Set in the near future in Japan, year 2035. A major incident was known as "Burst" which was caused by researching artificial life. A certain AI called "Matter" has eroded the Kurobe Gorge. Entering the research city, which has been called as humanity's last hope, has been prohibited by the government.
Two years later, Aiko Tachibana, a 15-year-old girl who lost her family from the incident, was told by a transfer student named Yuuya Kanzaki the truth that Aiko didn't know regarding a secret hidden within her body. The key to solve the mystery is said to be in the Primary Point, the center of Burst. When a boy and a girl, who bears the future of humanity, meet, what will be the new truth?
A.I.C.O. Incarnation is another fun sci-fi romp in Netflix's catalog, a solid addition to the thriller genre. It's an old school thrill ride full great action sequences, exciting twists, an exhilarating soundtrack, a good protagonist, and a story with a surprising amount of depth.
In the near future in a city known for its advanced researching facilities, a catastrophe known as the “Burst” puts a swift end to the city’s utopian-like harmony. This catastrophe creates a giant mass of red matter that wreaks havoc on the outskirts of the city, killing many people.
Through some relatively wordy exposition, we learn that researchers experimenting with artificial life
were the cause of the Burst. Rather than incinerating the monster, the researchers choose to leave it be while the hide behind a wall around their city. They seek to learn how to create artificial humans by studying the monster, without caring about the actual people still surviving.
Only days before this catastrophe, our main character Aiko Tachibana gets into a car accident, killing her father but leaving her barely alive. Shortly after her accident, her mother and brother were killed in the Burst. Jump two years after the accident, and she’s rehabilitating, temporally wheelchair bound. She lives alone, peacefully ignorant of the horrors that occur just beyond the border, but with only the doctors to go home to every day. That is until the enigmatic Yuya Kanzaki transfers to her class, quickly becoming the most mysterious character in the show. From the moment they first meet, her character arc begins, she's literally thrown from her wheelchair and forced to get herself moving when they bump into each other. Notably, every aspect of the high-tech future is intruiging, the writer details so many pieces of technology in the setting and allows the characters to interact with, and the internal logic stays consistent.
Yuya tells Aiko that her body is an artificial copy created by her father and his fellow researchers before she was nearly killed in her car accident. He urges her that she’s the key to stopping the chaotic red matter and that she must travel with him to outside the city to the matter’s source known as ”Primary Point”. It’s a lot for her to take in as you can imagine, and this crazy story coupled with Yuya’s sterile personality is a recipe for long-term uncertainty between the two. But he gives her a reason to believe, to leave her ignorance and grow up. Her family is still alive at this Primary Point place, so he says. It's a shaky foundation for her to start off with. However, her frighteningly tough skin (that even repels knives as Yuya rudely demonstrates) and ability to occasionally share thoughts with the red matter pushes her, and us to become invested in their effort to reach the source.
Together with a group of hired ’divers’ to escort them to the source. They’re funded in secret by one of the more clear-headed researchers who seek to stop the matter rather than study it. They spend a majority of the show on their journey using high tech weaponry and vehicles to survive in the post-apocalyptic outskirts against the matter. This journey is a fight for survival, a fight to save the world. It felt all the more ironic watching these kids (15-20ish-year-olds) on the front lines trying to put an end to the monster that the researchers created and chose to ignore.
Considering the mixed track record of A.I.C.O.’s series composition staff, I was nervous how the writing would turn out. Thankfully, it's quite good. It’s self-aware and doesn’t challenge itself in ways that could make an uneven experience. Simple, comprehensive, and it even dives into some themes to give itself much welcomed depth.
A.I.C.O. loves setting up these thematically relevant scenarios to remind you who you're supposed to be rooting for and what the message is. The show’s color palette tends to be dark and muddy for the post-apocalyptic outskirts, but even this clashes with the semi-utopian appearance of the research city. Adding even more to the thematic duality.
Whenever the show isn't focused on Aiko’s journey it follows the researchers who wish to experiment on her much-coveted artificial body. She is, after all, one of the first humans to successfully be made out of artificial matter. We get plenty of useful information about Aiko’s origin, the experiments, the red matter, and world building though seeing the world from the scientists perspective. The world feels far-fetched but believable thanks to these moments. It’s not just generic sci-fi tacked on; it’s a real world that reacts to the knowledge-hungry researchers and the fear of the ever-growing red matter.
The duality between the scientist's dangerous lust for knowledge and Aiko’s group fighting for a brighter future further makes their roles in the story believable. I never found myself struggling to cheer them along on their epic adventure. Sure it’s straightforward and simplistic, but easy to get engaged with. Not to mention, this structure lends itself well to quieter dramatic character moments to develop its leads. With only a brief twelve episode runtime, these moments are valuable indeed.
