Produced by: Zexcs, Kadokawa Pictures
Distributed by: Madman Entertainment, Funimation Entertainment
Genre: Action, Comedy
Runtime: 300 minutes, 2 DVD’s
Rating: M- Animated Violence
Available from: Madman $59
Hey folks! Guess what? It’s the FUTURE! And guess what else? Yep, humanity is in trouble again. As an avid watcher of many anime and science fiction series, it would not be unreasonable of me to say that our current outlook on the future can be downright pessimistic. If it’s not an alien invasion, or outbreak of some deadly disease, it’s nuclear war, robot induced massacres or everything else on the planet evolving to the point they all want us dead. What should however, strike viewers immediately about Chrome Shelled Regios is how it attempts to portray a sense of normalcy in a futuristic world that seems alien to our own. Say what you will about the old “humanity in danger” chestnut, but when a series is able to pull it off successfully, then its most certainly deserving of attention and acclaim from the anime viewing community.
“A desperate battle in a contaminated future…
The world of tomorrow is an arid wasteland; a forsaken place where nomadic communities take shelter within mobile, domed cities. Massive, mutant Contaminoid monsters swarm the planet’s desolate surface, and the lack of resources fuels constant conflict between cities.
In this bleak future, mysterious young Layfon struggles to escape his violent past. Unfortunately, his former life might be impossible to hide after he’s forced to enroll at the military academy – his special powers are clearly stronger than those of his comrades. As he joins his fellow student soldiers in the desperate battle against the Contaminoid scourge, Layfon must fight to keep the origins of his enhanced abilities a secret, because the truth could tear his team apart.” – DVD Blurb
The premise of this anime series is to tell the tales of life surrounding a young student soldier named Layfon and those of his military cohorts. The group of young soldiers go about the business of training, developing team bonds and attempting to live the semblances of normal student lives within their enclosed domed city. All too often the students are reminded of the bleak, desolate world in which they live, and the prices that must be paid for survival, but that does not stop them from chasing their dreams and hoping for a brighter future. Not only for themselves, but for the rest of humanity as a whole. Throughout the anime, viewers should expect to be treated to a vast array of kick-ass action sequences, hilarious characters and situations, and an underlying mystery regarding the protagonist’s origins. It should also be noted that this particular series shares many similar popular elements of other popular anime series, particularly in regards towards the construction of characters, and the universe itself. Chances are, when viewing this anime, fans may be prompted into thinking of other anime or video game which seem closely interlinked.
Suddenly BAM! The story opens with a large, dragonfly-like monster attacking one of the dome-cities, making absolute mincemeat out of the protective layers. As the creature nears the city proper, a small band of human warriors appear to halt the beast’s advance. It is revealed that these warriors are a special brand of guardians who are able to utilise a magical energy called Kei to fight their opponents. In this bleak future, it appears that humanity has learned to use some pretty kick ass tricks, using Kei energy to augment weapons, create energy blasts or erect barriers or traps. Using a combination of customizable weapons called DITE’s and Kei abilities, the small group prove themselves more than a match for the monster.
It is then that the attention of the scene is cut and replaced by that of the mainstream story. A young man departs from (what can be assumed to be) his home town, leaving behind a saddened young lady, and off-screen dialogue hinting at their parting. Riding on a desert transport, viewers will likely make the accurate assumption that the young man portrayed is the main protagonist of the series. Upon his arrival in a college-like city named Zuellni, the young man introduces himself to some fellow students as Layfon Alsief, a student studying to work in machine maintenance. Around the same time, the audience is also introduced to the cohort of Zuellni Platoon 17, led by the series’ lead female: Nina Antalk. It’s the beginning of the school semester, and military platoons are seeking new members undertaking military arts studies to recruit into their respective camps. Layfon, dressed as a normal student clearly holds little interest in the military arts. However, things don’t exactly go according to plan when a schoolyard brawl almost turns fatal for a by-standing schoolgirl, spared only by Layfon’s almost superhuman reflexes (and a psychic tip-off). This act of heroism suddenly attracts some very unwanted attention as he is immediately transferred into military arts thanks to his natural abilities. He is immediately scooped up by Nina and platoon 17, who henceforth provide the focal points of many proceeding episodes and story structures.
