#1 A post-apocalyptic journey
The story is set more than 500 years after the apocalypse occurred, causing the birth of a race of mutants that wiped out all of mankind in a matter of years and destroyed civilization as we know it. The descendants of the original mutants are all that remains now, inhibiting the ruins of Earth in makeshift communities. Humanity is now all but a legend.
Which makes it interesting when Yakumo awakens from cryogenic sleep inside a hidden laboratory, as the last human in existence. All she knows is that her father left her with a quest to find a mythical city called Shinzo, where she believes more remnants of humanity may be found, or at the very least something to reveal her destiny could be uncovered. She quickly befriends a spirited warrior called Mushra, the laidback gambler Sago, and the feline master chef and amateur guide Kutal, whereupon the three set out to find Shinzo. A journey that takes them to the ruins of famous monuments, to ramshackle villages straight out of the Wild West, and all manner of interesting locales.
It’s a post-apocalyptic roadtrip inspired by Journey to the West with a destination that may or may not exist. Rad stuff.
#2 A saint in a cruel land
Yakumo, despite having all her fellow Humans wiped out at the hands of the mutant “Enterrans”, is a woman with a heart of absolute gold, who is trusting and kind beyond any reasonable measure. Though she is hunted and often feared, Yakumo is determined to be helpful and forgiving, never so much as harming any of the people that assault her and insisting her protectors do the same. In fact, one of my favorite scenes happens early on, when Mushra is booted from the party because he murdered an opponent and doesn’t understand why Yakumo finds that deeply upsetting.
Not only is Yakumo foreign in that she’s the last member of a people that perished long ago, she is also different in that she’s attempting to live by values that died alongside her people. Earth, or Enterra as it is now known, is a lawless wasteland led by people that are absolutely mad, yet she tries to reason with everybody and remains humble and kind throughout, no matter how much she is mistreated. The show features a lot of death considering it’s aimed at a younger audience, which isn’t as graphic as some other shounen anime, but comes with a lot of impact due to how the characters respond to it. It definitely left an impact on me as a young kid, as some of its more shocking scenes stayed with me long after I forgot the show’s name and plot.
You could argue that Yakumo is refusing to see how wrong she is, but her trusting nature does often pay off in the end and it’s undoubtedly a great virtue. I honestly really enjoyed her character and had fun watching her 3 friends become loyal followers and adopt her way of life.
#3 The character design
In terms of animation there is no doubt that Shinzo was lacking in quality, but in my eyes it makes up for that with the interesting character designs. Especially Sago is a character I continued to remember well after I began forgetting about the show, because he was just such a cool dude and I love his costume and color palette. Most of the main cast enjoys similarly strong designs, which get to shine even more through their increasingly elaborate transformations.
Much of the remaining cast consists of animal and bug-themed mutants, which is a bit lame for a theme but well executed. I really enjoyed the design of villains like Gyaza, who was inspired by Medusa and whose body often twists and has a lot of flexibility to it, which is fitting for a snake-themed villain. Later foes get increasingly large transformations, with some of them being particularly unsuited for the target demographic. I can’t imagine the Satanic imagery and body horror in the later episodes went over well, for example.
On a side-note, the voice acting is also way too decent for how cheesy the script is, with especially Bob Papenbrook delivering a highly entertaining performance as the giant cat-warrior Kutal. We also got good old Steven Blum as the aforementioned Sago and Wendee Lee is in there performing one of the cooler villain roles.