Yuya, along with all the other cast members start off as relatively flat. Given that the show’s large character roster, it’s a blessing it doesn’t increase much after episode two because it gives them enough room to be developed. While it takes it a little while for their characters to take shape, I came to like them in a short enough time. I did find myself invested in their arguments against one another, their highs stakes fights against the matter, and occasionally the deaths. These characters are strengthened by well-defined personalities that have visible chemistry one another creating a fair bit of tension between them in and out of the high stakes action. While I wish the supporting cast of hired 'divers' were equally developed, I felt like the amount they received was adequate. The bare minimum necessary to engage with. At least the protagonists and antagonists respectively have clear motives and receive the full development treatment. Solid Japanese voice performances bolster these personalities as well. Not the dub though. Unlike B: The Beginning’s wonderful dub, this one’s full of awkward pauses, boring performances, and the dub’s script is the exact same as the sub’s (no acting direction).
At many times throughout A.I.C.O, we see quiet moments in which Aiko grapples with the idea that she’s not human. Questioning her existence and cursing her connection to the Burst that stole her family and the lives of many others. At first, I accused her of simply falling into the more trappings and having little to be attached to, but as the conflict deepened, so did her writing. She quite frequently butts heads with Yuya as he’s incredibly single-minded at first. Seeing her as a tool to fix the world rather than a person. They each grow in noticeable and satisfying ways; Aiko overcoming her fragile ignorant self for the sake of her family and friends, and Yuya learning to value emotion rather than only logic. It was a satisfying journey to watch play out, but I wish it had only ended with an equally satisfying conclusion. Everything is wrapped up so quickly and so immaculately that little is left to the imagination. I was left reflecting on the arcs the show successfully followed through on, but after such a cathartic final episode it felt rather restrained to end in the way it did.
As the show spends a majority of its time in the action-packed escorting scenes, it’s necessary for it to have good visuals at the very least. As expected of studio Bones, it looks good but I wouldn’t take my praise beyond that. There's an overall old-school style to the visuals that may put some people off due to the lack of details. This style carries over into the character designs, giving them each a defined look while still being of a modern quality.
The main enemy in the A.I.C.O., the red matter, contorts in ways that look quite frightening (more so when you learn its origins). Rarely does the show get violent, but it does dabble in body horror which is surprisingly effective without a reliance on gore.
Action scenes are fast-paced, rarely lingering on a shot to keep moving, but also to hide a lack of detail. There’s plenty of CGI during action scenes, but it looks good from a distance and never hurts the experience. To bolster thrills during action sequences is a pulse-pounding soundtrack with racing piano tracks and intense stringed orchestras. They don't sound like your everyday action music either, it strives to keep you on the edge of your seat. And oh man, the opening performed by TRUE is fantastic. It tells the story of the show metaphorically and beautifully with an awesome song to back it up. Ending each episode is a wonderfully relaxing song by Aiko's talent voice actress Haruka Shiraishi, with a simple walking cycle of her with beautiful background art.
[Story: 7/10] Intruiging themes, simplistic, lacking storytelling.
[Character: 6/10] Good protagonist. Large cast gradually developed, but some are left underdone.
[Art: 6/10] Decent CGI, simple animation, old school style.
[Sound: 8/10] Amazing OP, great soundtrack, terrible dub.
[Enjoyment: 8/10] Exciting action, emotional drama, somewhat predictable.
[Overall Score: 7/10]
Perhaps A.I.C.O. Incarnation played it safer than it could have, but it exceeded my expectations and held my attention. Where it lacks in the unique direction of Devilman Crybaby and the fantastic visuals from B: The Beginning, it makes up for with old-school charm and a satisfying story. Safely earning its place in Netflix's growing library of great anime.
A.I.C.O. Tells the story of Japan being overrun with "matter", a sort of abstract material that destroys everything in it's path. The story is a bit generic but the pacing make's up for that. The biggest issue I had with this anime was the main character; Tachibana, Aiko. it's not that she lacks depth, it's the way she reacts to every situation. It's like she was made to be shocked at every turn. And it gets tiresome fast. The best aspect of the anime is the artwork. The elegant animations and fast pace of the series is what kept the two dimensional characters in check
and made the series watchable. I did like the small details that made the world of A.I.C.O feel more authentic, e.g. the artificial suits that needed to be fed in order to function properly. I wish a little more thought was put into the world building of the series, it felt like I was watching a CW series with good visuals. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but it does make for a good popcorn anime.
If you wondering what episode 12 try to tell you must be like trying to put in all the plot and stories that been happening so far to fully understand what it tries to imply. Episode 12 is like a puzzle that the creator lets you try to find out what it means by yourself. I won't tell you the answer, the true meaning of the ending cause it will count as a spoiler which I don't want to do that at all.
The stories are kinda interesting. Some people will say it like Akira the movie but at the same time, it isn't. This isn't
that kinda movie where they have a superpower like that. The stories will be like about the girl with a fake body try to stop the burst just as the synopsis said but when you watch the entire series it just adds even more than just that. They even use real biological logic in this series too. I will give it 9/10 due to how well made it is and just as the above to what trick it try to do. It explains you and at the same time, it gave you the solvable puzzle for you to solve for later on or it will be solvable in the future. At some point, they also somehow use some strong drama scene without any warning at the right moment too. Not just any BS one but some logical thing that should have to happen. I didn't even expect they would do a drama that hard without any warning too, to be honest.
