After what seemed like forever I finally got a notification from Kickstarter that I could download the first episode of Under The Dog. If you don’t know what Under The Dog is or why it’s such an important piece of work for the anime industry as a whole then click here, and it should explain some things. As for the plot, well it seems like its going to be akin to something like Ghost in the Shell or Bubblegum Crisis. I’m just spitballing here, but this is my interpretation of things so far. In a near future humanity had placed all their hope in what they call the “light”. This seems to have unfortunately had the adverse effects of turning people into monsters known as “Pandora”. The US military, stationed in Japan of course, are out to find the people who are infected with the light and have potential of becoming Pandora’s. The reason is yet to be clear. However there is also another agency that commands the “Flowers”, young girl assassins who are in search for a human who has a white hue and can overcome turning into a Pandora. The Flowers seem to be imbued with something similar to what the Pandora have. Their goal is to destroy, what was humanity hope, in search of a new one.
So to start I’m going to spoil the shit out of this first episode so forewarning. There are some scenes near the end where the surprise is almost half the fun. Personally I am totally on board with what this show is laying down so far. It breathes life into its world almost immediately and lets a lot of the exposition be deposited by actual events. This made it way easier to explain and made the episode more engaging because I was learning about the world while seeing the plot unfold simultaneously. This took the stakes that I didn’t know existed and built them naturally and is what made the emotion given off at the end of the episode so much weight. Every event gives you more insight on what happened the scene before and ties it all together wonderfully. After almost 20 minutes I was sad when Anthea had to come in and kill Hana. Everything had built up her character so well and it felt like she was coming to some realization, but was cut short. This says a lot about the meaning in “light of humanity” and what kind of scenario our Flowers are hoping to break free from.
Honestly I would have preferred more Anthea, since she was on all the promotional material and took up most of the screen time in the PV, I expected it to start out with her. Never the less I like Hana’s tragic end lead into Anthea’s intro so much that I wouldn’t change it. Everything about Anthea is bad-ass, even the universe itself acknowledges her skill. However the scenario she’s thrust in still feels like a dangerous one. She gets caught by surprise more than once and still manages to struggle through. She draws a good parallel with the supposed theme of, what do you do when your hope has turned against you? Struggle to find a new hope. This reigns even more truth when she mercilessly kills Shunichi, the boy who Hana had previously declared their “savior” and had been trying to save for the whole first twenty minutes. When we think about how Shunichi and Hana both end up I thought “What was the point for Hana to die”? FO course it was to protect Shunichi but after she died her meaning for death became meaningless, she ended up dying for nothing in retrospect. Or die she? Maybe it wasn’t what she died for but her willingness to die. Anyway, the reason Anthea kills him is he shows signs of turning into a Pandora and she shoots him outright. We learn from the Flowers HQ that it was because of his hue changing to black. Which is sad and unfortunate if we consider how quickly things can change from hopeful to abysmal.
And that sort of sings through the whole episode. But I think the one “hope” if that’s not ironic enough is that Anthea does kill Shunichi right away. I know she was probably trained that way and all. But I think her willingness to put an end to what was a few seconds ago their “one chance” shows just how much she hasn’t given up and is willing to fight. Immediately after she quote’s someone we haven’t met yet and makes the “hope paradox” as if she is still struggling herself thought. Anthea herself may be bordering that line of hope and despair that this world is caught in. As for the other two Flowers they show, all I can say it that I hope we see more of the tan girl. I assume all of the girls have loved ones they are fighting for and while I didn’t really care that Hana’s parent died and her brother being left taken, I felt the harshness of the world they live in, which I assume was the goal. Hana’s mere inclusion in the story is rather tragic and sad, but I already talked about that enough.
Moving onto the animation, which I have already seen still’s and close-ups of people complaining. I personally thought it looked good. Not great in terms of art aspects, but amazing in terms of animation quality and shot composition. During action scenes there was a natural flow that made everything that happened that more impactful. The scene transitions also kept the heavy fast narrative much easier to get invested in and follow. Personally I liked all the character designs but can understand that some people prefer that “light novel” design better. But seeing those would be almost impossible to animate to the extent Under The Dog does, it’s a win. Something I also immediately noticed was that all the English-speaking people sounded very good. Some of their lines were a little silly. But their accents were clearly American and as an American who would notice something like that, makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Also all the military art, dialogue and actions felt very natural and realistic. I know it’s not something too noticeable but the attention to detail is what I’m getting at here. Under The Dog clearly had a lot of work put into it and care for what it’s trying to say and even the ephemeral things that don’t really matter. Because Under The Dog is all about pulling you into the world that these people live in and maybe slowly realizing that its only a few steps ahead of our world. Its trying to make this a personal story, and I like that.
I can only speculate on what Under The Dog ends up telling us about humanity, but right away I know its going to be about real feelings. Which is a good sign. Some sci-fi series get so caught up in their concepts that they forget to ground it into something that we can care about. As for my feelings on it, I left wanting more.