This Week: Relic Armor Legaciam
When you get to thinking about it, this OVA technically does feature everything it says on the tin.
Relic Armor Legaciam is roughly fifty minute long direct to video romp about a one of a kind robot it takes its title from.
But, this nature does somewhat extend to other production aspects surrounding it as well.
Atelier Giga (originally called Pack, before a renaming) was an animation studio started up by Hiroyuki Kitazume with an assortment of other members from studio Bebow, which would shut down after 1986’s Cool Cool Bye. An operation put together by Tomonori Kogawa, Bebow did a lot of animation assistance and other out of studio contract work for outfits like Sunrise, in turn meaning the animators there acquired robust resume marks through works like Space Runaway Ideon, Blue Comet SPT Layzner, and Heavy Metal L Gaim. Many of the folks who would come through the doors of Bebow would become some of the talented animation staff of their day, and I have mentioned elsewhere in places like Robot Carnival how much I happen to fancy Kitazume’s design work in particular. While Atelier Giga would have some animation production sharing duties on works like Black Magic M-66 (which I am now feeling I should have done a much larger and dedicated post on rather than shoehorning it with another), Relic Armor Legaciam would be their first original creation and something of their own.
The OVA would also be the last thing the studio did before going belly up, Atelier Giga holding together for what amounts to mere months.
Watching Legaciam reminds me a lot of works like Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01, which would come out just a few months later, both in its similarities and differences. Each are about experimental military mecha armor hardware of approximately the same size coming into more civilian based hands while government forces desires the machine for their own goals. There is a fair amount of focus on metropolitan areas, and some of the governmental and/or military command structure are more sympathetic than others. MADOX-01 is far and away more lavishly animated when it comes to things like shading layers and mechanical motion, but Legaciam does manage to fire back with what I find to be some nice moments of human character movement and illuminated backgrounds.
MADOX-01 was also planned at the start to be a one shot work though, and manages to keep its action comedy runaway mecha narrative holding together for as long as it needs.
Legaciam had… bigger plans.
The world of Relic Armor Legaciam and the planet Libertia is one of orbital mirrors which have made it more habitable.
There is an age old technological tower containing secrets older than anyone is able to recall, and research teams sent to investigate it have not come back alive due to extreme heat exposure. Temperature related matters are beginning to affect the health and well being for the lower class more at the fringes of civilization centers, and so on and so forth. The story, perhaps fitting for a release of its year, even has a progression model similar to many burgeoning roleplaying games. Our characters begin in a quiet rural village complete with a grandparent for our lead, their childhood friends, chickens to be chased, and other such elements before things escalate to our leads moving up to capital infiltration levels of action.
It is all reasonable and solid enough. One can even see surprising opportunities for it to cursorily deal with some global warming topics in a popcorn munching science fiction fashion (of note, the United Nations managed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was only set up in 1988, so it even barely predates that). I could easily foresee a world in which Relic Armor Legaciam at least achieved Dream Dimension Hunter Fandora levels of pulpy video tape average rainy day afternoon serviceability with enough sparks to carry to the end.
But, as I am sure you have more than picked up on by now, this did not turn out this way.
The Relic Armor Legaciam OVA is effectively the first episode of a planned mini series of videos which never came to be.
At best it is like watching a movie that, around the halfway part when the real meat of things would begin to well and truly get underway, cuts out and rolls the credits.
There is a disappointment in that, seeing things play out this way.
We gets scenes of government leaders, love that was perhaps not meant to be, One would expect robot action, as most productions with the name of their own robot in the title tend to contain, but that is actually a fairly minimal level. There is some haphazard grappling and explosions in a relatively early scene, and a later one in a relatively cramped indoor setting near the end of the piece, and that is about it. Most of the OVA goes to narrative and world building, in that it is very clearly trying to give equal time to multiple players, attempting to establish scope, etc. And there are mysteries in this world which would lead themselves to natural intrigue and future exploration, such as the tower folks want to research but the government sent teams never return from due to environmental conditions.
One can debate on if that story would be stellar or not by the end (I am of the disposition that what we have here is kind of shaky in the character department, but would at least get the job done via very standard archetype roles), but it would be something. I can even imagine there would be more, larger robot action (be they battles or otherwise) in the events that would transpire going forwards, as this episode was likely keeping such cards closer to its chest for deployment in episode two / the finale.
There is enough material to cover and cobble together at least a second episode to bring us in for a landing, after episode one mainly consisting of setup and getting dominoes in order which are never pushed over due to lack of continuing.
This is one of those circumstances where I am reminded of why I avoid keeping my particular spitballing of numerical scores or the like out of these reflections.
If one looks at Relic Armor Legaciam with an attempt to score it one some sort of X/10 scale or the like, it will in one way or another take damage for being flat out unfinished as a narrative. The material we do have, ambitious as it was that it was going to have a followup to conclude, just is not strong enough to carry anything close to perfect marks on its own. As one marks other aspects up or down, depending on their feeling towards the stock characters, the relatively small role the titular robot receives in the running time provided, it acquires more scars and cracks.
Relic Armor Legaciam did not receive even dead on average scores from me, when it came time to cross it off as completed for my anime watching tracker. However straining for positives or hedged I may sound, it becomes a difficult work to recommend outside of digging around the production credits or to wonder what could have been had Atelier Giga kept its doors open. So, the term relic is more than aptly applied here looking back on the work with a modern eye.
But, I also do not harbor a whole lot of ill will towards the work either. I hope that it comes across that I possess more of a sense of significant disappointment than something closer to venom or contempt.
Working off of the roleplaying game progression model I mentioned before, I would not have been surprised to learn if Relic Armor Legaciam had in fact been a promotional anime adaption of some obscure video game I had never heard of. Salamander had one, after all. I checked, at any rate, such was the curiosity I had. Finding nothing, and with every sign pointing that this was an anime original intellectual property nothing else was ever done with (assuming you discount the standard array of things like a limited art book and even a 7” vinyl single), it does mimic the experience of a passing promotional anime video for an outside product remarkably well were one to view it with that sort of lens anyway.
That is not a great sales pitch for anything, really. And admittedly, I have not been angling to convince you to check it out yourself.
But if you did? I think it is at least a hard OVA to be mad at.
It is, after all , just a rusty old robot that never had its chance to shine.
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.