Watermelons were never meant to be substitutionary body parts.
That is, in the most delicate way I can put it, the primary problem of Divergence Eve. Part science fiction adventure, part girl power show, and part fan service forum, I could never get past the obvious staring me in the face. For whatever reason, Divergence Eve's creators used character designs where the women look like they've stuffed their blouses with various gigantic fruit picked up at a summer farmer's market. And though the show actually tries a stab at legitimate sci-fi, it cannot get past the creaky framework established nor the cheeky attempts at attracting a hormonal male audience. With some tweaks, Divergence Eve might work, but the first volume just frustrated me.
The show's first episode starts in media res, placing us somewhere in the future of the program when everybody already knows everybody else and they can shout technobabble at each other that would confuse a Trekkie. It makes the similar opening of Gasaraki look brilliant in comparison...I don't wonder if a few people who rent this title will just give up after this absolute mess of a beginning. It works in certain circumstances, but not here.
Thankfully, the show rewinds in the second episode, giving us room to get to know the scenario into which we've been thrown. We meet Misaki, a young woman who winds up as part of a squadron working at an outer space facility called the Watcher's Nest. Long-distance space travel has become a reality in the 24th century as holes in the space/time continuum allow for flight between pockets of space, and the Watcher's Nest is an outpost along the galactic route. Misaki goes through training, and though she is well behind the other cadets, she has a certain potential that doesn't go unnoticed.
Part of this potential comes out when Misaki has run-ins with Ghouls. These bizarre bio-mechanical creatures appear to come from the dimension of space through which ships pass to get where they're going. Sometimes they tag along for the ride...and it isn't pretty. Their existence is hidden from all but those in the military who need to know. Through a variety of circumstances, Misaki keeps running into them. She's not supposed to tell her squad mates that these things exist, but her reactions to them give some clues that she might just be the person to be able to stop their threat to our galaxy.
As I mentioned, the character designs for this show are designed for maximum...impact? I don't know what to say here, other than that I would have found them pretty ordinary if it weren't for their unique...um...size. The visuals are a mix of 2D and 3D animation, with almost all the actual ship and space animation being entirely 3D and the character sections being more traditional. Because the two styles are dramatically different, you'll either be impressed enough to ignore it or be annoyed at how it looks like two unrelated shows are merging into one. I'm not a fan, myself. If they could get it to work, I am not against it, especially since the 3D work is actually very impressive. But they have a long way to go.
In my opinion, Divergence Eve is pretending to be something it's not. The overlay of scientific gobbledygook serves to accent that the show really isn't about that at all. If it was, it would make more sense! It's like the staff was trying to branch out from creating yet another lame fan-service bouncefest but didn't really know how to make something else. Though director Hiroshi Negishi has some good stuff on his resume, including Haibane Renmei and some bits of the Tenchi Muyo properties, this show has more in common with his horrifically bad Amazing Nurse Nanako. To be fair, they give it an honest try. For all the annoyances, there are real glimmers of creativity and potentially entertaining plotlines. And for their part, ADV's release of the full 13-episode series will only take 3 DVDs, so if you do like what you see, you get plenty of it all at once.
What I found most frustrating, though, was the inevitable sameness of it all. I'll admit that I am not a fan of girl power shows where the weak ones find their niche and everybody works together as a team to defeat the enemies of love, truth, justice, and the shoujo way. Despite the sci-fi and fan service, this is the show's heart. Take that as you will.
After hearing some good things about the show on the Internet, I was hoping to enjoy this show, but I came away disappointed with the first volume. I wanted to give it a fair shake and came up with some rationalizations for the mistakes the studio made on this title. Parts of it were good enough to make me toy with giving it a low B- rating and letting it slip into the "recommended with reservations" category, but I eventually realized that my reservations had reservations! It seems stupid, but the show may just owe its weakness to its top-heavy character designs, which have the reverse effect from what was intended. When the show starts to get serious, you still have to wonder why the heck they made these poor women look like enhanced Barbie dolls. It may sell to teen boys, but it makes for a less than satisfying show.
Divergence Eve Vol. 1 -- violence, nudity, annoying (yet to some provocative?) character designs -- C+