Kiddy Grade (2002) Review

Synopsis

Eclaire and Lumiere have been elite ES Members for as long as they can remember, but working for the G.O.T.T. isn’t as glamorous as it may appear. ES members have typically changed bodies several different times, and have had their memories erased each time. They effectively become ageless, near immortal beings. When Eclaire’s memories begin to return, she starts questioning her lifestyle. Unfortunately, the G.O.T.T. doesn’t allow for conscientious objectors, and soon the girl’s former partners are pitted against them.

Review

My initial impressions of the show were less than favorable, as the first several episodes seem to serve no purpose and lacked any continuity in the storyline. The format was extremely formulaic, with the requisite teenage girl squad being assigned a different mission that was wrapped up neatly in a twenty-minute package. Some of the story elements bordered on ludicrous, even for anime, with the ES members displaying phenomenal cosmic powers that seemed capable of adapting to any impossible situation.

Eclaire’s superhuman strength is unlocked whenever she wears lipstick, for instance, and Lumier is able to control all manner of electronic machines and devices. Their implements of destruction include Eclaire’s lipstick whip that is formed by writing her name and Lumier’s cornucopia of vintage grape juice (wouldn’t that be wine?) bottles that produce extremely convenient effects when thrown. Not only is the duo equipped with nano-machine enhanced bodies and ships capable of interstellar travel, but they also carry handguns circa 1998. This sort of absurdity is standard fare and was a constant source of annoyance to me.

What made the abundance of anime cliche’s even less tolerable was the fact that the show strived for such a serious dramatic tone. A healthy dose of self-deprecating humor or subtle self-parody (like Gatekeepers) would have gone a long way to counter some of the more outlandish aspects of the show. Instead, they opted for melodrama, which felt unconvincing.

Despite the preponderance of hyperbole, the episodes were less than exciting for me. Luckily, the actual storyline began to assemble somewhere around the sixth or seventh episode. The internal conflicts began to emerge and several episodes did generate some suspense. Some of the plot twists were predictable, but not all. There is an especially bizarre, if not unexpected, twist that occurs (which I won’t spoil) that totally changes the dynamic of the show. I’m still undecided as to whether or not that improved the show at all, but it’s definitely different. Unfortunately, near the end, the impossibly convenient surprises were always strategically located to bail the heroines out of whatever peril they might be embroiled in.

The character development was more coherent than the storyline, although it suffered from some confusion as well. Eclaire was forced to deal with the ghosts of her past as the memories of her previous lives begin to emerge. She comes to the realization in the end that her past is part of her. It’s ok if she can’t change her past and seems destined to repeat it because she followed her convictions then and now. The question arises, during all this, as to why Lumier and the others never seem to suffer from this conflict with their past, having all been subjected to similar experiences. Perhaps they all have weaker consciences or less passion? Unfortunately, that question is never answered.

The visuals of the show far surpassed the story in my opinion, with the animation sporting clean lines and effective use of CG. I was somewhat disappointed with some of the action sequences, however, given the god-like powers that almost all of the characters possess. Not bad, but not particularly exciting. Perhaps it was the delivery. Generally, the confrontation begins with the characters rambling on about their specific powers in detail, a rather foolish move, and then blasting away at each other until one uses some convenient wild card to defeat the other. I suppose simpler is better, as these characters all seemed nigh invincible, the fights were just a bit boring.

The character designs were fairly pleasing to the eye, but they all looked rather generic, for some reason, despite the lack of standard issue uniforms. The uniforms they did choose were, of course, less than practical, with a flair for the eccentric and asymmetrical.

The soundtrack seemed to be out of place at first, reminding me of something from a fairy tale movie, but as the show progressed, it seemed to blend. It’s definitely not the catchiest or most moving soundtrack, but the quality is pretty decent.

Conclusion

Kiddy Grade was not a terrible series, but I think the concepts are just overwrought. The characters are all ageless deities that keep coming back to life repeatedly. The abilities and fictional elements used are just too outlandish to be viewed as serious melodrama.

The other major problem that I had with the series was that the storyline never really made an appearance. The show basically consisted of several self-contained episodes, followed by two story arcs. There was some good development on the character level, but the overall plot failed to materialize. Still, fans of sci-fi action anime will probably want to check it out, as it does offer some excellent animation and contains a few parable-like episodes.

  • Audio: Slightly discordant with the theme, but ok
  • Video: Smooth animation and good use of CG
  • Plot: Some good story arcs, but no over-arching plot
  • Style: Like futuristic invincible X-teens
  • Characters: Overly-styled & generic, but the main duo is nice
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Language: Mild
  • Nudity: Moderate (one episode)
  • Genre: Scifi
  • Episodes: 24
  • Rating: 3.0 of 5

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