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Sister Under the Skin
on March 16, 2003
Anime science fiction seems endlessly fascinated with the question of the borderline between humans and robots. The answers are surprisingly complicated as the directors confront us with humans who are little more than sophisticated and psychotic machines, and robots that have the finer emotional constructs that their human counterparts are often lacking. In this DVD, which collects the original OVA series, we find one of the works that laid the groundwork for a whole genre.
Ross Sylibus has done what many cops do. Memories too intense he has left earth to become a detective in the Martian Police Department. His new partner is Naomi Armitage, a wisecracking, independent cop who dresses like a street girl. Their first assignment is to solve a string of murders where the victims are all beautiful robots. Special robots that are so close to human that they can become pregnant. They find a lunatic behind the killings and a web of conspiracy behind the lunatic.
The relationship between Naomi and Ross moves past an argumentative partnership as they discover some of the truths about each other in their struggle to stop a wave of anti-robot sentiment that seems about to overwhelm the Martian colony. Their feelings for each other tells is what human really means, even if it is clear to the end that few on either world really understand.
Director Hiroyuki Ochi has created a series that owes much to 'Bladerunner,' but avoids being a hackneyed copy for all its borrowing of plot devices. The aggressive role played by Naomi sets the two films apart, underlying the core humanity of the Type III robots that have been queued up for slaughter when they have outlived their use. Visually the film work and illustration are deeply satisfying, using a style that is more naturalistic than the anime stylings to which we've become accustomed. It is difficult to talk about work done in 1994 as 'seminal,' but the OVA and the related film had a great deal of effect on other anime. Consider this a must see.