Working Through The Queue: Gen:Lock
So if you'll recall my complaining a while back, I'm not a huge fan of 3D computer animated anime. I generally find it to be stiff, devoid of personality, and a temptation for studios to be lazy and cheap when their stories require large armies and they don't want to animate unique faces. BUT. I do realize I'm also denying myself some potentially great stories by tossing them all out the window, so I'm trying here, ok? Besides, I have to brace myself for when I eventually force myself to watch Berserk 2016.....
Anywho, Gen:Lock was specifically recommended to me and as I recalled carrying the comics at the store I figured sure, let's give it a shot. An episode in I found that while I was still having trouble with the human animation, there was something in the storytelling clicking and the mecha did look solid. So I blitzed through all eight episodes of season one and I did really enjoy show.
The core concept is that in 2068 there are two major powers on Earth, the Polity and the Union. The main character Julian Chase is a pilot who participates in The Battle of New York where the Union invades and overwhelms the Polity with its new nanotech weaponry. Chase 'disappears' at the climax of the battle, and then we do a time jump as the story focuses on the Polity's attempts to develop new mecha technology that allows people with a unique genetic predisposition to mentally connect with their robots instead of physically piloting them.
One of the strengths of the series is its diverse cast of characters and the strength of their character development over time. This is also highlighted by a pretty fun cast of voice actors including Michael B. Jordan, Golshifteh Farahani, Maisie Williams, Kōichi Yamadera, and David Tennant to name just a few. Side note, I also absolutely love that the character of Kazu Iida, a transfer from the Japanese military, only speaks Japanese and is entirely subtitled. Their technology is advanced enough that what he speaks is automatically translated to the other characters through their personal augmentations.
Animation wise I still find the 3D style disjointed and stiff, so at times it can take me right out of the story. It does work for the mecha though, and I found most of the action scenes to work really well and I felt like I could do with just the voice actors voicing the mechas the entire time and call it a day.
One of the only real story weaknesses for me was the absence of a core antagonist or any real sense of what the Union was about. They basically act a faceless army of monotonous drones as all of their mecha and soldiers look the same. This is no doubt purposeful because of A) budget concerns, and B) you gotta drive home the strength of diversity by having your diverse team battle an ever oppressive wave of sameness. Which y'know, is fine. It's fine, if a little boring. But we do get a unique mecha villain later, and their story is interesting as it opens the floodgates to that existential horror I do so love. Discussions about memory and identity and what it means to be human? Yes please.
Still, please just give us one insane Union general to focus on and give some sense of motivation and purpose. Please?
There's a lot here to enjoy, and I'm glad I got the recommendation and sat my butt down to watch this despite my gripes. I do highly recommend giving it a shot, and hopefully they'll have a season two out soon. Also, now I want toys of their mecha.