Throughout this collection, each of the different members of Platoon 17 open themselves up to the viewers and each other, creating many sub-plot opportunities to compliment the ongoing story. It should be said that the ongoing plots regarding Layfon’s mysterious abilities, and the nature of the Contaminoid scourge are concepts that should not be too foreign to many anime viewers. However, the pace and delivery of the story itself is remarkably well executed. While on the outside, and from first impressions, the anime appears to be based solely on action, suspense, blood and explosions, deeper within holds a truly shining example of combining humor and action together in a very satisfying ratio. In other anime titles that I had viewed in the past that attempted to combine these two elements, very rarely are they so well proportioned against one another. I found it quite uplifting to see how in scenes a deep and meaningful conversation such as those between Nina and Layfon can be immediately turned into comic relief in an almost seamless fashion. I believe that the time spacing between action and comedy is what allows viewers to truly appreciate the purpose of one type of scene without still being stuck in the mindset of another.
For the sake of keeping things concise, this section will briefly observe the most significant characters to the story.
The protagonist of the story is a young man with clearly a past he wishes to keep hidden. It is revealed early on that he wishes to keep his abilities a secret not only to protect the integrity of his platoon, but to also stop him from being exploited for his talents with Kei. While under the surface, he is clearly no stranger to action and danger in his life, he maintains a friendly although somewhat quiet attitude to his new life as a military arts student. Throughout the first collection of the series, we see Layfon slowly reveal the nature of his past, and viewers are drawn in to sympathize with his reasons for staying away from fighting.
From a viewers perspective believe that Layfon is a solid example of what a main character should be: strong, capable, and yet aware of his limitations. All while attempting to maintain bonds with the friends closest to him. Add in a mystery back-story, and we have an overall appealing character.
Nina is the commander of the 17th Platoon of Zuellni’s military arts academy. She too has a slightly tarnished past, but the nature of this is quickly brought to light within the first few episodes. As a leader, she may seem strict to outside members, but in reality she is highly protective of the friends she has made in the platoon. She consistantly shows a strong degree of loyalty to her squad-mates, and will often attempt to jeopardise her own safety or comfort for others. Now while Layfon is the main character of the anime, I personally feel it’s Nina that steals the show in terms of character growth and general audience appeal. Her role as leader of the platoon garners a huge responsibility which sometimes can be seen to take its toll on her when the group is faced with a defeat. Ultimately however, viewers are drawn in by her friendly nature, and the loyalty she clearly holds for her teammates. An interesting point to note, referring back to the notion of being reminded of other series, both the character design and militaristic attitude adopted by Nina very closely resembles that of Noel Vermillion from the BlazBlue video game series. Both often wear blue military fatigues. Both are trained in military discipline, and the visual similarities are very distinct. If you’re a fan of this particular fighting genre, checking out Nina’s portrayal in Chrome Shelled Regios is definitely worth a go.
Sharnid fills in what most would consider to be the “protagonist’s best friend” and “playboy” role of the group. He fulfills the role of the ranged weapons specialist, and sharpshooter. Despite the fact that Sharnid is the oldest member of the 17th platoon, he’s happy to let Nina take on the role of group leader. His easy-going attitude and laid back lifestyle can often put him across as somewhat selfish, but he always seems willing to lend a hand to other people in need. That said however, he takes great pride in his “lady-attracting” skills, often spending much of his free time at the local maid cafe. He is without doubt, the scoundrel of the group, and his interventions have often been what has led to some of the groups more humorous exploits. (Such as Felli getting a job in the maid cafe.) Now on to personal comments: Sharnid is a DEAD ringer for Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist. The hair styles are identical. The Face shapes are identical. Heck, even some of the clothing is identical. The only real differences physically are that Sharnid has clearly been drinking his milk, and growing in height. As for his attitude and character, I found myself drawing similarities between his personality and skills from that of Lockon Stratos from Gundam 00. A laid-back master sniper? Certainly sounds the part. It goes without saying, Sharnid is one of the most appealing characters in the series. Fan of Gundam or FMA? Check it out.
Felli fulfills the role of Platoon 17’s Nen-I operator. Felli is a young, and somewhat shy girl who excels in the use of psychic abilities, acting as either telepathic communication conduit for her teammates, or using telekinesis to engage in combat. As a result of her telepathic abilities, like other Nen-I operators, Felli lacks quite a lot of personality. Smiling and feelings of positive inclination are difficult for her to express. On the flip side however, she seems a little TOO good at expressing herself with negative emotions such as anger. Her outbursts are often the source of unexpected but quite entertaining humor value, especially since few ever expect the strong silent types to yell and express themselves by swearing and kicking at everything in chibi style animation. It appears that she actually likes maintaining a relatively blank expression. (A fact which is affirmed by her kicking Layfon when he witnesses her express a stray smile). I found that Felli is a strong, relatable character for Layfon, as she also finds her own abilities exploited against her own wishes. However, the degree in which she attempts to play down her true feelings tells us that she is suffering on the inside. Like Sharnid, expect Felli to be the source of many humorous situations.
