Hades Project Zeorymer

Narrators spell trouble.

It's a fact that unless a narrator is also a character in the story, the use of one means that the audience either cannot get the full plot simply by watching or learning, or the director feels that recapping is necessary to keep the viewers up with the plot. Neither one's a very smart idea. Sometimes, a character's internal narration keeps the story moving, as many John Cusack movies have shown. Witness the effect of Harrison Ford's narration in Blade Runner--it's arguably not as effective visually with his droning, but look how much story is missing without it in the Director's Cut! It's this rule that had me worried at the beginning of Hades Project Zeorymer, where a disembodied narrator gives the essential plot of the show during the opening credits of each episode. It also summarizes what is wrong with the four episode OVA series from 1988--if they'd spent 1/3 of their artistic budget on a better script, people would still be talking up this series today.

Masato is thrown in a tiny cell. All his life, he's believed he was a normal kid, raised by Japanese parents in typical fashion. But suddenly, his outlook changes as his mom and dad take payment for raising him right outside his prison...and walk out of his life forever. Turns out he is a creation of a grand experiment: he was fashioned in a test tube and engineered to be the pilot of a gigantic robot called Zeorymer. The mecha was stolen many years ago from Tekkoryu, a computer corporation bent on world domination, and it's in the possession of the Japanese. The Hakkeshu are a legion of fighters in Tekkoryu's employ that plan to use their own machines to take Zeorymer down. With the help of the beautiful Miku, his co-pilot, Masato must stop the approaching menace. It may be an impossible task, though, since there's a mystery lurking in Masato's DNA which may make him even more dangerous to the safety of the world than all the Hakkeshu combined.

Anybody who gets ahold of either of the two DVDs of Zeorymer will see some of the best animation OVAs in 1988 had to offer. It's an absolutely beautiful series with great character designs and a nice use of light and darkness. The animation looks more like a film than a made-for-video series in some sections, which enhances the mood considerably. If you dig big robots fighting and want everything to look as cool as possible, Zeorymer is probably your ticket.

Unfortunately, there's not much to recommend beyond the animation. Although Zeorymer promises hidden secrets and layered characters, it's all an excuse for a "robot of the week" show with tedious plotting and asinine characters. We already know the plot from the narrator who spoils things not five minutes in. However, we could still have moved on from there. Instead, we get the worst cliché in the book: the "send out one man after another to defeat the monolith" style of enemy. Now I know that not every criminal has read Sun Tzu's Art Of War or Napoleon's diaries, but you'd think these folks would start to learn. When faced with a deadly protagonist, send in all your folks at once and take him down definitively! That would make sense, but not in anime land. Zeorymer would have been no match for the whole of the Hakkeshu all at once, but it's never a situation faced. How annoying.

What's more unsettling is how the show breaks up internal logic for its character storylines. For example, Masato finds himself changing into an altogether nasty fellow when he gets angry, sort of like The Hulk but with a sarcastic disposition instead of muscles and lime green acne. Now that could make sense in a way; after all, he was programmed to be a fighter pilot who would someday take on the world. But instead (and skip this next part if you dislike spoilers)...he realizes that he is becoming his creator. And somehow, he literally has to fight turning into this horrific sadistic scientist. It's too much to bear--how would this guy's whole memory wind up implanted? The show doesn't explain, only using it to create pathos.

I got more and more depressed and bored as the series progressed, knowing that it was only going to get worse. And it did. By the time the tragic conclusion happens, I was ready to find out what was on TV. Hades Project Zeorymer has gorgeous artwork, nice explosions, a few naked people, and little else of any interest. If you're among its intended audience, you now know.

Hades Project Zeorymer -- violence, nudity, sexual situations -- C-