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Solty Rei Post-viewing Notes: Paint-by-numbers Anime

Solty Rei is the rather lengthy tale of hard-boiled gun-for-hire Roy, who lost is wife and probably daughter, and the kind, innocent, ridiculously-powerful robot-girl Solty who he unwillingly takes in and worms her way into his heart. There are also a colorful collection of peripheral characters at various levels of seriousness, animation by Gonzo, and eventually some large-scale plot.

It’s not at all bad—Solty is indeed endearing, Roy is likably gruff as he inevitably warms to her, there’s a collection of humorous and/or mildly dramatic bits through the first half, and a medium-paced build with somewhat more drama into the larger scale plot in the second.

It is also so completely predictable it’s kind of ridiculous. Anime by committee, paint-by-numbers plot, call it whatever, all I know is that if you pick any setup and mentally calculate whatever the most obvious cliche outcome is, that is exactly what happens. The closest thing it has to a surprise is the inevitable somewhat out-there backstory that is revealed toward the end, although even that is expected—of course there’s going to be some sort of crazy backstory and weird behind-the-scenes villain, it’s just that the specifics, by nature, won’t be even hinted at until way into things. The villain is particularly amusing—he’s introduced early on as a pleasant and apparently normal possible romantic interest, but from the second he walks on screen you know he’s going to end up being a bad guy—silver hair and you can’t see one eye are the anime equivalent of having the Mark of the Beast scrawled on your forehead.

There’s also the Knight Sabers. Ok, technically they’re government super-soldiers or something, but frankly their power armor looks exactly like the Knight Sabers, there are four of them, and their personalities are close enough to just call them government-agent clones of the old-school freelancers. The rest of the characters are every bit as cliche as that group, though at least they’re pleasant enough (and also adults, which is a nice change of pace).

Strong points are a few bits of drama surrounding Roy and his boss Miranda’s respective tragic pasts and the children that have helped them through it, Solty and Roy’s low-key bonding—obvious but still cute—and Solty herself, who is a sort of anti-perky girl, being much more low key and a little slow, but endearingly pleasant and direct. The setting turns out to be relatively interesting when they finally explain what’s up, and even prior there’s enough interesting stuff with laws about children, adoption, cybernetics, and methods of dealing with a major disaster a few years back. There’s also Gonzo’s visuals, which are on the lower end of their quality scale, but still quite good. Oh, and the very end is a nice little not-entirely-expected angle on the expected conclusion.

Weaknesses, apart from being completely generic, are that there’s far less action after the first few episodes than you’d expect for what is basically an action series, the standard long-winded whiny moralizing before or during any major battle, and a number of character changes that flat-out don’t make any sense apart from “Well, needs to happen for the plot to work.”

Also on the “huh?” end, the entire finale is sort of a mess from a character logic standpoint.  It sort of gets the whiny moralizing out of the way in a pre-Big Bad showdown, leaving the actual showdown a little more direct, but then first has the main bad guy go all sadistic for no reason whatsoever (illogical based on his character, and odd given that they’d tried to humanize him earlier), and then tries to make him sympathetic again after that, when it’s just spent ten minutes making sure you really, really hate him. That was just bizarre. Then it goes and sticks an epilogue episode of arbitrary extra showdown on top of it, which is almost entirely reserved for whining, although at least in that case there’s some decent human drama to it rather than preachy monologue.

There’s also a double-length bonus episode post-finale that is set well earlier that, somewhat amusingly, does a better job with the drama than anything else in the series. I expect it ended up in an epilogue because it reveals some minor backstory stuff that was being saved for the end (not sure why, admittedly), and frankly, were it to have been in the main continuity, would have screwed up a later bit of character drama because it was basically a repeat of same (giving a gift to Rose was the big thing before the midpoint episode, which wouldn’t have been a big thing if the events in this episode actually happened). Looks like they had two different ideas for some bonding and decided to do the cop-out and do both—too bad the bonus one came out better than the rest (it’d have also made you care more about the Knight Sab… er, RUC girls than you did during the finale).

Amusing aside: Roy is the classic gruff, angry loner, and a pretty cool one. We learn from experience, however, that he only looks good when he’s angry and/or mildly depressed in an angry way. Partway through, he gets happy for a little while, and frankly looks flat-out creepy when he’s smiling. When he’s subsequently very sad and showing it, he looks almost as unsettling. Thankfully, he quickly reverts to angry or angry-sad and thus starts looking acceptable again for the remainder of the series.

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