A lonely fighter. A human soul in a man-made body…He carries a sorrow none of us can ever understand.
Kikaider (Jiro) is a highly advanced, sentient robot, equipped with a "Gemini," or conscience circuit (a kind of "soul") that helps him distinguish right from wrong. Something went wrong during his creation, however, leaving Jiro dangerously susceptible to following the wrong orders. Unfortunately, his creator, Dr. Komyoji, died before the Gemini could be repaired; the result is that his behavior is unpredictable, and both his powers and his intellect seem more advanced than his programming should allow. Wandering the earth like Caine in Kung Fu, Jiro encounters and is befriended by the Komyoji's surviving daughter, Mitsuko, and her younger brother Masaru.
This third volume in the Android Kikaider saga kicks off with an episode recapping the events thus far, a device used by many anime series to orient a new audience entering in the middle of its run. The editing for this episode could have been better—it is often unclear if events are occurring in real time or in flashback, and the pacing is jerky—but this unfocused quality creates a kaleidoscopic feel that reflects Jiro's fractured psyche. The succeeding episodes are more coherent in tone and pacing, and more representative of the series as a whole. When the main story picks up again, we find Mitsuko searching for her mother, who betrayed and left her father many years before, and seeking the truth about her mother's relationship with Professor Gill, their nemesis. The truth, and the events that play out once it is revealed, shock everyone.
The most prominent aspect of Android Kikaider is its unusual animation style, which combines a stylized, retro character design reminiscent of Speed Racer with the kind of super-detailed background art that one might find in Ghost in the Shell. The storyline itself reflects this dichotomy, featuring a curious melding of old-school giant robot action and romantic melodrama. Both the artwork and the story are appealing, and make this series extremely watchable, but the digital animation suffers badly from aliasing and edge artifacts. The crisp, clear soundtrack, offered in Japanese and English Dolby 2.0 Stereo, is lively and particularly effective during action scenes.
As with previous volumes, the only extra of note is a small gallery of artwork. Given the unusual style of the series and its origins as a 1970s live-action TV show, it would have been nice if Bandai had included some background and historical information regarding Android Kikaider; as it is, the lack of supplements is keenly felt. That and the fact that there are only three episodes on this disc—one of which is a clip show—seriously downgrade the value of this release.
Overall, Android Kikaider is an odd duck; its cartoonish look suggests a children's anime, yet its themes and storylines are more adult (and often graphically violent). As a result, it's a bit of an acquired taste, and may put off viewers accustomed to more conventional fare. But if you've seen and enjoyed the first two episodes, Volume 3 will not disappoint; and even if you're new to the series, the recap episode makes for a workable entry point. Certainly any anime fan nostalgic for the days of AstroBoy and Speed Racer will want to check this out.
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Scales of Justice
• Episode Guide Booklet
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