Mylene Hoffman, a beautiful cyborg spy with the codename "009-1" lives in an alternative world where the cold war never ended, continuously on-going for 140 years. The world is split into two factions, the West and the East block. A masquerade of peace between the two is slowly dissipated as the conflict occurs. Through politics, the two factions battle over supremacy over technology to threats of a nuclear attack. Mylene Hoffman, teaming up with three other agent, gets surrounded by deception, chaos and rivalry as she carries out missions assigned by her superiors.
With so many anime titles being released year after year, it's hard to keep track of them all, let alone watch a handful before another batch is delivered. This constant barrage of entries often means that many shows will inevitably fall into the cracks of obscurity, regardless of what it may have to offer. The kind of titles that would only be talked about after they develop a devoted cult following or are simply picked up by happenstance by viewers browsing the catalogs of yesteryear. And with the number of title releases increasing drastically in the 2010s, the chances of those stragglers falling out of
the general public's eye has only gotten more commonplace with each passing year.
009-1 is yet another statistic of this occurrence, being passed up for the far more popular Death Note, Code Geass, Welcome to the NHK, Higurashi, Black Lagoon, Gintama, Ouran High School Host Club and much more that aired that same year. A huge contributing factor as for why this might have happened outside of the popularity of the previously mentioned could be the appeal that 009-1 was going for. An appeal, that at the time, wasn't something the anime market was yearning for. But perhaps this is the right time for it to make a resurgence in the public consciousness, as this very appeal has recently gotten in the forefront of what's dominating the conversation in the community.
As of late, there's been a growing trend in adapting older anime/manga titles or adhering to the aesthetic qualities of them to either retrofit it to a newer audience or to service the older fans of the medium. With entries like Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Hunter X Hunter, Sailor Moon Crystal, Parasyte and Kill la Kill to just name a few, 009-1 is more or less an earlier case of this. But where shows like Kill la Kill and Parasyte are trying to use that appeal while adhering to modern day sensibilities, for 009-1, I think it's safe to say that it's targeted to those anime fans that have been around long enough before programming was simply a click away and simulcasting was still just a wet dream. It's targeted towards the people that have lived through the days where sheepishly purchasing a VHS copy of animated ultra-violence from the video store was the norm and would often leave a hole in your wallet. A time when curious kids, their older cousins, and best friends would secretly gather to watch Ninja Scroll, MD Geist, Tekkaman Blade or what have you and knew that this was something different. This wasn't your ordinary cartoons on TV, this was violent, this was "adult," this was awesome.
While presented with a little more class than your macho men solving issues with their fists, 009-1 still contains that old school aesthetic with its art style and story structure borrowing heavily from the early Tatsunoko Production era of animated works. What makes it different, however, is the kind of content it chooses to cover. Following the narrative of a Hollywood spy flick, 009-1 not only takes a page from retro anime titles in how it looks but also the spy thrillers from that era of film.
This is immediately made apparent from the setting and subject matter it chooses to inhabit.
The story takes place in an alternative timeline where the Cold War never ended, as the world is split into two factions, the East and West block. While presenting peace and negotiation to the public, behind the scenes, the governing bodies of each faction wage a war to proclaim dominion over one another. One of the primary methods they often utilized were the use of secret intelligence operatives, or spies if you prefer, to either implant counterintelligence information or to gather intel on the enemy. The anime revolves around the escapades of one of these spies, Mylene Hoffman, or better known by her codename, 009-1.
Presented in a semi-episodic structure, a majority of the series follow the stand-alone missions of 009-1. With the help of cybernetics and her skills as an agent, we watch her take on these missions either by herself or with the assistance of other agents. With buildups that led into frenetic actions scenes jammed into every episode, the story made sure to never let narrative drag on its heels. Now, where the cinema/TV buffs would be pleased is the way each episode plays out. The show is like a hybrid of the James Bond, Charlie's Angels, The Bionic Woman and several other titles that fall within the secret agent sub-genre. These missions can range from espionage to your classic assassination showdowns. The only downside is that it never breaks the mold of this formulaic construct associated with your garden variety spy/thriller stories. If you expect something beyond the usual offerings, you'll probably be let down, however, if secret agent antics is all that you came for, 009-1 will certainly deliver.
