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Episode VIII: ‘The Big O’ Review


Protoculture Addicts first described “Big O” as a cross between Batman and Giant Robo; nothing could be more true; unless one also recognizes the addition of classic science fiction, a la Isaac Asimov, to the mix. Set in a large metropolis named Paradyne City, Big O takes place some 40 years after some unknown phenomenon has caused the inhabitants of Paradyne City (and the rest of the world?) to lose all their memories and knowledge. Paradyne City is a city with out any history, full of people who do not truly understand any of the machines and electronics that many of them use in every day life.

Paradyne city is not the Utopian future that some sci-fi authors have envisioned, rather it is the dark and gloomy future envisioned by others, the popular envisionment of what American cities could evolve into if the government lost control, Gotham city by any other name. Paradyne and Gotham are not identical cities, for one, Paradyne is a domed city, but the overall feeling of both cities is very much the same.

The similarities between Batman and Big O do not end with the comparison of their settings. Roger Smith, Big O‘s main character, is very, very similar to Bruce Wayne. Both are exceptionally rich, both are handsome playboys living with their live in butler and both a tuxedo to be casual wear. Roger also has a trusty, older butler named Norman.

Paradyne City is so rife with crime that even its military style police force is unable to adequately deal with the criminals. They have had to resort to hiring 3rd party “negotiators” to strike deals with criminals. Roger, a former military investigator is Paradyne’s top negotiator. As Roger’s job as a negotiator wasn’t exciting enough, he also moonlights as the pilot of Mega Deus “Big O“. Mega Deus (Great Gods) are giant robots of unknown origin that exist in the world of Paradyne City. The robots, or Mega Deus as they are called, are extremely reminiscent of classic Anime robot titles such as Giant Robo and Robot Carnival. Very retro, takes a while to get used to and in today’s age of streamlined high tech robots this type of mechanical design might not catch on… but then perhaps these classic designs are just what we need to replace the already tired and overused, newer designs.

Things go awry when, during a relatively routine job, Roger mistakenly trades ransom money for an android clone of his client’s granddaughter. But Roger doesn’t have any time to contemplate his failure when a giant robot is reported in the heart of Paradyne, breaking into the city mint. It’s time for Giant Ro… err… Big O. Roger calls upon Big O and brings his giant robot to the party in downtown Paradyne. As would be expected, 40 story tall robots cause significant damage when they battle each other in the middle of the city, so despite his good intentions, the pilot of Big O is not very well liked by the Paradyne Police, fortunately for Roger, they don’t know he’s Big O‘s pilot.

Eventually the rescued android moves into Rogers home, completing the crime fighting trio as well as adding a very interesting and wry element of humor to the story. In fact R. Dorothy (the android) is likely to become many people’s favorite character in Big O.

Artistically Big O has a style very similar to Batman Beyond (which is animated in Japan), In fact Big O was animated by the same studio that animated Batman: The Animated Series. Faces are angular and details are kept to a minimum. The coloring tends to be low key, with only the occasional use of bright colors, this complements the overall mood of Paradyne quite well.

Despite the similarities to, and the obvious influences from these classics, Big O is its own story, not a cheap rip off. These classic elements mixed with good writing, a witty, wry sense of humor and interesting animation makes for a series that is definitely worth checking out.

You just have to get over the really bad name.

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