Gije’s Question Would Eventually Become The Key Point On What I Took Away From The Series
Space Runaway Ideon, a series so ambiguous that it can’t even decide what it’s supposed to be called. Is it Space Runaway Ideon or Densetsu Kyojin Ideon. As I finally finished the series tonight, I found that this would be the least of the series problems with ambiguity that would ultimately lead to it being far less well received by me then it could have been. Join me as I tell the story of my adventure with the Solo Ship crew in trying to figure out just what the hell the overall message of the series was supposed to be.
Space Runaway Ideon starts off humble enough with a crew of human colonists on the planet Solo unearthing an ancient relic of the “6th Civilization” in the form of a battleship that is dubbed the Solo Ship by it’s crew, and 3 mobile vehicles that eventually combine into a giant mobile mecha called the Ideon. Soon enough like many Tomino series the colonists find themselves under attack by the Buff Clan, an alien race who’s legend of the Ide, a hero who would smite evil and lead their civilization to glory, has led them to Solo or Logo Dau as they call it in an attempt to seize the Ideon. Things get off to a rocky start between the two cultures, and this is where the series main theme appears to come into play, that being, a lack of trust and understanding between two otherwise similar cultures that causes them to fight and kill each other in a building and seemingly neverending cycle of hatred.
This would continue across the whole series and you would imagine the message should be pretty self evident, but perhaps in a misguided attempt to an extra layer to the plot, Tomino made the decision to add the Ide plotline to the story, which depending on luck, either seems to add a layer of mystery to an episodes or arcs storyline, or make it all but incomprehensible. The Ide as far as I can understand it is there to act as a symbolic representation of the collective nature of humanity, which believe it or not it literally is. This nature though as we obviously know is ambiguous in itself, as the characters frequently debate whether the Ide is trying to protect them, or draw them towards the Buff Clan, and if the latter, whether it is towards the mutual destruction of both races, or their eventual reconciliation. The Ide itself seems to flip flop between all of these desires, such that it’s true nature never becomes apparent. In one episode it will be protecting the Solo Ship and won’t allow them to kill certain Buff Clan members by robbing the Ide of a power supply (The Ide actually supplies the Ideon with much of it’s power) and is depicted as merciful, while in other episodes it will be depicted as this evil malevalant force that won’t allow the Solo Ship members a moments piece and will blow up entire planets with impunity for seemingly no reason. One could argue, that this itself is a depiction of humanities constant battle with it’s own ambiguous nature and that coming out at a period when the Cold War was reaching a climax, that Ideon was debating whether humanity would have the resolve to reconcile it’s differences across cultures that are really of the same race like the Buff Clan and Earthlings, or whether they were destined to destroy each other by an inexplicable lust for violence.
Unfortunately the series never really takes the whole Ide plotline this far, and this is pretty much speculation by me instead on what might have been. Rather, once the Ide factor kicks in to the series, character logic and behaviour is thrown out the window. Kasha for example may be depicted in one episode as the most immature and moody brat you will ever possibly see in an anime, but then later on she is for some reason among the most compassionate characters in the show (like when she is trying to comfort Sheryl after Gije’s death). Cosmo, the lead will either be a hot blooded idiot who’s sole driving motivation is “Damn, Buff Clan” and then the next episode he’s waxing philosophical with Bes on how they all wish they could just get along. What the hell is up with this character writing?! It’s ambiguous and seemingly undefined is what, like much of the series.
To make matters worse, another plot element is thrown in near the end of the series with the Ohm Foundation trying to usurp power from the Sovereign of Buff, but it never goes anywhere and serves to further muddle what the intentions of both races are. Is Doba the true evil of the series in his desires for conquests, or is the Ide at work again? Unfortunately we don’t really find out as as soon as he’s formally introduced as a character the series reaches it’s climax and ends…also in an ambiguous way. Many have argued whether the universe was destroyed at the end of the series as it’s hard to tell. What does seem clear in the end is that both races mutual hatred ended up destroying everything in the end (much like a possible nuclear war at the climax of the Cold War would have)? Suddenly though it seems the Ide has allowed everyone to live on as a part of it, as the characters head to a glowing light and appear to be reborn in a new existence as pure energy at the dawn of a new universe. Was this the Ide’s intention or final solution when it become apparent that the Buff Clan and Earthlings could not co-exist as corporeal beings.
