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Kiddy Grade - Case 1:
The Peacekeepers

directors: Keiju Goto, and Yasuhiro Kuroda

70 minutes (12) 2003
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
In this first batch of Kiddy Grade, the Japanese anime series, there are the three introductory episodes amounting in total to 70 minutes action. Surely, one more episode would have qualified a decent package, particularly when you are three episodes in before the settling in takes effect. Each episode title is made up of two collaborative words, the first is Depth/Space, and don't ask me what it's about because all I did was watch it. The story is too fast and bloated with sci-fi gobbledygook, a cataract of skittishly familiar words, often re-enmeshed to the phoniest effect. Concurrent with all this, the impatient edits result in failure for the usual fight ballet tricks. As episodes two, Tight/Bind, and three, Prisoner/Escort, hurry by, there is some ingestion and it can be derived that in this sci-fi scenario there is an intergalactic peacekeeping and law-enforcing operation called E.S. Force operating under the approval of the Global Union - why 'Global', I don't know apart from the fact that it makes no sense; they're just throwing nice sounding words together, here).
   Global Union employs children with fabulous talents. The stars of these stories are a pair of ES Force 'nobles' Éclair, a 16-year-old with superhuman strength and speed, and Lumiere, several years her junior and braced with talents more devastating, the girl can act like an electromagnetic bomb or dispel entire fleets of spacecraft to handy black holes. It is remarked, in one episode, that these abilities are 'illegal enhancements'. I don't know, though, when I was a wee child and short of a Rusk I once, apparently, punched the back off a chair. Above the 'nobles' are the S-Class members, reputedly more powerful, but only, really, in line with experience, and weakened by having a spoilt nasty streak. The mean and deadly Alv has the talent of absorption and copy, the talent that is shared by Lumiere. Alv's sidekick is the easily influenced Dveger (pronounced 'diverger') and the pair is met in Tight/Bind. The other series regulars are their boss Eclipse, and Mercredi, the unassuming but professional secretary, who we are, in future episodes, promised will display some connection with the mysterious Armblast. Armblast is the sole male regular, an Inspector and Auditor who behaves like a 24/7 double agent but always appears to fall on the side of the good.
   Tight/Bind involves a visit to a detention centre parked close to a sun in an extreme gravity field that upon any sign of trouble could be released into the furnace. As the team investigate they realise that nobody alive remains on the prison satellite and that a planted gravity bomb is weakening and threatening them. It scurries through the basic storyline unapologetically.
   Prisoner/Escort has the clearest and most exciting plotline as Éclair and Lumiere join a ship escorting a master villain Drake Han to a distant planet for trial, on guard to a possible attack by the Insurers, criminals who specialise in rescuing people from prison ships. It runs into high drama with the Inspector in charge of the vessel a widower, who's daughter was also a murder victim, shy to any bonding with the girls, though Éclair cannot help herself.
   You warm to certain elements and details, like Lumiere's penchant for reminding Éclair to be more ladylike and elegant following some brash action. Éclair also has a wild weapon in the form of a lipstick that when written can be peeled off and used as a powerful whip. All it takes are two girls and a flash of lipstick and an illegal blockader realises immediately that he is on the way out: "Oh my God, we're finished. All we've worked for... is finished."
   There are other comic comments. When one villain appears at an arranged warehouse location, Armblast asks, "Is that a hologram?"
   "The secret to a long life is to be a coward," responds the arch-yellow-belly. A familiar line, but still funny! In Depth/Space as their craft enters space, Lumiere remarks:
   "Not much traffic out there today, why can't it always be like that."
   The duo have another comic trick. It is a peculiar approach to crime-fighting, but tackling murderous villains is so two-a-penny to these fillies that they have to make it more interesting, so they turn up at the arrest having adopted a theme, in episode one they are pizza delivery girls. The animation is fine, but they seem so keen to continue the story, whatever it might be, that scenes often appear half-finished. Your brows will knit at the animated panty shots as the girls go into action, camel toe alluded to and buttocks in careful rise and fall; the animators blatantly have paedophiles in their midst. If this were a live-action film there would be arrests. It lends an uneasy question as to how recurrent this is within the series and Japanese animation as a whole and in what direction and to what nascent audience it is aimed. They might retort that it is done in all innocence but at 25-frames-per-second I come back on the cel animators, the fuck it is! Though moderately endearing and not without some imagination (the planet with a patchy radius of metal walls hanging in space is new), even without the queasy and unwieldy details, I'm hardly enthused by the notion of visiting further caseloads.
   DVD extras include an Image Gallery, Character Studies, a five-minute promotional video, original commercials, 'text-less' song (but oh, you want to avoid the drippy tunes, particular as each episode opens with one excruciatingly sickening ditty) and trailers.

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