In a post-Apocalyptic setting where all human males have ceased to exist, what else do you have to do than form strong female-female “friendships” while injecting your nether regions with biogenetic altering devices? Apparently, not much as is shown in Yasushi Akimoto's original video animation, ICE. And yes, for those wondering, this is the same Yasushi Akimoto who created the all-female Japanese idol groups AKB48 and SKE48.
Harkening obvious and blatant comparisons to the Hollywood-produced cult classic Children of Men, this original animation video takes place in a world where humanity is in danger of being wiped out after a strange, and never revealed, virus pretty much killed anyone who had a Y chromosome. And as much fun as I'm sure the potential thought of this happening in real-life brings a smile to females everywhere, this world is far from an ideal paradise.
Facing possible extinction, the remaining women on Earth have divided up into two separate factions, the pleasure-pursuing Kisuragi family and the guardians who are trying to find a way to restore the planet to its former glory. Through establishing a prominent militaristic force to ensure order and rule, the two sides have been fighting for power and control over the planet since the last male died. Caught in between the struggle for power are the two lead protagonists Yuki Ice-T, voiced by AKB48 idol Erena Ono, and the Guardian captain Hitomi Landsknecht, voiced by Haruna Ikeawa, whose newly-found friendship is threatened by external forces that threaten to shake the bonds between the two.
While the storyline seemingly has a lot of potential, its poorly executed direction and underdeveloped characters leave a lot to be desired. With the possible exception of Yuki and Hitomi, none of the characters were developed particularly well, which although is a byproduct of the series' short one hundred minute runtime, hurts it more than anything. Specifically in episode three's "climatic" finish where any character death fails to lead to any emotional catharsis. Instead, they seem as nothing more than a shallow excuse to show ladies being decapitated and blown to bits. And although that is entertaining in its own right has been done much better in other series such as Elfen Lied and Madoka Magica.
However, this isn't what the series' main draw is. It's about the strong female relationships and the occasional odd bits of nudity that makes it the perfect draw for the series' major demographic: male AKB48 fanboys. And given that AKB48 idols including Tomomi Kasasi and Yuko Oshima, in addition to the aforementioned Erena Ono, are featured in supporting roles, it's clear to see who the series is marketed towards. To which feels like a marketing gimmick more than anything, as although the girls try their best, their lack of voice acting experience really shows. If you're unclear on whom the Japanese idol group is, please wait for our upcoming review of their documentary or use YouTube.
Given that there aren't any popular female idols being cast in the English dub, I found it to be really lacking in comparison and questionable as to why it was even included in the first place. Although there was one bright spot. Witnessing American voice actor Chris Patton playing the role of a female commander, to which he does a damn fine, if a bit awkward, job.
One other rather questionable directorial decision that I need clarification for is why the series uses a 4:3 aspect ratio whereas most, if not all, anime has moved towards using a standard widescreen 16:9 presentation. It's particularly detracting in scenes where the series suddenly shifts to a letterbox presentation for no explainable reason, interrupting the viewing experience and taking the viewer out of what's being presented on-screen. As a former Film Studies graduate, I found this very jarring and unacceptable, even if it was intentionally used in an attempt to add a stylized auteurian feel to ICE.
Special features on the DVD includes preliminary concept drawings of characters, settings and mechas in addition to your usual upcoming trailers and credits. However, with a series so lackluster, it's really questionable as to why so many bonus features, and even a dub, were added to ICE; at least more than your average anime series. As much of an AKB48 fanboy as I am, having spent a good chunk of my hard-earned cash to buy their products, I still find ICE quite hard to recommend. Even to the most hardened and battle-tested wotas out there. So just like famed rapper Vanilla Ice's once illustrious musical career, it's best to leave ICE frozen and sitting on your refrigerator shelf. No matter how much you love your Japanese idols.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher
Images copyrighted:PPM, Sentai Filmworks