It appears we’ve finally found the answer and the series has reached it’s obvious conclusion…but then wait, what was all that Ohm Foundation plotline about, and if the Ide’s intention was for both races to reconcile, why did it keep granting the Ide the power to continue the cycle of hatred by killing Buff Clan soldiers? Likewise, if this was the Ide’s final intention, to kill everyone, why did it keep them alive so many times when the opportunity could have been their to carry out it’s plan numerous times. Also, what was the reason behind the meteor swarms striking both planets. Was it to draw them out into space towards each other? If so why? None of it ever seems to become clear at any point, and it seems that their are several competing storylines going on throughout the series that never manage to mesh. Perhaps it might have been better if the Ide Storyline never existed, as it really makes the themes of the series indecipherable in the end, thus making it a rather average super robot series with lots of flashy battles and one of the bloodiest endings in history, when really it had the potential to be so much more. One could argue that it was because the series was cancelled and things were never given the chance to mesh outside of a movie that almost but didn’t quite manage to shed some light on some the aspects of the Television Series that weren’t made clear during it’s run, but then there are also some other problems with the series as well that make this a feeble defence.
For one, the series is damn repetitive when it could have been focusing on fleshing out the Ide storyline better and giving some sense to it. Roughly half the series deals with Harulu (One of the main buff clan commanders) sending a fat ass commander after the Ideon and Solo Ship to try to capture it, only for it to unleash it’s true power and force them to retreat or the fat ass commander to die. If said fat ass commander dies one of two things seems to happen, we either get a strong plot driven episode where the real players come out to spar and the plot moves forward, or Harulu sends in another palette swap fat ass commander with the same overconfident personality to take the previous ones place. And I swear to god this happens at least 8 times throughout the series run and is quite infuriating. I don’t know what is up with all of these throwaway characters that all look (fat) and act (cocky) the same getting introduced and killed in the span of 1/2-3 episodes to the result of nothing, when they could have been developing the Ide plot or focusing more on the characters inability to trust one another as a catalyst for their eventual destruction. Such a waste….
Also a problem is some of the voice acting, which makes the audio track a tough listen sometimes. Of particular note is Tatsuya Matsuda in his debut role (and one of his only roles mercifully) as Deck Afta in what may just be the most shrill, screechy and intolerable Seiyuu roles I have ever heard. Everytime Deck opens his mouth, one of two things will happen, either a shrill incomprehensible shriek will come out with his voice cracking in the middle that will send unpleasant shivers down my spine, or a raspy drawl will come out that makes me chuckle at just how bad it sounds. You can’t even begin to imagine just how painful it actually is to listen to Deck speak and this Matsuda would only have two more major roles, neither in any anime of note (Granzort and Future GPX Cyber Formula) before seeming to disappear from the industry. All I can say is thank heavens. Other characters have that Speed Racer style of rapid speak, which is common in Tomino anime, but this time rather than it being in scenes of tension, it seems like the dialogue is on full throttle at all times, leading to dialogue so fast paced that I would constantly be having to rewind my video to allow myself a chance to read the subtitles. It’s just plain unnecessarily fast paced and incomprehensible at times.
And that’s really all I have to say about Ideon. It had promise and initially I was really buying into the whole storyline and excited by the Ideon’s show of power, but the story fails to carry it’s own weight once new plot elements are introduced and end’s up ambigious and indecipherable in almost all respects. It’s a shame as this series truly was revolutionary for the time, but could have been even moreso had the fat ass commander arcs been kept to about 2 and had it not been cancelled. Both could have allowed more time for exposition and just what it was trying to get at with it’s theme’s of trust and betrayal. As it stands I can only think of one final rating appropriate for the series.
Final Rating: Six Out Of Ten