Steampunk is a genre that I genuinely do not fully understand. I can grasp bits and pieces of it and I have seen a few steampunk-themed shows. I even saw “Steampunk”, the anime movie, but I am uncertain what it wishes to accomplish. I bring this up, because the series I just viewed, “Code: Realize − Guardian of Rebirth”, is a strong entry into Steampunk, even though it started out as a video game.
It appears to take place in the 1920s, owing to the cars. Queen Victoria has died, but there is ANOTHER Queen Victoria on the throne, but she is rather progressive and daring than her namesake (fan service!) But it doesn’t feel right; everything is a tad off, even for steampunk.
The entire story revolves around Cardia Beckford (that lady amidst her reverse harem). She is a monster. Part of the problem is that her body is infused with Horologium, a substance that acts as her heart and keeps her alive. She also secretes a poison, more like an acid, which can dissolve almost anything (those clothes are especially designed to resist the effects). She had been living in isolation, but the British Army tried to capture her for some dark and sinister reason.
She was rescued by the Gentleman Thief, Arsene Lupin (to her right), and taken to a caliber of safe house. Here, she meets a variety of folks who want to help her and protect her from the shadow group Twilight (or is it the twilight group Shadow?) who want Cardia for their own dark and sinister reasons. The rest of the entourage, left to right:
Delacroix II. He is a vampire, one of few still hanging around.
Count Saint-Germaine. He works behind the scenes to aid this group.
Impey Barbicane. An excellent mechanic, he usually has one side of his jump suit off, so you can revel in his studliness. (Look at the size of his….wrench!)
Victor Frankenstein. Former Head Alchemist of the Imperial Court for the English Government and a wanted man by the English Government.
Abraham Van Helsing. Devastating with his weapons (he packs a lot of heat), he used to work for Twilight.
A few more folks to be aware of include Finis, the current head of Twilight; the great detective Herlock Sholmes; and Nemo, a mad scientist type. With the sides defined, the battle is to see who can retain possession of Cardia and destroy the other organization, while trying to understand what Code: Realize means (that is, the secret secret that will reveal Isaac Beckford’s secret secret plan for world domination, even though he is dead).
Shows of this nature can get too ‘precious’ for their own good. I mean, we trot out these literary giants of the late 19th Century (Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Herlock Sholmes, Captain Nemo, even Lupin) and plunk them into this situation that strains credulity. I mean, the great zeppelin race of Episode 6 seems a bit much to take in, especially since it comes off as ‘Death Race 1900’ (the only rule is….there are no rules!) Added into the mix is the rather bullet-proof nature of everyone (How did they manage to escape?) and it makes for a confused time.
Did they want to do something that was kind of frivolous and throw away; a type of Steampunk Satire? Were they aiming for something more serious about absolute power and the problems of megalomania? It’s that they did not fully succeed with either approach and so it kind of melted into a gloppy mess, much like when Cardia touches anyone. The villains were terribly paste-on, much like the caliber of baddies you see in ‘Pokemon’. You never really felt they could do much of anything really evil and even when you get to the dramatic conclusion of it all, you still were not convinced of the amoral nature of the foes.
If you want to immerse yourself in the visuals and the backgrounds, this is a superb show for that. Everything looks magnificent, coming from a time when you could be both bold and elegant in form and function. However, the actual plotting and character development is flat and stagnant. I never felt you could trust anyone fully, not even the steampunk dog! And it betrays its video game origins in how the action unfolds, never more so than in the train snatch sequence.
Although watchable, it never rises above going through the motions of trying to be exciting. If I want something steampunk, “Princess Principal” does a better job of this. And with fewer distractions. Yeah, you can binge this, but a lot of the cutesiness of it really manifests itself and it might have too high of a signal-to-noise ratio for you to enjoy it under this approach.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (They are going to be hunky)
Plot 7 (Good idea, but not properly brought forth)
Pacing 8 (Good timing, even when it gets stressed)
Effectiveness 7 (Too easy to see the conclusion)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Bingeability 6 (Tries too hard for a full success)
Overall 7 (Never certain how it wanted to proceed)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. I will protect you!