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Rei "Zero" Enna and a group of other teenagers from various space colonies must train together at an interstellar academy in order to protect Zion, the last human colony, from the devastating alien invaders known only as "Victim." In a setup that will be familiar to anyone who has followed sports anime or military training movies, the teenage pilots soon bond, with the exception of a ruthless candidate determined to out-score everyone else. Typically, they idolize their tough, no-nonsense Coach (compare to Gunbuster) and the upperclassmen who are so good at the tasks which Zero and company are only just learning. Meanwhile, there are hints that something untoward is going on-as in The Matrix (1999), which featured a hero who was "The One," not a Zero, and a bastion of freedom called Zion-what first appear to be design problems or story inconsistencies take on more sinister meanings. Zero's offhand comment that he can't remember his family turns out to be a statement of the literal truth. Meanwhile, the pilots get on with their pilot training, flying five (and only five-why not make more?) robots modeled on Greco-Roman goddesses, color-coded like the creations of a live-action team-show like Goranger (*DE).
This anime was based on a manga in Comic Ga by DNAngel creator Yukiru Sugisaki and influenced by the existential musings of Evangelion, but it features slapstick and a cat-girl thrown in for good measure. As with other anime made at the turn of the century (see Dual), the transition to digital animation makes for clever camerawork but a sanitized, "clean" feel to all the art. Note that the episodes are numbered "00" through "11," apparently in order to cause confusion to anime encyclopedists. A one-shot 2002 video spin-off retold the TV series story from the point of view of one of the other pilots.