When it comes to serving up nostalgia-tinged treats no other company’s back catalogue can come close to matching Manga Ent.’s unwavering slew of classic titles.
Bolstering that impressive group of golden oldies is the oft-sidelined masterpiece Orguss 02. I first saw this title on the Sci-Fi channel way back when, stunned by what I’d seen I searched high and low for anything regarding this exciting series, nary a shred of information could I turn up.
When Manga finally announced the DVD I was overwhelmed, finally I could prove to my friends I hadn’t merely dreamt up this tale of WWII-inspired mecha battling over picturesque skies in magical kingdoms.
A great war is being waged between the kingdoms Revillia and Zafran, they endlessly battle each other with a military force of ancient mecha known as decimators, when a frighteningly powerful and gigantic decimator is unleashed the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Taking place 200 years after the original series Orguss 02 is a six-episode saga of war, political scheming and exhilarating aerial combat topped off with a smattering of sci-fi, Manga Ent.’s DVD release is the perfect way to discover this largely ignored classic.
Perhaps Orguss 02’s biggest hook and praiseworthy innovation is its setting, taking place in a quasi-futuristic version of the 19th century it does away with usual mecha conventions, opting instead for a colonial, rustic aesthetic the proceedings are lent a fantastical edge that captures the imagination whilst enthralling the eye. The level of care and detail extends beyond mere eye candy however and Orguss 02 goes to painstaking lengths to immerse us in this carefully weighted world, I can only hint at the depth here, but when you consider that a whole new language was created solely for use in this series it’s hard not to be awed.
The plot itself is a masterful patchwork of political machinations and grass roots conflict, the main story follows raw recruit Lean, honourable yet naÃ¯ve he is an eminently likeable and refreshingly straightforward hero. The supporting cast is just as impressive, the standout personality being Commander Manning, a reprehensible rogue with charm to spare, seeing the war as a chance to fill his pockets and bag a bit of hard earned fame he’s the kind of amoral, antihero you can’t help but root for. Some of the minor players get drowned in the spectacle but this show provides just the right balance of dry humour, action and kitchen sink drama to keep even the shortest of attention spans from wandering.
Aside from a vested focus on characterisation Orguss also boasts an impressively layered and fascinating storyline. Epic battles rage between gargantuan mecha, the twisted political agendas of a bizarre royal family provide plenty of intrigue and a strong anti war sentiment under cuts the whole series. As the sanity slips and the tone shifts an exciting urgency takes hold, nothing is what it seems and just when you think the bigger picture has been revealed the shocks just keep on coming.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful OVAs to ever grace the scene Orguss 02 can still holds its own today, the character design is bold and appealing whilst retaining a distinctive old school feel, the Decimators boast an impressive degree of originality, imagine if mecha had been in operation during WWII and you get a good idea of what to expect. The background work is perhaps the most impressive however, bucolic landscapes sit alongside war torn settlements and the whole show is given a realistic yet otherworldly look that really fires the imagination.
Orguss 02 is a stunner, nigh on perfect in its execution it manages to fit more swashbuckling adventuring, Machiavellian intrigue and mecha exploits in its paltry six-episode framework than even the most ambitious 26-episode series. More discerning modern anime fans may find the sprawling plot and narrow episode count a bit too much to swallow, however if you’re willing to take the gamble I guarantee Orguss 02 is an experience you won’t soon forget.