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Kiddy Grade vol.3

Kiddy Grade vol.4

read our review of Kiddy Grade
Case 1: The Peacekeepers
 
 
December 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Kiddy Grade
Case 2: Pieces Of The Past
Case 3: Lies Beneath
Case 4: The Present Future

director: Keiji Goto

210 minutes (12) 2003
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
A little known anime series in this country, Kiddy Grade looks, at first glance, to be little more than a collection of stereotypes. The main characters are teenage girls, the theme song is pure unadulterated Japanese pop, and the costumes are almost uniformly tiny. However, scratch the surface and you find a series that is intelligent, often very funny and, at times, incredibly dark.

Kiddy Grade focuses on two members of the ES Force, an offshoot of the GOTT (Galactic Organisation of Trade and Tariffs). The ES Force is GOTT's primary law enforcement unit, operating in groups of two and travelling settled space, settling disputes and keeping the peace. Our heroines are Éclair and Lumiere, two young girls who are relatively inexperienced members of the force. Éclair is bright, kind, funny and has had the memories of her past erased whilst Lumiere is quiet, intelligent and refined. Effectively, Éclair is the brawn and Lumiere is the brains, a classic cop pairing that grounds the series in law enforcement as much as science fiction.

What makes this show genuinely impressive, though, are its plots. They're a neat combination of cop show staples and elements of Japanese culture, neatly embodied by the first episode on volume two - High/Speed. A reactor capable of massively boosting a human's speed and reactions is stolen and placed inside the body of a young woman who dreams of becoming the galactic wrestling champion. Of course, the people who enhanced her have ideas of their own on what she'll be doing and, when she realises this, and Éclair comes to rescue her, all hell breaks loose. Roxy, the woman in question, is a fascinatingly drawn character, her tragic past given her actions real context and as the episode continues she becomes a real element of chaos. Roxy wants to be the champion and no one, including Éclair will stand in her way. Climaxing in a fantastic running battle with underworld cyborgs, the episode is as much a character study of Roxy as it is a neatly constructed science fiction tale.

This unusual density and intelligence of plotting is present throughout the series, as demonstrated by the stories of volume three. Trial/Child is particularly impressive, following Éclair and Lumiere as they escort the rightful heir to a massively powerful financial group to his coronation. Here, one of the series' recurrent themes is introduced with the two agents having to help Timothy, the young man, fight against the prejudice of the nobility who run the group. There's a wonderful moment here where, at Timothy's reception, the two agents are forced to wear spacesuits because the group leaders are afraid they're carrying infections.

This volume is particularly good, with the final episode, Mirage/Snare proving a particular standout. Éclair is sent to the planet Dardanos to investigate the disappearance of several businessmen, only to find that no one remembers them ever existing. A nice twist on the Invasion Of The Body Snatchers subgenre, it also provides the momentum for the stories on volume four.

Éclair's past memories return to haunt her, literally, in these three episodes and take the series into some remarkably well-handled and genuinely dark territory. The dreadful event of her past almost crush her and the entire first episode, Rebirth/Slave deals with her trying to accept her past. It's a very dark piece of television and the finale, which sees Éclair finding a modicum of peace with what she did is both redemptive and subdued. She still has problems dealing with what happened, she simply chooses to get on with her life.

This fourth volume really sees the series movie into high gear, with the final two episodes sending it off in a genuinely unexpected direction. The social conscience of earlier episodes returns in full force and the events that transpire, and Éclair's part in them is genuinely surprising. As the volume finishes, the fate of the characters is left open whilst still providing a modicum of closure. Éclair gets her peace of mind, but the price she and Lumiere pay for it remains unclear.

Kiddy Grade is a real gem. It's a highly unusual, immensely entertaining series that combines elements of Japanese popular culture with science fiction and social comment to huge effect. I can't remember the last anime I enjoyed this much.
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