The story takes place in an alternate reality based in the year 1996, where humanity is advanced enough to develop long-range space travel, as well as bases on both the Moon and Mars. However, the Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union have not ended; rather, they've escalated as both sides build military facilities in space, and the shadow of nuclear conflict looms over humanity, both on and off Earth.
Meanwhile, on the Red Planet, an exchange program created by the United Nations to promote peace and understanding is about to begin; the "Cosmic Culture Club," consisting of 16 boys and girls, as well as their instructor Elizabeth, arrives at the UN Mars base. Among the passengers is Anna a 14-year-old girl who serves as the narrator for the story.
Suddenly, four unidentified humanoid robots classified as Super Powered Tracers are detected, engaged in fierce combat with each other. The UN base is caught in the crossfire and quickly destroyed, killing all but six members of the "Cosmic Culture Club"—Elizabeth, Arthur, Roan, David, Simone and Anna, and leaving them stranded on an inhospitable planet that has suddenly become a battlefield. As the battle ends, the lone SPT standing lands next to the terrified group and opens up revealing a pilot, who simply announces to them, "Earth is at stake."
So I just got done watching Layzner and for a mecha space adventure, I thought it was fairly decent. As someone that drops more anime than completes and someone that dislikes mecha space sci-fi anime, I had a satisfying time watching this anime. I usually like to review anime that are unpopular. Therefore, here's a non-spoiler review of Layzner.
***Firstly, if you haven't seen the anime, or have seen it and disagree with my assessment, just note that I'm not here to dictate or change anyone's minds. I'm here to simply share my perspective of this anime and I only hope that you find it helpful
Layzner is basically a mediocre space adventure anime made in the mid 80's. The premise is that it's the year 1996; Earth is being secretly attacked by an unknown species; and a member of that unknown species, named Eiji, is out to warn the people of Earth of this attack. The anime opens up with following a group of young space cadets, taking part in some sort of space program on Mars, where the US, the Soviets, and the UN have bases due to the expanding Cold War. While the space cadets are settling down at the UN base, there is suddenly an attack in their region. This attack totally wipes out the US and Soviet bases, that were taken out by unknown machines, or mechas. Eiji ends up on Mars trying to warn Earth of an attack, while getting attacked himself by his own comrades for being a traitor to their species. After things settle down, Eiji reassures the space cadets that he's trying to help Earth and that he's not the enemy. With nowhere else for the space cadets to go, they decide to follow Eiji's lead to get back to Earth, despite not fully trusting him.
The setup of Layzner is the typical "Humans vs insert threat here". However, the anime doesn't give away its plot or end goal at the start. Layzner didn't set up many expectations or questions to have revealed by the end. They undersold the main plot-lines for a significant portion of the show, in order to keep the story line compelling. The main story line was a bit un-focused at times and really just focused on the adventures of a few main characters. There's wasn't too much about Earth or the other species in general. While this should've been explored for purposes of world building, I didn't mind so much since I really liked the main character cast anyways. Since the story was focused on a few characters rather than humanity itself, the plot progression didn't go beyond the characters too much. The plot progression for the most part was logical, but the plot-armored main character was a bit of a distraction. The conclusion was fair enough, but due to production limitations, the ending came of as really rushed and unsatisfying. However, if you end up watching this to the end, I'd recommend watching to episode 37, skip episode 38, and watch the 3rd OVA episode because it actually explains the ending a lot better than episode 38 does.
While the vague story line at the start is supposed to be compelling , the character cast is supposed to be the hook. The story basically follows Eiji and the space cadets he comes across and their adventures back to Earth to stop the attack. Eiji is the main character of this story and he's the one that has the most influence in the show. Eiji pilots an over powered mecha that shoots other mechas *Bang Bang* until the other mechas go *Boom*, Michael Bay style. While he was born on another planet, he has ties to planet Earth and once he learns of the impending attack, he goes against his own military to stop the attack. Eiji is a selfless character that plays the hero in the story. He's always trying to do the right thing for humanity, before thinking of himself. He goes as far as not killing his enemies by rendering their mechs inoperable instead of blowing them up. However, he eventually learns that in order to accomplish what he wants, he's going to have to make sacrifices and go against his own code.
While the space cadets weren't the most interesting cast of characters, I really like how they were portrayed. The space cadets had their weird personality quirks, but also had a more human side to them too. The space cadets usually had to decide what would be the good or bad thing to do, but they had their reasons for their decision and motives for doing so. The space cadets started out as typical naive young teenagers, but develop as the story goes on. While these characters weren't too influential in the story at first, they sort of helped the audience learn about Eiji through the many interactions they have with him. They grow more as individuals, while still being inspired by Eiji, as the story progresses. The other side characters were nice too. The enemies, for example, were portrayed as an evil species that wanted power to preserve their own kind, but they also had some doubts about what they were doing to. They weren't just bad guys for Eiji to plow over. They had their thoughts and grew as the story progressed as well. Though, it didn't go far enough with character fleshing out, in my opinion.
As for the aesthetic, this anime is retro as it was made in the mid 80's. It doesn't have that eye candy, overly polished, kawaii emphasizing modern aesthetic that is being shoved into anime productions nowadays. It has a very simplistic style with its rough drawing style. There isn't much else to say. If you know what retro anime looks like, then you can imagine what this would look like. As for animations, there's a lot of mecha robot action where they shoot each other until one go *Boom*. The action is a bit repetitive, but it's forgivable here since the battles themselves aren't what drive the story. It's more of an adventure; not a tournament arc type show. The overall presentation was fair for the most part too. The way they treated the story as an adventure with subtly and compelling mystery, while under selling the plot in order to naturally reveal the story not only to the audience, but to the characters as well. The way the characters were treated as multi-dimensional and genuine people, instead of one-dimensional anime tropes. It was presented well and is the main reason why I enjoyed this anime, rather than dropping it, like I do mostly.
As stated earlier, for someone that dislikes mecha space sci-fi shows. I moderately enjoyed Layzner. I wouldn't recommend this out right to everyone' However, if you're someone that fancies space adventures with mecha fights, along with a more mysterious story line and likable characters, then I'd say give this a chance.