There's only one word that comes to mind when you offer me the titles "Solty Rei" and "Shingu - Secret ot the Stellar Wars"... That word is "SUCK." Okay, actually a LOT of other words come to mind when I think of these shows, but they all mean pretty much the same thing. Now before all you "love an anime before you even see it" fags out there start bashing me simply because you WANT either or both of these shows to be good let me just remind you that when I give a show a low (or in this case, abysmal) rating, I ALWAYS back up my rating with -- get this -- REASONS why said show sucks the fillings out of my teeth. The reviews I will present to you shortly are no different.
Let me first tackle Solty Rei.
Never before have I seen an anime that strived to be so generic, so bland, yet failed to even register as "average." Solty Rei is so flavorless and by-the-numbers that it falls below average, despite the fact that all it wants is to be an amalgam of mediocre storylines that we've all see 100 times before. Actually it's BECAUSE of this fact, not "despite." Confused? Did that make any sense at all?
Let's see, do we have a gritty, futuristic city with a crime problem? Check. An amnesiac child with super-powers that she doesn't understand? Check. A tough, down-on-his-luck, lonely badass looking for somebody/something he lost? Check. Do these two find each other and discover that they need this other person in order to overcome a set of contrived obstacles that are (beyond any rationality) thrown in their path? Check. Goofy sidekicks? Check. An annoying as all fuck enemy who "sees the light" and becomes an annoying ally by the end? Check... Got quite a few of 'em actually. An overall, encompassing (lame) storyline that seems mysterious at first but in the end is just a rip-off of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but without being thought provoking in the least and instead being something that just makes you want to start punching nearby people in the mouth once you've realized you've wasted 12 hours of your life on this shit? Check and check.
Beyond the recycled (and not purified) plot elements of Solty Rei, there are so many other problems with its overall production. Take for instance the animation... Studio Gonzo, seriously, what the fuck happened to the care and attention to the detail and fluidity of your animation that you used to be so well known for? Character models are often off, the "action" is choppy and flat, and the CG elements of this show seem to come from 1985... No, I take that back. Tron came out in '82 and its CG was better than the crap we get served in this series. The computer graphics in Solty stick out like a sore thumb, and it's obvious that the animators actually attempted to blend them in with the hand-drawn characters and background plates. Sad and cheap.
Past the animation problems I will now talk about the supposed "plot turns" and the not-thought-out narratives that plague this piece of plunk. SPOILER TIME, bunkie!
WELL, I GUESS THEY WEREN'T REALLY SPOILERS... BUT THEY'RE OVER NOW.
Beyond the terrible animation and the hard to swallow plot, and even the bland and stupid characters, there's the tone of the show to consider. It just can't decide what it wants to be (well, until the very end when it naturally copies most anime shows by "going for the drama" in the last few eps). The setting and characters and plot lend themselves perfectly to be a Bubblegum Crisis, hard-core, sci-fi drama... but it instead tries its damndest to be a silly/goofy world with silly/goofy people who do silly/goofy things, who are occasionally thrown into tense situations... but those times feel so pasted on and sloppy, and they don't add up to anything in the end as silly/goofy crap pops up in the very next episode. And did I mention that the characters are dumber than boxes of rocks?
And the ending... CLICHED to the ultimate. Don't get me wrong, a good portion of the anime I watch is obviously filled with cliched trappings (characters, plot, settings), but they're at least fun and entertaining, and most of them have some sort of twist or SOMETHING to distinguish themselves from the rest of the dreck that's released. The most entertaining part of Solty Rei though is the opening animation, and that's not saying much at all. I didn't think it was possible to create an opening that utterly generic (people walk past each other on the street, stop and turn to face the other for a full 5 seconds, boring and lame, common action shots flash upon the screen, PLENTY of group shots where everybody in them stops what they're doing and looks at the camera, and of course an assload of quick, driving cuts timed to the beat of the refrain) set to the most average J-pop song ever written.
Oh, and a final note: yes, there are going to be two OVA episodes of Solty Rei released on DVD... but so what? If after picking up a steaming pile of dog droppings off the ground somebody says to you, "Stick out your hands and I'll heap some more crap in them," that's just more crap in your hands... Think about it.
