In the year 2010 AD, Hyper Hurricanes born concurrently all over the world caused severe damage. Five billion people lost their lives, decreasing the world's population to 3 billion. Existing economies and militaries collapsed. Countries were frozen under solid ice, plains sank beneath seas, the world was changed dramatically.
Human civilization enters a chaotic era. Poverty flourished outside of these economic zones and slums were widespread. The ruling class called themselves Logos and maintained their position by force of arms. They call the poor Revenus, people exiled to live outside the special economic areas.
Time has passed since then. Katsuragi Jo and Tsurasawa Jin, escape from Phantom, a force organised to watch Revenus and to suppress renegade elements of the Logos, taking with them a mysterious girl, Noto Sana. There are many who are interested in her, all with their own reasons.
If the synopsis has already turned you off this then I can't say I'm surprised. Dystopia-lite future anime shows with mecha and military elements are hardly groundbreaking, and, in all honesty, the only challenge you may run into is actually naming any good ones. You should wait, though, before forgetting this show completely. While I won't go as far as to give Innocent Venus a recommendation, this show is certainly not bad. Even without too much invested interest in the genre it happily follows, I can say that I enjoyed it quite a bit.
So what are the reasons, you may wonder? First of all, Innocent Venus understands that it is only twelve episodes long. I don't get flustered by the fact that a lot of anime are adaptations, I've made my peace with that side of the industry, but adaptations do suffer from the fact that the adapters must take something of a certain length, convert it and then have it fit into the time slot set aside for it. This can lead to awkward pacing, info dumps and rushed or unfinished endings. Thankfully, Innocent Venus forgoes all this by being an original production. The pacing is steady, the plot doesn't exceed the bounds of its runtime and everything wraps up nicely and comfortably within its bounds. This is such a small but incredibly rewarding attribute that a series, especially an anime, can have and can be such a crucial difference between a good and a bad series.
The characterisation bears this in mind too. The cast is small, the main characters receive the brunt of the characterisation but the supporting cast fleshed out enough to remain interesting. The show keeps its sub-plots short and relevant and the characterisation is consistent throughout. There are gaps, especially with the deeper background of Jin and Joe's relationship, and the dialogue was a bit on the clunky side but it did its job in the end. The vast majority of the cast never came across as shallow and even the assembled villains were sympathetic enough to be enjoyable.
The story itself is interesting. The series remains grounded without getting lost up its self in metaphysics, nonsense techno-babble or in being needlessly esoteric and never loses its humanity in its political machinations or mecha battles. In fact, the show balances its component parts; its action, drama and science fiction, very competently and never does any component ever threaten to overwhelm the others. Its twists and turns are unexpected enough to keep you on your toes and the beginning, middle and end all succeed in being satisfying.
Special note should probably be made of the special cell-shaded animation used in the mecha scenes. Rather than using normal CG, which often looks horribly out of place, the cell-shading gives the mecha a much more natural look on the 2D backgrounds. It's not perfect, the blend is not completely unobtrusive, but it was apparently experimental when they made this show so I can only say that is impressive for what it is and there was fluidity to the fights that made them fairly enjoyable to watch.
To be honest, the only real complaint I can muster is that, for this show's competence, it is little more than that. The show never really exceeds competent. Its story isn't particularly challenging or daring, its characters aren't particularly affecting and it's never a particularly compelling spectacle. It balances itself well but never pushes itself past what other less competent series have accomplished. It is a workman's job, all the nails in the right place but hardly a work of art by any stretch of the imagination.
So yes, I cannot quite give it a recommendation. It is not a show I can get excited about but it is equally a show that never gave me anything seriously to hate about it. If you enjoy the genre and are looking to see it done well then go for it, I'm sure you'll find it interesting. No one looking for real magic need apply.
A strong three stars and I can't see too much movement either way. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: It's pretty violent at times and you get to see at least one seriously nasty injury so I'd say it's suitable for teenagers and older.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Innocent Venus © 2006 Bandai Visual/Brains Base/ADV Films
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