The Big O started life, at least here in the United States, as one 13 episode series that ended on a cliffhanger so big that everyone who watched it screamed and hollered until the sequel was produced.
The setting is Paradigm City and a world devastated by an unknown Event forty years ago. Said event apparently destroyed the rest of the world and wiped the memory of every living person. We follow Roger Smith, a Negotiator, who makes deals between parties wishing to exchange “memories” (bits of data from the old world). He is the operator of a megadeus known as Big O. While rare, other megadeus do exist or can be built and these are usually run by various criminals, etc, giving Roger the chance to flex Big O and beat the living daylights out of them. In the first episode a hostage negotiation goes wrong and Roger ends up with R. Dorothy Wayneright, a robot that was built in the image of the original Dorothy Wayneright. Various adventures happen while it is hinted at that the world might not be as empty as supposed and that the power movers of the city know a lot more than they are letting on. Roger fights to preserve Paradigm City with the help of Dorothy, his butler Norman and of course the megadeus Big O. Series One ends with a huge fight between Big O and Big Duo and while Big O ends up victorious, in the distance we see 3 megadeus stalking out of the ocean towards the city.
I really enjoyed this anime. The art style is almost copied straight from Batman: The Animated Series. If you like that kind of art, this is going to really float your boat. The lines, the curves, the angles, it just works so well.
Second is the music. The opening theme song is pretty much the singer just saying “Big O, Cast in the Name of God, Ye Not Guilty” 2 or 3 times while some seriously Queen sounding music plays. It seems to be almost intentionally modeled on the music in the Highlander. While I wouldn’t listen to straight up Queen music, it has it’s place. The episodes are filled with a mix of saxophone jazz and some really intense and serious fight music. As odd as that combination seems, they stay separate and work perfectly. The music man in this series had a great sense of what music fit where and how to blend disparate types seamlessly together.
The characters are pretty 2 dimensional. Roger is simply the cool private eye and while a romance is hinted at between him and R. Dorothy, that has more to do with her journey about learning to be her own person and not just a set of programs. Norman is Alfred the Batman Butler and there are a whole host of side characters ranging from erstwhile allies to pure villains. While each character has a pretty specific role to play and a bit to fill, they never exceed that or become something more. It didn’t bother me but it is something to to be aware of.
Finally, we have the “mystery”. It is the strongest part of the anime and yet the weakest at the same time. Tons of hints and vague memory flashes show the sky being filled with megadeus and a world so advanced as to be a paradise. And yet we get hints of nothing being as it seems. There are so many things that don’t make sense, whether deliberately or because of lazy story telling. If the memory loss happened 40 years ago, where did Roger learn to pilot the Big O. Why are so many young people (and I use the word “young” to mean anyone under 50) so obsessed with memories? They didn’t lose anything. something just doesn’t add up. Why can the megadeus sometimes act on their own?
I call this the strongest part of the anime because it allows the viewer to speculate endlessly with others who are watching. It is the glue that binds all the previous parts together. It is also the weakest because things simply don’t make sense. A story must be internally consistent for it to be a strong story.
Overall, I still enjoyed the heck out of this. Not as “cool” as my 25 year old self thought it was, but I think this is worth hanging on to for another view in several years.
I did not expect to write this much. We’ll see if I’m so wordy about Season 2 next Sunday.