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"Blue Gender" Complete: Attachments, Both Emotional and Severed

by on April 10, 2008

I recall first seeing some of Blue Gender back in 2002-03, when the UK Sci Fi channel broadcast the series at the height of their experimentation with anime series. I liked what I saw, but the awkward timeslot meant I missed quite a few episodes. I always intended to watch the series in full if they ever showed it again, but the following year Sci Fi UK gave up on anime altogether, citing low ratings. Having finally had the opportunity to watch the series (and movie) in full, courtesy of one of FUNimation’s latest Viridian sets, I can safely say it was worth waiting to see.

The story concerns Yuji Kaido, a “sleeper” who came down with an unknown illness back in the early 21st Century. He’s then woken in the year 2031 by a military team into a world where humanity has been decimated by insect-like creatures known as the Blue. One of the military team-members, Marlene Angel, manages to get Yuji to safety, and together they and a small team attempt to take Yuji as a “sample” back to the giant Second Earth space station, where a small section of humanity still exists. The first dozen episodes chronicle Yuji and Marlene’s struggle to get to the Baikonur space base in order to get to Second Earth. This section necessarily chronicles an arduous journey, and it does a good job of showing just how badly the Blue have overrun mankind. Along the way, there are also some very interesting viewpoints shown by Marlene and her comrades, both towards any stragglers on Earth and toward each other. Due to this, Marlene comes across as quite an emotionally cold character, and Yuji is quick to step up to the plate to remind her of humanity’s old standards.

Unsurprisingly, by the time they make it to Second Earth, Marlene ends up genuinely caring about Yuji as something more than a precious sample to take back to headquarters. From that point the series changes tack somewhat, as Yuji and other sleepers are revealed to be special since their illness was caused by “B-cells” they carry in their bodies. Yuji and Marlene then join a select team of other sleepers as a Sleeper Brigade in the fight against the Blue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a connection is eventually discovered between the sleepers’ B-cells and the Blue. This aspect of the series carries it through to the end, as Yuji struggles with his grasp on humanity and, in a role reversal, Marlene tries to bring him back. This arc carries the series through to the end, and along the way a very surprising revelation is made about the true nature of the Blue, which makes for quite a change in the perception of the series as a whole.

It’s this kind of writing that makes Blue Gender a cut above other science-fiction series. There are no clear-cut answers, and no good solution to mankind’s relationship with the Blue is found. Also, while there are clearly both good and bad characters, there’s enough philosophical ambiguity that I had to revise my thoughts about the true nature of the Blue themselves. This ambiguity is but part of a certain sense of brutal reality that pervades Blue Gender. This can be seen more explicitly in the opening scenes of the first episode, where Yuji simply loses control of his bladder after glimpsing the monstrous Blue in action. As befits an anime that one network chose to show at 1:50 a.m., this type of visceral realism remains throughout the rest of the series, as it soon becomes clear that no character is safe from the gory onslaught of the Blue themselves. The death rate in the series is astonishingly high, and there are many innocent victims of the Blue’s advance.

It’s easy to take such a series as simply a depressing watch. For me, though, Yuji and Marlene, and how they interact with each other, even in the grimmest of circumstances, make it compelling viewing. The thought that went into describing what a small fraction of a defeated humanity might do with itself is also fascinating. Living primarily to see out the destruction of the Blue, the inhabitants of Second Earth use physical intimacy whenever possible to comfort each other. While this might sound somewhat salacious, the show’s matter-of-fact presentation makes it unnerving more than anything else. Nevertheless, it does mean that there are more than a few fanservice-filled moments in the series, for anyone taking note. In dealing with the violent nature of the Blue themselves, the series is also quite graphic in its depictions of bloody battles. While not necessarily up to the levels of the more extreme 80s and 90s gore-filled OVAs, it’s not far off, and again would be something to take into account if you’re going to try out the series.

The animation is generally of a decent standard. As is customary, most of the truly good animation is reserved for the beginning and end of the series, but the rest of it isn’t too bad for a TV series. In fact, this looks to be one of AIC’s last animated series done totally on painted cels rather than employing the odd bit of digital animation or coloring, which makes for a much more consistent look than their contemporary A.D. Police series, for instance. On the audio front, the voice work in the dub is uniformly excellent, and special mention must obviously go to Eric Vale and Laura Bailey, who voice Yuji and Marlene respectively, as they play every line with spot-on emotions. Their performances really help to reinforce the emotional journey both characters embark upon, and ultimately add yet another layer of verisimilitude to the series.

In addition to the series itself, this set also contains the compilation movie Blue Gender: The Warrior, but unlike most comparable compilation movies that make use of TV series footage, it offers quite a bit of new animation in order to tell a slightly different take on the series’ story. In making such a compilation, however, character moments are always the first to be excised, so even though it’s a handier package and an intriguing alternate version of many of the series’ events, I’d always prefer to watch the series instead. Ultimately though, it’s a very welcome addition to the set, and makes everything even more complete.

FUNimation’s DVD presentation is just as good as other discs I have reviewed recently. As usual with their discs, there’s no sign of the “extras stripping” seen on other supposedly complete sets. Opening and ending credits are also presented with alternate angles so you can see the original Japanese versions. There are also some nice artwork galleries and character and voice actor profiles. There are also the typical trailers for other series–it’s interesting to note that a good 75% of them are Dragon Ball related.

Blue Gender, due to its subject matter, will not be a series for everyone, particularly anyone who’s used to their anime being “light and fluffy”. However, if you’re looking for a mature and literate, thought-provoking science-fiction series that also manages to avoid being pretentious, as well as a series with two entertaining and compelling main characters, then Blue Gender should satiate your desires.

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