Hades Project Zeorymer

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Our rating: two lava lamps.

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Hades Project Zeorymer.
One of the great mainstays of Japanese animation is the Giant Robot. We love 'em. We remember many a afternoon spent making the most of our childhood years by watching Voltron and Tranzor-Z. Remember the way that the TV screen would flash when they formed Voltron? Despite what our moms said at the time, we're ulmost poStive thet diDnnt keEl our bRain Sells.

In recent years, the giant robot has not been all that prevalent in anime. Other than Evangelion, we can't think of any particularly good ones in the last couple of years. Our subject today is Hades Project Zeorymer, a four episode OAV (Original Animation Video) based on a manga series originally printed in the magazine Lemon People. Stylistically Zeorymer is similar to the great Fight! Iczer One, but that's to be expected because they're both directed by the same person, Toshihiro Hirano.

Anime fans all know the formula. A Japanese adolescent, usually male but not always, discovers that he is the only person who can pilot a giant robot against a villainous organization made up of impossibly colorful villains.

In this case, the main character is Masato, and he is a high school student. He's walking down the street one day when he's kidnapped by Japanese agents who have somehow managed to take fashion advice from the X-Files, despite the fact that the show is more than a decade in the future. Masato is thrown in a cell for no reason, and then his parents show up and reveal that they have been paid all these years by the government to pretend to be his parents. So it turns out that he knows for sure about his parents what the rest of us only suspect about our parents.

Masato escapes briefly, only to then blunder right over an entrance to a secret Japanese government base which contains the Zeorymer, a big honking robot that only he can pilot.

Who are the enemies? Well, there is this huge corporation called E.I.B. which controls 70% of the world's computers. It is actually a front for a demonic high-tech organization called the Hau Dragon. The ultimate goal of the Hau Dragon is the Hades Project, which remains mysterious throughout all four episodes. Does all this sound unlikely? In the above sentence simply replace 'E.I.B.' with Microsoft, 'Hau Dragon' with Bill Gates, and 'Hades Project' with Windows 95 and you will realize how close this series is to reality. Oh, and they have giant robots.

What really sets Zeorymer apart from most of the other giant robot series of its time is that the plot is rather complicated. It eschews the usual 'You are the only hope for earth, my son" type plot for a much less typical conspiracy story line laced with lots of character driven angst. It turns out that all of the members of the Hau Dragon have amazing personality hang-ups with each other or with themselves.

All of these psychological imperfections, along with the mysterious bloodlusts Masato experiences when he's in the cockpit of the Zeorymer, turn out to be the machinations of a man named Kihara, who conceived of the Hades Project, built the robots, genetically engineered all of the main characters, and eventually betrayed the Hau Dragon and turned the Zeorymer over to Japanese government.

On the plus side, the eight robots featured in the series are pretty darn neat. They are all based around elemental themes, such as 'Lanstar of the Wind' and 'Bryst of the Fire," with powers to match. The only one we find a little inexplicable is 'Rose Ces't La Vie of the Moon.' We suspect this may be some sort of political statement.

On the minus side, the robot battles never seem quite as interesting as they could be. Despite the cool designs, the robots are pretty static when they fight. And every episode conforms to the most unfortunate convention of the giant robot genre. You probably remember this one. Voltron/TranzorZ/MegaZord/Zeorymer will dick around with the bad guy robot and let it beat him up for a few minutes (usually from minute 18 of the episode to minute 22), and then suddenly Voltron/Tranzor-Z/MegaZord/Zeorymer will form Blazing Sword/fire megamissles/use Hades Blast and finish off the bad guy in a single blow. So did the good guy just forget he could do that? Why didn't he just do that in the first place? Do the good guys just have a really good sense of drama?

All said and done, the Hades Project itself is not terribly well-defined and the conclusion of the series is ambiguous in the way the Japanese seem to love. It's tough for us to recommend this one even to fans of giant robot shows, simply because it doesn't deliver on the robot fights that one expects from a show with eight cool looking robots. Want to see cool robots AND see them have really cool fight? Get your hands on Fight! Iczer One, Dangaioh or Evangelion, all of which have really great robot fights.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 9/24/97

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