Blue Sonnet

Why ESP is such a big deal in anime is beyond me, but psychic or psionic powers play a huge role in anime on the whole. Some stories use it as a cute backdrop (such as Kimagure Orange Road) where others bring it front and center (like Akira) and others manipulate it to create massive angst (see X). But what's unusual about Blue Sonnet is that it creates a solid story about espers that has a strong back-story and surprisingly multidimensional characters for a short OVA series. If the artwork weren't so bland, this one would probably have been given more notice than it has.

The opening credits give a dark, disturbing background to the character of Sonnet, who we learn quickly has become an incredible weapon. Saved from the slums, she has been given cybernetic implants that help her harness and control her psychic powers. She's given the assignment to travel to Tokyo as a student to investigate Lan, a young woman who appears completely normal but has latent psychic tendencies. However, Dr. Merikus, the evil genius behind Sonnet's creation, isn't fully straightforward about his purposes. He intends to see if Lan is a threat, and he plans to use Sonnet to eliminate her if she is indeed too powerful. Although Sonnet is hardened by her former life, she starts to like Lan and cannot understand why Merikus is so intent on seeing her destroyed. But Merikus' group isn't the only one willing to do anything to harness the ultimate power of a psionic esper, and it becomes clear that Lan must learn to channel her powers if she is to survive Merikus' plans.

From the start, Blue Sonnet has a huge mark against it in its artwork. Although it dates back only to 1989, its character styles are not all that different than early 80s anime. Combined with a low budget that often scrimps on detail, Blue Sonnet is not a brilliant artistic triumph. Those who can see past the dull animated surface, though, will find a deeper story than expected. In quite a few ways reminiscent of the Ryuichi Ikegami manga "Mai The Psychic Girl", Blue Sonnet introduces us to young women not quite certain of their own wills, forced into using powers beyond their control to satisfy the greed of others. Because the characters have time to develop, even in a short period of time, the events are much more satisfying overall. Although it's no case study in character psyche, Sonnet does present an interesting story with characters you can actually be concerned about. If the story has been done before, at least it takes some unexpected turns along the way. I will say that a few things don't completely feel right, particularly Dr. Merikus, who at turns seems sympathetic but then ruthlessly allows and even orders unspeakable violence. For the most part, though, it works.

Blue Sonnet is not a classic anime, but it is an unexpected find. If you can find a copy of the two volumes at a discount price, I'd encourage it, particularly if you have no predilection against older animation styles.

Blue Sonnet -- violence, disturbing imagery, profanity, brief nudity -- B