Background: Last year I faded some heat for my review of Kirameki Project 1 by a handful of upset fans telling me at great length how I couldn't possibly "get it" since it was designed to show female empowerment and for a much younger audience than I happen to fit the demographic mold of. My rebuttal was largely conciliatory in nature, pointing out that reviews are only opinions and no one was forcing them to accept my word as carved in stone. Today's review of the concluding second half of the OVA really doesn't have a lot more to offer slavering fangirls like those I discussed the show with, and I would have thought they'd have picked up the true nature of the show much quicker given the multitude of panty shots and up skirt glimpses it provided fans, but like all entertainment; anime is a majority of one when it comes to what a person likes. Nonetheless, here's my brief look at Kirameki Project 2: Metal Hearts with a look to the past to keep everyone on the same page:
OVA: Kirameki Project 2: Metal Hearts is the second half of a six episode OVA where three princesses are in charge of the security of their small island nation of Genes. As stated in the first review, the oldest of the three handles things from their castle while Kana and Nene handle field operations. Kana is in charge of their most advanced robot, a towering structure in the shape of a girl wearing a maid outfit. She doesn't like to get her hands dirty and considers robots to be her friends. This leads to problems when sent out into the field because she doesn't believe in fighting and doesn't want to take the chance that her robot gets scratched so youthful Nene tends to get upset; wanting in on the action a bit too much.
The dynamic for this short series is that a group of American (or European, depending on your source material) industrialists have created a very powerful robot that they use to fight anyone that crosses their paths. They defeat all opponents rather easily and as a final blow to their opponents, they rip off their country logo and pin it on their chest; the show opening up with such a battle and the robot (called Super Great or Giant Robot, depending on whom you believe) displaying scores of logos as a veritable scorecard of successes. The machine's pilots report in to a boss that expects victory for all the money he has poured into the project. This works fine until they come across Kana.
Kana initially doesn't want to fight, even when prodded by her two sisters. The possibility of her precious robot companion getting hurt is simply too great so she casually walks away from the battle. This doesn't set well with the Super Great team either since they are under strict orders to fight and win, leading to a mishap that launches a bit of debris towards Kana (that scratches her beloved friend Junerin ever so slightly). Within seconds, Kana goes on a rampage that levels Super Great, barely allowing them to escape with the remnants of their creation, much to the dismay of their leader. The pilots and engineers are taken to task and told to rebuild in order for a rematch since the goal has been to impress the leading industrialists of the world that their design is superior in every way, with the ultimate goal being selling lots of expensive machinery to them. The defeat causes problems in that regard but the rematch is set for the second chapter of the two part series, and with any luck it will be more interesting to watch.
The box cover said it like this: "On the Mediterranean Sea, there lies the beautiful kingdom of Genes. It is ruled by three lovely, mostly innocent princesses and the power of technology. The surrounding kingdoms all fall one by one to a mysterious Giant Robot. Worse yet, the Robot is under the control of several decidedly unattractive Old Guys. When they set their sights on Genes, the Fate of the World, rests on the maid-outfit clad shoulders of Kana, the second princess. Born with a special knack for robot technology, Kana and her android companion Rincle are the last line of defense for Genes."
In general, this seemed to be a copycat of numerous robot shows before, with a few new quirks designed to appeal to the female audience. The problem is that there was almost no character evolution and what was presented was more two dimensional than usual. The advanced techniques used to anime the robots (as seen in the production feature) made it look cool but ultimately, looking cool should always be secondary to a good story with engaging characters. Well, with the second volume, the series seemed more willing to try new things, even paying a nod to a few age old series in the process. Kana, having vanquished her opponent yet again, ended up capturing Chief Engineer Ohya this time, leading to a series of revelations about their true motivations.
Ohya is struck by the similarities between Kana and his own daughter, leading him to become sympathetic when she is challenged by his old boss in a super powered military robot equipped with a device that even she can't beat without help. As is usually the case, the once invincible heroine of the story is now on more equal ground as she defends her kingdom from the evil boss, with the results anything but unclear as it gets pounded into the ground by him. I'm not going to ruin what little plot there was except to say that it had a fitting ending and was more of the same (earning it a rating of Rent It yet again) but the graphics seemed a bit more advanced; likely a testament to the creative team as they learned more about the software they applied their craft to.
The short version of the story is that it struck me as little more than a means for the company to provide a virtual resume for upcoming projects they might receive. To that end, the blending of the style of animation used on the female robot (Junerin) was superior to some of the CGI currently used in series that have a lot more bite to them in terms of the writing and I honestly would like to see what else they can come up with if given a solid story to work with. They claimed to be second generation anime fans that grew up on the genre and their devotion was notable, even admirable, in how many layers they added to the project's look; now they need to find the right project to really showcase their skills properly; not a lackluster knockoff of sorts like this one proved to be.
Picture: Kirameki Project 2: Metal Hearts was presented in a 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color as shot by director Katsuhiko Nishijima for Studio Fantasia and distribution domestically by Anime Works. The textures, rendering and other CGI were all top notch for such a show, proving the company has the ability to handle the technical aspects as well as anyone else in the field. The emphasis on spending a lot more time on the leading robot, Kana's Junerin, was evident but in general, it was a colorful and attractive show without many of the issues arising in lower budgeted anime series of late. If the same level of quality can be consistently applied, I would encourage the company to hire a few good writers and make a full season of the show using the same techniques. The blending of CGI with more traditional animation styles worked better here then expected, a tribute to the skill of the artistic team.
Sound: The audio was presented in the original 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese with optional English subtitles. I was kind of surprised that they didn't include a dubbed track but many fans see those as extraneous so I'm not fussing too loudly about it. The voice actors did a decent job and the sound engineers seemed well within their comfort zones at providing a title with good separation between the tracks. The music was light and colorful, adding to the fun, and while some of the translations seemed to be a bit off, I had to admit that the audio and video portions of the show were well done.
Extras: The best extra was another lengthy Behind the Scenes feature where the project was looked at from beginning to end by the staff with an emphasis on the drawing of the characters and seeing the crew at work. They were proud of their use of the software designed for the OVA and appeared to care a great deal about what they were doing. It lasted the better part of a half hour, making it one of the better BTS features I've seen in an anime release in some time. There were some trailers, a clean opening and closing sequence, and a character gallery too for those who care.
Final Thoughts: Kirameki Project 2: Metal Hearts will surely appeal to those of you that thought Kirameki Project 1 was the best thing since sliced bread but the stereotypes alone were reason for me to cringe repeatedly and the conventional plot that has been done to death was such that seeing the ladies portrayed like this really didn't invoke a lot of "empowerment" sentiments to me, unless showing crotch shots and panties empowers a few of you women out there (I'm not judging you, in fact, all the cuter readers out there of legal age can send me all the shots of themselves that they like if it will empower you). For the perverts out there, the aforementioned shots were pretty tame compared to other shows so don't get your hopes up in this rather short show. Give it a look if you like seeing technical advances in anime devoid of creative thought since the eye candy factor was high but don't mistake it for anything exceptionally well done as I would expect from the artists based on some of the material the two discs in the series have offered up.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.