Ross Sylibus is a Chicago police officer, who has just been transferred to the colonial police forces on Mars. Only barely off the shuttle, Ross gets caught up in the work of fellow officer Naomi Armitage. Things escalate into a shootout, during which the suspect loses his suitcase. Inside Ross and Armitage find a butchered corpse, though not one of human origin…
First releasing in 1995, Armitage III is a cyberpunk action series with a buddy cop touch to it. Armitage and Ross are put on the trail of a string of killings, which exclusively target robots hiding in plain sight among society. Mars is full of robot technology, but most are still obviously machines; easily identified by exposed electronics and limited AI. Nobody had ever imagined that some robots could perfectly resemble regular humans. What if their neighbors are robots? What if their partner is a robot?! Panic ensues immediately, leading to widespread anti-robot riots and vandalism.
Besides featuring plenty of mystery and action, the series also has plenty of romance to it. Armitage is a loose canon with a violent streak, whereas Ross is more by-the-book and gentle. In spite of their differences, Armitage makes it immediately clear that she is kinda into Ross. He tries to ignore her at first, but their relationship thickens as they face hardships together, help each other through emotional lows, and learn more about the other.
It’s a darn good romance for such a short OVA series. Be sure to also watch Dual Matrix, as it has some awesome payoffs for Ross & Naomi.
The visuals don’t disappoint either. The cyberpunk universe of Armitage III is realized fantastically; lots of great shots of neon-lit urban centers and the dingy underbellies hidden within it. Mars’ fashion sense leans towards the fetishistic, but Armitage owns it completely.
Action scenes are both plentiful and visceral. Arms get ripped off, people torn to shreds with machine gun fire, and there’s the occasional body horror. If I hadn’t been saving this series for romance month, I’d have reviewed it besides Akira instead.
All-around, Armitage III is a kick-ass series. My only noteworthy gripe with it ended up being the writer.
Chiaki J. Konaka is heralded for the eeriness of his screenplays, with Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze being some of his most respected works. If you heard of him in recent times, however, it’s probably because he wrote that stage drama for Digimon Tamers about political correctness and cancel culture. A debacle that brought attention to his blog, where posts about Digimon stood side-by-side with conspiracy theories.
At the time, people wondered if he’d been watching too many weird Youtube channels lately. However, Armitage III gives me the impression that he has always been kinda like this. A lot of the OVA revolves around the evils of the Earth government, which is possessed with feminism. They’re not identified as authoritarian, fascist, or any other political ideology. They’re just the feminist government, here to suppress everyone with their feminism. They want to take your sexy robots away! Run! Run! The feminists are coming!
It is very silly and underdeveloped, which undermines the tension of the series’ central conflict. The plot also has some other dubious touches to it, such as defining femininity with the ability to give birth. But I guess criticizing that would make me an evil feminist as well.
It’s notable that this entire plot point, just as its author, is absent from Dual Matrix. This movie instead revolves around the issue of robot rights in a society that is both dependent on and paranoid of android-like robots. Mars is here cast as a liberal, progressive society that has come to grips with the place robots have and deserve in society. Humanity can’t expect to create sentient beings and then throw tantrums when said creations want to be respected. Earth is conservative, but dresses their arguments up as common sense centrism:
“I knot that Humans are humans and robots are robots. Human rights are reserved for us, not for machines.”
Dual Matrix is a bit of a step down in visual splendor, but I enjoyed its story a lot more. Besides the overarching conflict being less stupid, the characters are also more rounded and the drama more believable.
Still, I would recommend both. In spite of its lackluster plot, the OVA is still a very cool action series with fantastic visuals. Dual Matrix will also lose some of its appeal if you hadn’t been following the relationship between Ross and Armitage since its beginning.