Big O II Anime Review
The Biggu Ou
The Big O
US Release By
.Hack Ripoff With Halfway American Mecha
13 25 minute episodes
2003-01-02 - 2003-03-27
The first season of Big O ended just when the story was getting going. Not only that, but the episode ended with Roger Smith facing off against three mysterious Megadeuses from out of nowhere. Well, now we get to see what happens. That's basically it (if you've never seen Big O, see the review of the first season for the synopsis of it).
Let me tell you one thing right away that surprised the hell out of me: Cartoon Network co-produced the second season of Big O. Yes, that's right, Cartoon Network paid money to Sunrise to aid in the creation of a second season of Big O. It seems to me like if they were to co-produce any anime, it would have to be Dragon Ball AF, the rumored new Dragon Ball series (that doesn't exist). I don't know, maybe GT wasn't as good as they thought it would be, or maybe they decided to just put all their efforts into anime like I've been saying they should for a long time (didn't figure it would ever happen, though).
Unfortunately, the way these episodes turned out doesn't reflect well on anime co-produced by Cartoon Network, or any American company (neither does The Animatrix). I absolutely loved the first season of Big O, with it's odd style that resembled Batman crossed with The Vision of Escaflowne. It may simply be that it had to be sacrificed for story-advancement, but these episodes don't have anywhere near as much of it. It'll be a long, spoiler-filled journey, and it's all basically pointless because if you saw Big O, you want to know what happens, and if you didn't, you won't want to see Season 2 first. But for those who did see the first season, the differences won't be as big of a shock (and maybe you think something different).
First of all (if you saw the first season) you remember that nothing was ever really explained about Paradigm City's lost memories or the rest of the world. It seems like they're beginning to explain it in this season, but they haven't gotten far yet. However, the plotlines aren't as weird or unique as they were in the first season, and the episodes all lack that weird feeling of different familiarity. For example, in the first season there was the Christmas episode (Christmas was called Heaven's Day). Everyone buying Christmas presents and having trees and lights hanging everywhere looked perfectly normal, but there was something abnormal about it, in the fact that everyone thought it was the celebration of Paradigm's founding and just the way things went. It was familiar, but in an unsettling way. There was also the oddness of being a world where perfectly normal inventions like submarines were considered miraculous, but yet there were things like giant robots and lasers.
It was an unprecedented mashing of old-fashioned and newfangled. We've all seen those worlds that are like medieval times mixed with the future, but the original Big O seemed like the 1940s mixed with the future. The second season doesn't seem nearly as much this way; it just seems like the future.
A bigger problem is the characterization. In the first season, Roger was a cross between too cool, like Batman, and a dork like Kuwabara in Yuu Yuu Hakusho. He's still not ninety-six moves ahead of everyone like Batman, but they hardly ever show the more comical side of his personality (which was done with brilliant timing and restraint in the first season, I might add). Also, Dorothy was shown developing emotions very gradually (once again with brilliant timing and restraint), but that's all pretty much out the door because she seems to now possess a full range of emotions (emotional responses are still another story, but that's been done before). Norman is still kind of funny, but his appearances are getting old now and his new voice doesn't help matters at all. And Dan Dastun is no more than the cop in any superhero show that shows up to haul off the bad guys, because he isn't irate and overworked anymore. The other characters from the first season never had much of a personality in the first place (Angel). This robs Season 2 of a lot of Season One's charm. The characterization, for me, is pretty much the backbone of any anime. I'll almost never enjoy an anime that doesn't have at least passable characterization. All the robots, explosions, mega powers, and convoluted stories in the world won't change that, because the characters are what hold these up. In an addendum to that, that bad guys aren't as good either. Most of the episodes DON'T end in a robot battle, and when they do, the robots aren't as unique or downright weird as the ones in the first season. The three megadeuses that showed up in the end of episode 13 are very weird-looking (they resemble some kind of neo-Mayan art), but they aren't as weird otherwise.
As if you needed one more reason why this isn't as good as the first season, the plot looks to be gearing up as another overly-convoluted affair, but hey, at least it's an original overly-convoluted affair. The animation looks nothing like the first season; actually, it looks like Blue Sub 6 with Big O character designs. The new bad guy, Alan Gabriel, does look like a Batman bad guy, but no one else keeps the Batman look from the first season (aside from the characters that were in the first season). The music is pretty much all the same (it fits the show perfectly, at least it fit the first season), and the dub is also good, thought not as much so. I'm not sure if Roger's voice is changed or if David Lucas just changed his name (it sounds the same), but his acting is worse than it was in Season One. Norman's voice was certainly different, and not as good. In the first season he sounded exactly like Alfred, but in the second season he sounds more like an old Catholic bishop, and this actor isn't as good either. Everyone else is the same; Wendee Lee (Faye Valentine, almost countless other roles) still holds up as Angel, and Lia Sargent (Tachikawa in GK21 [Full Throttle], Mitsuko in Kikaider, and Shion Uzuki in the Playstation 2 game Xenosaga) as Dorothy is still one of the best-played roles in the show.
Big O season 2 is essential viewing for anyone who liked the first season, and I would definitely recommend seeing that to anyone who hasn't. But judged on its own merits, it's not nearly as good in any department. I'm all for anime becoming more popular in the US (as long as they don't start trying to change it so they can force that popularity). It has myriad benefits for the fans: better dubs, more accurate translations, DVDs with more bells and whistles, easier and cheaper ways of obtaining it. But Big O season 2 doesn't reflect well on American involvement in anime (and neither do the Animatrix or TechTV's Anime Unleashed, the anime-style commercial for the new AOL Sidekick, or pretty much any other example of American involvement). It's a shadow of the first season and not really unique anymore.
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Notes and Trivia
This is the 2nd season, produced in partial cooperation with Cartoon Network.
US DVD Review
The DVDs, scheduled to start release in early 2004, are said to contain an image Gallery, trailers, and a production art gallery.
Not really that bad, but I'm sick of saying what I think and being preempted by Bandai's rating.
Violence: 2 - Just some robot fights and big explosions.
Nudity: 1 - A few shots of Angel.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A little more than BIg O.
Language: 1 - Actually, I haven't seen anything.