Big O (2001)

November 6, 2003 • Film, japan, Reviews

[director Yadate Hajime]

A very clever project from one of the animation directors of Giant Robo. This fairly limited television miniseries presents a unique view of a sort of a slick, industrial city; far enough in the future to have a variety of fantastic technologies such as life-like androids and giant robots, the rest of the city seems to be a throwback to the gaslight settings of Sherlock Holmes.

Big O takes place in a city where, some 20 or 30 years prior, everyone lost all memories that there had been before. As a result, the people have adapted to a life operating technologies and carrying out jobs that they don’t entirely understand. The city is rife with confusion and glaring inequalities, as a megaconglomerate runs things from on high. In this city, androids are amazing things and the giant robots, such as Big O himself, are considered gods from an ancient world.

Inhabiting this world is the wealthy Roger Smith. Once he might have been a member of the military police, but Roger remembers none of that. Nowadays, Roger is the city’s top negotiator, bringing style and sophistication to the making of deals and trades throughout the town. It certainly helps that Roger commands Big O, one of the giant “”Megadeus”” robots buried under the city. Big O looks a bit like a construction robot, and it plows through anything in its path in order to demolish its adversaries (usually a parade of huge robots and monsters like Big O himself–the semisentient robot seems to have no qualms about destroying its own robot relatives).

In his first adventure, Roger negotiates a hostage trade and winds up with the hostage: a small android designed to look like an attractive human girl. The robot, called Dorothy Wainwright, becomes a frustrated admirer of cad Roger, who has a preference for lady callers that don’t whir and beep when they turn and gaze into his eyes. But throughout the series, Dorothy defends Roger and Roger defends Dorothy; this part of the series makes the more difficult plot twists easy to handle. Since the most complicated of these twists is the random reemergence of fragments of memory in the amnesiac city, the simple love story is greatly appreciated.

Big O is a wonderful, fun series with inventive writing. It’s amazing such a show was produced for kids–most of whom probably can’t fathom the deadpan humor or the ridiculously complicated ethical and philosophical implications of the show’s surreal plotline. Kudos to the hardworking creators who managed to get a wonderfully sophisticated show like this made. Let’s hope the second series is on the way soon.


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