Zaion: I Wish You Were Here Vol. 2: Devastation
This month, I happened to take a look at a couple of small series. Aside from Zaion, which runs for a total of four episodes, I also reviewed Power DoLLS, which clocks in at merely two. However, luckily for Zaion, the differences between the two sci-fi series are far greater than their respective lengths.
In the not-too-distant future, a collection of alien life forms is steadily subverting the entire human race. However, instead of invaders with weapons of mass destruction, these aliens are actually viruses. Once they've infected a human, it's only a matter of hours before they take over their host's entire nervous system, mutating the person into a violent monster capable of spreading the malignant disease to new victims. Wow. And I thought the flu was something to complain about...
In the first two episodes, we're introduced to NOA, a team of elite warriors that utilize nanomachines in their bodies to ward off the virus. Unfortunately, by the third episode, the virus has learned to adapt to and even mimic the NOA team's nanotechnology. When NOA's advanced offensive capabilities are added to the already impressive power of the infected humans, Ai, a young girl with supernatural powers, truly becomes the last hope of the human race.
Even with such an intriguing plot and background, this show primarily is about the bond of love between Ai and a member of NOA named Yuuji. Thus, viewers hoping to discover the origins of the virus, or even what happens to the rest of the NOA team, may be disappointed by the time the show is over. Yet so long as you realize what the true point of the show is, it's acceptable to ignore other details that we may be wondering about. Like Power DoLLS, there are a lot of unanswered questions, but at least Zaion answers the important questions; important at least in the eyes of the development staff.
I suppose I liked the characters enough that I simply wanted to see more of each one of them. Ai and Yuuji are interesting, but the world we're given to view is so detailed, it's hard to be content peering into a single facet of this complex jewel.
Another reason I enjoyed this series so much was the high visual and audio qualities it displayed. The visuals were the usual GONZO brilliance - smooth CG integrated with bright traditional animation, good character designs, and plausible technical details. There was also excellent sound, and particularly good use of multidirectional sound even in stereo, though a 5.1 mix is included as well. Kenji Kawai (the musician behind the excellent Patlabor WXIII soundtrack) provides a good progressive rock soundtrack.
There are tons of extras on this disc, justifying ADV's decision to split the show across two DVDs. There's a high-quality booklet in the case, with lots of peripheral data on the show and multiple interviews with various members of the staff. The disc has an impressive number of interviews, though it's not surprising that the production of this show was well documented. At first, it was designed to be an online-only anime series, though in the interest of profit, a DVD version was eventually released.
I have to say I'm glad. I may not have waited to download this show, but it is certainly worth watching. There's some solid science fiction, beautiful visuals, pleasing audio, and very watchable characters that develop surprisingly well over the period of two hours (counting both discs). Anime fans looking for a good love story mixed with some heavy drama should enjoy this one.