TV series; 11 episodes
Apr 14, 2006 to Jun 23, 2006
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi
Original Creator: Natsumi Itsuki
Production Studio: Bones, FUNimation Entertainment
Two sets of blue eyes see the world turning before them. They see a cerulean paint mixing in with viridian landmasses, framed in the noir of star filled space. The hologram suddenly disappears as Rai exclaims to his brother Thor that their mother would be worried, so they run back to their living quarters.
Welcome to Juno, a space colony where the sky is generated on flat mirror-like panels. The two young twins run through the monochrome corridors to their darkened home. The lights have been cut with their shadows standing alone from the light cast from outside. They move slowly to the back where they find two bloodied bodies one sprawled on the floor, the other hugging a brightly lit monitor. Mama and Papa have been killed. Thor turns around to see two federal soldiers entering the room, releasing a smoke bomb. Both their worlds go black.
Welcome to Chimera, a green world filled with the current of life. Carnivorous plants infest the endless forest. Welcome to Chimera, where people live by Darwin’s code. Survive or die, eat or be eaten. The question now is whether or not Thor or Rai can survive the planet for prisoners.
Thor Klein acted by Minami Takayama and Koichi Domoto
Thor has always been the dependable brother, the one that took charge when the situation called. He was a born leader. Once on Chimera he struggles with a dilemma, does he protect his brother risking his own life or cut him off, securing his own survival. Rai is eventually killed soon after his arrival to Chimera, being eaten by one of the plants underground. What’s interesting about the complex that he develops is that moments before his brothers death, he almost turned on Rai and killed him himself. As Thor grows through out the two years in piece, its interesting to see the two parts of psyche battle it out: is he rescuing others to protect his ego, or does he truly believe that it is duty to save those around him, as if he owes it to the ghost of his late twin. Though ultimately he feels as a boring hero, having a quite a predictable character growth and his internal conflicts being a bit overdramatic at best.
Rai Klein acted by Minami Takayama
Abandoned along with his brother on the planet of Chimera, Rai’s existence is cut short within the first few episodes. He was always the “momma’s boy” in colloquial terms. He is very dependent on those around him, clumsy and cowardly. He was destined to die on Chimera, being inadaptable and needy. I mention Rai because of his importance to the development of Thor as a person. It’s his death that acts as a catalyst to Thor’s caring nature.
Tiz acted by Nana Mizuki
Tiz loyalty to Thor is unmovable. From the moment she rescues him from the belly of the beast ( The beast being a photosynthetic organism with jaws in this case) she falls in love with him, declaring him to be her husband. Her character feels pretty one dimensional in respect to the others. She has a one track mind which screams: “Protect Thor so you can have his child!”. At first her fealty seems almost comical, though as she is developed her love for Thor is somewhat heartbreaking.
Third acted by Shun Oguri
Third would probably be the most interesting character out of the whole series. He labels himself as a watcher, not fit to lead, but only to observe how fate unfolds. But throughout the series, he seems to be the puppet master, pulling the strings behind Thor’s destiny. He is an enigma, a seemingly reluctant guardian. The viewer doesn’t even know his name; he asks them to call him his place in this roughshod society, “Third”. Shun Oguri’s performance should be noted, his voice never betrays much emotion except for one memorable scene in the last few episodes that serves as the climax for the story.
Juuousei is an impressive feat. It manages to capture the sprawling world of Chimera in a mere eleven episodes. From the first episode, it kicks into hyper drive and never once stops to look over its shoulders and gaze at its starlit trail. We are presented with a dynamic world overrun with carnivorous plants. The rules that govern this world are fully realized, creating an engrossing atmosphere.
The science fiction is coated in mystery. Who killed Thor and Rai’s parents? Who sent them to this planet? Why the hell does tree sap attacking them? The reveal is surprising and the story truly does have a fantastic ending, filled corpses, hallucinations and of course, man-eating vegetation on the loose. What more could you ask from a seinen?
The frame work for the story seems a bit cliché, a boy led by fate to actualize his destiny: to become the greatest of all men. It’s a coming of age story where a boy struggles with the million-dollar question: what is the purpose of life? We’ve seen this idea done over and over again, and nothing new is actually presented here. Some of the characters live for strength, the protect those around them or to have children. The main characters motivations seem ultimately selfish; he lives for knowledge, to figure out why he is on Chimera and who killed his parents. By the end though we see the typical evolution of the main character, from egocentric to altruistic.
Juuousei is a beautiful world to look at. Chimera is lush and vibrant, the greens bouncing with life. Juno is steely, seemingly hollow and lifeless. Much of the action is short but fluid, with Thor’s beam knife carving out some beautiful scenes. Character designs evolve throughout the series, showing a progression of the characters wealth over the years, from simple cloth clothing and two-toned pallets, to more glossy and exuberant futuristic designs. The only thing that bothered me was nose design. Depending on the angle of the head, noses seemed to shift from oddly shaped bananas to thin lines. Sometimes the noses were so poorly drawn I could not focus on the characters facial expressions, but the way their nose transformed as their heads tilted from side to side.
The opening to Juuousei particularly through me off, filled with bouncing horns and optimistic vocals that didn’t seem to reflect the atmosphere of the anime. The other music isn’t noteworthy, but creates the appropriate mood for the given situation.
Juuousei was a breath of fresh air. The creators could have easily milked the five-volume manga for fifty episodes. That’s how much that happens in this whirlwind tour of chimera. The mysteries keep the experience engaging through some of the minor shortcomings of the series: the clichéd plot devices and character formulation (with an exception of Third), the negligible music and the poorly drawn snouts. It’s a bite-sized science fiction epic worth anyone’s watch that has an interest in cannibalistic foliage.