OP: 「オズマ」 (Neverland) by FTISLAND
「砂のクジラ」 (Suna no Kujira)
“A Whale of Sand”
It’s been a long wait, but Spring’s finally here, as well as the new anime season. And so, to start things off, we have the Sci-Fi series, “Ozuma.” The first episode comes out a bit generic and has some cliches, but there’s definitely some potential here.
Based on Matsumoto Leiji’s unpublished work from the 1980’s, Ozuma brings together the creator behind the classic Space Battleship Yamato, the man behind Escaflowne’s character design (Nobuteru Yuuki), as well as one of the episode directors behind Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Ikezoe Takahiro). Combined with an interesting premise with a devastated Earth as a backdrop and given my love for Sci-Fi, I remember putting this on my watch list almost immediately. After watching the first episode, I have to say, the result does meet most of my initial expectations.
The episode itself starts off with the main character, Sam Coyne (Kakihara Tesuya), roaming the desert in search for a sand whale known as “Ozuma.” His search ultimately takes him into a chance meeting with the mysterious and beautiful Maya (Tanaka Rie), who finds herself under pursuit by the military. With the subsequent appearance of the “Ozuma,” Sam decides to abandon his initial goal and instead, takes advantage of the distraction to rescue Maya and shelter her with the help of fellow traders, led by the female Captain Bainas (Tanaka Atsuko). With the military in full pursuit, Bainas ultimately makes the decision to continue sheltering Maya, fleeing into the desert sand.
Now, I reckon a fair amount of people are probably considering the plot a bit generic and cliche. But if there’s one thing I learned from watching anime over the years, it’s that these so called “generic and cliche” series tend to end up much better than anticipated. In fact, there’s quite a few shows that have utilized such aspects to great success. And from the positives I’ve seen from the first episode, there’s no reason to expect that this won’t be the case for Ozuma.
For instance, Ozuma possesses quite the catchy opening, performed by K-pop/K-rock band FTISLAND. Surprisingly sung entirely in English, the lyrics match quite well with the desert theme, as well as the opening sequence itself. I can’t say I’ve heard any songs from this band previously, but if this song is any indication, I reckon I’ll definitely have to take a few peeks at their discography when all’s said and done. Then, there’s the unique art style of Matsumoto to laud as well. Yes, it’s quite retro, but it gives the series a sense of unique flair, while also bringing back quite a bit of nostalgia and memories of anime from years past. Furthermore, there are definitely some potentially memorable characters here as well. You have a tarot-card reading Captain in Bainas, a mysterious and beautiful girl in Maya, and even Char from Mobile Suit Gundam! Well, not exactly Char, but hey, he’s quite similar. And last but not least, there’s also the fact that the first episode’s developments and the original premise set up interest regarding what may happen in future episodes.
And you know what? The more I analyze the series further and the more information I dig up regarding Ozuma, the more I feel that the initial episode’s generic introduction is merely a feint. With Matsumoto claiming Ozuma to be an “an epic space opera that entwines exciting sci-fi action and a suspenseful story” while “tackling the ultimate questions of life and existence,” I reckon the best of the series has yet to come. I’m not quite exactly sure how it’ll develop from here, considering the many possibilities that could arise from this point forward, but there’s definitely potential here to develop into something good. It would help if the CGI mixed a little better with the art, but I suppose a fair amount of slack can given, considering the fact that studio Gonzo is working with an unpublished, 30 year old script and retro art.
All in all, Ozuma is one show I reckon I’ll watch until its conclusion. Yes, having “only” five episodes to develop the remainder story isn’t as ideal as having an entire one cour of 12-13 episodes, but I’ve seen many great series built on the backs of five or so spectacular episodes. If there’s one thing to note though, it’s that Ozuma is definitely geared toward fans of the Sci-Fi genre. Considering Matsumoto’s past works, this doesn’t come as a surprise. However, those who aren’t quite enamored with Sci-Fi may not find as much to like in this series compared to those that love the genre.
*At this moment, I am unsure if myself or any other writer will cover Ozuma past this first episode.
**The Season Preview should be out around the end of the week.
ED: 「ウタゴエ」 (Utagoe – “Singing Voice”) by Minami Kizuki