The show also tries to be more adult orientated by not shying away from sex and violence. But due to the character designs (which we'll discuss later) and the show's "to the letter" writing, it was a hit or miss at times. It made it seem like just flavoring to appeal to the spy genre than anything with substance behind it. But credit needs to be given for it not shying away from the use of sex appeal and violence despite the show's slightly juvenile attempt on the matter. It's these elements that are integral to the spy genre and would have felt baseless without it.
Now the biggest downside to this episodic structure is that there's never a true sense of finality when everything is said and done. It still had its appeal and entertainment value but with no direction or end goal set in place, there was nothing to take away from it. It served no true purpose beyond retro flavoring and paying homage to spy flicks. Not that I wanted it to do anything more in the first place but it's still something that needs to be addressed.
The only continuity that the show had came around the latter half where a plot-line involving mutants took place. But like most of the show, it ultimately led nowhere in the end and was more of the same storylines presented before but with the added benefit of being more extensively explored than the ones prior. So if you adjust your expectations accordingly 009-1 could be an entertaining romp. It's the moment you start demanding more than it begins to fall apart.
The 1st thing that'll jump out at you is undoubtedly the art-style. It brings together an old-school aesthetic with a modern day presentation, which understandably means that intended audience might be more geared towards young adults and older. Given that it's an adaptation of a manga that was published during 1967-74, this depiction was intentional. It's packaged with retro fans in mind but that doesn't mean that younger anime viewers won't find it serviceable as well. It's just that those keen to the older art-style methods would find it more appealing than those unfamiliar or use to the contemporary art-style standards. To best describe the look, it's like if the show had captured a cryogenically frozen state in anime's metamorphosis and decided to wait until the 2000s to thaw it out.
The characters were literally drawn to their archetype, with exaggerated body features often being used to emphasize what kind of personality trait they would portray. Maniacal villains looked maniacal, rotten old hags looked rotten, bodacious super spies looked bodacious and so on. It helped to make them easily distinguishable, if only at the cost of not always looking appealing. While the artistic initiative can be respected, it did run of risk of some of the characters coming across as caricatures than actual people. They can range from simplistic to body models ripped right out of the pages of a classic Disney film. Despite some of the outlandish character designs (even for retro standards), the animation is actually quite fluid. The character movements had a sense of elasticity to them, making actions scenes easy to comprehend and engaging to follow. It wasn't overly extravagant but the effort placed in was quite apparent and when compared to titles made around the same time, it was a cut above the rest.
Stark shading and limited color choices were used to make the environments and set pieces morbid and dreary, which lends itself well to the kind of mystique commonly associated with spies. This minimalistic color choice was also sometimes used to further emphasize scenes or things of interest within keyframes. It was a nice touch of visual storytelling that wasn't exceptional but certainly appreciated. The tone changed in accordance with the mission but for the most part, it had a certain melancholic mood throughout. It felt cold and desolate, often reflecting the mentality of the adult cast the show is primarily comprised of.
The unique art style coupled with the dreary tone definitely makes it stand out from what's commonly being produced today. For retro fans, it's visual eye-candy and for modern ones, it'll be an uncommon (but hopefully enjoyable) experience.
Voice acting ranged from good to overly ridiculous. From the silly mimicking of a British accent to a cartoonish Russian rendition, you could tell that it was intentional. like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to fool someone into thinking he was born and raised in the USA, needless to say, no one is taking it too seriously. Despite this, I highly suggest watching it dub as it adds to the throwback feeling the show exudes. It's a tad bit schmaltzy and overdone at times but they all fit quite well with the caricature designs.
The soundtrack is reminiscent to that of many secret agent flicks, with booming brass sections, heavy percussion thumping, violin instrumentals interspersed and sultry musical undertones. It's smooth, it's stylish and fits the show like a glove. While nothing I recommend listening to by itself, it does its job well.
Like their designs, the characters were also simplistic. This didn't hurt the show, however, as it never requires in-depth characters to really care about the content. Our protagonist, 009-1, is a blonde bombshell with a level-headed attitude. While she let her emotions often get the best of her, she still carries out her assignments despite her personal feelings about them. She's a field agent that's partially cynical due to her line of work but still cares enough that you know her actions are mostly done out of duty. Equipped with cybernetics and built-in weaponry, she's pretty much a walking Swiss army knife. Her arsenal, as well as the other cyber women regularly introduced, vary from person to person.
