Ozuma (or Ozma) was my first Matsumoto Leiji experience, and was just as grandiose as I had expected. There’s an almost Miyazaki-esque feel to the themes of Nature and Man permeating the show, with reverence paid to Life’s raw power and mutability. Complete with gorgeously detailed backdrops and sweeping orchestral sounds, we are expected to stand in awe of the beauty that is Life. This life resists all forms of control: the Ideal Children’s attempt to infinitely replicate their genetic code, their further manipulation of the Natura’s bodies as shells for their own souls, and even in the Ozuma’s strangely sentient acts of self-preservation. Through these struggles, the very definition of humanity is questioned. What is more human than fighting to protect a way of life and set of ideals? What is the human mind, but a means for forever expanding the horizons of knowledge?
Almost hand-in-hand with these questions is an additional dispute of duty and love. There are quite a few examples in Ozuma where characters display obvious signs of affection bordering on love, or even obsession. And yet, in almost each case, those feelings are pushed aside for the greater good. Duty triumphs and the “right” path is taken.
“Live, and love each other. That is all humanity can do.”
Wonderfully imagined, Ozuma suffers from too little time and overly lofty goals. A large array of themes are presented, only to turn into simplified lessons, or never addressed again at all.
In the far future, the elevated irradiation from the sun has destroyed the environment of the earth and the birthrate of humans has drastically decreased. The government controls society with an army of cloned soldiers called “Ideal Children (IC)”. Sam Coin is a trader in a desert. One day, he saves a beautiful woman Maya, who has been chased by Theseus, a corps of IC. He shelters her in his trade ship, but the destroyers of Theseus surround Sam and Maya. (MAL)
As a storyboard, Ozuma is fantastic. It blends science fiction with adventure in a beautiful presentation on the grandest scale. I knew in advance that this show would only be six episodes long, and originally thought that that would be much too short given the set up from the first episode. However, re-thinking it, I thought that a complete product wasn’t too much to ask for if I combined those six into one large movie. My hopes remained hopes. Almost every episode’s events felt much too rushed, with affections rising too quickly and loyalties being formed too easily.
Plenty of holes pepper the story, begging the viewer to overlook them. Maya’s role and connection to Ozuma is never fully explained; I don’t want to just go ahead and assume that as one of the Originals, she just has an uncanny connection to Ozuma. And what exactly is Ozuma? A machine? A whale-like creature?
And then there are characters like Gido and Sam, who both seem to be there simply as devices to a greater purpose. Saving Sam’s character analysis for later, I honestly do not see what it was about his character that was beneficial to this story that could not have just as easily been replaced by Bainas, or at the very least, Mimei. It was as if he was there solely to reel in Maya, as well as create that connection between Bainas and his brother, Dick. Gido’s dual identity as Dick was interesting at the start, but later become a bit of a joke at the end. We were informed of the complete loss of the original soul with the IC’s soul transplant; however, Dick conveniently returns in the end after a fall incapacitates Gido, putting in the code only he knows and saving the Bardanos from Ozuma’s rampaging. His scene with Bainas was beautifully portrayed, but still did not cover his more than odd timeliness.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about Ozuma was its failure to properly develop its characters’ relationships with each other. That, and the fact that Sam quickly became a nuisance whose presence could have been easily written out of the script.
There are several dual characters in the anime who serve to highlight each others’ differences–Sam and Maya, Sam and Mimei, Mimei and Maya, Bainas and Gido, Bainas and Dick, Dick and Gido, and Dick and Sam, the list goes on and on.
Sam and Maya’s friendship, as well as Sam’s attraction to her, has undergone a lot of negative critique from viewers. My opinion is no different. I do not believe in love at first sight, only lust. The quickness with which he became attached to her was, at its tamest, unrealistic, and at its most alarming, obsessive. His repetitive plaintive cry of her name in the last episode had me gnashing my teeth. The unnatural nature of Sam’s devotion was only exacerbated by the more believable tie between Bainas and Dick. Through the little that was shown, their deep level of trust and caring was as mature as Sam’s was childish. When yelling out Dick’s name as he walked into the light, Bainas had my heart aching from the injustice of their second separation.
Bainas was by far the most intriguing character of Ozuma‘s cast. She established a strength of character and charisma that Sam came no where near to broaching. I was hungry for more screen time of her, and entertained fantasies of Bainas overwriting Sam as the protagonist of the anime. As both her and Maya are drawn in a similar fashion with similar passions for what they believe as right, it would stand to reason that they might have had just as much of a connection capable of affirming Maya’s faith in humanity’s ability to survive. Oh, and THAT SCARF.
Above all other factors, it was the setting that drew me in to watching this show. There was an instant comparability to Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and I loved the idea of the sand acting like water. That irony of the submarine sand battles resounded with the knowledge of the planet’s scarcity of water. Here are the Natura and IC, diving into the sandy depths, firing missels and dropping depth charges like any of our own battle submarines. What also made this world work was the simplicity of its fantasy. Because of the limited space for the battles and the Zone, we don’t require complete knowledge of the IC’s habitats; a hint of a scientifically-advanced society is enough for the viewer to let their imaginations roam free.
It took some time for me to become accustomed to Leiji’s character designs, though it took significantly less time for me to admire his backdrops. The female faces and bodies, with their elongated jaw lines, extravagant eye lashes, pert noses, long hair, and extremely thin body frames, exaggerate many of the classic notions of feminine beauty. The males have their physical characteristics equally emphasized. I can’t help but feel that I may have come to accept the designs quicker had the character development progressed to an equally detailed state. However, the embellished art fit the huge scope of this series’ message.
I’m a sucker for soft piano themes and dramatic orchestral and choral scores. I also particularly enjoyed the eerie ambience whenever Ozuma was on screen. I didn’t really care for the OP theme, “”Neverland,” by F.T. Island. It was just generic boy band J-pop. It did convey an adventurous energy, which suited the beginning of the series but not so much the end. Minami Kizuki’s ED theme, “Utagoe (ウタゴエ),” in turn, fit the nostalgic feel of this entire endeavor.
Final rating: 7/10
Secret ingredient(s): The underground battles were by far the most thrilling scenes. I remembered watching the film, U-571, and the tension that I felt then. The battles between the Bardanos and the Theseus submarines were wonderfully strategized and animated.