Satomi SatouNobuyuki HiyamaAya UchidaM.A.O
Z/X Ignition
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: X-Z
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Yuji Yamaguchi
Writer: Kurasumi Sunayama
Actor: Aya Uchida, Hiro Shimono, Hisako Kanemoto, Kazuhiko Inoue, M.A.O, Maaya Uchida, Miyuki Sawashiro, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Satomi Satou, Shintaro Asanuma, Yui Ogura, Yuichi Nakamura, Yurika Endo
Keywords: anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 16 April 2020
The second half's stronger than the first, but I enjoyed it all. I wonder if there might have been some snootiness towards its origins in a collectible card game, but I thought it was fun.
The world has been invaded by "Zillions of enemy X", aka. Z/X (pronounced "zex"). Black dimensional gates have opened all over the world, letting Z/X invade from five different dimensions and go to war with each other. Apparently each of those is an alternate future, although I had to google to get all the background and it's easy to forget that not all Z/X are alien-looking freakazoids. (Z/X are powered by magic handwaving that means they need to be captured by a card device and have a human partner... except for all the ones that don't.)
1. The White World is where humanity turned into angels. Wings, robes, Biblical names, etc. They probably supply more cast members than any other world bar Earth, e.g. Fierte the Pride, Sir Garmata, Gabriel, Gambiel, Quon (Cait Sith), Michael, Misaki Yuzuriha, etc.
2. The Blue World is where humanity's gone cyborg. They talk about copying and rebooting themselves. (They also have boob-friendly outfits.) Cast members: Rigel.
3. The Black World is where humanity became obsessed with death and nearly wiped themselves out. Cast members: Sieger (giant flying lion who'd kill you for breathing in his vicinity, but gets character growth from his association with Ayase Kamiyugi).
4. The Red World is where humanity's bodies degenerated and they designed new perfected bodies that they test in combat. Cast members: Sera Kurashiki (nine-year-old girl) and Orichalcum Tyranno (her terrifyingly gargantuan but loyal crystal tyrannosaurus rex).
5. The Green World has been nearly overrun by plants and so its people might have branches growing from their foreheads. Cast members: Rindou (ultra-traditional samurai, but also cheerful and good-natured).
Oh, and mankind's supposedly on the brink on our Earth. (This isn't immediately obvious. The show doesn't feel near-apocalyptic and civilisation's doing just fine where we are, in Kobe, but this is a world where being invaded is a thing and we see it happen. Tanks, soldiers and armies are a regular presence. Also, a significant number of cast members have been orphaned by Z/X attacks.)
The show's first half is standard, but fun. There's not much depth to it, beyond the cast, the florid worldbuilding and the cool character designs, but that's enough. "Human has card-based superpowered ally" is a well-worn basis for anime, but this example is less childish than most. The danger's real. Lots of people have been killed. Our hero (Asuka Tennoji) likeably fails to juggle his part-time job, his colleague Aina who likes him, his angel partner Fierte and assorted nutters. (He's nice, but a bit dim.) There are fights. The writing can feel a bit shapeless at times, with ep.4 being a bit of a random blob of interactions, but I enjoyed following the misadventures of Asuka, Aina and Fierte.
Ep.5 is surprising, with a likeable main character turning out to be an interdimensional racist. She doesn't like foreigners. Ep.6, though, is where the show gets interesting. Mikado Kurosaki and Alexander (the Great) have created an ideal civilisation where there's no fighting and humans and Z/X co-exist peacefully. The whole world should be like that. That's a big deal with the world in its war-torn state. However:
(a) Mikado plans to fix the world's problems by conquering it.
(b) Alexander is a battle-loving musclehead. "A few casualties are meaningless in the face of the holiness that is my great battle!"
The show gets more sophisticated when they show up. Should our heroes join Mikado and Alexander? They and their enterprise are deeply questionable, but they're an effective partnership and probably our best hope for saving the world. If they ran a world government... well, we'd probably be safe from global extinction.
But then they invade somewhere we know and things get more complicated again.
It then gets darker. We get a closer look at SPOILER's racism, which came from a tragic place that invites sympathy but is still stupid and world-threatening. Ep.8 tells us the backstory of Sera and Tyranno. Ep.9 tells us that of Ayase, which is horrible enough to make you empathise with a quest of genocidal vengeance. She has a death pact with Sieger, by the way. Ep.10 finds yet more evil to explore. That's a pretty strong run of episodes.
There's also sexual tension between, bizarrely, humans and Z/X. Leaving aside the ones where it's plausible and indeed probably deliberate (e.g. Asuka/Fierte and Rindou's declaration of lifelong fidelity while Chitose is naked), we also have Sieger's occasional sleaziness around Ayase. I mean, look at him. He's a cat the size of a taxi. It's like a spider finding a fly sexually attractive. Mind you, it might be a factor in the softening of his bloodlust.
There's some male gaze and the show's not without stupidities. Why doesn't anyone guess that Racist Hater is responsible for Racist Hater Monster? Also the climactic fight in ep.12 is a bit formulaic, although fortunately it's a relatively small part of the episode.
Not to be confused with Initial D, another 2014 anime with which it has nothing in common beyond a not dissimilar name. For starters, Z/X Ignition is watchable.
This show is reasonably good. I like the complexity and darkness of its world, which is arguably deepened by the existence of the 2018 Z/X series. (This one thinks it's setting up Season 2 of Ignition, not a semi-reboot that was released years later after fundamental world changes.) The second half has some strong episodes. I'll definitely be watching the sorta-sequel. (WARNING: I did and regretted it.)