On to Shingu - Secret of the Stellar Wars
I've used this joke before, but I must use it again in this, the actual review of the show in question (forgive me): The secret of the Stellar Wars is that it SUCKS. Whereas Solty Rei had no real substance and no weighty characterizations so to speak of, the problem with Shingu is that it tries way too hard to have too much. The whole show is saturated with what is supposed to be bubbling political intrigue and mysterious mysteries, but instead it's way too convoluted and boring. Boooooooooooooooring. I stopped watching this show 3 times (stopped the episode while playing, removed the DVD, and returned the whole series to Marksy). I actually watched Solty Rei in between one of my Shingu breaks... But Marksy kept insisting to me that "it gets better! The build-up to the final episode is epic!"... So I kept giving the show unjustified chances only to find out that Marksy totally fucking lied to my face.
Sllllllllllllllll-fucking-ooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwww. That is the only way that you could describe this show in one drawn-out word. Not that the show was terrible or bad or anything (I personally liked a few different aspects of the production), just that its pace was horrendously lethargic. This could have easily been a well-paced 13 episode series... Well, it would have been faster paced, but the main plot still wouldn't have made me give a fuck.
The plot of Shingu goes a bit like this: It's 2070 and there's this town in Japan that is special -- aliens living there and shit, but they can blend in and look human, so nobody's the wiser. And this big, galactic broo-ha-ha is starting up with Earth being the center of the problem or something. Then representatives and soldiers from lots of different worlds start to meet in this town in Japan, and then alliances are made... then more boring stuff. And in actuality we don't even get to see all this poli-sci shit happening. It COULD have been interesting if played out right, but instead we mostly follow a bunch of boring kids who live in this town and have a slight connection to the big political wheels that are spinning in the background. They tried to make this a "slice o' life" show -- letting us hang out with these children while big shit is happening all around them -- but it's not even fun and enjoyable "slice" stuff... It's just boring or disgusting crap (like you would not BELIEVE how many times conversations took place in the boys room where we have to watch a bunch of guys pissing while talking about the unexciting and tiresome things that are happening in their world). M. Night Shamalamadingdong's movie Signs tried something similar (telling the story of one family in the middle of an Earth-wide alien encounter/invasion), and at least M. Night kept things interesting (up until that really pathetic ending with H2O being the only thing that can hurt the invaders. If I just spoiled Signs for you you're an idiot). Shingu's storytelling just makes you feel like you're missing the REAL story, the ones the adults are dealing with. It tries so hard to be epic, but it FAILS. Completely. Urgh...
Like I said above, I did like some small parts of Shingu though. I thought that the character designs and art style were unique and interesting (more shows should experiment with their designs like this, instead of just putting different wigs on faces that have been used over and over again), and I kind of liked how the main character, Hajime, was really just an observer to most of the events taking place (well, when events did take place, which wasn't very often) instead of the brash and headstrong instigator that any other series would have centered itself around.
Things I didn't like (SPOILERS, BITCH!): There were LOTS of cringe-worthy moments peppered throughout the show (really gay instances where the kids try to "make a difference!" or some shit);
I was told that "it's smart, political and very intriguing," only to find out that it was none of those three. If you want "smart, intriguing and political" please get Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex instead (which is all that AND entertaining as Hell);
The Magistrate's final form is sooooo zarking gey. Sooooooo gey;
The biggest WTF moment for me was when after half the series we're led to believe that Nayuta and Hajime are the OBVIOUS couple of the show, but then, without explanation Nayuta suddenly got her panties all moist just thinking of Murio... I felt that I had totally missed something:
And the ending... Oye, the ending... The only reason I gave this thing so many chances was because quite a few people claimed that the finale was a "fucking awesome, sweet, kickass ending!..." Lies. LIESSSSSSS! Even at the end I found that I just didn't give two fucks about anything that happened to anybody (one fuck, maybe. Two fucks? No way).
So combined, that was like a full day (24+ hours) of my life wasted between these two shows. Don't let this happen to you. Just say "NO!" to Shingu and Solty Rei.
So the Rossman made me watch this Salty Ray show by telling me that it would give me some great ideas for some spectacular experiments that the world has never seen!.... Only it didn't. Yeah, it had robot girls in it, but I've already perfected mine thanks to my endless supply of teen runaways and my old scientist pal who now works at Radio Shack who provides my parts. True, there was some sort of atmospheric disturbance that caused major problems on the ground in the animated show, but the Matrix Trilogy already had me thinking of ways to "scorch the sky" so to speak, so another strike there. A mad computer that starts killing mankind in a destructive interpretation of its own self-preservation initiatives?... Oh boy have I done THAT one already. What do you think happened to Detroit?
Everything, and I mean everything, that Salty Ray showed me was something that either I, or somebody else, had already done about 20 times before. What a waste of time.
To be honest, if your future, and my past, was as boring and uninteresting as both of these Japanese animated shows make it out to be, I think global, nuclear annihilation would most definitely have been a viable option for us all.