Another solid block of nostalgia, I didn't get around to finishing "The Big O" until many years after the show had run its course. Certainly trope-ridden and unashamedly inspired by many outside elements, the art, characters, and ending certainly stand above mediocrity.
Paradigm City, a place where forty years ago, everyone lost their memories. My name is Roger Smith, and I'm a negotiator..
Accompanied by a soft piano and saxophone, our main character takes center stage. Smooth talking Smith, accompanied by his mercurial butler, sarcastic android Dorothy and backed up by the ubiquitous "Megaduece" Big O takes on Paradigms dark side, composed of criminals,
cutthroats and it's very past.
The episodes are a fun mix of a little detective work and Mecha combat/destruction. The slow reveal of the cities past and development of characters is kindly treated, and I found myself happily re-watching the series just to revisit the interactions and growth of both. The ending is an unmistakably polarizing event for many I've spoken to. Respected or hated, it IS sad to know that a third season was at least at some point a distant possibility; though one website comically points out that this would have likely resulted in even more confusing plot threads.
The element of mystery that is prevalent could frustrate some viewers whom see it as a glossing over details or never explaining itself. I find that the airs Big O puts on is part of a neo-noir charm. It's not a labyrinth of complexity and depth, but a comfortable amount of detail that's style with respectable substance
The art is wonderful, the hard edges and colors giving a severity to the backgrounds and characters. Much like the acclaimed animated Batman series, this helps the minimal amount of animation stand out, as the gloomy city evokes a tangible moodiness in all of it's shadows. True the animation itself may not be all that much to right home about, and the occasional guffaw that interrupts the sleekness is noticeable. Overall the art compliments and enhances the story and characters.
The soundtrack belts bluesy melodies and classical pieces at the right moments. An ominous, wistful tone is very present here, and helps establish the city. The fight scenes are accompanied by appropriately energetic and loud bits. As for sound effects, nothing superhuman, all proper. The voice work in the dub is great. Not much cringe-worthy "Engrish" is present, and Roger's quips can be genuinely funny. The dialogue can take on Saturday Morning Superhero Special quality, but when the tone is series it's played straight without much narm.
Roger isn't particularly complicated, but a fun character to see go about his business and relationships. The supporting cast each have their own quirks, but make nice compliments to Roger and one another. Roger's rogue gallery is an interesting sort: not-Lupin III Beck, the forever preaching and philosophical Schartz, and vaguely Joker-esque Alan. All mix well in an assortment of tales and interactions, the series even bringing one-shot characters to the forefront with old concepts that still seem interesting.
I don't hesitate to re-watch The Big O because I know it delivers. The end of the second season compromises outright explaining the plot with a stereotypical, drawn-out soliloquy to instead require the viewer to think just a little bit. An understandably foreign concept in a standard giant-robot-punch-everything anime, but not an unwelcome one. Otherwise the episodes are varied and entertaining.
If I read correctly, the show is supposed to re-air on television sometime this year (2014) One can only hope that a renewed interest might breathe some life into a third season. If not I'll drop the $100 to get the complete set one of these days, as I can't find a pressing reason not to own this classic.
Many years ago watching the programing block adult swim I, like many others came across the Big O for the first time. I don’t know what it was that drew me to the show, could have been the music, the action, or the cast of characters. I may never know why I was so drawn to the Big O all those years ago but upon watching the show a couple of times since then ,I can see why it has become one of my favorite anime. Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama, The Big O is a 1999 produced by sunrise entertainment also known for the
Gundam franchise and Cowboy Bebop.
The Big O takes place in paradigm city, they last habit for human civilization. 40 years prior to the events in the story a cataclysmic event wiped out most of the world and the memories of everyone. What happened to these memories and the rest of the world are just a few of the mysteries in the Big O. Our man hero in this show is Roger Smith, handsome, Rich, and a Giant fighting robot pilot. Roger is the only thing stopping the destruction of the city that has lost its memories.
