Haruka is a normal girl, living in rather abnormal circumstances. For all she knows, she is the last human on Earth. Amid the ruins of Tokyo and its landmarks, she makes a living with the five mismatched robots who have become her family: Spike, the doting and overprotective "little brother", Trigger, the hyperactive, tiny spaz with a Napoleon complex, Reeves, the hulking, yet sensitive mother hen, Cleric, the stoic and informative father figure, and Angela, the angsty Warrior With A Past. Together, the family searches for signs of other humans, while defending against the constant threat of war machines left over from the war that destroyed human civilization as we know it.
And you think this is going to be a damn depressing series, don't you. I mean, it's the end of the world, you have a teenage heroine who looks suspiciously like the girl from that other famous end-of-the-world anime, and there's killer war machines everywhere. Angst-fest-o-rama, right?
While not SD cute comical fluffiness, Kurogane Communication has to be the most genki show about the apocalypse we've ever seen. Though Haruka is constantly surrounded by the remnants of World War III, she is a positive, hopeful character who is genuinely sweet and optimistic. While her family isn't technically human, the robots in this show are beautifully well-rounded characters in their own right, and it really doesn't take long for you to *want* to root for everybody in this family. No whining, no overbearing slit-your-wrists nihilism here. This is the Cruel Angel's Antithesis - a show that insists that even the "end of the world" isn't really the end after all.
Of course, there will be constant reminders of other shows that have trod this path before. From the ruined landmarks of a Tokyo long destroyed, to the intentional similarities in character design to other science-fiction characters of the genre (Haruka, Reeves, and Angela being the most obvious), Kurogane Communication gives plenty of nods to its predecessors. However, it completely rejects the message of human civilization's self-destruction by technology, even if that destruction has seemingly happened. In the genuinely innocent Haruka and the very human-like robots, we see a vision of the future that, while tempered with the lessons and horrors of the past, still provides us with a beacon of hope - a rare and refreshing sight among the "we're all gonna die" stories of the last few years of anime.
Another rare and refreshing sight is the animation in this feature, which is excellent. The stillshots and pans that normally make up the bulk of this genre's visuals are relegated to flashbacks and occasional moments of reflection. Instead, we get treated to *gasp* REAL animation, with gorgeously rendered backdrops (of often recognizable, but half-destroyed buildings and landforms), and an artistic flair that isn't often seen in television anime, much less short series like this. In fact, this is easily the best animated short series we've ever seen, PERIOD. Di Gi Charat and Anime Complex stablemate D4 Princess are simply not even in the same league - only Risky Safety and Neoranga come close. Action fans might nitpick at the sequences with Angela chopping up war machines as being too simplistic - but the action isn't the focus of this series.
And you pretty much forget you're watching a short series as you go along. The dialogue is well-written, and often with a genuine wit that transcends mere cynicism or slapstick. And the Japanese voice-acting is darn good, with the always enjoyable Horie Yui as Haruka (think Love Hina's Naru, but younger and much less violent), and Horiuchi Kenyuu (mistranslated as Horiuchi "Norio" in the credits) as the fluffy aproned Terminator, Reeves, being exceptionally well-done, effeminate and sensitive without being flamboyant and over-the-top. The English voice-acting, while adequate, simply doesn't have quite the charm or chemistry of the Japanese voice cast - mostly with Haruka. (Or maybe our Meticulous Figurehead is just a Yui Horie fanboy and refuses to admit it.)
Granted, there are a few scenes where Spike accidentally walks in on Haruka changing clothes or showering, but apart from that, most of the humor (and there is quite a bit) is in the interactions between the characters. And the offhand comments the robots make about humans are simply priceless.
Completing the package is the music, composed by anime veteran Kawai Kenji, who can do no wrong at this point in time. The opening and ending songs (performed by Horie Yui) are beautiful, if a bit on the quiet side, and the backgrounds are understated, subtle, and very appropriate for the setting and events. No cartoony synthesizer noises here, except for maybe once or twice when Spike or Trigger are being childish. But certainly well above the norm for any TV series.
While our Head Reviewer admits he picked this title up on a whim (and because of the incongrous visuals of the really cute Haruka with the destroyed skyscrapers of Japan in the background), Kurogane Communication is far more than a mere curiosity. It is an excellent series that we recommend to just about anybody who follows anime, especially Evangelion burnouts who would like a fresh take on surviving the disaster that is human civilization. Try it out and see for yourselves. We insist.
Fair warning: the press on the first Region 1 DVD of this series may be flawed: the DVD we bought lacked audio in any of the Extra features, rendering the Outtakes mute. Not the fault of the anime per se, but something to watch out for.
Excellent characterization, excellent writing, excellent animation - I see no reason to give this series anything less. — Carlos Ross and Christi
Recommended Audience: Though there is some violence, so far we've noticed no actual blood being shed (which is good because the only character with blood at this point is Haruka herself). A few gags involved Haruka changing clothes and showering, but no actual nudity. Obviously (I hope this is obvious) no sexual situations. The most worrisome aspect of this for parents might be the themes of war and destruction, and the obvious aftereffects - more akin to Grave of the Fireflies than MD Geist because it's fairly realistic.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Kurogane Communication © 1998 Takuma Tomomasa / Kato Hideo / Media Works / Pony Canyon.
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