Science fiction takes on a mystical bent with The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye. The show blends together familiar anime tropes in an entertaining way but ultimately just misses the mark by failing to address some tonal issues. Our own John Sinnott reviewed the first five volumes of the series here. This release of the complete collection features all five of them plus the sixth and final volume of the show for a total of 24 episodes.
Before I go any further let me address the potentially confusing title of the show. This is not the third chapter in an ongoing story about girls with different colored eyes. This is also not the story of a girl with a single blue eye because she rakishly wears an eye patch over the other one. And finally, (don't make me say it) there are no Cyclops-ian women to be found. The show is very much a self contained tale of one blade-wielding tomboy, Honoka, and her adventures in a post-apocalyptic desert with her trusty sidekick Bogie. If that sounds sparse or boring to you, worry not because the desert is also home to numerous critters like armored ants, sand spiders and pancakes (hard to describe, let's just say more deadly than delish). And then of course, there's the Third.
The Third is a mutant race that governs what's left of humanity since the last Great War wiped out much of the earth's population and turned it into an arid wasteland. A member of the Third has largely human features but is easily identified by the crimson third eye located smack dab in the middle of his or her forehead. This crimson astral eye can be employed to interact with computer systems and other electronics. The Third hold this power over the humans and rule them with a mixture of benevolence and condescension. They even have a law called the Technos Taboo which prevents humans from developing electronic systems or machines that are too sophisticated.
Dropped into the middle of this tense equation is our spunky heroine, Honoka. She was born to human parents but possesses an extra eye like the Third. The only difference is that her eye is a bright blue. As one character describes her, she is 'a mutant amongst the mutants'. Honoka's blue eye has unique powers, some of which even she is not fully aware of. She roams the desert offering her services to clients as a jack of all trades. This means that she'll transport any cargo or procure specific items for her customers as long as the price is right. She is aided in her missions by her trusty A.I. pal Bogie who also pilots her tank and offers sage advice along the way. Honoka may ride around in a tank but she also knows how to take care of herself. She has such graceful and devastating command of her blade that she is called the Sword Dancer.
Our story starts in earnest when Honoka and Bogie run into a tall, blonde stranger named Iks. He enchants Honoka with his mix of sweet naiveté and spaced out otherworldliness. When he offers to pay Honoka to act as a guide through her land, she has no choice but to take him on. It doesn't hurt that he also has an uncanny healing touch which will come in handy in future skirmishes. With the core trio in place, we move on to the other characters who Honoka will cross paths with over the course of the show. There's the fatherly mechanic Zankan and his adorable daughter Millie. There's the voluptuous and lethal nurse, Paife, who balances her hatred of men with a strange affection for Honoka. And then there's Joganki, a high-ranking member of the Third. He is often at odds with Honoka although he would probably like to be very good friends with her.
While Honoka and Bogie are a hoot to watch, the show really lives and dies by the quality of the individual story arcs. The first third of the show does a great job establishing the characters but doesn't give us a terribly gripping plotline to follow. Besides setting up a robotic soldier named Blue Breaker as an enemy worth Honoka's time, we wait for something to truly grab us. And then the Gravestone arc arrives with a bang. I won't say too much about this short but effective arc because its surprises are well worth discovering on your own. Suffice it to say, Honoka and Paife work together to put down a threat from an old weapon of the Great War that has resurfaced with a vengeance. For my money, this sequence of four episodes finds the show firing on all cylinders. The action is well balanced between characters and the enemy is malicious, intriguing and just a little sympathetic. It's too bad this arc ends halfway through the entire run of the show.
With the Gravestone threat taken care of, the show slows down a bit for the Desert Phantom arc. This is where things get a bit loony as a diabolical T-1000 styled villain chases after a desert fairy that holds the genetic codes for all forms of life in the universe. Even though the villain was suitably evil I found this tale a bit dissatisfying. This may be because Paife and her interplay with Honoka were largely missing in action. It might also be because the action was a bit choppy and the resolution too abrupt. Let's just say I was ready for the next chapter of the story. This last major arc takes up almost the entire final third of the show and brings things to a rousing (almost) finish. It involves Honoka taking on a mysterious member of the Third who has kidnapped Joganki with plans of destroying the world. While this mission gives Honoka a chance to strut her stuff, the battle to watch is between Bogie and an anti-tank helicopter. The blend of CGI and traditional animation gives this face-off a thrilling edge.
If I enjoyed two of the three main arcs, you might be wondering what the heck I'm complaining about. For starters, the character of Iks feels kind of arbitrary. There are episodes where his absence is dismissed without any real explanation and others where his sudden appearance is considered the most natural thing in the world. We also get a fairly intrusive narrator with a bad habit of commenting on the most obvious of things. Then there's the small matter of the Third. Despite featuring prominently in the title and mythology of the show, they are given very little to do. Even the final two episodes present them as minor nuisances swatted away by Honoka in her quest to overturn the Technos Taboo.
My final and most damaging concern is about the wild swings in the show's tone. For a series that is meant to be an action packed science fiction adventure, it frequently stops dead in its tracks so that Honoka can drop some ponderous philosophy on our ignorant noggins. Between her poetry readings and the grave intonations of the narrator, my frustration was reaching dangerously high levels. The fact that I kept coming back for more and thoroughly enjoyed everything surrounding the annoying bits is a testament to the overall quality of the show. Fun characters paired with compelling storylines...what a concept.
The show was presented in a widescreen aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Each of the 6 discs carried 4 episodes. By spacing out the episodes in this manner, the release avoided the pitfall of compression artifacts and other annoying visual defects. I noticed a few grainy scenes but given the animated nature of the show, I'm sure this was intentional. Additionally the CGI shots of Bogie's tank melded quite nicely with the rest of the series animation. Altogether this was an above average visual presentation.
The audio was presented in English 5.1 Surround, English 2.0 Stereo and Japanese 2.0 Stereo mixes. I chose to view most of the episodes with the Japanese audio track along with the available English subtitles. The Japanese track was perfectly serviceable. It was most effective during the action sequences but did a decent job conveying the eerie and spare feeling of the show's soundtrack. I also spot checked the English track and found it to be well produced. The English voice cast did a very good job but ultimately I preferred the original Japanese track for its authenticity.
Although the extra features of this release are scattered across all 6 discs, the most informative ones can be found on disc 1. After a few galleries of Character Art, we get Character Bios for Honoka, Bogie, Iks, Millie and Zankan. While Zankan's bio is text based, the others receive a fun narration by Megumi Toyoguchi who voices Honoka in the show. Next up, we have Voice Actor Interviews with Megumi Toyoguchi (23:46) and Daisuke Namikawa (20:45). Toyoguchi and Namikawa voice Honoka and Iks respectively. While both offer interesting perspectives on their characters, the genial Toyoguchi is a bit more fun to listen to with her healthy sense of humor. A few Music Videos and Trailers round out this disc.
Discs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 follow a similar pattern. They all offer Character Bios (occasionally with narration by Toyoguchi) and Additional Trailers. Disc 5 also includes Textless Openings and Closings. Disc 6 has a few Karaoke Music Videos and a Sneak Peek at the Manga for the show.
The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye is a fun science fiction series that doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. It has a spunky female lead who knows her way around a sword and an A.I. character with more attitude than most of the human characters around him. Since there isn't a compelling overarching storyline, the show relies on shorter arcs to meet our need for post apocalyptic thrills. The individual missions are mostly interesting but the show suffers from tonal swings between exciting action and ponderous philosophy. While not an unqualified success, the show is still Recommended.