For the art style, its kinda gave you the creep and find it hard to watch but its the whole point. Since this isn't some happy anime but its the near apocalypse anime. It will be a horrible apocalypse anime if it looks beautiful. Even so, I think they can do better than that by making it, even more, creepier but considering that many horror anime still can't reach to the point of true horror yet so it's understandable. I will give it the 8/10.
For sound effect, I think its only at the good lv. At least it isn't horrible but only just good so I will give it just 7/10 stand for good and just that.
For the character design, I will say that it's kinda fun enjoyable to see how they act and only just that until some episode of course that it somehow made us care about the character. I think this is one of the anime that can do like some instant drama without any warning which is also super effective to how they timing that.
This anime I find myself very enjoying it. I think it will be 10/10.
In conclusion, it will be 9+8+7+8+10 = 42 then 42/5 it will be 8.04/10. I will just give it 8/10 due to the math. It isn't something that you call nonsense. Its what you call "math"
Extra: To be honest I never expect that Netflix will somehow make a very good original series. This kinda goes beyond what I have to expect in this series. Hope they will make something with this lv of quality a lot more soon. Since most of the series Netflix has a bad hobby of doing the "Must watch more series to know how it will end"
I don't wang that JoJo reference like "To be continued" memes. Wait... Not another Fing JoJo reference... But yeah that's how they mostly do so this is considering one of the best they have ever made. There's a lot more then this but its just so rare but it won't be if they said this anime is with Netflix without saying that its "Netflix original series" when that happens it always end up really good. With good starting and the good ending that made you want to watch more without being forced to.
This show is a good example of how important good characters are. A.I.C.O.: Incarnation is visually fantastic with an intriguing story, but it falls flat when it comes to characters.
Not only does it fail to properly introduce them, but each and every one of them are so badly written it's pathetic.
For starters, we are given no reason to care about any of them. There are a few "emotional" scenes in this show that are clearly supposed to be tearjerkers, including a death and some drama. But, listen, nobody's going to cry over a character they don't care about!
"Oh no, this character that I forgot
the name of and I can't describe to save my life is dead, so sad."
On top of that, there were a considerable amount of scientist side characters that they never introduced and I just... I honestly never knew who they were. Specifically this pink-haired scientist lady that ended up being semi-important.
You can't just.... throw in random characters and say "they're important now" without any introduction whatsoever.
As I sat watching the credits of the final episode, I came to the realization that I never found out who she was or why she was there.
Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Our main characters, the ones that I previously said give no reason for the audience to care about them, are horrible.
You see, they had to get to Primary Point, the end goal/location of their mission, quickly. They kept saying how they needed to hurry up, like there was some sense of urgency.
"Like there was some sense of urgency" ... well, there didn't seem to be for the characters themselves.
They kept saying how they needed to go faster, get to Primary Point sooner, and it was urgent...! And then they took breaks that lasted basically almost full episodes every episode.
YOU CAN'T DO THAT. YOU CAN'T KEEP REPEATING THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE TO HURRY UP AND THEN STAND AROUND NOT PROGRESSING AT ALL FOR SEVERAL HOURS.
They weren't even doing anything important! They were just bickering and joking around! What? Like, w h a t ? !
Because of this, the middle episodes ended up being incredibly repetitive. Some scenes of them fighting Matter, supposed character/plot/lore/I-don't-even-know development, then more scenes of them goofing around and not doing what they said they should be doing at all.
Yes, because I'm sure everyone wants to see a bunch of flat, generic characters talking to eachother instead of the actual plot progression.
And don't even get me started on the two MAIN main characters, Kanzaki and Aiko. If I elaborate on Kanzaki, I'll reach spoiler territory, so I'll just say this about Aiko...
I don't think anyone working on this anime knew what her personality is supposed to be like. She changed sides and opinions every 2 seconds, got super emotional and caused trouble for the sake of plot progression and only for the sake of plot progression, and just in general had no character whatsoever. Long story short, I really hate Aiko.
Moving on, I wish more things were explained in this show. Some things were painful like, "HERE LET ME TELL YOU MY ENTIRE BACKSTORY AND FEELINGS FOR THE SAKE OF THE AUDIENCE TO INTRODUCE MY CHARACTER, POINTLESS BEST FRIEND WHO IS COMPLETELY UNIMPORTANT" while others were left so unexplained I was very, very confused.
A.I.C.O.: Incarnation has such an interesting world. One wrapped in mystery and sci-fi that I wanted to know more about. But, no, no. Obviously focusing on the idiot characters and their adventure was more important, right?
It's not only the world. There were so many characters that I just. I don't know who they are. At all, actually. There's a bunch of different sides and organizations and groups and goals and I...! It was so very confusing.
And now for a brief list of the good things about this anime:
- Some neat plot twists.
- Quality BONES animation.
- Beautiful character art. I love the eyes.
- Amazing Opening theme.
- A legitimately interesting world.
- Very bingeable. Thanks, Netflix.
- I genuinely enjoyed it.
Yes, I enjoyed this show. I just ranted about it for 10 minutes, yet I enjoy it.
I guess trash can still be entertaining.