#1 Low-effort action anime
Condition Green is a 1991 OVA and the only major production by the short-lived animation studio Hero Communication. It was directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi, who is otherwise mostly known for directing tie-in movies for shounen series like Dragon Ball and Digimon. That’s not the best starting position for any anime, much less an ambitious war drama.
The anime is about the technologically-advanced Gazaria Empire invading the earth-like planet of Emerald Earth with its army of cyborg stormtroopers and psychic superhumans. Keith Winter is a veteran of the previous war between mankind and its alien nemesis, but the loss of his platoon has left him traumatized. His superiors won’t let Keith rest, however. As the invasion of Emerald Earth commences, he is given command of a special ops unit consisting of the finest specialists mankind has to offer.
Ambitious stuff for a first production, but it becomes clear very early on that the anime doesn’t have the capacity to live up to it. Episode 1 is already very unimpressive, with unexciting combat scenes and directing that feels very awkward. It constantly feels like the battles weren’t thought out at all, leading to stilted fights with unclear purposes and tone. Even in the opening flashback battle, it’s difficult to keep track of what’s supposed to be happening: There’s 5 guys in a foxhole, suddenly there is an enemy charge, then an unrelated counter-charge, suddenly there’s a whole army there and Keith is somewhere else entirely. It’s very messy.
The character-design is quite nice, but the animation is nothing special and frequently cheaps out. Lots of intense scenes take place in the void to save on backgrounds, some shots are very transparently extended or looped to fill time, and entire scenes are just reused across the anime, just to name some examples. I went into Condition Green willing to forgive some problems, but I didn’t expect things to be this dire.
#2 Hollow drama
War dramas are intense and emotional stories, but they are also difficult to pull off believably. Condition Green is an example of the genre done so wrong that is comes around to being unintentionally hilarious.
All the dramatic events of the story are too ridiculous to take seriously. Characters make the most inane decisions possible, sometimes literally choosing to die for no better reason than to be dramatic. One scene that stood out was so hamfisted as to be borderline parody. You got this man arriving in an idyllic village and loudly boasting about this HAPPY NEW LIFE he is going to start here with his LOVING ELDERLY MOTHER, only for enemy gunships to suddenly appear just to specifically bomb the vintage car with said mother in it.
I rewrote this segment like 5 times because I couldn’t decide what utterly baffling scene to focus on. The anime takes itself completely seriously, but it’s so spectacularly inept in its writing that none of it works as intended.
Child characters in drama stories are always difficult to do well, especially when the story is supposed to be serious and grim. This makes it baffling to me that somebody like Barney exists in Condition Green.
Barney is a reckless, energetic kid who wants to help out and becomes a tag-along for Keith’s special ops unit, even though he serves no real purpose. He’s just barely capable enough to run simple errands, but is otherwise nothing but a liability. Kids like him were prominent in anime throughout the 70s and 80s, and they were rarely funny or endearing even then. Stories like Barefoot Gen or War in the Pocket managed to do interesting things with the archetype, but Barney is just a straight example that stays loud and dumb throughout the whole series.
There was actually a golden opportunity to have some last-minute redemption for the boy, but the inept writing kept this from happening. Spoiler:
At the start of the show, Barney tries to act tough by running off towards the Gazaria invasion force. Keith’s sister Maria runs after Barney in an attempt to stop him, leading to her being shot and killed. This could have been a painful learning moment, teaching Barney that acting recklessly could bring lethal harm to not just him, but also his friends. Instead, Barney decides to act tough in the finale by refusing to evacuate, choosing instead to “protect” Maria’s grave. What better way to dishonor a person who died for your sake, than to repeat the exact same mistakes, allegedly for her sake.