Sunday, 5 June 2011

Power DoLLS

Power DoLLS: Detachment of Limited Line Service (パワードール) is a Japan-only series of turn-based tactics videogames released for PCs, the last sequel was released in 2004 while the first game came out in 1994, given how it's already enjoyed ten years of sequels, it can be assumed that the series is now dead. As with lots of videogames in the 90s, there were anime spin-offs made to promote them in the form of OVAs, usually the best of these OVAs were only just good, while the rest were typically bad. As I've never played a Power DoLLS game in my life, I can't really judge this two-episode OVA in similar contexts as I would with its games, as I have no familiarity with the characters, story or representation. With that out the way, let's see if there's anything good we can say about this.

As our text prologue states, in 2535 AD the Earth Government has been declared war upon by the colony world Omni because of their oppressive immigration regime. Omni converted their Power Loader work labour machines into combat units for use in the war, these adapted weapons would be picked up in 2540 AD by the elite all-female task force, DoLLS (in case you didn't notice earlier, it stands for "Detachment of Limited Line Service). This 27-minute episode primarily follows one of the DoLLS, Commander Yao Pei Lui, who rescues two kids from enemy territory because of her bleeding heart ways, despite the by-the-book ideals of her ally Phan. While this OVA by no means reaches any deep cinematic level, it pays a fair bit of attention to the opposite attitudes of these two characters, and we learn that Yao's empathy for the war orphans stems from how she grew up in an orphanage herself before going straight into the military.

After being behind enemy lines, Yao and the DoLLS are given their next mission; the recapture of Bukaju City from Earth Forces, which are using it to manufacture weapons. However, Phan's tactic does not involve going near the city, instead her plan is to explode a nearby dam to cut off all power to the city. However, in the path of the dam and its river is the evacuated Chateau Village, where Yao grew up. The DoLLS are ordered to launch their operation at midnight and drop into an enemy area to clean up and secure the dam, before going into the hot zone, Yao recalls back to how her father died in the construction of the dam after promising it'd keep them both safe. Phan teases her over how her kindess is likely to get her killed in combat, what a nice friend.

As they touch down in a small town, Yao's Power Loader crashes and loses mobility, but insists they continue the operation while she makes a break for it, leaving a present for the encroaching enemy forces. As the rest of the DoLLS go to detonate the dam, Yao finds her old to reminisce on the good times. Thinking she's an awful daughter, Yao decides to stay in the cabin to let the flood from the dam take her away. Her commander however, saw this mission as a good opportunity for Yao to put her personal problems aside, and knows where she is, instead of being at the rendezvous point. Just as the dam explodes, the DoLLS pick Yao up from her father's cabin and head back home.

This first episode actually isn't too bad, for what its worth with its short run time and limited cast, it squeezes in some decent characterization; Phan is not as cold as she first comes off and shows some real concern and warmth to Yao, and the commander (Captain Hardy) isn't a bad character herself. We don't see much of the other characters, they were probably just stuck in to please fans of the games with cameos essentially, but Yao is a decent focus character. However, the artwork falters a bit at times but isn't ugly, though the animation is fairly average and slightly awful at times. The music is nothing special either, but the dub is actually quite good, featuring dialogue that's better than the original Japanese script as well as including a few slightly funny moments (I like how the Power Loader's computer says "goodbye" just before it self-destructs, I also like the surreal nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger, which I'm not sure as to whether it makes this thing feel a bit more reality-grounded or whether it takes it out of its own world). For an anime with an all-female cast, I like how it doesn't go down the pathetic route of forcing fanservice down your throat; a bit of a disappointment for those into that, but it certainly helps the overall quality of this thing. 

The mecha and character designs aren't bad but probably aren't best depicted here and probably look better with the games' artwork, this is not a must-see. If you do watch it, make sure to watch it dubbed, it will make it more enjoyable.
  • Art: 3/5
  • Mechanical design: 3/5
  • Action: 2/5
I would make the ratings for this one humorous, but there's not much to say...
-James, 26 January 2010 (original date)

Review source: US DVD
Screenshot source: US DVD

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