BLUE GENDER (1999-2000)

 

Format: 26 24-minute episodes on 8 DVDs   

Rating: unedited version: R (N, AC, AL, GV)

             Cartoon Network version: PG-13 (AL, lesser AC and GV)

Type: Sci-Fi (mecha)/Romance

American Production: FUNimation

Japanese Production: AIC/Toshiba EMI

 

Grading

 

Premise:

C

Story:

B

Writing:

B+

Character Design:

B+

Mecha Design:

B

Animation:

B-

Artistic Merits:

B-

English Dub:

B

Musical Score:

B

Opener:

C

Closer:

A

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

B

Drama Content:

B+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C+

DVD Extras:

B-

 

 

OVERALL:

B

                                

Synopsis

      In 2009 gas station attendant Yuji Kaido is diagnosed with a terminal condition for which there is no cure. He and others similarly inflicted agree to be put into cryogenic freeze “for a year or two” while research is advanced towards finding a cure for his condition. Every true sci-fi fan knows that stories involving any form of cryostasis rarely end without complication, though, and this one is no different. When Yuji finally wakes in 2031, it is to a horror story: the Earth has been overrun by giant buglike creatures called Blue, who turn humans into slimy green balls to save for snacking. Most of humanity has been wiped out either by the Blue or the desperate attempts to stop them; all that remain are the Sleepers like Yuji, a few isolated pockets of survivors on the surface, and the few hundred thousand lucky souls able to migrate to a collection of orbital space stations called Second Earth. Heavily-armed Recovery Teams have been sent planetside from Earth 2 to extract any remaining Sleepers, whose “illness” may actually be a key to the ultimate defeat of the Blue, and it is during one such harrowing rescue attempt that Yuji awakes. The first person he connects to is Marlene, a soldier and Armored Shrike (mecha) pilot who is dispassionately dedicated to seeing Yuji brought to Earth 2 at any cost. Though they eventually succeed, two people cannot go through the trials they do together without it having an effect on both. But the story is hardly over when they finally reach Second Earth; it just moves into its second stage. . .

 

The Long View

      At first Blue Gender seems to be just a dark, violent sci-fi bug hunt in the tradition of Aliens or Starship Troopers, and indeed the first few episodes are dominated by action sequences of foot soldiers and Armored Shrikes battling various types of Blue. As the series progresses into its middle stages, though, it becomes much more an intense study of how the two main characters are influenced and changed by the events of the story and their association with each other. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it becomes a love story, but if the idea of a slow-developing and hard-won romance which lacks any hint of sappiness appeals to you then you may well find Blue Gender to be very much to your liking.

      The early focus of the story is on Yuji, a fairly ordinary guy who is absolutely petrified with fear at first but struggles to overcome it and turn it into anger and aggression against the Blue. He is a passionate man who allows himself to be led by his heart, for better or worse. It is this passion which finally gets through to Marlene, but it also makes him vulnerable to a radical personality change in later episodes that ultimately finds Marlene in the position of trying to save him from himself. This is unfamiliar territory for Marlene, who was orphaned by the Blue at age 10 and has since trained to be an elite soldier. In the process she locked her emotions behind a hardened wall in her heart, but Yuji’s caring nature and vulnerability chip away at that wall. This allows her to experience a gradual emotional awakening, and it is her transformation into an emotionally normal woman that really makes Blue Gender worth watching. (It is also interesting to note here that these are total role reversals from the norm for anime heroes and heroines.) Supporting characters come and go – in fact, the supporting cast changes completely beginning with the arrival on Second Earth in the 12th episode – but only one or two of them even approach becoming as well-developed and/or interesting as Yuji and Marlene.

      Although I question how the series ends, it’s quite clear that a good amount of thought went into setting up a convincing environment for Blue Gender. Marlene’s emotional detachment early on is really just a reflection of the prevailing attitudes in Second Earth, for instance; this is an environment where love and sex have been disassociated, where the former isn’t common and the latter is often more a release than an exercise in passion or lust. But given how dangerous fighting the Blue is, it’s not hard to understand how the “take advantage of what you can while you can” attitude developed. The writing shines in particular when dealing with Marlene’s efforts to reclaim Yuji during his own transformation. Though it comes to the forefront during a series of combat scenes, the action is nothing compared to the emotional tension that’s going on. It’s almost palpable. The writing also earns bonus points for throwing a significant number of surprises and twists into the second half of the series and for not ignoring the role that politics play even in a situation like the one Second Earth’s humans are in. Overall, the writing improves significantly as the series progresses – a rarity in anime.

