This is going to be a regular irregular feature on AnimeRight.news. Once or twice a month a good anime from the 80s or 90s that is largely forgotten in the west be featured.
While this may be hard for some to believe, the mid-90s were practically a different world. There was no streaming, no downloads and no websites to tell you about all of the cool things that were happening and on the way in Japan. Information on anime was disseminated in magazines like Animerica and in the rec.arts.anime family of newsgroups. Most people reading this probably don't even know what newsgroups are.
Armitage III is also fascinating from the standpoint of coming at the end of Pioneer LDC's legendary run of anime, and OVAs in particular, from the early to mid-90s. While Pioneer remained a player for some time, they would never reach these heights again.
Still nothing compared to the hype in Japan.
Why the history lesson? The releases of Armitage III and Ghost In The Shell (the original movie you newfags) ended up hitting around the same time in Japan and the US. While both were yuge in Japan, GitS got far more magazine media coverage in the US and greatly overshadowed Armitage III. Even retailers treated Armitage like an afterthought at the time.
There are two versions of this Armitage III story, a four episode OVA series and a condensed movie version called Armitage Poly-Matrix. This article looks at the OVA series. Dual Matrix is the sequel.
In the future things are different. People live on Mars, if you get BTFO people can be turned into cyborgs to stay alive, and then there are the Thirds. They're robots so they have all kinds of super-powered strength and gun accuracy, yet they have a layer of skin on top so look and feel like people but are somehow able to get pregnant without the biological parts for that...there are some things you just have to accept without thinking too hard about it. Thirds are sentient artificial life forms like look like people, don't age and get pregnant.
As you might have guessed, Armitage is the Third around whom this story revolves. She is the cute girl you've seen a few times. Also, a cop with a bad attitude. On Mars. Where country singers go to die.
What? As the series opens a country music megastar, that just so happens to be a Third, is on her way to Mars and gets killed. Wild action ensues as Armitage works those curves.
Her partner, Ross Sylibus, is a cyborg with an artificial leg and his own emotional baggage. Perhaps his most perplexing trait is that he seems to change race quite often. He's supposed to be black in the first episode (I think?), but throughout the next three episodes looks White, brown and...I'm not even sure at times. But he's at least one of those. Probably. Don't race mix kids.
I watched this on the R2J DVD, so it isn't likely to be an issue with poor DVD mastering. His skin tone just changes.
From a purely visual perspective, Armitage is an interesting watch. Being released throughout 1995 it comes at the end of the retro-futuristic look favored by the real right, while also transitioning into what sci-fi and cyberpunk became over the next 10 years.
Given its relatively short runtime, there is only enough time to focus on plot or deep character development, and Armitage III chooses the former. Each episode introduces a lot of things that happen, and Armitage deals with them in a steady progression toward answering the question of what she really is. My biggest criticism is that she's always so busy doing something that we never get a chance to know her enough to fully appreciate her journey. The problem is even worse in the movie version.
While policing Armitage struggles with her humanity...or whatever the term is for her particular form of semi-biological AI. Due to the sheer amount of stuff that happens some of her changes seem sudden, but that is arguably a necessity when there is as much action as there is in Armitage III. Animation costs money and these episodes aren't going to be 60-90 minutes each just to check all of my boxes.
Armitage III is something that is hard to summarize or explain why it is required viewing in few sentences. Much like Citizen Kane, King Kong (1933) or Akira, even if it isn't your favorite cup of tea it's a cup everyone should drink once. Maybe one we could even drink together.
Introducing Retro Anime Night
What better way to experience Armitage III than to do it with your fellow AnimeRight goyim? We'll be screening the R2J DVD version of Armitage III on Friday, July 13 at 8:00PM EDT. Stop by and check it out!