As the story plays out, we're eventually given a backstory to pin her with, which made her slightly more human than the rest of the cast. Outside of our main character, every other side character is treated as just that, side characters. None ever takes center stage and are often there to simply round out the experience. Despite that, a few of the one-off characters were properly characterized before the 20-minute time span was up. These few were given a motive, a personality and an understandable reason for being, to some degree. Since the story format limits most of these characters from being reoccurring ones, it was hard to grow to attach to any of them, they were fleshed out enough to be passable but didn't have enough screen time to make a lasting impact. Other reoccurring characters also included a few other cybernetic female agents that would often work alongside 009-1 and others that become more relevant towards the show's final act. While as individuals the characters didn't amount to much, their dialogue and interaction among each other slightly made up for it. There was always this sharp wit and banter to the conversations they all shared with each other, especially when our protagonist was at the receiving end of said interaction.
Because 009-1 was the only character that got any focus, the rest of them was simply there to fulfill whatever role the writers assigned to them. For the most part, they were the only decoration to the setting and episode they were a part of and nothing more.
009-1 offers enough to work but nothing beyond that and that's fine. It's a show with a specific intent that never veers off course to grab at things it's not capable of. This commitment may have kept others from recommending it, given the very limited space of appeal it's going for, but it certainly worked in its favor when that's all you really want from it.
I didn't anticipate liking this as much as I did, but because of the brisk pacing, art direction and sense of energy, I was never bored watching it. It's a show that worked moment for moment. I might not take away much from the experience but I definitely didn't feel like I wasted my time either.
If you're a fan of the spy genre or just love that 60-70s aesthetic, then I highly suggest checking this one out. It had style and knew its target audience, which is saying a lot when compared to shows that desperately cling for broad appeal and miss everyone all at once. While a little rough around the edges, the show did more than enough to keep me entertained throughout the entire run. And at the end of the day, that's good enough for me.
We try to make sense of something that is all too rare. A anime with some true meaning.
I speak of course, of "009-1"
This anime is a product of 2006, and as such; creates very little that people under the age of 20 will actually 'get'. In other words, there will be complaints that the artwork is sub-par, or the soundtrack is a little simple. In other words, production values are not good enough to suit them.
If everyone who ever said that, tried to do an anime before modern production software was available, then they'd have more appreciation for
the art and science of making anime. After all, Japanese anime began in the 1910's, and did not become 'mainstream' until the 1980's (check out the very good article on the 'history of anime', in Wikipedia).
That being said, most of us, over the age of 30, can appreciate even lousy production values; as long as the story holds water. This is because, putting everything else aside, the purpose of anime is to tell a story. While it cannot be denied that artwork and music can enhance a story, 'production values' are, by their definition, not a story based notion. These are often extras, that do not enhance the actual telling of a story.
This now lead us all to '009-1'.
This show is a misnomer. It is not about a war, exactly. It's real message is about war, generally. And its consequences. While the plot is based in an alternate reality, the consequences of parts of the story are lasting, and has an effect that weighs on, not only the characters; but the viewer as well.
Our primary character, Mylene Hoffman; is the product of a war, that left her a refuge; eventually ending up in the Western Free World. With the aid of a government agency, she is not only hired, but bionically modified to enhance her survivability as an espionage agent.
Her brother was abandoned, in a fashion that Mylene always regretted. Later she runs into him, now named Loki, working for the Eastern Bloc; and eventually both of them find out who each other is.
And they find themselves still fighting the age-old struggles, against each other. Much regret from both individuals, and both try to give each other breaks from time to time. But in the end, neither one will quit their job, to find peace between themselves.
This is a kind of sadness that is real, palpable, and happens every day; in real life. The flames of bonds of friendship or family, are often something that cannot be publicly recognized any longer. And yet we feel these regrets, that travel though our nightmares, like shadows of things seeming almost real, yet can no longer be touched. And we awake from the dream, knowing we touched that regret, but can't remember exactly what the cause was.
