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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Platinumhugen Ordian: Eva with Norse Mythos?

Neon Genesis Evangelion was not like anything that came before it, especially when it came to the mech genre of anime. So obviously when something like it became big other anime studios and creators were going to imitate it, but interestingly enough there weren't too many mech anime that went for a similar feel, at least to my knowledge. Now most people will quickly point out titles like RahXephon and Fafner in the Azure, which both do have a similar feel to Eva, but most people don't seem to know about a title that predates both and also was very Eva-ish: Platinumhugen Ordian, which aired back in 2000.

The story starts with main character Yu Kananase lying down on a grass riverbed, apparently having been in a fight with a local gang. His old childhood friend Satoru Tachibana finds him and they talk. Yu and Tachibana had not seen each other in a few years since Tachibana ended up joining the military. Seeing that he has nowhere else to go, and after a little coaxing from Tachibana, Yu joins the International Military Organization, or I.M.O. for short, which is the group Tachibana now works for. The I.M.O. is a type of special forces organzation where people are taught to pilot Rim Hugens (likely meant to be Limb Hugen), the mechs of this show, and fight in actual warfare when the military calls upon them. After joining the I.M.O. Yu reunites with Nanna, another childhood friend who he had not seen since he was little, and he meets Wolf, the prodigy pilot of his class. Yu's hesitation to join the I.M.O., though, mostly came from the fact that his big sister Kaori is a higher-up in the organization, and after a traumatic moment involving their parents Yu and Kaori have grown apart.

I could go and describe more of the basic story but in all honesty trying to fully describe Ordian is actually pretty tough. Hell, the description over at ANN's encyclopedia isn't too accurate either, because Ordian is mostly a two-part story. The first half deals mostly with developing the main characters, as well as a number of secondary characters, and eventually getting them into an actual war situation, which ends about as well as you'd expect from something that seems to go more for a real robot approach. The second half, though, is completely different...

During the first half you get these mentions and some slight idea of something called "Remake". Remake was partially created by Masaki Kananase, Yu and Kaori's father, and is the ability to give a person a brand new body while still maintaining their original soul and memories... Or something like that. Oh, and Masaki's old partner in creating Remake, who feels that Masaki stole his work, comes back from the dead in a sense to get revenge by trying to kill Yu and Kaori by brainwashing/remaking Wolf into a man named Eric. You see, the second half of Ordian is really confusing; it's a weird mixture of mech battles, vaguely-explained story elements, and Norse mythology. Yeah, if you couldn't tell yet by Nanna's name, Ordian heavily uses Norse mythology, much like how Evangelion used portions of Christian mythology. There's a Nanna, the giant robot Ordian is named after Odin, it's rival robot is called the Loki, the Ordian's weapon of choice is the Gungnir Spear, an odd I.M.O. computer system that Kaori basically straps herself into for the entire second half is called the Ragnarok, and in the last episode there's even a last-resort weapon in space called the Thor. I believe fellow main character Nell, the Rei of the series, and secondary character Rufus' mech the Oro are also named after Norse mythology.

And trust me when I say that I have barely scraped the surface of the story and characters in Ordian. There's Sanada, Masaki's student who slowly goes insane as the story advances, there's a by-the-books military general who works alongside Nanna's father, who's his superior and they are part of the SEELE-like group in the story, and about another half-dozen or so characters who get some sort of importance at one point or another. So you might be wondering who created this title. Well something like Ordian can only be created, for better or worse, by one man: Masami Obari.

Is it any surprise, really? Unlike fellow mech creation Gravion, though, Ordian is actually very low on fanservice outside of the last episode, which for some reason adds in a bunch of bounciness for no good reason. But to counteract that there's a fair amount of nudity for some of the females, including a naked woman right a the start of the opening theme sequence! Since the show aired on WOWOW, though, it's not surprising to see nudity in a show like this that's only 11 years old. But for those who know Obari as the man who gives you confusing and odd storylines that don't always make sense then you'll be right at home.

But, to be honest, I can't help but enjoy this show. Yeah, the second half is hard to follow all the time, but I was able to get around that partially for one simple reason: Yu is the anti-Shinji. If you remember how Shinji was the original Evangelion TV series, then we can easily go over his flaws: He had almost no self-esteem, he generally always complained even if it was solely for the sake of complaining, his usual screams of horror probably got annoying after a certain point, and he was "emo"; yes, a lot of this was the point of his character, but it does rub some the wrong way. Yu, on the other hand, is very confident in himself, you could even say cocky, generally has a point when he complains, his usual screams are hot-blooded and awesome, and anytime he did get "emo" due to something happening in the story he usually ended up realizing that he shouldn't hold onto that sadness and instead gets around it, generally becoming a better person in the process. Yu is everything Shinji should have been and that alone would be enough to make me like this show.

But there's also the mechs themselves, which I generally liked. For those who read my Dragonar review I mentioned that Obari heavily used the D-1's design when he created the Dragon Fang in Ordian, which is the Rim Hugen Yu uses. In fact, in a nice touch that isn't used often, when Yu gets the Ordian he actually never leaves the Dragon Fang; instead, the Dragon Fang goes inside the Ordian, much like how Machine Robo had Rom Stol pilot the Kenryu, which then went inside the Vikungfu. Interestingly enough, Obari also worked on Machine Robo as an animation director early on, so maybe that show was another inspiration when he made Ordian's mechs? The other Rim Hugens have really neat looks to them and the Loki in particular looks appropriately menacing and gigantic.

The opening theme, "Shinryaku -The Chariots VII-" by OZWORLD, is actually a really catchy theme that suits the darker and all-over-the-place feel the show has. Also, in another rarely-seen use, the first half uses one verse of the song while the second half uses another verse, though it's hard to prove as the fansubs only use the first version and even the French DVDs do the same. The two ending themes are both slower-paced titles and make good, calming themes after each episode (you might need it if you get easily angered by confusing plots).

In the end I can only do so much justice to Platinumhugen Ordian by reviewing it. There's just so much to it that I could talk almost forever about the show and all I can really say is that it must be seen to be believed. There's a fair chance that the second half will confuse you and might even lower your overall feelings towards the show, but for me this show is just entrancing in its confusion. I couldn't help but watch more of it during its second half, but I will say that its first half is actually really good and easy to follow. It develops the characters well and gets you to care about them... It's only the second half that can rip at your ability to follow story. But maybe Obari already planned it out to be like that and made no attempts to hide it, much like how Ragnarok in Norse mythology is pre-destined and known to all.


  1. Hey nice over view for Ordian, I just finished it last Christmas vacation. I really liked the 1st half too, but I was rather pissed with what they did with Wolf in the 2nd half, and everything seemed WTF to me there. Oro was cool but he felt like a last minute character, there were too many loose ends as well and some things about that Remake system didn't make sense to me too. On the other hand the mech designs were cool especially the Dragon Fang, Desperado, Sky Ripper and Oro's (I can't seem to remember if they gave it a name)

    I wonder if it would be included in SRW someday.

  2. Thankfully, the series is getting a resub, so things will be much cleared from now on.