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Zone of the Enders

a.k.a. Zone of the Enders: Dolores, i

zoetv-1
Genre: Action/Comedy/Drama
Company: Sunrise/VAP/AT-X
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 4/7/2001 to 9/29/2001

James Links is a space trucker with a lot on his mind. For starters, he hasn’t seen his wife in years, his two kids won’t even talk to him, Mars and Earth are about ready to go to war and his latest cargo shipment turns out to be a 50-foot tall, pink, orbital frame named “Dolores.” Wanted for a crime he didn’t commit, James and Dolores set off on a journey to reunite his broken family. And maybe along the way, they may be able to stop a galactic war.

summary by Ender

 

Reviewed: 05/09/2006 by
Grade: 82% av-Ender

Highs: Lovable characters; whimsical A-story; Dolores

Lows: Bad animation and designs; unoriginal B-story

I can’t remember the last time I was completely surprised by a mecha series, let alone a one that is a sequel to an OVA based on a video game series. Zone of the Enders is one of the best feel-good, family-oriented-war-dramas I have ever witnessed.

Rather than dive into its predecessor’s roots, Zone of the Enders aims for the family side of the story. At its heart, this is about a man who will do anything for his family. James Links is a welcome change in a typical mecha protagonist. I would much rather see more characters like his gruff, yet caring, husband/father figure than your average 15-year-old whiner. Of course, the dysfunctional nature of James’ family provides for the best scenes in the whole show. This is a story more about love, trust, redemption and the ties-that-bind rather than galactic warfare.

This series is at its weakest when the secondary story comes into play. The whole Earthen/Martian war just feels like an excuse to get a bunch of robots to fight each other. It doesn’t help that the robots are among the ugliest in anime, complete with Brain Powerd-inspired “cockpits.” And the animation is just as bad; sure, the colors are bright and lively, but everything moves so flat that most of the showdowns turn into stationary targets firing at each other. This, by the way, is hardly climactic.

Surprisingly, the star attraction is the titular Dolores, wonderfully voiced with girlish glee by Kuwashima Houko (Quon from RahXephon, Satsuki from X, Sango from Inuyasha, among others). She has the power to wipe out whole fleets but would rather dream about being a princess, all while she worries about James and his clan. It’s just the right amount of absurdity and earnest emotions that make her so wonderful. Call me strange, but this is the only time I actually worried about a robot’s well-being in a series, and if that’snot an achievement, I don’t know what is.

There are a lot of ideas I like running through this show that I wish would appear in other mecha series. I see many people being turned off by the idea of a pink robot. But for those who would give this series a shot, you’ll find something that you like in here. It’s rare to see a video-game anime turn out so well, and that in itself is worth the price of admission.

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