The Big O II, The First Half

Shengokai (Former Staff) — July 19th, 2004
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Admittedly, I was never a fan of many of Cartoon Network's aired anime, the notable exceptions being 08th MS Team and Outlaw Star, but The Big O caught my eye in a way no other anime had for the simple reason that it was completely different. Sporting exceptional dubbing, an engrossing plot full of intrigue and mystery, and a unique art style, The Big O became somewhat of a cult classic. With a cliffhanger ending that was more of a tease than Faye Valentine's mustard-yellow vest, fans demanded that Cartoon Network bring back Negotiator Roger Smith, Dorothy Wayneright, and the Gatling-wielding Normand for another go. Surprisingly, Cartoon Network listened, going so far as to become a co-producer of the new episodes.

When we last saw Roger Smith in Big-O, the Negotiator was duking it out with a trio of Megadeuses (Big O's name for giant robots) unlike any he'd encountered before. The opening episode of The Big O II yanks Roger from the cockpit of Big-O into a sort of alternate reality of Paradigm, where Beck is president of a bank in the building where Roger used to live, Dorothy (the android) is now a human accompanied by her grandfather, and Roger himself is a bum and the only one with the apparent memories of his reality. This episode provides a look back at the meeting of Roger and his butler Normand - through a sort of movie-like flashback. It also provides some insight into Roger's past as Angel arrives in his car to pick him up, calling him "Captain" or "Commander" - indicating that perhaps Roger had once been in a military force of some kind. In classic Big-O style, we're warped back to Roger's battle with the Megadeuses before the viewer can draw some solid conclusions from this flashback / alternate reality.

The arrival of this trio becomes a key plot point in that these are foreign Megadeuses - sent in at the request of Alex Rosewater, CEO of Paradigm Corporation. It becomes apparent through the next episodes that Angel (the blonde clad like a lost Angel from Charlie's Angels) also has something to do with the foreigners and that she herself might be foreign as well. Nothing solid is ever presented to the viewer and the episodes leave much to the imagination and mental workings of the viewers. One thing becomes blindingly apparent: Alex Rosewater wants a Big for himself and appears to be willing to do anything, including dealing with the shady foreigner Alan Gabriel, to get it.

Speaking of Gabriel, it is interesting to note that, for a character with such limited onscreen time, he is quite well painted as the new bad boy on the block, almost as though he is pulling Alex's strings instead of vice versa. Also, Angel seems to have some sort of deeper connection with Gabriel, given that she recognizes him and warns roger of his lethality on more than one occasion. The Big O II does an increadible job at rendering more complexities into the once familiar characters within the series: beyond Roger's flashback / hallucination in the cockpit of Big-O, he and Angel seem to be developing a deeper relationship, one strained by many different things. Alex Rosewater seems to be all-consumed by his desire to acquire a Big, signifying that there is something different about Big-O as opposed to the other Megadeuses.

Visually, The Big O II is a masterpiece. The unique art style from the previous Big-O is retained in all it's glory. The characters are still sharp edged and composed of few colors while still retaining a sense of individuality in their designs. The architecture of Paradigm still retains its 50s Art Deco appearance within the domes, and its slum-like, run-down appearance throughout. In fact, the background of the series is one of the finer points. The Domes seem to have a pristine, clean look and feel to them, even when they're the site of an intense battle between Megadeuses, whereas the slums are of constant squalor and filth (reflective of their neglect by the elite). The Megadeuses each have their own unique art design. From The Big O's mix of gothic and Art Deco, to the foreign Megadeuses' abstract appearance, to Leviathan's snake-like one, each machine is completely different down to the minute details.

Audio wise, the entire cast of both the English and Japanese tracks was retained. The Big O had one of the best American dubs that I've heard in a long time, especially given that I have a strong dislike for dubs (because they often fail to carry the character the way the japanese voicing does). Dorothy's voice was particularly impressive; the complete lack of feeling and emotion mirrored the japanese actress' voice perfectly. This is something rare to see in anime, since American voice actors and actresses seem to have a desire to interject emotion where none is present in the anime. Needless to say, I'm impressed. The music is classic Big-O, and suffered little repetition, if at all. It served to enhance the atmosphere and the ambiance around Roger and the locales he visited inside and out of Paradigm.

If you're a fan of extras, The Big O II might strike a nerve with you. The discs are Spartan with extras, only containing production design sketches divided into sections for characters, mecha, and backgrounds which showcases the work gone into each. Menus are clean if not Spartan - designed to resemble the Big-O's cockpit. I had some trouble navigating the menus and figuring out how to tell if something was selected, but that's a minor gripe.

In short, everything that I loved about the first season is back with a vengeance: all the mystery and intrigue, unique characters, and that excellent opening theme. With the ending of the last DVD on a cliffhanger note, all this series seems to do is wet my appetite for more Big-O, more so than the previous series' conclusion. If you're a fan of intrigue and deep anime, Big-O II is right up your alley. Newbies might want to check out the previous series (on sale in a complete collection for about $35) before jumping head first into Big-O.

Distributor: Bandai
Creator: Sunrise
Released: 2003

Video Quality: A
Audio Quality: A
Presentation: A
Content: A
Overall: A