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Stop "Project Blue Earth"; I Want to Get Off!

by on May 3, 2009

Project Blue Earth SOS is an alien invasion show. Let’s just make that clear right off. It does not deal with romance or drama or humor or even combat, really. It deals with aliens. Invading. Do not go in expecting anything else.

This show’s aliens can speak English (Japanese?), but they still possess a standard alien form: they’re insects. They attack Earth with the usual methods (flying saucers, tripods, brainwashing…), and Earth’s only hope lies in the Labyrinth Alliance, an underground group of scientists dedicated to preparing for just such an attack. In the middle of all this are two children (feel free to groan here), Billy Kimura and Penny Carter, a pair of boy geniuses who are some of the first to witness the alien attack and are friends with the daughter of the Labyrinth Alliance’s leader, Lotta Brest (feel free to groan here too). There’s also a badass pilot who has a mysterious connection with the aliens, an aging captain with connections to the pilot, and Emelee, Lotta Brest’s private tutor and bodyguard. Oh, and there’s also a dog, who’s more interesting than the whole lot of them put together.

I generally like to spend most of the time talking about a show’s characterizations and designs, but with this one I’d rather not. The characters are two-dimensional. This flatness would not be a huge flaw if it weren’t for the way the show often calls for heavy character development and interaction, while deploying characters who aren’t strong enough to live up to it. It’s like the writing staff got out of sync with their own material somewhere along the line.

Consider this scene, for example: Billy Kimura’s father is trapped in space aboard the ship Invincible, running out of air and unable to return to Earth. Billy frantically uses his vast resources to launch a rescue mission. The ship, with the astronauts aboard and with their families watching, is blown up before it gets out of the atmosphere. Billy is shocked at the deaths that he has essentially caused, but is inspired by one of the astronaut’s sons to continue his mission and not let grief take him over.

It should be a terrific bit. Surely it read well on paper. But the execution is so clumsy, and the characters’ actions so clichéd and unbelievable, that I was not in the least bit stirred by what should have been one of the show’s emotional climaxes. The show’s VAs, both Japanese and English, can take their share of the blame; they sound surprised far too often, even when nothing that wasn’t already obvious has been revealed, and some of them (Billy Kimura’s English VA in particular) just give overall mediocre performances. There were times when, due to the overload of gasps, space-age clichés, and voice eccentricities, I thought that I was watching a parody. Except that if it is a parody, it is a genuinely unfunny one.

But let’s face it; you’re probably not buying this because you want character development and angst, are you? You’re buying it ’cause you want to see aliens. Invading. You want to see stuff blow up, and for a little while, that’s just what you get. The second and third episodes (that’s two thirds of the show, folks) are filled with air skirmishes, robot attacks, abductions, and general eye candy. The flat characters are excusable in these moments; indeed, in addition to Eye Candy, the writing seems more in tune with the characters during these first few episodes. But halfway through, the already puttering engine comes to an abrupt halt; there are no more spectacular air-fight sequences, and the air sequences there are do not last long enough. More time is spent on exposition and techno-babble than on actually moving the plot along. The climaxes come grudgingly, and are often totally unclimactic; one such moment, sadly, is the climax of the entire show. The introduction of several surprises about the aliens helps not a whit, and only serves to confuse matters further. Several plot threads that before seemed important are left unexplained, or are quickly squiggled in during the last few minutes. The aliens themselves are quite boring, even when their Secret Motive and Origin is revealed; their designs look like something out of a bad videogame; and none of them is villainous enough to create a sufficient Big Bad.

There are a few moments where flashes of a better show shine through: the aliens’ method of hypnotizing Earth’s population with a children’s radio show is both hilarious and disturbing, and the army guy’s heroic sacrifice in the alien stronghold is well voiced and well animated. In all, however, Project Blue Earth is an immensely unsatisfying experience that I simply cannot recommend.

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