I got in a bit of a tiff over this one. It bills itself as six episodes, but the episodes are about 45 minutes long, so, technically, it is a 12-run show. But there is no intermission and it’s not a movie, so it goes down as six parts, making it short run. (I get into odd arguments.)
This is a very good looking show for an alternate universe approach. It is a 2005 idea of a 1930s approach to the future (in this case, the year 2000), but you have funny little quirks. We have hover cars, but radio is still king. It’s futuristic, but with an Art Deco feel. The maiden voyage of a new train brings out all the media, but none of them have video cameras. And, most importantly, science can overcome any and all of man’s ills.
The world is under attack by a strange alien race, bent on world domination (stop me if you’ve heard this before, OK?) But the human race is confused and perplexed, not knowing what any of this is all about or what it ultimately means.
From out of the mists of confusion steps Billy Kimura. Boy genius and heir to the Kimura Industries conglomerate, he thinks he has a grip on what is going down. But he has a rival. The equally smart, equally annoying, equally arrogant Penny Carter. He graduated from MIT at age 11 but is nowhere near as financially well off as Billy.
Aside from them playing a version of “Can You Top This?” all the time as to who is smarter, they are both in love with Lotta Brest (I am NOT kidding; that is her name. Too bad Emely, Lotta’s tutor, isn’t named that. Emely certain has what Lotta wants.)
Together, these three have to piece together the puzzle that will allow them to defeat the space aliens, who will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams at the demise of humans! (Insert organ sting here).
This plays at times like a bad 50s sci-fi film, but has that optimism of the 30s that science was the answer to everything. One cannot deny the zeal and gung-ho attitude of the characters, although the story does lag in parts.
It’s also not that we have characters but characatures: the over-focused scientist who sometimes forgets he has a daughter; the old-school commander, who feels that the military might is the solution; the paternalistic aliens, who see humans at not much more than insects.
Still, if you allow it to play forth in the context of the show, it can be forgiven, even if you are the only one in the room to know that the scientist over there in the corner has been taken over by the aliens and is going to kill some of the key players.
This is a doubly good-looking show, as a great deal of thought was put into the surroundings. We have those neat, clean, steamlining looks and lines. The city is phenominally tidy. Even the alien spacecraft have a crisp feel to them (not like the hokey ships you saw in “Flash Gordon” and “Dune”).
Character design works well, too, as no one is overly handsome, but no one is grotesquely ugly. Some of the plotting is a bit off the charts (a whole underground city? Really?) and we sometimes give people credit for too much intelligence (how did they figure out the solution from that arcane clue?) but, again, in its particular framework, we can let it run as it chooses.
The story builds from one crises to the next, as humans are slowly pushed towards the tipping point but manage to strike back. And you will always need a battle in space when dealing with aliens, so a lot of cliches are hit and reinforced, but there is something about that “Holy excitement, Batman!” thinking that keeps this show from getting stale. And the longer episodes allow for a better developement of plot, character and entertainment. You don’t even mind the movie serial-cliffhanger endings for the segments. It adds a kind of charm to the whole “Tom Swift” approach.
On a personal note, it is a relief not to hear the same voices over and over again. That is a distraction that I can do without. “Hey, it’s Chris Ayres again, for the umpteenth time!”
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 9 (Superb artwork and strong character design)
Plot 7 (It’s still a 50s plotline)
Pacing 8 (A couple of glitches)
Effectiveness 8 (For what it is doing, it operates)
Conclusion 8 (A solid ending, but with a wisp of future adventures)
Fan Service 2 (A similar shows would be “Okamisan”)
Overall 9 (A nice retro feel)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. She blinded me with science.
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