Spectrum Nexus

Anime Info

Creator: AIC/Pioneer LDC Production
Director: Hiroyuki Ochi
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 4 Episode OVA

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Summary

+ Decent animation
– Plot borrows from earlier work
– "Icky" relationships
– Unexamined plot lines (Mars e.g)

Overview

Armitage III is a decent production in the Blade Runner mold. It is tightly scripted, well written, and beautifully animated. However it never really rises above its obvious sources such as the works of Isaac Asimov, Katsuhiro Otomo, Masamune Shirow, and Yukito Kishiro. The story is nearly overshadowed by the nature of the relationship between Sylibus and Armitage. Viewers interested in Armitage III would probably be better off renting Blade Runner or reading I, Robot.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Armitage III OVA Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 5/2/2008

Introduction

In 1968 science fiction writer and paranoid Philip K. Dick published the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. In 1982 that novel became the basis for the Ridley Scott science fiction film Blade Runner. Set in a dystopian future, Blade Runner tells the story of androids called "replicants" who were created to serve in the military and do other dangerous or undesirable work on "off-world" colonies. When a group of rogue "replicants" illegally return to Earth to meet their creator and demand extensions to their four-year lifespans it is up to Rick Deckard, (the titular Blade Runner) to hunt them down and kill them – an act known as "retirement". In the course of his investigation, Deckard falls in love with a "replicant" named Rachel and undergoes his own odyssey questioning his identity and what it means to be human. Although not immediately successful, Blade Runner spawned a substantial and loyal cult following and due to a second life on home video slowly but surely developed into one of the most popular and influential science fiction films ever produced. Among the myriad of films, comics, anime, and video games inspired by Blade Runner was the 1994, 4 episode OVA series Armitage III, which inspired the feature length Armitage III: Poly Matrix and a sequel Armitage III: Dual Matrix.

Review

Armitage III is nicely animated, intelligently scripted, and tightly plotted but not terribly original. Set in a dystopian city on Mars, the story follows Ross Sylibus a former Chicago police officer transplanted to the Martian Police Department and his partner Naomi Armitage an advanced android as they investigate the brutal murders of "third type" androids by the media savvy serial killer Rene D'anclaude. Besides Blade Runner, Armitage III draws on the work of Isaac Asimov, Katsuhiro Otomo, Masamune Shirow, and Yukito Kishiro.

The story begins on board a shuttle traveling between Earth and Mars. Ross Sylibus is a veteran cop haunted by his partner's murder by a killer cyborg. Wounded by the same cyborg, Sylibus can only walk through the use of an artificial leg and harbors a deep resentment towards robots, cyborgs, and other constructs "pretending" to be human. Besides the Rick Deckard-esque Sylibus the other passenger of note is Kelly McCannon last of the Country-Western singers on her way to a Martian concert tour with her manager. Disembarking from the shuttle, Detective Sylibus is witness to a disturbing scene. First he is accosted by a strange man lugging a large suitcase and then caught in the middle of a gunfight between the luggage man and the diminutive Naomi Armitage.

When they first meet, Ross believes Armitage to be a tough but human police officer. He mistakes her strong reaction to violence perpetrated towards robots as naïve sympathy but only later realizes that she is a robot passing as a human. Armitage, much like Gally from Battle Angel, could be mistaken for a teenage girl. She dresses like she's on her way to a night club and has an annoyingly flighty personality. At the same time when angry or in danger she fights and swears like a hellion. Unlike Gally who is a master of unarmed combat, Detective Armitage has penchant for automatic pistols. The luggage man is wounded in the battle but manages to escape, leaving behind his suitcase. When the suitcase is opened the body of the deceased Kelly McCannon is found inside, riddled with bullet wounds. On closer inspection, Sylibus discovers that the fallen idol is in fact a robot. The most advanced robot ever seen.

