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Blue Gender article published in Animerica
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Violent, gruesome and relentlessly grim, Blue Gender is not a show for everyone. This post-apocalyptic series has the unique element of a Rip van Winkle lead who remembers what it was like before the Blue took over Earth, forcing humanity to take drastic actions for the sake of survival. The wide-eyed innocence of the hero underscores the harshness of the world he wakes into and provides a character audiences can relate to, for the rest of the cast is so unfeeling as to barely be human. Add a mysterious quest on top of all the action you'd expect from such a setting, and you've got an intense and intriguing sci-fi series.

HARSH AWAKENING

Dawn. Soldiers and mecha stealthily approach a medical complex. Inside, Yuji is floating in a pulsating sphere of red and blue. Slowly sensations begin to filter in--mysterious, muted voices urgently speaking cryptic words, the feeling of movement. Once Yuji is conscious enough to think, he wonders the obvious. "Where am I? What's happening?" He opens his eyes to find he's in a coffin-like container on a gurney being rolled hastily along an unlit corridor. What a way to wake up!

With a rattle and a bang, Yuji's gurney is sent shooting off in the opposite direction. It crashes and the lid pops open. At last Yuji can see, but he doesn't understand. Ahead of him is a mecha struggling against a horrible, massive monster. The monster tosses the mecha aside then turns to the two soldiers beside it, spitting green goo on them and crushing them into a ball. What can Yuji do but obey the instinct to flee? Unfortunately, he hasn't been awake long enough, and he stumbles to the floor, attracting the beast's attention. Before the monster can reach him, another mecha arrives, killing the creature. The canopy of the mecha lifts aside to reveal a skull-like head within. The mecha reaches for him, but it's too much for Yuji. He squirms aside and mindlessly runs.

As Yuji runs, he begins to remember. He ends up in a room splattered with green goo and littered with pried-open containers like the one he'd been in. Then it all comes back to him. He and others had an incurable disease and were cryogenically frozen to prevent the illness from progressing while doctors searched for a cure. The green balls in front of him are the remains of the other patients. With his cry of frustration, the camera makes a pass through a city, showing the grim devastation hinted at in the opening credits. The buildings are covered with brown burrows and the streets are littered with green balls and the crushed remains of human technology. There, the giant, bug-like creatures reign.

Yuji's still-recovering brain recalls the day he told his best friend Takashi he had decided to become a Sleeper to await a cure. They promised that when Yuji recovered, they'd take a trip. The memory is twisted by the reality Yuji has awakened to, for he imagines Takashi overwhelmed by a monstrous shadow.

Yuji's cries attract the monsters, but they also attract the mecha. In the ensuing fight, the mecha pilot's mask is clipped, revealing a pretty, calmly determined face beneath. At last, Yuji realizes the mecha are human technology. After defeating the bug, the pilot announces she's Marlene, and if he wants to live, he'd best do as she says. Their escape from the building is interrupted by more bugs, but a pair of mecha join the fray. Outside, a support team awaits. With efficient, military precision, the bugs are killed, bombs are set to destroy the building, and they pull out. Victory is theirs, for now. Finally feeling safe, Yuji asks for an explanation. In an unfeeling monotone, Marlene explains the bugs are called Blue; they are mankind's enemy. The caption at the end of the first episode proclaims the year is 2031, and humanity is on the verge of extinction.

GRIM FACTS

On the whole, the series doesn't get much brighter than the first episode. Although Marlene, second in command of the team, is reluctant to tell Yuji anything, he and the audience are finally let in on the big picture. The Blue were first sighted in 2017. They were thought to be a biological weapon, but their ability to process organic and inorganic matter directly into energy was beyond man's understanding of biology. Soon the Earth was overrun, with humanity a mere annoyance to the Blue, like ants at the picnic our civilization provided them. Because the human body is such a small energy source, they cocoon people until they have a large enough number to make it worth a meal. Worse, they seem to evolve in direct response to mankind's attacks, making it progressively more difficult to kill them. With no safe haven on Earth, people have escaped into space, to a space station called Second Earth.

Marlene's team and others were sent to harvest Sleepers, cryogenically frozen patients like Yuji. The Sleepers weren't supposed to be awakened but taken in stasis to Second Earth, there to be used as part of the plan to defeat the Blue. Marlene doesn't know how the Sleepers fit into the plan, and it remains one of the big mysteries of the series. All she knows or cares about is that her duty is to get the sample (Yuji) into space.

