on February 24, 2006
Animation studio Bee Train and director Koichi Mashimo generally put out good shows, such as Madlax, Noir, and hack//Sign. This is one of their rare failures. This show follows their typical style, where they try to put out slow-paced stories that are somewhat poetic in mood. However that style does not work for this particular story.
Normally I do not write spoilers in a review, but the Editorial Review already has many spoilers, and none of the other reviewers here appear to have fully understood the story behind this show. This is not surprising as this show is done in the typical confusing, poetic style that seems popular these days. In this case, there really was no need for these techniques, so I believe the viewer's enjoyment of this DVD will be greatly enhanced by an explanation of what is going on.
Story: In the distant future, the Earth has been destroyed for reasons never explained. People currently live on Mars and the Earth's Moon but they have very low standards of living. (astronomy: Mars itself has 2 moons by the way but they are too small for anyone to live on, more like asteroids). The people on Mars mostly live in bubble-dome structures. They have all lost the ability to reproduce so the population survives by using technology to prolong their lives. Nevertheless, the population heads towards a likely eventual extinction. The leaders of Mars include a buff guy Volk, his "queen" Vesta, another buff guy named Cross (also known as Ares), and various other buff guys.
Even worse, with the Earth destroyed, the Moon is now slowly spiraling towards Mars and will eventually crash into it, which dashes peoples' spirits. (astromony: I do not know if this is scientifically correct gravitational physics or not, sorry. It is not correct for 2-body gravitation but the solar system is not a 2-body system, either).
The status quo on Mars has the leaders of all the bubble-domes engaging in dumb gladiator fights every so often, to be allocated resources to survive. Volk and Vesta are the main leaders of Mars. Cross decides this system is dumb, and so he leaves the bubble-domes and goes out by himself into the Mars wilderness to try to research ways to make the environment more suitable for human living and ways to enable humans to reproduce again. He's the ultra goody-goody super guy of this series, although it is not apparent until the end. He's also buff and a super duper fighter, like all the Mars leaders are, for no apparent reason.
One day the Moon decides to send over a space shuttle to Mars to try to make friends and work out a solution to their inevitable collision. Volk decides right then and there that his solution to the problem will be to blow away the Moon to smithereens with rockets when the time comes, and so he blows up the space shuttle and kills everyone in it to make them go away.
One lone little girl, Layla Ashley, survives in an escape pod and crashes on Mars. Cross, who is wandering the wilderness (and miraculously improving the environment through his scientific knowledge, even though he has no resources and facilities) finds her and raises her. He teaches her how to fight super good because he is buff and the strongest guy (in addition to being a scientist, wow!). He tells her his name is Volk, though, so she grows up kind of hating him (since Volk blew up her shuttle). Cross tells everyone his name is Volk. This causes a lot of confusion in the series, and lots of people on Mars are themselves confused about who is Volk and what he even looks like. In reality Cross and Volk are brothers, but Volk is filled with cybernetic enhancements and rules Mars from his bubble-dome, and looks nothing like Cross, who looks like a regular bald guy with a beard wandering around like a bum. Cross' explanation to this which he tells everyone is that he puts on the cyber gear from time to time and that he is really Volk....LOL!
Anyway, Layla Ashley grows up and is the main character of the series. Somewhere along the way she befriends a little girl named Nei, who is actually the first human child born on Mars due to Cross' experiments. Nei has some health problems since she was difficult to make, so her eyes are different colors, and she is genderless. She pretends to be a robot little girl, so as to not attract attention. There are lots of little girl robots on Mars because people make them with technology (and no real little girls can be born), and Nei just happens to look a lot like them.
This is where the actual story begins, in Episode 1. That's how convoluted this story is. All the above is revealed slowly as the episodes progress. All that happens is that Layla Ashley wanders around pretending to be a gladiator so that she can kill all the bubble-dome city leaders, which she does. A real gladiator would win and then rule the city, but Layla just wins then goes to kill the other bubble-dome leaders. She does this because she is super angry and hates everybody because her shuttle blew up when she was a little girl, that is why this show is called Avenger. BTW, people who wander the wilderness and do not live in bubble-domes are called Barbaroi, it took me a while to figure that out.
A mechanic-dude named Speedy joins her on her journey in Episode 1 but he never does anything of real significance. Neither does Nei, really. She is just the first born human child on Mars. There's no real reason why she has to follow Layla around but she just does. I guess the only reason is that so Layla can have a friend. If Nei was not there Layla would never speak a word.
Cross eventually goes to find Layla again. He tells her he is Volk the bad guy and it is time for her to kill him, so she does. By then, she realizes that he is not really Volk but kills him anyway. Then she goes and kills Volk too and the show ends. I guess Cross let himself be killed by Layla for various reasons. He wanted all the Mars leaders to die, including Volk and himself, for he feels bad for their poor decisions in the past (even though Cross never agreed with them, what a great guy, huh). He also wanted Layla to feel better and not as angry at everyone. And by killing him Layla could get stronger so that she could kill Volk for real (which wasn't easy).
Right as Volk dies, water mysteriously appears from nowhere and makes Mars a better place to live in. Also the Moon is still coming and is pretty close, but the show just ends. It is assumed that Cross' wishes will be fulfilled, and the Moon will just end up crashing into Mars soon (instead of being blown up by rockets), but hopefully somehow Mars and the people of the Moon can barely survive anyway (haha!). Nei suddenly gets healthier too for no explanation at that time and suddenly transforms into a boy (pink = boy, watch the endings carefully). I guess everybody is happy. Layla just walks off into the wilderness to be by herself forever though, because that is how she likes to be.
I guess that seems like it could be a good story, but I did not like the way everything was presented in a purposefully confusing way to seem mysterious. That style does not work for this show. Also, much of the 13 episodes centered around fighting action, which Bee Train is NOT good at. Bee Train puts out high quality drawings and animation, but they do not have any sense of fight choreography, style, and application, without which fights look poor, regardless of how many animated frames there are.
This would have been much better as a 2-hour movie, or a 4 to 6 episode OAV series. 13 episodes went too long and was repetitive, with most of the episodes focusing too much on the fighting. This series would have worked better with less fighting and a more direct story structure. Or, it could also have worked almost as is if the fighting scenes were better.