Baldr Force EXE: Resolution
In a future so dependent on the virtual world that Denial of Service attacks are a potent act of terrorism, a group of freewheeling hackers have finally been caught. While the delinquent members of Steppenwolf flee from the virtual enforcement group FLAK, young Souma sees his friend murdered by one of FLAK's officers. He's soon pressed into serving with FLAK, and swearing to kill the officer responsible for Yuya's death, he joins their fight against the terrorist group Fei Dao. But he should be careful, because when your virtual body is destroyed in the Wired, in real life your head explodes. And between betrayals, intrigues, his secret past and a dangerous "ghost" roaming the Wire, there are plenty of ways for Souma to lose his head.
Anime isn't so much keeping cyberpunk alive anymore as it is violating Blade Runner's corpse, recycling the same material over and over again. Baldr Force EXE: Resolution is a perfect example of this. There is nothing new to its setting or concept, right down to its pseudo-technological jargon. And it not only uses the same ideas and themes that Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiments Lain used to great effect, it takes a full step backwards from what made those elements work, making it bland and lifeless. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, since the OVA is based on a video game, where story rightfully takes a backseat to game design. But that doesn't make it any less irritating.
What is surprising is how quickly Baldr Force recovers from its blandness and justifies its potential as a cinematic story. After a dull first episode, the ante is quickly upped once Souma realizes he's not the only hacker from Steppen Wolf who has been forced to work for an unsavory organization. The next few episodes blast through some surprising twists and intense moments, culminating in a surreal ending. But unfortunately, those episodes are also rushed and poorly executed, with all the impact lost because it doesn't stop to take a breath. If the studio had more time and money to work with this same story, it could have been better. Not that much better, mind you- it would've taken a lot more than just time and money to make it great- but it feels like it came so close to being a good popcorn-and-soda rental that it had to be mentioned.
Like Lain, the series also has elements of horror in it, but without the bite of social criticism. People's heads pop like overripe melons, and the series ends with a sky high body count. There's even a rape scene that will make the stoic fan squeamish. But it's more a conceit than anything else- it would like to think it's a horror cyberpunk series, but it only feels like it has a lot of violence. Atmosphere is a key part of horror movies, but in a setting as bland as this it's hard to be frightened. Another problem is highlighted in the rape scene. The victim survives the ordeal, but because the series moves so quickly, she hardly seems any different afterwards. There's no time to fully explore the consequences. And if things like rape and graphic death have only mild repercussions, how is the audience supposed to be frightened?
The animation doesn't help either. The low budget shows; the studio obviously leaned heavily of cheap digital work and ugly CG graphics. It looks just as bad as a low budget television series- gone are the days when "OVA" meant a series would have detailed animation. The hackers in the Wired use mecha called Simulacrum that have the ugliest designs I have seen yet on a giant robot. Each of them sport spindly legs and thin bodies with huge shoulders- they look like anaemic fashion models with shoulder pads that are bigger than their heads. Characters are also constantly off model, despite their spartan design.
But even if all of this was fixed, at its heart, it still spouts the same, tired old ideas other cyberpunk movies have explored with deeper curiosity and honesty, and there's little that can save it from that. Even it is a B-movie series that gets Z-movie execution, there's no way to make something this comfortable with cliches be as provocative as it wants to be.
Add a star if you really like science fiction, or don't mind watching something that retreads material tired, old material. — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: Exploding heads, rape, cannibalism, and nudity. While I don't think any of it is very affecting in this OVA, it's there.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming subbed video from FUNimation.com
Review Status: Full (4/4)
Baldr Force EXE: Resolution © 2006 GIGA / Alchemist / B.E.R. Committee; FUNimation Entertainment
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