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[Avenger R2 box art]
AKA: アヴェンジャー
Genre: Sci-fi action drama
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Bandai
Content Rating: 13+ (violence)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Noir, Madlax, Key: The Metal Idol, Gun Grave
Notes: N/A
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Avenger

Synopsis

In the future, the struggling citizens of a colonized Mars decide the rulers of their dome cities and, ultimately of the planet, through one on one melees between chosen representative fighters. While they avert chaos and war with this system, a much more sinister threat to their future has arisen in the recent past: an ability to have children. Now the people of Mars depend on child-like robots called dolls to remind them of what they once had.

Into this dying society steps the barbarian fighter Layla Ashley who is obsessed with vengeance against Volk, the leader of all of Mars. When she befriends an unusual doll, Nei, who seems to be a target of Volk, her quest for vengeance will involve her in a mystery that may change the future of the planet.


Review

There were three things that I rather liked about this show: the opening/ending themes (I'm an ALI Project fan), the basic background of the world, and the supporting character of Speedy (a doll mechanic). Unfortunately the rest of it wasn't quite as enjoyable.

Perhaps the biggest problems with Avenger are ones of overall plot execution and pacing. I certainly do not mind slow shows or that those that have deliberate pacing to heighten drama but in the case of this particular title they were not doing enough to really keep the viewer engaged while they slowly revealed bits and mystery of Layla's past and Nei's secrets. I cannot even say the show is saved by a particularly good ending. The finale was painfully anti-climatic and rushed through so many events that it ended up raising a lot more questions than it answered. After I finished this I found myself thinking an entire another show about the rulers of Mars and their early actions probably would have been far more interesting than the thirteen episodes focused primarily on Layla and Nei. Most of what was even remotely interesting about this show had to do more with the background than the actual events in the show itself.

Though the individual aspects of the plot were interesting they weren't handled well by the show overall and many of the key r elevations end up seeming very forced or arbitrary. There were several times as I viewed the show that I found myself wondering why a certain character was acting a particular way or why they didn't seemingly pick up on certain things other than to fill in a few plot holes or a particular niche required by the overall plot ideas. Whether or not such occurrences at all seemed natural or all that realistic, in the context of the show, were, apparently, a secondary concern to the writers.

The vast majority of characters in the show were so lifeless and flat that I had a hard time particularly being engaged by them or even caring what they did or what happened to them. Layla and Nei, ostensibly the two leads of the show, are so uninteresting that I found myself caring more about side characters such as the doll mechanic who travels along with them. Her quest for vengeance didn't really draw me in as we don't even understand the reasons until nearly the end of the series and since we didn't get to see much of Layla before or much of her personality now, it is difficult to really care. While I understand that her new cold and terse persona is a logical result of the events that happened to her, it still made it difficult to care about her as a character. Also some of Layla's later actions deviate inexplicably from what her apparent motivations were earlier on. Volk though given to grand pronouncements about "doing what he needs to save Mars" is equally uninteresting. Given his position in the show and some of the revelations later on, I think they could have salvaged him a bit more by showing more of his past.

Besides the plot and characterization, the other elements of the show were definitely sub par. The design work was average to poor, the in show music exceedingly generic, and the actual animation quality itself quite poor for a relatively new show with so many action scenes. The poor quality animation combined with use of stock footage in action scenes made the battle encounters rather uninteresting even during some of the more important battles of the show. Given that the show was only thirteen episodes long, they could have put a bit more effort into making the action scenes more impressive. This problem is a particular weakness as this show rather heavily leans on battles between Layla and various other opponents whether they be random thugs or Volk's scouting dolls. The only real praise I can give to the visual elements of this show was the use of creative camera angles to heighten the mood and emotional impact of several scenes.

The final disappointment I had with this show had to do with their general failure to truly explore some of the philosophical ideas they raised. They have a few throw away scenes concerning how people feel about dolls, a few speeches from Volk outlining his brutally utilitarian philosophy on governance, and the like, however for the most part they just don't seem to care to really explore the philosophical ramifications of the background of the world. In a sense, I was a bit annoyed since they would put on the pretense of that sort of thing with the occasional speech by Volk but, for the most part, seemed to content to lean more on just Layla's vengeance. Even Nei's secrets and their implications seem almost an after thought to Layla's quest. Perhaps if Layla's quest had actually been interesting I wouldn't care as much.

Interesting ideas but poor execution, uninteresting characters, and poor production quality made this show a frustrating experience overall.Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: While there isn't a lot of blood, there is certainly a large amount of violence and a few brief scenes of mass killing. Though most of the violence of the show is directed, conveniently enough, against disposable non-sentient dolls. Overall, I feel it is appropriate for teens and up.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Avenger © 2004 Bandai Visual / Bee Train / Production IG / Xebec
 
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