The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye
An apocalyptic war has leveled cities, depopulated the world, and turned much of the terrain into an (apparent) wasteland. A group of mutants called The Third now oversee humanity, and ruthlessly restrict the technology allowed to common humans, enforcing this by imprisonment and even execution. The trouble is that many of those "lawbreakers" are friends of Honoka, a young woman who provides transport services across the desert wastes, as well as performing various odd jobs. Crises created by the (mis)administration of the world by The Third keep getting Honoka (who has "skills") involved, usually in opposition to The Third's heavy-handed tactics, but sometimes (reluctantly) at their behest...
Our heroine Honoka is... well, quite a few things. She's a master with a sword, known as the Sword Dancer, who can even split stone (as she explains, it's not her sword that actually does the cutting, it's her chi; the sword just serves as a point of focus.) When we first meet her, she's demonstrating the "comical petulance" type of behavior that was the way anime series usually tried to make independent female leads endearing in the day. But when she's in the desert, she's a different sort, spending her nights gazing at the stars and reciting poetry. She's pledged to never kill a human being (the mechanical soldiers of the Third are fair game, however)- but she may not be able to keep that pledge. She wears a red bandana around her head that does more than just keep sweat out of her eyes. She has a kind of guardian/companion in Bogie, the AI that runs her transport vehicle, a sand tank. (Bogie often addresses her in a tone of droll sarcasm, sometimes with more than a bit of martyrdom and/or exasperation mixed in.) Honoka was actually "scouted" for membership in The Third, though as she says, she "didn't make the cut"; but we find out that their judgement may have been more than a little faulty- her full power, when she can finally unleash it, is pretty damn impressive. It turns out that her powers are not just limited to doing physical damage; we're shown that the force of her virtue, or her personality, or whatever-it-is, can also bring around enemies to her side. In short, Honoka is a bit of a superbeing (though it DOES take her a while to discover this.) I have a little trouble with superbeings as heroes- I find them less compelling, somehow, than more ordinary mortals who are able, through cleverness and/or courage, to nevertheless win against the obstacles placed in their path. Still, it's a minor, and rather idiosyncratic complaint, and I didn't hold it against the show (much).
What I DID hold against the show, my single major beef, was the way it employed a narrator even though it didn't seem to NEED one- at least 95% of the narrator's comments are about things that are either obvious in the show, or can be easily inferred from what we see and hear. I'll bet a little rewriting could cover us for the 5% or fewer things that are less blatant. The redundancy here messed with me- "Don't TELL us, SHOW us" is still a good rule for film and TV, but HERE it was ALREADY showing us, so the "telling" seemed even MORE superfluous. Not to mention that some of the narration was- well, pure corn.
Also, in my opinion, fairies don't belong in Sci-Fi. This show has a living-things-good, war-bad message it wants to deliver, and sometimes it does it pretty well- late in the show, Honoka is given a vision that effectively makes the point that the presence of life gives "warmth" to a planet, and throughout the show we are shown that the "desert" Honoka traverses is not as barren as it looks at first- but the whole "fairy" connection to this was, again, NOT working for me. In straight fantasy, sure; I've certainly also no problem with fairies and their ilk in shows that lean more toward fantasy than Sci-Fi (Sailor Moon, anyone?), but there are some things that I'm just not comfortable with in something presenting itself as more "pure" Sci-Fi; Tinkerbell is fine on the Island of Lost Boys, but if she showed up on my spaceship, even in a spacesuit, I'd have to shove her out the airlock.
I should also mention the major cast members. There's a little girl named Millie who comes into Honoka's care as a result of rather clichéd circumstances that could be detected coming miles in advance. Millie's got some "issues" that take a few episodes to sort out.
And then there's Iks. (His name is actually a pretty good joke - try pronouncing it with with more an "e" sound rather than an "i".) Honoka first finds him alone in the desert, and later he offers her money to just let him ride around with her. Iks is pleasant and supportive- he gives her someone to talk to on her long journeys. He may have his own agenda, but he doesn't talk about it, and Honoka for her part doesn't ask. (She actually has a pretty good reason for not asking, which she'll reveal toward the end of the show.) While Iks has some remarkable healing ability, and saves Honoka's life with it, he seems to have absolutely no combat capability, so Honoka (and Bogie) have to do all the fighting, at least until the arrival of the person I'm getting to next. In short, Honoka and Iks represent a fascinating almost perfect reversal of "traditional" gender roles that might even have been a little daring in the day.
The show takes this already unusual (for the time) take on sex roles and turns it into a weird triangle by introducing Paife, the "school nurse" at Millie's school who also seems to have picked up chi powers of her own somewhere, as well as considerable expertise in the use of firearms including not just pistols, but some heavier weapons as well. Paife says she hates men; she crushes on Honoka, and hates Iks, who she sees as a rival. (Though Iks, for his part, is about as pleasant toward, and supportive of, Paife as he is about Honoka.) Still, Paife's last line in the show is absolutely wonderful- melancholy, wistful, and poignant at the same time, "adult" but in a GENUINELY adult way.
The show's 3D CG is very good (for 2006.) I'll also give the show credit for trying to give some nuance to its villains- namely The Third, and in particular a Third named Joganki (who ALSO has a thing for Honoka, though in a slightly more reserved way.)
To be fair, I had a good time with this show. I liked Bogie's dry wit, and Honoka's- uh- UNUSUAL physical feature was also interesting, as was the Honoka/Iks relationship. It's not really a masterpiece (though it means well), and I had to ding it for the whole pointlessness of its HAVING narration, as well as the occasional predictable plot points and the stray "filler" episodes ( for the latter, I'm thinking of the one with the ant.) I have to admit I had issues with its frequent "kitchen sink" approach to its plotting, and toward Honoka's abilities in particular- she might have endeared herself to me more if she'd actually had a little LESS "going on" with her. But the fairy must go. On the other hand, if you really LIKE fairies, and wish they were in EVERYTHING, you might want to add a star. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Yes, there's fanservice- Honoka and Paife both have shower scenes. Honoka, for her part, has quite a modest figure- and she's subjected to some public humiliation for that by a doctor (despite Honoka vs. Iks, sexism is STILL alive and well here)- so the show occasionally feels the need to put her in a skintight mecha "plug" suit to show off her "femininity". There's some death. Some of the philosophical themes would be lost on a very young audience. I'd recommend for 15 up.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (24/24)
The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye © 2006 Xebec
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