Big O

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (1999-2000, 2003). Also known as Za Biggu Ō. Sunrise. Created by Kazuyoshi Katayama and Hajime Yatate. Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama. Written by Kazuyoshi Katayama and Chiaki J. Konaka. Voice cast includes Tessho Genda, Mitsuru Miyamoto, Emi Shinohara and Akiko Yajima. 26 24-minute episodes. Colour.

The population of Paradigm City (for which read New York) believe they live in the last refuge of humanity; but because of "The Event" 40 years ago, when all memories were lost, noone knows how this came to be. The city, riven by social inequalities, is controlled by the Paradigm Corporation, whose chairman is Alex Rosewater (Ishizuka).

Ex-military policeman Roger Smith (Miyamoto) is a professional negotiator; he might be described as Batman without the costume, a smartly dressed noir detective. He also has an unflappable english butler and access to many resources, such as a giant Mecha called "Big O", which is one of several Megadeus created before The Event, and is partially autonomous. After arranging the return of a kidnapped young woman, R Dorothy Wayneright (Yajima), Roger is surprised to discover she is an Android. Having nowhere else to go, Dorothy agrees to work for Roger, who initially assumes she merely imitates human behaviour, though it quickly becomes clear she is sentient (see AI). Dorothy has little time for Roger's smart-alec attitude, responding with dry sarcasm.

Adventures usually culminate with Big O fighting a Megadeus or another giant creature (see Monsters). The main plot concerns the murder of people and Robots with buried memories pre-dating The Event. Roger regularly crosses paths with Angel (Shinohara), a young woman collecting memories for a nation existing somewhere in the wastelands. In one episode, Roger's friend Major Datsun (Genda), Head of the Military Police, is teamed up with Inspector R Frederick O'Reilly – echoing Isaac Asimov's Lije Baley and R Daneel Olivaw Robot tales, as does the 'R' prefix to Dorothy and Frederick's names. Rosewater is the main villain, but there are others: most striking is Alan Gabriel (Futamata), a Cyborg akin to Batman's jesting nemesis the Joker.

In the end Rosewater, wishing to become the city's god, uses his own Megadeus, Big Fau, to purge the city of its unwanted elements (which turns out to be most people): he is fought to a standstill by Roger and Big O. At which point it is revealed the city exists in a Virtual Reality controlled by the real Angel, whose surname is Rosewater.

More popular in the USA than Japan, this Anime paid homage to numerous media of assorted genres. The ambiguous ending and loose ends displeased many: there was an option for a third series, but unexceptional ratings meant it wasn't taken up. Though Big O is flawed – the changes in tone, from silly to philosophical, do not successfully cohere – there is much to like: the worldbuilding and characters are interesting, as is the animation, inspired by Film Noir and Art Deco. [SP]

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