      The technical merits of Blue Gender are great in close-ups but lacking in ranged shots, and the battle scenes, though dynamic, sometimes get a bit repetitive. The differing designs of the Shrikes are cool, as are the varied types of the Blue. Visual character design is one of the series’ strong points; Marlene’s look is convincing for a woman soldier who’s pretty and sexy but not so much so that it detracts from the fact that she is, first and foremost, a soldier. Yuji is also well-rendered, but, oddly, he looks remarkably Scottish for someone who is supposed to be Japanese. Other characters introduced as the series progresses are similarly convincing in their appearance, and care is taken to make their military gear look realistic. A downfall in the series’ artistry is the design of the space stations, which seem a bit too roomy for being less than 30 years into the future. The soundtrack is effective (although there are better ones out there), and the English vocal performances are generally good and well-cast.

      The opener and closer deserve special note because of their highly unusual set-up. Typically songs for openers and closers are either not translated or replaced by an English equivalent. Blue Gender DVDs give you both versions, however, and which one you hear depends on whether you’re watching them with the English dub or Japanese-with-subtitles option. This is an exceedingly nice touch! The opener isn’t remarkable in either version, but the closer is among the best I’ve yet seen for series anime, one that you might find worthy of repeat viewings. It gives an excellent symbolic representation of Marlene’s emotional reawakening as a slow, melodic, synthesized song plays. And oh, yes, you get some fan service here, too. (But you can even read into that, since she’s effectively walking unprotected and carefree.) The Japanese version of the closer song synchs more closely with the graphics, but the English version of the song is a little better overall. And yes, the closer is heavily reedited for the Adult Swim version.

      The rating I have assigned for the series is mostly for a lot of graphic (and sometimes jarring) violence, though it isn’t gratuitous and the series doesn’t revel in it like some anime series do. Beyond the closer, the actual nudity and the strongest sexual content are limited to episodes 15 and 18, though there are a few other places throughout the series that contain suggestive content. The edited version airing on Adult Swim eliminates the most graphic scenes,  tones down the violence a bit overall (although the editing has been erratic), and edits the harsher language a bit. It also eliminates the nudity and most of the sexually suggestive content.

 

DVD Extras

      One interesting feature is the ability to use the angle button during the opener and closer to flip back and forth between the translated credits and the credits in the original Japanese. The DVDs also have the following extras:

·  Company trailers

·  Textless opener/closer

·  Sketches (artistic, not production sketches)

·  Image Gallery: Mostly stills from the series. Images and production sketches of Blue and Armored Shrikes included under separate entries on some volumes.

·  Profiles: Character profiles cross-referenced with voice actor profiles. These are two separate features on some volumes, and individual profiles are not updated as the series progresses (although the selection is).

·  Audio commentary by director and two lead English voice actors (1st episode only, vol. 1 only)

·  Blue Gender trailers and commercials (vol. 2 and 6)

·  alternate versions of Japanese opener and closer (vol. 2, 3, and 8)

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Yuji

Eric Vale

Marlene

Laura Bailey

Joey

John Burgmeier

Robert Bradley, Seno Miyagi

Kyle Hebert

Keith

Christopher Sabat

Yung

Brandi Ray

Dice

Damien Clarke

Elena

Casey Buckley

Tony

Jerry Jewell

Aleesa

Lisa Ortiz

Rick

Sean Schemmel

Brenda

Carol Hope

Doug Vreiss

Brad Jackson

Amick Hendar

Wendy Powell

Chairman Victor

Brice Armstrong

Lu, Su

Meredith McCoy

 

 

 

Home   |   Anime Reviews   |   Manga Reviews   |   References   |   Links   |   Bibliography