One of the things you get use to as an anime fan is all the critics complaining about mass market shows, while the high concept, artistic shows they think are the reason the anime format exists, get ignored. I say get use to because most of these people never shut the hell up, even when you point out how many of the high concept shows utterly fail.
Take, for example, Blue Gender, the 1999, 24 episode series from studio AIC, that manages to make an utter disaster of its high concept environmental message.
Have you ever seen Nausica Of The Valley of The Wind? Okay, take that show, roll it around in shit, stuff it in a half full jar of mayonnaise, then leave all of that sitting in a sunny spot on the porch for the entire summer. What you pour out at the end, will be Blue Gender.
Yes, it really is that bad.
What’s worse, is that it didn’t have to be. It was almost a brilliant piece of anime. Then, it wet the bed, remembered it wasn’t being made by Miazaki, and promptly imploded into a convoluted message about how terrible we all are, and something about the Will of the Earth.
Honestly, I’m not real clear on what the actual plot was. I don’t think the writers were either.
The story follows average slacker Yuki Kaido, who in 2009 was cryogenically frozen due to a terminal illness. He is awoken twenty two years later to an Earth over run by giant mutant insects called The Blue, and soldiers who use low rent mecha to fight them, and recover anyone who was put in cryogenic sleep around the time he was, because they have B-Cell’s, which can save the world from the Blue, except the Blue are made of B-Cells, and were created by the Earth to save itself from humanity. Or something.
It’s really confusing just what the hell is going on in this show.
Now, if you only watch the first twelve episodes, it’s a hell of a thrill ride. That first half is a stirring exploration of the horrors of war, the loss of humanity, and the healing power of compassion on the battlefield. It’s in the second half everything pretty much goes to shit.
The central plot of the first half of the series is the attempt to get Yuji back to the orbiting space station Second Earth. The soldier who is doing the heavy lifting of getting him there, Marlene Angel, is as tough as they come. She doesn’t blink when her fellow soldiers are killed and eaten, and will do whatever it takes to complete her mission.
As they make their journey to the escape point, Yuji’s compassion, humanity, and mercy begins to remind Marlene what it is to be human, and that’s there more to life than being a solider. Her hard exterior begins to crack, and we see the wounded, angry person it hides. It’s a great juxtaposition to Yuji, who has not been hardened by the war with the Blue, and is driven entirely by his sense of kindness, even in the face of the horrors he witnesses.
Towards the end of the first half, his selfless efforts to save Marlene from certain death, despite it compromising the mission, is an amazing statement on the necessity of humanity during times of war, and the importance of remembering the value of a life.
Then the second half happens.
The second half sees Marlene turning into a very emotional woman as her man, Yuji, is taken away from her and turned into a heartless solder. While the intent is to flip the script, and have Marlene save Yuji as he saved her, Marlene ends up being written as Standard Female Character, while Yuji just goes crazy and stops doing anything remotely like thinking.
Some political intrigue aboard Second Earth happens, goes nowhere, disappears for a while, then returns and blows up the station as Yuji, who was a berserk killing machine for a while, remembers what it is to be human, gets some nookie from Marlene, then goes into a Blue nest to commune with the Earth. Then everyone lives happily ever after. Somehow.
There’s also other sleepers who go crazy, betray humanity, and stuff, cause humans are all evil and stuff, except Yuji, who wasn’t, then was, then wasn’t again after getting laid by the woman he saved, who saved him, then was saved by him again thanks to the power of penis.
Honestly, that second half gets pretty confusing.
What I do know is that an amazing anime about the exploration of the the damage to the human psyche that the horrors of war can bring about, and the importance of compassion in healing that, got traded in for a sloppy environmental message half way through. A message that was delivered in such a ham fisted and half assed way, it made me want to go outside, chop down a tree, pour oil all over a pond full of ducklings, then piss on them as they screamed, then use the wood to set the whole mess on fire, just to say fuck you, Mother Nature.
I did not actually do those things, by the way. So we’re clear. I just thought about it, because the save the Earth message was that shitty. It makes you want to fuck the Earth.
As hard as possible.
In terms of animation, Blue Gender is definitely a product of the late 90’s, early 2000’s. While it still holds up fairly decently, if you are use to the more modern style of animation, this is going to look super weird and dated. If you are familiar with, and enjoy, older shows, then it won’t faze you even a little. Still, manage expectations, but also, be prepared to be a bit surprised at how well most of it still holds up.
Except the character designs. I had to go look up pictures of the characters just to remember who was who. That’s just sort of how that time period in anime was, though, so not really the fault of the studio. Though, AIC hasn’t really done much of anything for a few years now, which is a shame, as the list of shows they either made, or co-produced, is pretty lengthy, and with more than a few good ones.
Not this one, obviously, but other good ones, like Gun X Sword, Ga Rei: Zero, and others.
Blue Gender was directed by Masashi Abe and Ryosuke Takahashi, who also co-wrote the script, so he’s going to get most of the blame for this clusterfuck. Abe, for his part, isn’t exactly without reproach, however. I’d give a list of his other terrible anime direction, but he doesn’t have many, and none I’ve heard of before. He has done a lot of work as an episode director, storyboard artist, unit director, and so on, so he does know the anime industry. He just doesn’t have a strong eye for directing a series.
Takahasi even less so, though, as the only other thing on his list of credits I even recognized was the Cyborg 009 series from 1979. He did work on scripts for the 1980 Astro Boy anime, though, so that’s also pretty good. Since then, however, he’s mostly worked on the VOTOMS franchise, which I know less than nothing about. It may be awesome for all I know, but then again, if it was, I probably would have heard of it before today.
So, yeah, Takahashi co-directed and co-wrote. Guess who’s the main reason this show sucks? If you said Takahasi, you get a gold star.
The other main writer for the series was Katsumi Hasegawa, who was the head writer and series structure director for Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, and the Beyblade franchise.
Hmm… yeah, okay Takahasi. You’re off the hook as the sole reason this show sucked.
Jesus. It’s like a who’s who of people not to hire to make an anime.
The music was handled by Kuniaki Haishima, best known for composing the music to the video game Metroid: Other M. Also known for literally nothing else of note, the music to Blue Gender is a pretty good example of why. I just watched an episode and I can’t tell you what the music was like. It doesn’t enhance a scene, so much as it vanishes behind it.
Still, at least Haishima didn’t actively contribute to making the show suck, so good for you, buddy!
In the end, here’s the thing. Watch the first half, then walk away amazed at the really good story you saw. Not great, or epic, or anything, just really good. Do not watch the second half, or you’ll realize just how badly the first half is wasted on a shitty environmental message, a lame love story, and a poorly conceived and executed character arc for literally everyone involved.
Personally, I say leave the environmental messages to Miyazaki. He actually knows how to make them. The folks behind Blue Gender, just know how to shit their pants, smear it on your screen, then vomit all over your face in search of praise that they are good boys.
It is the anime equivalent to having an 800 pound gorilla shove your face in its ass cheeks, and fart for twelve straight hours.
Fuck this show, and fuck your high concept artistic bullshit, anime critics. I’m gonna go watch Sword Art Online again to wash the horrid taste of this shitstorm out of my mouth.