The last few years, we've seen a wave of movies expanding upon their original length in massive directors' cuts. Every part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy gets a half-hour or more of footage restored. Ditto for Apocalypse Now, Once Upon A Time In America, Alien 3, and plenty of others. Although many movies should be shorter than what they are, some get cut too much before they hit theatres.
In anime, there's rarely a cutting room floor, as it's too time-consuming and expensive to animate scenes only to delete them. Instead, scripts get chopped up in the planning stages as budgets constrict. I have to imagine that's what happened with The Humanoid, a stand-alone OVA that runs about 45 minutes. The problem with it is not that what's included is particularly bad, but that all the exposition that would make us care about the characters and make sense of the situation is gone. I can only imagine that somebody wouldn't have written the show this messily, so I go the other way and hope that the script was murdered by committee. As a two-hour movie, this might have worked. As it stands, The Humanoid is one of those shows gone totally awry, salvageable only by dreaming "if only..."
Although there's a back-story to The Humanoid explained in the opening crawl, it's not all that important. What everyone needs to know is that this lovably eccentric creator, Dr. Watson, built a robot that could learn and have emotions. His daughter Sheri is in love with a young ruffian, Eric, who makes his living hauling interstellar freight. Eric's coming to see her, but that's where things get weird. Governor Proud, the heavy of the piece, wants to find and launch some mysterious spaceship to get a princess to her homeworld, but the liftoff will likely destroy the planet. Eric's ship gets shot down, and he has to work his way back to Sheri's arms. Then they have to survive Proud's plans, teach the robot Antoinette how to love, and generally avoid mass havoc.
The Humanoid is pretty standard-issue in terms of animation for an 80s OVA, which means that it's not particularly great but not terrible. The designs look achingly old now, but for the time, they weren't half bad. There are also a few action sequences that look pretty decent. However, the modern fan will think this all quite quaint at best.
The problem with The Humanoid is all in its plot. Everything, and I do mean everything, happens to keep the plot going. Really, Antoinette's existence is only there to fulfill the plot requirements of the ending. Otherwise, there's no point to her character being a robot. Sure, she's supposed to learn emotion, but we rarely see it. What we do see is, again, just a plot device. Because the thing is all plot and no substance, it does mean that it moves along at a brisk clip from point A to point B. However, it's like speeding 90 miles an hour through the Arizona desert...you'll get across the state pretty quick, but you're not going to see anything interesting along the way.
The reason I think The Humanoid must have been chopped up somewhere along the production line is because the emotional reactions to major events are still there. Characters who've spent less than two minutes of screen time together seem truly attached to each other. This really works against the show because the audience has none of these same feelings. When one of the characters cried at a loss in The Humanoid, I almost laughed. It was so out of place that it ripped me right out of the narrative. The show doesn't take the time to earn the right to my emotions.
I'm really being pretty friendly with this show considering how bad it winds up being. I am probably giving it more credit than it deserves, but perhaps it's because I enjoyed the couple decent action sequences and I saw the hints of a much better story. There are plenty of mindless shows that fail miserably because they want to hit the lowest rung and miss even that. The Humanoid wants to be better than it is, which I respect. But it's a failure, and not even a brilliant one. In many ways, it reminds me of The Fifth Element (and yes, I know I'll get letters about saying that). Both have plenty of potential but squander it. Both have nice action bits that don't save the whole. Both were shows I wanted to like more than I did. That being said, we aren't talking Battlefield Earth here, but it's still one to avoid.
The Humanoid -- violence -- D+