And so dear readers, we have a story within a story. The primary story is the continuing struggle for dominance by the World Factions. The secondary story, stands much taller, and has more impact; for those of us with a strong enough soul to see the point intended by it.
This secondary story is the story of many of us, who leave people behind; either voluntarily or by force. And regrets, for which there are many causes; and most of the time, leave us all scarred beyond the recognition of the people we left behind.
009-1, cannot be enjoyed; but the effort to discuss regrets brought about by conflicts; can be satisfying for those of us with the wit to see and feel. 009-1 is a very rare anime, and is courageously made; regardless of whether it was hoped to be a financial or artistic success or not. Because the authors had something to say, they felt the viewer should know.
For the viewer that has the courage to see within himself, and find corollaries to their own personal history's, 009-1 might just be your anime.
(A.N. Reviews are my personal opinions, these aren't coming from an objective perspective where I try to look at the anime critically. I just want to jot down my thoughts on somewhere where I physically can't lose it)
All right, let's get started. 009-1 is a very interesting watch, but does have a rather difficult story line to follow. Quite often, I found myself rewinding certain parts and rewatching certain episodes to make sure that I had a grasp of what was really going on.
It's a very sci-fi anime, with robots and villains, with a peculiar story behind it. It takes place in a fictional realm
where the Cold War never ended, and the world remained separated by the East and West Bloc. This isn't a spoiler, it's literally included in the summary ok. The story does get rather confusing toward the end and you can't really tell where the author wanted to go with this anime, but I remember the ending being more unsatisfying that relieving and...well giving me a proper ending. Endings are supposed to tie things together, and 009-1 doesn't really do a phenomenal job at that.
The art wasn't as spectacular as one would expect in today's anime society, but it's understandable because this anime was created so long ago. You notice, though, that many of the villains start to look the same, and several of the features of the background of the explosions look recycled - but what can you do? It wasn't bad to the point where watching the anime was intolerable, but I wouldn't say I wouldn't mind a remake with better art---
The female lead was very, very interesting. That's all I have to say for that.
Overall, I think the anime can be a good watch, to the right viewer. If you like sci-fi and mild gore and fighting, then hey, this anime is totally for you. The soundtrack is predominantly like jazz, which is super awesome, and as long as art doesn't bother you too much, then you should be fine.
I did like the anime, though, I will admit. I watched and finished it rather quickly, within the same weekend.
009-1 is action orientated scifi, set in an alternative universe where the cold war is still going on. 009-1 is a code name for a slightly cyborgivied, female version of James Bond who completes missions and kills agents of the Eastern Block with more or less ease, stays cool and sexy in dangerous situations and provides pretty good fanservice.
While I enjoyed the series I think I'm too young to enjoy it in it's full potential. Series isn't as old as you would guess just by looking at the art. Both music and the artwork look old, which without a doubt is the intention. 009-1
aims to breath life into the 'secret agent' theme in action, which has lost some of its glamour during the past decade. To older viewers 009-1 can be a welcome breeze of nostalgia, but the younger generations might see old as just, well, old. In all honestly, the artwork was pretty unattractive to me: the heads seem to be shaped oddly and noses seem far too large.
Most of the missions portrayed in the series are finsihed during one episode. One of the fortes of 009-1 are the bad guys: most of them have history and personalities instead of being just nameless enemies, destined to be killed by the heroine. 009-1 carefully and loyally maintains the stereotypical propaganda of evilness of the Eastern Block that was typical for James Bond and the like, but still manages to make that evilness interesting and intricate.
On the other hand, small and practically separate stories make the stroryline as a whole seem fragmented. 009-1 isn't as 'addicitve' as many other series. There is very little to look forward to in the next episode, no cliff hangers or an actual progress in the story. While the last few episodes try to tie loose ends together and there are revelations from the heroines past, it isn't quite enough. It is as the series is done mainly for the secrent agent theme and action, not because there would be a story to tell. Sometimes the characters end up being only tools for the plot but in 009-1, the plot is just a tool for characters.
If girls in action and secret agents are your thing, this series is definetly worth watching. If not, you will most likely end up waiting the real plot to unfold itself all up until the series ends.