Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Humanoid

To be honest, I'm not a big fan of modern anime; the fascination I had with how anime was it all seemed so new, dark and more inspired in the 90s, it's something of a nostalgia trip. Hence why I prefer older anime in general, plenty of classics and nothing as embarrassing as the content that's pumped out today to feed the scary otaku stereotype of modern times. That's not to say all old anime was good though.

The Humanoid was shit, is shit and forever will be a load of shit, much like Roots Search, but I'll be damned if I let this festering piece of trite go to waste without giving it the attention it deserves, because it has a charm. Let it be known that there is nothing good about this OVA, but it's not like the bland title was an indicator of anything good, if anything it was something of a herald of the crap in store (ザ・ヒューマノイド 哀の惑星レザリア apparently translates to "The Humanoid: Sorrow of Planet Lazeria", a step fancier).

Opening up marvelously is a prologue text crawl that's done in the style of Star Wars, at least my ears have not been assaulted by obnoxious trumpets. This useless bit of exposition tells us that on the planet Lazeria, humans live alongside this race of people called the Megalosians, this plot point is pretty purposeless however as the Megalosians are pretty much just humans and the fact they're Princess is there is not touched upon at all, at best these people sound like an old genus of shark.

We're soon introduced to Alan, a guy whose intro tells us he may as well have been in charge of coffee commercialism because it's pretty clear throughout that he fucking loves coffee, enough to put it on a philosophical pedestal. Alan is part of the two-man crew of ship unknown with a mullet-toting guy called Eric, the two of them are bringing supplies back to a scientist called Dr. Watson who resides on Lazeria and Eric can't wait to see his girlfriend there.

Upon this, I'm attacked by what may be the most hilariously garish multi-colour title card ever with mundane footage set to the epitome of generically uninspired 80s pop songs with equally bland gratuitous English. We're introduced to more characters we'll never care for, it doesn't help that their designs are appallingly dull, with all the male characters looking as realistic as can be for this thing's artwork while all the girls have this Magical Girl look about them in which their eyes are unattractively huge. It's distracting and opposes the art style of the male characters, because it makes it feel like you're watching them in a separate world of exaggerated cartoon women. Oh, more coffee fetishism to end the scene.

After remarking like idiots at how temple ruins apparently shouldn't exist in the jungle, Alan and Eric are chased by fighter planes as they leave their ship as it plummets to make a crash landing, it's funny that one of the planes breaks its wing by hitting tree foliage. Meanwhile, some evil brooding asshole called Governor Proud reveals that he wants to dig up an old ship known as the Ixion to one of his ministers called Libero so he can use it to travel back to Planet Megalos, the bald old Libero tells him that last time he explored the ruins of this ship all life was destroyed in the area because of a disaster, even though he's still around to talk about it.

Alan and Eric eventually reach Dr. Watson's lab on foot and we finally meet Antoinette, the robotic star of this snoozefest. She's meant to develop human emotions and have a personality but she's really just pushed aside, also, there's quite a lot of bickering scenes between Eric and his girlfriend Sheri that hardly moves the plot at all.  

The next day, Alan and Eric leave to repair their crashed ship in the jungle. Eric, being a curious gimp, leaves to go check up on the ruins only to find they're occupied by General Proud's robot forces. He's taken prisoner, as is every other character in this because Proud is a dick and wants nothing to get in his way of re-activating the Ixion (which appears to literally be a load of blocks from these ruins). With this, it's up to Antoinette to save the day. Proud makes a getaway to the ruins of the Ixion with the two keys he needs to activate it. Unfortunately, the moment it is activated, all hell breaks loose and he dies, it's all up to Antoinette and the only good 80s song in this OVA to shut down the Ixion. Doing so (sadly, I guess) kills her, and all the characters who aren't dead go home. The thing ends with some poppycock read by Dr. Watson about how machines have life too.

It baffles the mind how so many OVA directors simply slipped up in telling a good story, but the odd 40-minute time frame that appeared to be the norm for these features must have definitely been a drawback. The Humanoid's story however, is a meandering mess that could have been a good tale of a robotic creation learning how to be human with it only to end in tragedy. It doesn't though, thanks to the very vague and incredibly sluggish plot, so Antoinette is essentially a side character. It's almost hilarious how Eric breaks into tears at Antoinette's death, as if we're meant to have accepted these two really knew each other when they hardly spent much time on screen together. Oh yeah, Antoinette cries somehow too. Proud himself is the stockest of stock villains complete with an evil cackle and a motivation that's never really explained other than to be a bitch for everyone else, the most compelling character in this is Alan with his coffee obsession. 

This one is not as outright atrocious as Roots Search, but it's near there. The artwork varies from being interesting to being overwhelmingly dull; none of the locations are intriguing or eye-catching, the shading and the mechanical designs are probably the best thing about this, and even then, the latter of the two still isn't very captivating. Antoinette is the best-looking thing in this, being designed by Hajime Sorayama of robot pin-up fame, whose art is generally excellent. There are a few moments in which the animation is smooth, but for the most part, it's incredibly rough. Colouring is never consistent, as the tints of scenes repeatedly change, much like the oppositional character designs, it's very distracting. Worse, you will often see black borders, largely at the top of the screen, where the animation cuts off with the badly adjusted framing, it reeks of sheer poor quality. The music excels in how average it is, with the song during Antoinette's final scene being the only good thing on the soundtrack, in fact, there's not even a lot of music in this, which would explain the apparent absence of any OST release (I actually found out there was one, interestingly it contains early artwork of its characters). The dub of this however, isn't too bad, but it's pretty much the only thing making it really good.

This thing apparently had the distinction of being "released for the first time in the UK" when it got its Region 2 release as if it was a good thing, it's also funny how the back states that footage of this anime was apparently used in Madonna's Drowned World tour, so I guess it got lucky to be used in such a way, too bad no one seems to remember it. Upon doing some digging, The Humanoid was actually pretty fortunate to get quite a few follow-up releases in the form of books, particularly art ones, I would strongly suspect this thing looked a lot better in its conceptual stages, as bad as it may be, at least it's still a good step above Roots Search.
  • Mechanical design: 3/5
  • Story: 1/5
  • Coffee: 5/5 
-James, 12 December 2009 (original date)

Review source: US DVD
Screenshot source: US DVD

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