#1 It looks like absolute trash
You need five reasons? Just look at this mess. It looks like somebody tried to recreate Knights of Sidonia on the Playstation 1. Everything is a computer generated mess with stiff movements, blocky shapes, soulless characters, and an uncanny valley effect that few other shows can hope to rival. And it’s so inconsistent too, like sometimes a random door might have a ton of detail worked into it while in the same shot you can see an apartment building that looks like it was ripped from an NES game.
The characters tend to be particularly ugly and generic, and if you’re asking me, they should probably have canned the project the moment they noticed the mere act of characters talking made them look ridiculous. Scratch that, characters can’t even just stand around without looking terrible. They move around unnaturally, stare at each other with frozen expressions, and it’s all completely static. Only the robots look sort-of passable because they can at least get away with looking stiff and mechanical.
#2 It has directing work to match
Digging up information on this show has proven to be tricky due to its obscurity, but as far as I can tell it was a project largely led by a director whose only other works were the Kingdom of Chaos OVA shows that I haven’t watched. The inexperience certainly shows.
The camera work and pacing of everything is just plain awkward, with the camera often zooming in way too close to a character’s face as they recite lines straight to the screen, and other such bizarre shots. The most ridiculous though are the random pauses, like at one point I thought the stream crashed because nothing was happening or being said for a good five seconds. The screen just showed a few dudes sitting around not doing anything, like it was a video game loading the next scene. A similar shot had a robot looking towards the screen for a few seconds, unmoving, no dialogue, only to then start firing three seconds later, also straight at the screen which made for a weird shot for an action scene.
While this kind of improves as the show goes on, assuming you are generous enough to give it that much time to show any improvement, it never reached a point where I could say any one moment in the show looked good. It’s few attempts at comedy are the worst offenders, lacking any sort of timing or delivery to make the jokes click or even register. There were definitely moments where I only realized seconds after a scene that it was meant to be a comedy bit, while at the same time some of the “serious” scenes had me laughing at how futile it is to try and make any sort of drama work with this animation quality.
#3 JESAS is ridiculous
Putting aside how crap the whole thing looks for a moment, I’d like to point out that the plot makes no sense. It’s set in a world where global warming has flooded a good portion of Japan and the civilian casualties and exodus of large corporations has left it in financial straits. Eager to turn their luck around any way they can, the government puts all its faith in JESAS, an evil organization that wants to do evil deeds of pure evil.
When I say evil, I mean the most generic, cookie cutter type of evil. JESAS’ only apparent business strategies are dumping nuclear waste, causing more pollution, and training a unit of kids to be a private army for them. The people in charge of JESAS have round-table meetings in darkened board rooms, their bosses have evil-looking moustaches, and all they really do is shout about how they must get even more evil. Sacrifice the kids! Employ illegal weapons! Dump even more waste!
There is just no depth to JESAS as an organization, no logic that clarifies why Japan is treating them as their new and only hope. We actually start the story from the perspective of a JESAS pilot, 14-year-old Kazuto, and I thought it was clever that the show had us meet sympathetic characters working at both sides of the conflict. Except the further it goes, the less believable the characters at JESAS become. Why work, fund, and protect with your life an organization devoted to ruining the world even more? There is no benefit to JESAS, it’s not creating new jobs to relaunch the economy, it’s not reclaiming land from the sea, they just exist to be villains.
Main character Kazuto is not great with first impressions. Kicking off the show by peeking up a girl’s skirt and acting insulted for being called out on it, he proceeds to sign up with JESAS and become a pilot. From that point onward he’s really more of pinball, allowing himself to be bounced around from situation to situation. And like a pinball, all he needs is a little flick to suddenly change his entire direction.
It’s rare to see characters with as little charisma a Kazuto. For most of the early show he gets overshadowed by random side-characters. He is just all-around kind of a useless teenager with little to no dialogue and nothing to really set him apart. A crowning moment comes at the halfway point when he declares his strong and unquestionable loyalty to a belief, but two lines of dialogue later another character has persuaded him to go against it. No joke, it’s even worse in context, but I’d be spoiling the big (obvious) plot twist the show works towards if I went into more detail.
In one episode Kazuto suddenly has PTSD out of nowhere and he sexually assaults a female character, which is also dropped and forgiven pretty much a scene later. At that point it just gets awkward. It really feels like the writer tried to work a lot of ideas into Kazuto and didn’t know how to handle it. He has to be both comedic & silly, as well as dramatic and full of tragedy. He has to be bumbling klutz with no combat experience, while at the same time excelling as an ace pilot. The fact he is exactly as old Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis may betray the writer’s inspiration, but comparing the two characters (and by extension their series) would be an insult to one of the most influential anime series of all time.
#5 Giant robot battles that aren’t fun to watch
Despite everything mentioned above, when everything else is against you, a show like this can at least be entertaining at some basic level thanks to its fights. Watching giant robots beat the crap out of each other is always fun, and in the past it has certainly helped me get through shows I otherwise wasn’t enjoying much. Leave it to Run=Dim to mess even that up.
There is so much wrong with the fight scenes I struggle to figure out where to start. First on my list of grievances would be the confusion. Everybody steps into identical robots wearing the same suits and putting on face-obscuring helmets, which makes it a total nightmare trying to keep track off where each characters is. When a robot explodes you seriously don’t know if they just murdered Kazuto, one of his friends, or an absolute no-name character. During all this, the handling of the camera is just as incompetent as during the rest of the show, so it cuts to different angles at different parts of the battle every few seconds, making it even harder to get a sense of where everybody is and how the fight is proceeding.
A sense of impact is also sorely missing. The guns on the robots are puny, little light guns and even the machines themselves feel like they are just toys. You got these armored giants battling in forests and never do you see any trees snap or fall over, there is never any debris or battle damage to the robots, they don’t even leave any imprints on the ground, it all feels so cheap. And yeah, it’s an older show, but we have seen better stuff before. I understand that computer animation is a different beast compared to traditional animating, but the action in Run=Dim can’t even compare to lesser shows from the 80’s, let alone series like Big O that were airing around the same time.