Harley is the final member of the 17th Platoon, and the teams DITE mechanic. As the weapon mechanic for the group, Harley is not what one would call the fighting type, typically taking on support roles in combat situations. Outside of battle, Harley is Nina’s closest confidant, being her childhood friend. He also acts as the source for Nina’s back story. His attitude is one that is often upbeat and logical. Amongst the rag-tag group of warriors, he seems to be the most “normal” of the group, often acting as the voice of reason when Nina becomes unsettled. Not surprisingly, he gets on very well with pretty much every other member of the platoon. As a main character however, Harley doesn’t really stand out as much against the other team members, but viewers can’t help but like his consistantly upbeat attitude.
The art style utilized in this series is reminiscent of that used Studio Bones in the Full Metal Alchemist series, and partially in Soul Eater too. The character designs are all quite unique amongst themselves. Each character has their own distinctive visual identity. The only difficult part is matching up the visual to the name. Several character model types are clearly used for different scenes, which works to the show’s advantage. By utilizing chibi animation, viewers can obviously tell the nature of the scene is supposed to be light hearted or humorous, in comparison to the full-scale sized character models which denote action sequences or scenes of social interaction. What I also enjoyed in regards to character designs were the weapons utilized by the main characters. Each individual military arts student wields a different personalized DITE, which I feel is a very distinguishing feature of the series as a whole.
The visual layout of the anime environments are also very well detailed. What’s particularly impressive is how the landscape artists were able to create a distinctive visual contrast between the arid, desolate landscapes outside the Dome cities, and the urban, peaceful nature within the cities. Looking at the landscapes and city design, it is sometimes hard to believe that the city itself is housed within a walking shield, surrounded by nothing but desert and monsters. For the most part, one might assume that the cities themselves are part of a whole different world.
However, the real visual winners in this series are the special effects. The combination of weapon based combat and the utilization of Kei and Nen-I abilities during battle sequences really shines through. It’s satisfying when, say, someone is playing a video game, and they score a particularly gruesome kill. Within this series, it’s satisfying just to SEE Sharnid score a headshot, or see Nina and Layfon beat members of rival platoons to a pulp. The level of graphic detail that’s gone into combat flow and special effects is nothing short of amazing. When an anime is able to make the viewer truly feel immersed with the same sense of satisfaction as the main characters are, then the visuals have to be doing something right. 🙂
The soundtrack for this series is certainly a standout factor. The opening song does a VERY good job of getting the viewer interested in the universe of the anime. The techno-rock theme works wonders for the establishment of combat by providing a vital rhythm and pace in which the fighting takes place. The music is also well differentiated for different themes being presented in the anime. Regardless of whether the situation involves comedy, action, drama, or a degree of romance, the musical accompaniment is very well stylised to suit the scene. The militaristic nature of many of the action type soundtracks compliment the underlying nature of the story, and enhances the immersion feel for the audience. Being drawn into the often unseen aspects of military life is something not many anime fans get to truly experience. However, the team based nature of many scenes that are appropriated with these tracks provides a strong sense of allegiance and teamwork.
I will also note that however, the voice acting work is not perfect. There are a few particular instances of social interaction that one would may have preferred to watch in a Japanese dub. However, this is not to say the English dubbing is bad. In fact, for the most part, the dubs are pretty good. The point is they are not always perfect for the situation or character. A minor issue, but forgivable in my book.
As a personal note, I would like to add that Chrome Shelled Regios does, at various points, consistently remind me of elements of other anime I have previously viewed, and absolutely loved. The best description that one might provide would be: “like blending Soul Eater, Full Metal Alchemist and Gurren Lagaan into one chaotically funny and totally kick-ass series.” If you are a fan of any of these series, along with BlazBlue, Fallout, Gundam, and a cavalcade of other such anime or games, don’t waste time. Pick up a copy and watch it for yourself!
Prior to be told about the series, I will admit that it was not a series that I was likely to have picked up to view myself. I unfortunately suffer from a bad case of “judge a book by its cover” syndrome, contrary to what I said in my Black-Butler review with Grace. However, I am truly thankful that I had the opportunity to review this and be introduced to a really kick-ass series that combines my favorite aspects of action and humor.
[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2DP1TQdBHY[/pro-player]