A heady mix of sci-fi and occult, with a dash of old style romance comedy, leads to a good show, with just one real drawback (besides the dub of course).
At the turn of the century mankind was nearly wiped out after an ambitions scientific and spiritual project goes badly wrong, and a generation later most of the earth has been reduced to a wasteland excepting a few hyper-populated cities, such as Tokyo. From out of the dimensional woodwork demonic creatures call the Lucifer Hawk have appeared, and to combat their murderous rampages a special branch of the police force was established to combat them. This branch, the AMP, are our protagonists, headed by the newest and most important recruit; Kasumi Liqueur. Along with her and her family power to combat the Lucifer Hawk there is the cyborg Kiddy, the psychic Yuki, the mystic Nami, the ‘visionaire’ Lebia, along with their secretive chief and commander. But, ultimately, their powers can be their own double edged swords, and the Lucifer Hawk come in many forms, and with many individual schemes.
Ultimately this is a good bit of proper sci-fi, blending all sorts of the related sub-genres into one epic, if somewhat messy, whole, and epic it certainly is at times. It is obvious that there is a vast amount of back-story and general history to this show, and it manages to convey it rather well over its 26 episode runtime. Unfortunatley, for much of the show there is this lingering feeling that, while it is good, it could have been that bit better. They could have spent a little more time on the impressive epic storyline. The characters are all likable, even the unlikable ones, but their own profile episodes tend to focus a little too much on the general sci-fi standard stories, or on their slightly over the top foibles. Aside from those character profile episodes the pacing feels nice, but just a little ordinary. The romantic comedy aspects are cute, but often to the point of being goofy rather than just fun.
Yet, with all that said the show really shines at times. Just as a premise, it is nice to see a largely adult lead cast, and obviously so, even if they do as much angsting as any other at times. It makes the setup that bit more credible, and it does mean that it doesn’t skimp you on the proper romance when that does eventually raise its head. In addition, the monster and gadget designs are well above average in my opinion. Best of all though is the fact that despite all its minor, niggling faults I came away from the show feeling that it really was a good one, mostly because of the plot twists. Ultimately a decent chunk of the series can feel rather aged and generic given everything that you are bound to have seen since, but when the storyline does turn the screw it turns it hard! This is especially true of the last story arc, the transition to which slaps you in the face hard, and makes you sit up and pay attention. It is genuinely good storytelling, and for all their goofiness in the past the characters rise to the occasion wonderfully, and you realise just how much they have made you care about their plight.
Like other shows of the ‘future tokyo’ or even cyberpunk genres this is a very dark show at times, which doesn’t skimp on the blood, violence and the mental cruelty of the Lucifer Hawk. Likewise having proper adult characters means proper adult relationships. Even though it is shown simply or even cut away, a kiss looks genuinely romantic, and while nothing more is shown it is clear that sex is a fact of those relationships. Teens plus.
Unfortunately time has not been kind to the visuals. The animation is about par witth what you’d expect here, but the fluidity really does suffer at times, and worse the CGI looks horribly primitive by today’s standards. The saving grace is the character designs, mainly because they look normal, but still well defined from character to character. That said, if you cared about the look of it you wouldn’t be watching this show.
The dub has some decent moments, but overall I found myself fast forwarding through parts just so I didn’t have to listen to it. Most of the voices, for most of the time, seem to have almost no flow or realism to them. They are stilted, poorly timed, the writing comes across as unnatural and even out of context from line to line, as if each actor had no idea what the feed lines or following ones would actually be. The only real highlights are Kasumi’s flippant comments for the sake of comedy, which hit just the right mix of playful stirring and resignation, and the voices of the Lucifer Hawk themselves. The steady, menacing intonation and the effects the voices have been put through are great for the demons, and were one of the few reasons I could watch the whole thing dubbed. Ultimately though, that’s not nearly enough to recommend the dub.
The bottom line is simple. This is a very good show, but it feels a shame that it wasn’t that bit better. Certainly, if you stick with it to the end you will be rewarded, if only by that last story arc, but there will be this nagging feeling that for once ‘very good’ just isn’t quite enough. It doesn’t help that, being so epic in scope, the ending is left obviously open for whatever happens next in the manga, but there was enough closure to satisfy me. If you like your sci-fi dark and your romance light then this is a good recommendation, as long as you can live with the fact that it isn’t perfect.