This attitude of treating the Sleepers as things rather than people is just one of the disturbing qualities Second Earthers demonstrate. They also have no overt emotional ties to others and a disturbingly casual view toward physical intimacy. Their philosophy is, in a world where you could die at any moment, you take pleasure when and with whom you can in order to feel alive. Caring deeply for others just slows you down. On top of this, it turns out the world's population has not been completely wiped out. There are still small pockets of humanity trying to survive amidst the Blue, but Second Earthers will risk none of their resources to aid them. To the people of Second Earth, those remaining on Earth are already dead.

MISSION CRITICAL

The goal of the first half of the series is to get Sleepers into space. As a mission, its success is questionable. Disaster follows disaster as the action-packed episodes roll along, expanding the setting of this daringly brutal series.

Some might compare Blue Gender to the classic man-against-bug epic Starship Troopers, but the plot has only a superficial similarity to the original and bears virtually no resemblance to the massive bug-hunt of the recent U.S. film. Mankind is not defending Earth; Earth has already been taken. The sociological toll of this difference is at the heart of the series. If Blue Gender must be likened to other titles, better to others creative mastermind Ryosuke (long o) Takahashi has been involved in, such as Votoms, Gasaraki and SPT Layzner. All are military-oriented mecha series with intense, grim plots which depict how world events can alter mankind on a personal as well as global scale. With its endless death toll and initially high gore factor, Blue Gender is definitely not for kids. Viewers would do well to pay attention to the 15-and-up warning. Blue Gender's grim, humorless plot makes it equally unsuitable for fans of lighter fare. But if you like action, mecha, hardcore sci-fi, global plots or Ryosuke (long o) Takahashi, this series has a lot to offer. Being released three episodes at a time by FUNimation, the 26-volume series is scheduled to be completed in English sometime this winter.

SIDEBAR

SKIN OR ART?
Despite the casual attitude about sex among the Second Earthers, there is virtually no nudity in the series, except for the end credits which depict Marlene walking nude through water. If you're generous, you might say this is an expression of her inner vulnerability, a visual echo of the ending lyrics. On the other hand, isn't Marlene's reintroduction to her inner self best expressed through her actions and changing attitudes? If so, the end credits are just unsubtle fan service.

CHARACTERS

Yuji Kaido
Dealing with losing twenty-two years to cryogenic sleep is hard enough. How would you feel if, on top of that, the land of plenty you'd fallen asleep in had transformed into one of devastation? Alone in a terrifying new world, this young gas station attendant is a bit hysterical at first. Eventually he begins to adjust and adapt to this horrific new age, but he never gives up his belief that the unfeeling cruelty of the Second Earthers is just plain wrong.

Marlene Angel
Intense and focused, this elite soldier is second in command of the Gran Seil Recovery Team and the team's Sniper Armor Shrike pilot. Her intelligence, skill and adaptability are vital to the success of Gran Seil's mission to bring a Sleeper to Second Earth. In training since she was orphaned at the age of ten, she has embraced Second Earth's heartless philosophies and is initially all but emotionless. Prolonged exposure to the intensely emotional Yuji slowly begins to color her perceptions.

Joey Heald
Pilot for the legs of Gran Seil's Grapple Armor Shrike, Joey is a remarkably laid back fellow. Optimistic despite his environment, Joey befriends Yuji and trains him to replace the Grapple Armor Shrike's dead arms pilot.

Robert Bradley
Commander of Gran Seil, Robert is a stereotypical team leader. Dedicated and mission-oriented, he remains stalwart despite the continual loss of his team members and his eventual injury.

Blue
These giant bug-like creatures have taken over the Earth and driven humanity's hope for survival into space. There are a variety of species roaming the planet, each with different abilities. Their only weaknesses are they can't swim and a blow to their "core" kills them.

Second Earth
Earth's best and brightest have migrated to this space station in hopes of discovering a method of wiping out the Blue. Harsh and heartless in the name of survival, as a society, they are far from a shining example of humanity's potential. How Yuji fits into their plans for recovering the Earth remains a sinister mystery for most of the series.

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