Adventures on the Martian Sea
A pirate's life of high adventure comes alive amongst the the ice floes and submarines of the red planet in Mars Daybreak!
When most science fiction series feature a story set on Mars, it is usually depicted as a desolate landscape, devoid of life. Modern scientists believe that Mars could have at one point hosted living organisms, but so far, the existence of such creatures has not been proven.
Given our current perception of the Red Planet, it's hard to imagine what it would look like if it were to be colonized by man. Total Recall, displayed Paul Verhoeven's vision of human occupation of the planet -- although the actual surface was still deadly to mankind. In the anime realm, Cowboy Bebop presented a slightly more hospitable version of Mars. However, Cowboy Bebop made Mars look nothing more than another Earth-bound city.
One of the details that makes Mars Daybreak so interesting is the fact that it presents a fully terraformed planet. Instead of being the dry, lifeless and barren wasteland that we assume Mars to be, the creators of the series decided to allow people to live there. They filled the planet's empty seas with water, added all sorts of life forms, and turned Mars into a living, breathing world. There is actually too much water on this rendition of Mars. Except for gigantic ice floes and buoyant city ships, the planet is almost entirely submerged in water. Another challenge to modern civilized life on Mars comes from the excessive moisture in the air. The high humidity levels accelerate oxidation, causing metallic objects to rust faster than usual.
This isn't the only series to envision a marine version of Mars. The manga series Aria is about a young female gondolier whose livelihood revolves around the human-built Martian canals. However, this is not an idea that has been explored too often in animated form, so it still can be considered a fresh take on science fiction anime.
Mars Daybreak is set an indeterminate number of years in the future. As with almost all futuristic tales, human society is far from perfect. From manmade complexities, such as political strife, piracy and warfare, to problems applicable to all forms of life, such as food shortages, illness and natural disasters, there are many issues facing the inhabitants of Mars.
The current geopolitical situation on the planet is very similar to that which existed between post-World War II Japan and America. Mars is, for all intents and purposes, tightly controlled by Earth's government. The planet isn't allowed to maintain its own standing army, a rule that is very similar to the one governing Japan even to this day. Mars is subjected to heavy, one-sided tariffs imposed by the mother planet, making it extremely hard to provide adequate Earth-sourced resources to Mars. The Martian government is seen as nothing more than a joke by most citizens, and piracy of the non-digital sort runs rampant in the seas of Mars.
Gram River is one of the many hungry residents of Mars. Work is hard to find, thanks to the depressed Martian economy, and when he and his young friend, Bon find out that they've been laid off from yet another job, Gram's fate doesn't seem to have any chance of improving.
Naturally, that's the point where it does improve. The notorious Ship of Aurora raids a warehouse on the city-ship that Gram calls home, and he happens to be in the building when they smash through the retaining walls. Instead of drowning, Gram is rescued by a mysterious mechanical powered suit -- something known as a Round Buckler. In the manner of most anime series where a young person discovers himself in the cockpit of a giant robot, Gram turns out to be a natural pilot. Not much of an explanation is given for his aptitude, but then, if every anime series spent time explaining the more esoteric aspects of the plot, the story would never go anywhere.
It's not necessary to understand how the Round Buckler works, or where it comes from -- it's only important to realize that Gram is a natural at moving and at fighting in it.
As it happens, the Aurora hosts a pilot with a Buckler very similar to Gram's newfound ride. After their raid, they offer him a paid position on the ship, and he becomes a tentative member of their crew. After all, any paying job trumps his current unemployed status, and the pirates will allow him to keep his newly acquired giant robot. He learns soon that they are thieves more along the line of Robin Hood, rather than being outright crooks. They focus on goods that they can redistribute to the poor, such as foodstuffs and the rare, rust-inhibiting chemical that keeps metal from disintegrating in the soggy Martian atmosphere.
The ship's captain breaks a few stereotypes; first of all, by being a woman, and secondly by being a well-built and solid brick house of a woman. She's as good as any crewmember on her ship when it comes to hand-to-hand fighting, and she's as fiercely loyal to her crew as they are to her.
In fact, many of the characters in the series are surprisingly well-defined, considering this is a series inspired by a video game. From what I've heard, Mars Daybreak is set in the same universe as Gunparade March, but it's tough to find information regarding either game in the United States. Where is Working Designs when we need them the most? There really needs to be more domestic releases of Japanese games.
Gram is not the typical angsty protagonist of most giant robot shows. Instead of complaining about whatever bad situation that he ends up in, he lives his life happily, moment by moment. Aside from being naturally optimistic, he has skills that support his positive outlook -- much to the frustration of his childhood friend, Vestemona Lauren.
Vess left Mars for quite a while, eventually enlisting in the military. Her skills earned her an assignment back on Mars as one of the top-notch new recruits sent to the planet to put an end to piracy on the seas. Her main target is the Ship of Aurora, and as bound to duty as she is, it is unclear whether or not finding Gram on the ship will distract her from her mission. It certainly doesn't keep her from shooting at him. Repeatedly. Luckily, he's a better dodger than she is a marksman.
There are additional sci-fi elements that add to the flavor of the series considerably, such as the round (appropriately named) BALLS. These little automatons perform all sorts of menial labor, from fixing blast shields to making dinner. The BALLS serve as a sort of all-purpose mechanical handyman, and they have the advantage of not being susceptible to fatigue like their human masters. It is also hard to miss the two sentient animals on the crew of the Aurora -- a talking cat and dolphin -- which help to emphasize the futuristic setting of the series. Much like the origin of Gramís suit, where they came from is unknown. But again, it's a detail that only the most obsessive of fans will worry about.
The show looks to have fairly impressive production values. It is unclear whether the quality of this series stems from the source material or from the skills of the people at BONES, the animation studio behind Mars Daybreak. However, it is an intriguing, entertaining series with plenty of potential. Will Gram free Mars from the rule of Earth? Will he convince Vess to see things from his point of view once again? Will we ever know why Poipoider the dolphin wears a big suit, so he can walk around on land when he'd obviously be more comfortable in the sea? I'm not sure that I care, so long as the characters stay as entertaining as they seem to be.