For what it’s worth I think VOTOMS: Case; Irvine is a pretty accessible show that provides a fast-paced robot spectacle and lightweight grimdark melodrama. Database animals can tick off their boxes from their checklists (worldly temptress girl with big boobs, who would wear twin-tails later; moé-moé supportive little sister (Donna is the Ranka to Ishruha’s Sheryl); and the robot action fanservice comes like punches in bunches.
I think the contemporary robot anime fan who grew up enjoying Mobile Suit Gundam SEED/GSD, Gundam 00, and Code Geass will find much to enjoy in the robot battles here; which serves as an access to the kind of less-sparkly but grittier robot battles of ‘80s anime at the same time enjoy the production values that exceed most contemporary robot shows without the beam spam.
Under this light, VCI is worth watching given that the time investment isn’t much. If you haven’t seen it and you like action, stop reading and watch it for yourself. After the jump there will be spoilers as I talk about how the show runs at odds with my own particular tastes.
SO MUCH YAKKING, SERMONIZING, & EXPOSITION WHILE SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER IN THEIR COCKPITS.
I like robot fights and I like high-tension dialogue but I don’t like them happening at the same time. Paygun was doing his best to goad Irvine to fight him. I get that. The net result is for VCI to remain so ordinary sounding like the lamest of robot battles.
In the end, we find out about the source of Irvine’s trauma because Paygun so graciously narrated it for us while he fought Irvine in their ATs. This is as contrived as the melodramatic near-simultaneous breaking of their helmets (so as to make visible their dramatic facial expressions), and the poetic justice of Paygun’s deathface awash in blood.
The Gladiatorial Arena had no protection for its live audience.
This is the dumbest thing ever.
First, credit where it’s due: I truly, truly appreciate how VCI didn’t make Paygun hold the paying crowd hostage to force Irvine to fight him. That would be so lame. Instead he went straight to shooting at the crowd and wrecking the arena. He was transforming the game from an inauthentic spectacle (that Irvine perpetuates with his rigged fights) into an authentic battlefield where both combatants and civilians get killed. Paygun knows how to force “war is hell” into the picture.
But, seriously! While I don’t expect Gundam Fight level audience protection from the combat (Mobile Fighter G Gundam), I don’t get a sense that the crowd is even protected from stray shots! Even if there was some barrier that protects the bleachers, it was a simple matter for Paygun to breach it with conventional weapons.
Maybe there’s a better explanation how this is the case with this kind of entertain—nah, fuck it. This is the dumbest thing ever.
Shiraf fails, gets killed; but is hardly a tragedy.
Shiraf sold Irvine out and perhaps deserved to die because of it. For extra melodrama, he dies trying to save Irvine by piloting an AT to get in Paygun’s way. The thing is, at this point it’s already beyond doubt that Paygun is dangerous – nigh unbeatable by anyone except Irvine, and is armed with so many customizations and other weapons. By all means Shiraf should’ve just shot him since he had surprise on his side.
BUT NOOOOOOO. VCI isn’t a Shiraf redemption story. So Paygun has plot armor and Shiraf can only manage to find grenade bandoliers to kill Paygun with in a suicide attack (no guns!). Predictably, Paygun overwhelms Shiraf and kills him. It sucks because VCI had to show how Shiraf actually had the advantage, and all Shiraf did with it is to appeal to Paygun’s sense of morality, sympathy, sensitivity, or gullibility. This scene is so stupid.
VC:I is a throwback to action movies from the 1980s, wherein the lead has a dark past he wants to leave behind but the bad guys force it back on to him. The result is a bunch of big fights and action set-pieces. This show, its constant yakking from within the cockpits aside, has lots of exciting action.
The ATs moved with more agility than Knightmare Frames from Code Geass, and Irvine even did a version of Kururugi Suzaku’s spin kick from that show. It does feel like Sunrise’s Code Geass team did this show (especially Lelouch : Paygun, Lloyd: Shiraf in terms of voice actors). I didn’t mind most of the ridiculous moves that made the robots seem more like super heroes than fighting weapons even though I do feel that this is a big departure from what makes the VOTOMS franchise appeal to its older fanbase.
The melodrama, being aligned with the tradition of cheesy 80s action movies won’t win over many viewers except perhaps irony-fetishists and/or nostalgiafaggertroopers. It is however, not without things to appreciate.
It’s an authenticity angle: Paygun wants the gladiator set-up to have the legitimacy and feel of a real battle. This is why he kills his enemies. Without the real threat of death for the loser, it’s not real battle. Irvine tolerates the gladiator set-up because it’s just a (role-playing) game where in he gets to play the loser and nobody has to die.
Paygun takes Irvine’s approach as an insult because Irvine is clearly a foe with skills worth beating. In Paygun’s value system Irvine is someone worth getting killed by. Irvine wants to run away from his survivor’s guilt – he killed friends, foes, and the children of his foes (they were firing RPGs at him) and wants no further part of Paygun’s dangerous indulgences.
So yes, VCI kind of sucks, but it doesn’t totally suck. I don’t know if the gamble to appeal to contemporary robot fans will pay off – or if going about things this way is the best course of action. I don’t think this show will fulfill the aspirations of the core fanbase, and if the younger viewers don’t feel compelled to watch the older fare, I would be more than tempted to think of this show as a failure.
BUT, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy a robot show like this exists and I enjoyed it in my own way. I am not as averse to mediocre anime as most people claim they are.