Friday, January 16, 2009

First Impression: Viper's Creed

A mecha series that -- surprise, surprise -- does not have teenagers in it. For that alone, Viper's Creed deserves more than a second's glance.
EPISODE 01: Cyclops
OP: R.O.C.K. (iLL) [YouTube]
ED: Ai no Oto (moumoon) [YouTube]

Viper's Creed is set in the not-too-distant future in the wake of a war that has devastated the world's environment. In a sterile-looking Japan, ruined structures stand alongside recently constructed buildings and law enforcement is no longer solely the government's responsibility. With inland security being the main issue, private military companies are fast cropping up and the biggest among them is the Alcon Group with its Viper Squadron.

In its default mode, the viper looks and runs like a motorcycle but in the heat of battle it can transform into a robot. Each viper has a pilot, who directly engages in combat, and a controller, who stays back at headquarters but keeps up with the action via comm-link and a huge TV screen. The episode begins with the Viper Squadron, led by the taciturn Saiki (piloting the "Cyclops"), chasing after a military robot that has gone rogue. While the controllers issue orders to their respective pilots and the pilots try not to get themselves killed, we learn about each character -- particularly Sakurako, Saiki's rookie controller -- in the form of flashbacks. Eventually, the vipers take control of the situation, thanks to Saiki's persistence and utter disregard for Sakurako's orders and the episode ends with Saiki and Sakurako drinking coffee together.
Like I said before, I'm only watching this show for Toyoguchi Megumi -- or rather, her voice. I expected her "Revy" voice because...strong female lead character, yeah, but that does not seem to be the case. Actually, I barely recognized her voice and wouldn't have recognized it at all if I hadn't known that she would voice Sakurako in this series. She sounds somewhere between Sei (Maria-sama ga Miteru) and Klan (Macross Frontier). Think: if Sei were to shout all her lines in Marimite, that's how Sakurako sounds like. I'm not sure I like it. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I like the voice work for this episode. Maybe because either the characters are shouting or they don't talk at all (I'm looking at you, Saiki!)

About the script, it's not spectacular but somehow I get the feeling that there's a lot of unspoken stuff going on. The promotional bit about the series did mention this. Are we to expect workplace intrigue? Strange for a mecha anime. Anyhoo, Sakurako, being a newbie, I can understand the hostility coming from her fellow controllers. But it seems to be more than just "you're-an-outsider-we-have-nothing-in-common;" the girls seem to genuinely dislike Sakurako, which is interesting considering how she's still so new at her workplace to start making enemies. Not only that, even her pilot is estranged from her, although in Saiki's case, it has probably more to do with his being a misanthrope than any fault on Sakurako's part.

I find a bit disappointing that Viper's Creed is resplendent with stock characters. There's the taciturn leading man, the naive but strong-willed leading lady, the flamboyant playboy, the token man-ish woman, the beefy big guy, and the hostile sorority girls. But despite this obvious cliche, I'm hoping that their interactions as the story progresses might still turn out OK. After all, I'm not against cliche simply because they are cliche.

Now for the best part -- Viper's Creed, of course, is an action series, so it's no wonder that this is the part where it most excels in. This episode capitalizes on a long car-chasing scene with the occasional missiles and exploding land mines before culminating in an out-and-out fight between the rogue robot and Saiki's transformed viper. Wrestling robots ~ gah! In beautiful 3D CEE GEE AY!

I notice, however, that the viper's design is a bit like the design for the rideback in another 2009 series, Ride Back. I don't know if this is just the trend in mechas now, but the similarity is uncanny.
OVER ALL -- good first episode. Has enough action to keep you engaged but the plot needs to get a move on to keep people coming for more.

Viper's Creed @ ANN
WATCH Viper's Creed CM
WATCH OP Clip "R.O.C.K." by iLL
WATCH ED Clip "Ai no Oto" by moumoon