Genesis Survivor Gaiarth
Ever watch the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Sure, the show really started kicking in during the third and fourth season. If you're watching the whole series, once you get past the first 26 episodes or so, it's a ride. However, watching the early episodes can be a little...well...cringeworthy. This is also the case with Genesis Survivor Gaiarth. Each segment is known as a Stage...and Stage 1 is just not very good. But things pick up...Stage 2 is better, and just when everything needs to kick in for the finale in Stage 3, it's all there.
The story in the first stage is a pretty simple revenge story (and I seem to have watched a lot of these lately). The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, though not one nearly as harsh as most stories. In the first stage, Ital, a young brash hero (is there any other kind?) is left to his own devices after the war-roid who raised him is killed in battle. He makes his way to a city, where he finds out that the Imperial wars are over. Shocked, he vows to take revenge on the machine that killed his best friend. He meets Sahari, a junk collector who makes quite a bit of money salvaging the electronic hearts of robotic creations that have been destroyed over the years, and she slowly grows fond of him. With the help of Zaxon, another war-roid that has lost its memory, Ital grows in his skills as he prepares for the inevitable conflict to follow. In the second and third stages, we follow the heroes past Ital's revenge. There are still a few machines out in the world who want to finish the battle with the humans once and for all, and they find the means by which they can destroy mankind. It's up to the wandering travellers to stop them.
Now let's get the bad stuff out of the way first, because almost all of it shows up in the first stage. The animation in the first stage is often just plain lame--it's an OVA series, but it looks like it was made on a TV budget, and the art style brings unfavorable comparisons to early 80s shows such as Genesis Climber Mospeada or Macross. The character designs are also just a bit weird, and in the first episode, they come off as too silly sometimes for the serious nature of the plot. With low frame rates and simply uninteresting design, I was very disappointed. The plot of the first episode doesn't help, either, because it just seems so very like every other revenge tale. Revenge sounds great, but as a plot device, it gets old quick. The first episode seems slow and somewhat unfocused in total. If the first episode was all there was, I would have been very disappointed, and I had half a mind to stop watching at that point, since the first stage is self-contained. If the first one was so mediocre, the others had to be even worse, right?
Thankfully, I was mistaken. Stage two starts building on the foundation of the first. It takes certain bits of the first stage that I thought were throwaway background material and makes them important. The need for revenge is gone by the end of the first stage, so the plot can move in a more heroic direction. There is a slight but still interesting romantic subtext that develops alongside, too. The plot outline is still pretty predictable, but certain situations are not, and we are left with a cliffhanger at the end of the second stage. The third episode in particular has some nice surprises that I didn't expect. Finally, what makes all of these concepts work so well is that the artwork improves a bit in the second stage, and in the third stage becomes really very good. By the third stage, the detailing was really nice, and the production values in general had improved greatly. The third stage looks like it had a truly serious budget, and that's never something to frown upon. The ending itself is also fairly satisfying, though by the end you wish there was more...it somehow seems vaguely incomplete.
So what's the final verdict? It's important to slog through the first OVA to get to the more impressive stuff, simply because there's lots of background you would miss otherwise. Just remember that it does get better! I do recommend the last two sections, which form a complete story on their own. It's not a classic, but it's not bad, either.
Genesis Survivor Gaiarth -- violence, mild language, brief nudity
Stage 1 -- C
Stage 2 -- B+
Stage 3 -- A-