[Review] Ozuma

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.”
-Maya

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.

Synopsis

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)

Story
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.

Character
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.

"-YAAAAA!"

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.

Setting
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.

Art/Music
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.

19 thoughts on “[Review] Ozuma

  1. Ah, so it already ended has it? I haven’t seen a show this short since Murder Princess. Even BRS TV was longer (By 2 episodes anyway). Well, time to finish and review it myself in your honor Professor Marina. Good and fair review ma’am.

    Like

    • In my honor? Well, I certainly look forward to your review, then! This was a remarkably short series, whose episodes weren’t even movie-length. I feel like maybe if they were as long as the individual Break Blade films, we might’ve gotten more character depth.

      Like

  2. Well this was truly unexpected. Your review has really effected me personally. You just reaffirmed suspicions I’ve long had. As for Ozma it sounds like a maybe for me. I won’t search it out, but if I stumble upon it I may check it out.

    Like

  3. You are so right about this. It has some odd good points, and then has glaring weaknesses. For me the final episode was like swiss cheese, or simply contradictory. I’m glad I watched it because I have seen a couple of other Leiji Matsumoto shows, and it is interesting to see another aspect of what he was trying to do.

    Like

    • I’ve heard that Ozuma is like an extremely watered-down version of Leiji’s other works, particularly his characters. I’ve been playing around with giving Galaxy Express 999 a try, but it’s so long! Would you recommend any other works of his?

      Like

      • Actually I just ordered the movie of GE999, which I have never seen.

        You should try to watch something with Harlock in it, it will give you an idea of what people mean about the characters — they’re all there!

        I haven’t seen every version of Harlock (sometimes spelled “Herlock”), Short versions include “Harlock Saga” (the Wagenerian Ring retold) and “Arcadia of My Youth”.

        Like

  4. I agree with you, Ozuma felt too rushed. Six episodes is enough time to tell a full story, but unfortunately I think the scale of Ozuma’s story was too large for its own good and would have benefited form having a full season (or even two).

    Very nice breakdown of the show’s different aspects and excellent review!

    Like

  5. Sorry about that. You kinda struck a raw nerve and it kinda threw me off. I tend to be extremely open so I always just say what I’m thinking.

    Did I miss the vote btw? I feel like it was yesterday. If so I apologize. I’ll go check right away.

    Like

  6. Ozma really was a perfect example of why the 1980s sci fi anime just didn’t work; it was style over substance and relied on flimsy plotting. From the first ten or so minutes of episode 1 you could get a good idea of what was going to happen if you’d watched any 80s OVAs (and I’d come onto it after Super Atragon, about a mysterious girl, a mysterious ship etc – only Atragon has the pedigree of Giant Robo’s mecha designer and Mobile Suit Gundam’s character designer, and most of the dub voice case of Eva).

    Had it come out in 84 or so, it would probably be a cult classic; as it stands, the attempts to modernise the 80s form didn’t work. Especially the bizarre mix of Leiji willowy women with some almost Ghibli or Monkey Punch esque caricatures and then modern art style over the top.

    Like

    • I never really got over the character design mix to which you refer, and still have a hard time viewing Leiji’s tall women as very attractive. It’s funny that you mention the Ghibli-like features to male characters like the mechanic, since I also had that impression when he first came onto the screen. Except in that case, I have a fondness for the ugliness/gruffness because such characters tend to have such great personalities in Miyazaki’s films.

      As for 80s style anime, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get into them since I came into anime fairly late and so am accustomed to a certain balance of plot, characterization, and atmosphere. While I’m usually up for trying something new, I always prioritize story and characters.

      Like

      • If you want some examples of good 80s anime, I’d start with Gunbuster, Bubblegum Crisis and Do You Remember Love if you haven’t already seen them.

        Like

      • Thanks! I haven’t seen any of those actually, so that does help. The closest anime I’ve seen is BGC:Tokyo 2040 (which was pretty meh).
        I saw that GE999 was on CR; would you recommend that?

        Like

      • I haven’t seen it; give it a go, by all means. Leiji’s 70s stuff is very tonally inconsistent at times, a bit all over the place in plot terms (especially Yamato) but generally interesting.

        Like

Please tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s