This Week: Megazone 23 Part III
In concluding this short series of reflections on the Megazone 23 franchise, one must explore the albatross and anvil tightly wrapped around its neck at the end.
This post will contain some spoilers.
Megazone 23 Part III makes me dearly desire for websites such as MyAnimeList.net to split these OVA parts up.
Not merely in the eternal quest of higher “Completed” numbers to mark off, because in my heart I have to give a score to the entire series as a collective entity and not just the front Part I and Part II as many others seem to have. Such action is understandable to an extent though. The previous two OVA’s are each around eighty minutes, which is solid film length each, and together tell what can be called a complete story.
Meanwhile, Part III is pushing just shy of two hours between two episodes that have almost nothing to do with the rest of the series, and is in turn very easy to cast off or consider nonessential.
Character design, previously the domain of Toshiki Hirano in Part I and Yasuomi Umetsu in Part II (with Haruhiko Mikimoto’s EveTokimatsuri consistent), switches to Hiroyuki Kitazume.
Which is a painful credit to read off, as while he has such limited anime credits doing so I do enjoy his approach to character design work a lot on their own merits (he is perhaps best known for Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ). That, and his short film Starlight Angel is still my favorite part of his Robot Carnival anthology.
Part III launches us a millennium into the future from the ending its predecessor left us on, which from a writing standpoint alone is a problem because it means everyone we could conceivably know or care about in this universe is long since dead. Except for Eve, who I will get to in due time. As a result the production shifts to the exact worst kind of things this situation generates. Large amounts of expository dialogue. Wooden conversations that do not resemble how people would actually talk to each other. Trying to make us care about piles of stuff we do not know through telling rather than showing. Vague techno-babble. Characters who exist more as plot points on a checklist than human beings.
Eve, a point of continuity and a rare light of familiarly in her virtual idol singing presence, is now inexplicably a human girl. Her character reduced to select information dumping and is otherwise teary eyed window dressing who had a more substantial visual presence even when she was only a music video icon. The treatment of her arc, from what she was as an intriqing concept in Part I and Part II to stripping it all out here, is itself very much a metaphor for the entirety of Part III baked in to the very structure of the final work.
To speak more concretely to the narrative framework we are operating under here, in this far future we are no longer on the titular Megazone 23 but have instead finally landed on Earth.
Here, The System rules all within the closed city of Eden, waiting until such a time where humanity and nature will be seen fit to reintegrate (with the corresponding heavy handed environmental messaging to match). The plot lurches to and from this and the entire technological set of affairs of ramming in arcade games (the popular one the characters play being inspired by Sega’s Hang On but in turn being unfortunately here being named Hard On), hacking, identity cards, the net police, and a whole lot of other more cyberpunk stuff.
Trying to juggle so too many divergent subject issues in too little time aside, what is even worse is the sense that while Part I and Part II are definitely cyberpunk, they each come off as a lot more honest and have a sense of wonder or fun to them. There was a life and vibrancy to their fantasy worlds. I had mentioned previously how the 1980’s trappings they so ran with and embraced made them evoke keen connections, while here we move to a far more overtly generic science fiction template of hover cars and the like. Part III wants to be cyberpunk like its predecessors, and yet by throwing away so much of what made them look and feel as they did (again, right down to ejecting the idea of Eve being a computer system) it is left trying to shoehorn in surface elements. That if it could just throw around notions of arcade games, a network that links the whole city of Eden together, a big computer firm with hotshot hackers, and so on, it would be set.
But that is not quite right. The artificiality and design by spreadsheet nature of the work seeps into its sense of energy or creative sparkle in trying to relay the dream of its universe to us as end user viewers. It trades in quality of character moments for quantity, racing through narrative beats that would dizzy many works even twice its size. Here, the two fifty minute episodes of Megazone 23 Part III feels like a series of bullet points on a design document, leaving me with little weight to anything it does. Things and events are important merely because the plot demands it. I feel no electricity or spark to its affairs, and it has little vision of its idea of the future aside from jumping ahead of the rest of the series.
These endcap OVA’s feel far more like a compressed version of what one would have expected out of a full television show than Part I ever did.
It is the kind of science fiction implementation that comes off as eliciting a great big sigh before turning to active boredom. Then frustration. Things did not used to feel this way, after all. There was a potency to the OVA format Megazone 23 used to be a champion of, after all. Likewise, while neither of the first two entries had the most traditionally uplifting of endings, I thought they each in they own ways did do their job for the messages they sought to handle. This final entrant to the line aims to “fix” even that, so as to try and tie a bow on the entire franchise. Which is an appreciable enough effort on paper, and yet there is the matter of the execution. As one could surmise, given my overall reaction to the rest of what I am looking at here, it botches the job entirely.
While technically the happiest ending of all, with everything Megazone 23 Part III does in undermining and distancing itself from what came before, and even keeping us disconnected and uninvested from its own world, its final character message rings more mechanical and hollow than any of them.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.