connect with a single character. And when we know more about them, we don't really like them. Yuji's presented as a spineless wimp most of the time, and Marlene is an ice queen if I've ever seen one. So why should I care about them?

That doesn't mean that this problem continues throughout the whole DVD. The show slows down from being a violent squishfest in the third episode, and the players start having more character. There's a subtle moment where Yuji and a crewmate bond over a song he's humming, and it was really effective. By the end of the third episode, I had no longer thought I'd completely wasted my time. I also have to admit that some of the fight sequences were done well, and I didn't feel cheated in any way. I wouldn't say I enjoyed myself greatly, but I didn't hate it either.

I will say, though, that many moments in the show are unnecessary. The gore quotient is high, and though it won't make anyone squirm in the era of Gantz and Elfen Lied, it is gratuitous. Though there's really no nudity in the show itself (though a small amount in the closing credits), there was a scene where one of the crew members started groping the chest of another who was typing a report on her computer. Did it show her breasts? No. Was it crass fan service? Absolutely. It was done in such a mechanistic, unfriendly way that it was jarring. And it ultimately spells out my problem with the opening of Blue Gender -- it's generally grotesque and callous for the majority of its running time.

The first volume of Blue Gender is not boring, but it left me cold. Although the show started showing signs of life by the end of the third episode, getting there was a wash of blood in a sea of unmemorable characters I didn't even care about dying gruesome deaths. Does it work as horror? Perhaps just enough, but horror is most effective when we connect with our hero or heroine, which is absolutely not the case here. Is it interesting as robotic sci-fi, seeing as the good guys use exoskeletal mobile suits? Again, not really. If you must see a show that combines blood, guts, horror, sci-fi, and action together, I suppose this has the components you're looking for. Then again, it lacks character, hope, and heart, and that's too much missing for me.

Blue Gender Vol. 1 -- graphic violence, adult situations, profanity -- C+