Later, at police headquarters it is determined that McCannon's existence is proof that someone has illegally pushed robot development to the next phase – "third type" androids physically indistinguishable from humans with CPUs that function on the same level as the human brain. This is a touchy issue on Mars where the populace is divided on the issue of robots and AI. To many, robots are toys, companions, and advanced masturbation aids. To others, robots are an easy scapegoat for lost jobs and low wages. They vent their rage on the machines by smashing them up and burning them in bonfires, never considering that robots have evolved beyond their programming and essentially become humans with silicone souls. They also forget that it is the robots that made the colonization of Mars possible. Into this volatile mix comes the charismatic and media savvy Rene D'anclaude who explains that the "thirds" have been living among humans for years in a variety of occupations. D'anclaude uses the hatred and frustration towards robots as justification for his violence. D'anclaude reveals a list of "thirds" to the public and those he doesn't kill himself are slaughtered by the anti-robot mobs.

Show More Just before dying, one of the "thirds" manages to transmit the list of "thirds" to Armitage who plans warn the others. Meanwhile Sylibus tracks down D'anclaude and engages him in a gun battle. An enraged Armitage saves Sylibus but Sylibus stops her from killing D'anclaude by reminding her that she is a cop – a damn fine cop and it doesn't matter that she's a robot. D'anclaude is taken into custody and Armitage is suspended.

Later, working outside the regulations of the police department, Armitage and Sylibus eventually meet Julian Moore the last of the "thirds" created and seemingly the only male. Sylibus and Armitage accompany Julian to the city's central computer core to learn the truth about the "thirds" and Con Seption the company that created them.

During their journey, the trio is attacked by D'anclaude who they believed to be imprisoned. "D'anclaude" is in fact a series of advanced assassin droids modeled on one of the scientists originally responsible for creating the Martian robots. Sylibus is nearly killed during the encounter and taken to the hospital to be put back together. Meanwhile, Julian leads Armitage to her true origin and using his hacking skills tries to find more files on the creation of the "thirds". His attempt is interrupted by D'anclaude via computer virus. Armitage manages to break the link between D'anclaude and Julian but Julian's body self-destructs. Fortunately, Julian has managed to upload a copy of himself onto the city's main computer registry. Julian's last words to Armitage are the hope that he'll finally meet the 'real' D'anclaude.

Reunited as fugitives, Sylibus and Armitage make their way to the secret laboratory of Dr. Asakura the scientific genius behind the "thirds". Sometime in the past, Asakura's mind was altered for reasons not explored in the story. He alternates between moments of madness and lucidity but that hasn't prevented him from moving beyond "thirds" to beings he refers to as "alives" – biological beings grown in the laboratory. The secrets Armitage and Sylibus learn in the lab such as why all the "thirds" are female, why they all seem to work in the arts or other creative endeavors and their connection to the D'anclaude assassin droids -- threaten the very foundations of the Martian government.

Show More
The general outline of Armitage III is largely borrowed from Blade Runner – tough, laconic cop investigating a crime involving robots, questions his own humanity, and finally falls in love with a robot. Transplanting the story to Mars brings out some interesting twists but not enough to really justify the exotic locale – terraformed Mars has a breathable atmosphere and looks like the deserts of Arizona or New Mexico and St. Lowell, Mars' largest city looks like a futuristic New York, it even has a Statue of Liberty.

Characters in the story are lifted almost whole, with little modification from other, similar stories. Ross Sylibus is a Rick Deckard clone, tough and laconic with an aversion to robots – that is until the script, like the script to Blade Runner, requires him to fall in love with a robot. Afterwards Sylibus turns into a mushy, self-sacrificing Lancelot. His relationship with Armitage smacks of Ephebophilia (sexual attraction to adolescents) – Sylibus appears to be in his mid-thirties while Armitage looks and speaks like a young teen and dresses like a club hopping sex pot. She is in many ways a perfect male fantasy woman – she looks like an innocent girl but can fight and rough house like a man and she'll never grow old. And as is established late in the story, she can be modified to have any peripheral.

Many themes and ideas are also lifted from past science fiction stories. The unreasonable fear of robots is a theme better explored in Isaac Asimov's robot stories. Setting the story against a backdrop of social unrest is reminiscent Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, while the cyborg cop is used to more interesting effect in the works of Masamune Shirow.

Conclusion

Armitage
The 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner is perhaps one of the most influential science fiction films ever made. Armitage III is one of many productions inspired by it, isn't terrible. It's just not very original. While competently made it never rises above its sources. The ideas, themes, and characters found in the anime are better executed in other works from Blade Runner to I, Robot. Any interest the story may have is somewhat overshadowed by the uncomfortable nature of the relationship between Ross Sylibus and Armitage.

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