Aiko Tachibana realizes she's not like other people- when she's wounded, the affected area turns black, but then almost immediately heals. But it's when she's abducted from Kiryu Hospital (where she's been a permanent resident) by a young man named Yuya Kanzaki, that she realizes just how strange she really is; Kanzaki tells her that she's actually a composite of a real brain inside an artificial body. He says he wants to reunite her real brain with her real body, which currently resides within a forbidden zone taken over by Malignant Matter, an amoeboid artificial life form that got out of the lab and "just growed". He's lined up a team of high-tech mercenaries to get her there, too.
I have to hand it to this show: it does a remarkably good job of letting Kanzaki et al tell their story to Aiko in their own words, while still subtly conveying the impression that they're not being completely honest with her. The "et al" also includes an artificial life researcher who's gone rogue, a Dr. Susumu Kurose. Kanzaki and Kurose's mission goes beyond Aiko, including shutting down the Malignant Matter itself, which sets them in opposition to government and corporate interests who've profited from the thing, and so just want to keep it controlled rather than eliminated. One of the other artificial life researchers, a Dr. Kyosuke Isazu, also has another, personal reason for opposing the Kanzaki/Kurose rebellion.
Kanzaki and Kurose have assembled a team of "Divers" to get Aiko to her destination, mercenaries with the training, experience, and equipment to operate in the Burst Zone, as the area taken over by the Malignant Matter is called. Their approach incorporates science as well as brute force: they've instant access to archived data on the Matter as they go; and since it can quickly mutate to counter their weapons, they carry equipment to genetically analyze fresh samples of the Matter and create NEW weapons on the fly. There are also the Dams, giant electrified guillotines that can suppress local activity of the Matter, and which they are able to access and utilize at various points along their route.
The most senior of the mercs are Daisuke Shinoyama and Haruka Seri. I got the impression that Shinoyama, at least, had certainly received a more complete (and accurate) account of their true mission goals than either Aiko or the younger mercs were given. (I wasn't sure how much Seri knew, but even she seemed to know more than the "kids" were told.) The younger mercs include the hotheaded Yoshihiko Sagami; a reckless redhead named Kaede Misawa; a soon-to-be-lovesick guy named Kazuki Minase; and another girl, named Maho Shiraishi, who seemed mainly noted as Kaede's intended "keeper." (Aiko's VA is named Haruka Shiraishi, and I wondered if it was more than coincidence that one of the mercs had her given name, and another had her family name.)
A massive artificial life form might have natural parallels to a massive alien life form, and indeed there is much about the tale of the Malignant Matter here that echoes themes I'd earlier seen pursued with Eureka Seven's Scub Corals. The show also gets quite involved in the philosophical issues of personal identity that were a favorite theme of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. (Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" is just the start; the NEXT question might be, "But WHAT are you?") A.I.C.O. is, thus, not wholly original thematically, but it repurposes those familiar components well enough. I really didn't develop that much emotional attachment to any of the characters except Aiko; I felt quite a bit of sympathy for her, since she's ultimately presented with a choice no one should ever have to make (but which, fortunately, no one's ever HAD to make!) The theme of self-sacrifice that runs so deeply in Japanese culture makes an appearance here as well. As far as other relationships go, there's a tantalizing hint (but not much more) of a "history" between Kurose and Akiko Nanbara, the head of the Control Agency of Artificial Creatures, who Kurose is trying to cajole into going along with his plans, even as she has to navigate a political minefield.
The battle sequences between the Divers and the Matter did get fairly repetitive after a while. A co-worker of mine who's also seen the show found the execution of the 3D CG a bit lacking, and since that's one of the show's main draws, that could be a problem, though I didn't find it significantly worse than other shows that also lean on computer graphics. (No, it's not completely fluid, but Grampa remembers shows like Divergence Eve, so it ALL looks wonderful by comparison!)
Nothing here is exactly original, and at times it drags. But Aiko is a plucky lead, and if the concepts here have been used elsewhere, they're still used effectively. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: The ladies have locker room underwear scenes, but beyond that there's the thing with the "Live Suits." A byproduct of the research with the Malignant Matter is living garments which our heroes wear under the outer protective suits and which...uh...mold themselves to their wearers. I'm not sure, but I think there's a sensual aspect to this...if not an overtly sexual one. There's quite a bit of violence of course. Netflix rates TV-14
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix stream.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
A.I.C.O. Incarnation © 2018 Bones.
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