Zone of the Enders: Idolo

There's usually very little good to say about an anime that is created as an offshoot of a video game. The genre is littered with misfires like Street Fighter and Tekken. It's not a real surprise, either, since usually the primary purpose is for one to serve as an advertisement for the other. Strangely enough, Zone of the Enders is actually based on a video game that has gotten mediocre reviews, yet the DVD isn't bad. Though it rips off Gundam at every opportunity and leaves a bit too much for the game to explain, the OVA tells a clear story that works because it focuses on characters rather than all action.

In the world of Zone of the Enders circa 2167, there's an ongoing conflict between humans from Earth and those from Mars. The Earthlings have the upper hand as IDOLO starts, and they use their conquering status to make life miserable for the Martians under their control. Because of various gravity issues, humans from Earth are far stronger and can beat up Martians with ease. This dichotomy is felt throughout the show as the Martians constantly feel oppressed.

Enter Radium, a test pilot with a knack for handling bad situations, even though he's cocky and arrogant (apparently a prerequisite for all pilots in anime). He's reassigned to a special unit in the middle of nowhere with his girlfriend Dolores and his colleague Viola. Radium starts testing the Orbital Frame called Idolo, a new mecha build from a secret ore called metatron that gives the robotic suit enormous strength and powers. Although the first attempt nearly kills him, Radium is able to get the Idolo under control. However, due to the metatron design, eventually Idolo will respond only to Radium...and he starts going slightly bonkers as he becomes one with this war machine.

Unfortunately, Zone of the Enders: Idolo is not a superb piece of animation. The designs lack any sort of appropriate detailing, and though the action is done with a reasonable frame rate, I just didn't care for the look of the piece. The mech designs also look to be taking a page from Evangelion mixed with Gundam. Creativity would have gone a long way here.

There are also some basic problems from the story coming out of a history we know little about. We get just enough for us to understand the framework of what's going on, but not enough to feel comfortable in knowing this world and its situation. Why are the Earthlings and Martians fighting in the first place? When did humans arrive on Mars--or were they always there? What's happened in the 165 years from now until the starting date? I dunno, and I should have a better idea.

Zone of the Enders: Idolo is still quite watchable, though, because the main characters are personable, and we get to know all three well enough for an hour-long show. By the time we hit an emotional payoff near the end, we actually have grown attached enough to care a little bit. Despite the various homage and imitation, the story stands up well enough. I didn't expect everything that happened, so I wasn't bored, either.

There is a television series called Zone of the Enders: Dolores that has just started being released on DVD, and Idolo is the prequel to it. I'm not hyped enough about this OVA to make any bets about the quality of the TV show, but it may provide the bits and pieces that were missing from this program and made it frustrating at times. Zone of the Enders: Idolo is far than perfect, but far better than a lot of the videogame inspired dreck out there.

Zone of the Enders: Idolo -- violence -- B