Kishin Corps

If an action extravaganza starts off blazing but fails to kick into high gear in the final half, does that affect how good the first half is? Kishin Corps makes me ask that question. An 7-part OVA series released in the early 1990s, it's an adventure serial that held as its predigree Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. It lives in a similar world to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the Indiana Jones films. And for its first three episodes, it rarely slows down. There's a charm to its WWII setting -- and who can argue with having as your villians not only the Nazis but alien invaders? It's a blast...not a particularly challenging or intellectual one, but great fun. But before you can say The Matrix Revolutions, everything just kind of stops for three episodes. This isn't to say that there isn't any action, but there's far more preparing for battle than actual battle. When there's not a great deal of depth to the character interactions -- there's no "Indy and Marion" style subplot, for example -- it becomes pretty dull. The final episode does get the show moving again, but by then it had worn out much of the favor its first three episodes had earned. (For those who'd like to read my earlier review of those episodes, which contains a bit more thorough information on the first three episodes, please click here.)

Kishin Corps starts with Taishi, a young boy who's entrusted with a special black box by his father when their train comes to a screeching halt. Moments later, Mr. Takamura is taken out by the Kanto army, and Taishi tries to run for safety. As he attempts to escape, a second party arrives--strange, ghost-like alien beings descend from the sky and begin attacking. Just as Taishi gets cornered, a third party joins the fray...the Kishin Corps. Now this isn't really giving anything away, mind you, as it happens before the title card! The episode continues from there as Maria Braun, the twin sister of Hitler's mistress, tries to find Taishi and protect him from those who would steal his safeguarded box. Taishi's been living with a bunch of street kids, and they take to Maria quickly. However, danger lurks not far behind. As the show continues, we find that the Kishin Corps are the good guys in this whole affair, and Taishi teams up with them to stop Hitler's goal of creating an army of massive armored machines that would obliterate the Allies.

In terms of setting, Kishin Corps really earns my kudos. The show mines a style and time period that are rarely seen in anime, and it adds to my attraction for the show. It's clearly some sort of alternate WWII universe, but one that's close enough to our own to be very believeable. The pacing in the first three episodes is excellent. With a colorful cast of characters that never grows too overwhelming, there's a lot to like. The third episode in particular, which involves a frantic train battle, is incredibly enjoyable. But what also separates this show out from many others is the passage of time. Taishi grows up over the course of the show. By the end, he is no longer the little boy lost with his daddy's special technology but has become a character of his own. While I was disappointed that they didn't explore his maturation more -- or the difficulty of dealing with the loss of one's parents -- I liked the fact that Kishin Corps is willing to spread out its timeline and give its characters that chance to grow up a little. I also liked that the kids who play a big part in the first episode do reappear, but they never become a distraction to the main storyline. On the whole, I was entertained.

Kishin Corps -- violence, language -- B