Roger Smith is paradigm city’s top negotiator. Hostage negotiations, stopping terrorist’s attacks, bargaining with god himself not to destroy the entire universe, oh don’t forget punching the stuffing out of giant mechs and Godzilla monsters is all routine for our protagonist here. Rodger smith is a man of rules and a man of style, always in a sharp black suit, calm cool and collected. Voiced by Steve Blum, Roger Smith from his dress, to his car he is class personified. Behind every great man there is a great woman, and although not really a woman R. Dorthy has Roger’s back. She’s funny, sturdy, charming in a strange way, oh did I mention she’s an android. And I love it. R. Dorothy and Rodger smith play off each other very well witch also adds some comic relief along with a compelling “will they, won’t they relationship” with the moral question of “ can a human find love with an android? Although she is an android, Dorothy seems to have more emotions than her human counterparts, sometimes you forget that she even is an android but the show reminds you now and again. Another important part of the cast is Angel. Angel is an agent for Paradigm Corporation. She’s also a love interest for Roger smith. Their relationship is very similar to Batman and Catwoman. There’s a lot that The Big O and batman share in common probably because sunrise helped animated Batman the Animated series. Rounding out the cast we have the butler Norman and police Chief Dan Datsun. Norman Burg is in charge of cleaning and maintaining Rogers’s house and making repairs to The Big O being the only one who has the memories to do so. Norman is pretty much Alfred Pennyworth from Batman lore. Dan Datsun is the police chief of Paradigm city. He has a strong moral code and is responsible for maintaining the safety of his city but often times the military police are outmatched and must rely on The Big O to save the day.
One of the best things about the big o is the quality of the audio. Everything from the voice acting to the sounds effects sounds great and the sound track good lord .The soundtrack is not only unique but it’s straight epic, the outro song is one of the best ones I’ve ever listened to and overall the Big O soundtrack is my second favorite of all time, and is something I would listen too outside of the show itself.
Visually in my opinion big o is a great looking show, with its own flare inspired by film noir with dark backgrounds and washed out colors. The big O stands out in every way possible from the giant robots (they look awesome) the character designs (they look awesome) all around to the environmental design and overall art style. Speaking of style the giant robot fights are fantastic in every step the big O makes you can feel the weight and strength that it has. Every piston punch delivered has great impact, this isn’t your ordinary flying, laser sword wielding Gundam, the big o is a tank, it hits hard and is cumbersome and slow but damn it hits really dam hard. The big O is expertly directed with great shots that just leaves me amazed it’s just a great looking show all around.
It’s no surprise that The Big O is one of my favorite anime series, it looks great, sounds great, and has a very interesting plot and solid characters. Did I mention great giant robot fights? Because there’s a lot of great giant robot fights. Although it is not perfect The Big O has its own loveable charm and style that gives me a calm and relaxed feeling that I’ve never gotten from a show made from the past decade. The Big O is definitely worth a watch.
Think of Big-O like an episode of Batman the animated series only diffrence is there's no main villian & Bruce Wyane does'nt have a giant robot the art style of Big-o & Batman are very hand & hand there's very little diffrence, & the simularites are great Norman being Alfred the dependiple butler at any coast, Roger is Bruce the millionaire &man with plenty of free time, & Dorethy Barbara the girl living with Bruce helping when needed just not related to the butler & Barbara wasn't an android, the way the city & people are portrayed is greatly the same city in ruins &
never sees the light of day so an finatualy powerful man comes to save the city in his own way if you like the old Batamn series you are guarantee to like Big-O an anime with class, giant robots, & lovley piano meoldies
The first anime review I ever wrote was written four years ago and focused on The Big O. Needless to say you don’t see it on this site because it was a terribly written piece of crap comprised of two hundred words, one hundred of which laughed at the fact the robots in the series are called “Mega Deuces”. Get it? Like big poops.
God I was a stupid sixteen year old.
As this is the beginning of a series of reviews focusing on anime that I’ve neglected to critique for this site, I found it only fitting to rectify my getting rid of my
shitty Big O review and replacing it with one that is written with more intelligence and a better understanding of anime. Seriously, Big O was maybe the fifteenth anime I’d watched all the way through in my life at that point.
The first thirteen episodes of Big O were released in 1999 by Sunrise Studios and was co-produced by the now defunct Bandai Entertainment. Most people know of it from childhoods long past as it aired on Adult Swim in 2001, which is where I initially saw it.
Roger Smith is our protagonist, a negotiator in Paradigm City. Forty years ago everyone in the city lost their memories but life continued anyway. Inside the city, domes were built for the rich to live under while the poor are forced to live outside in squalor. Androids walk among humans and giant robots called Mega Deuces appear, seemingly whenever someone remembers something they should have forgotten. The idea here is that random memories pop up in the minds of certain people, kind of like a glitch, that leads them to combat the dictatorship of the Paradigm Corporation and Alex Rosewater.
At least, that’s what I take out of it. The plot is convoluted as hell and only gets worse as the series progresses. What is initially a seemingly intelligent and interesting mystery quickly devolves into a mind-numbing experience, especially once you get to episode thirteen, where everything begins to go nuts.
The initial run of episodes introduces us to the main players. Roger is a rich, gentlemanly type a la Bruce Wayne. He has a butler named Norman. In the first episode Roger picks up an android girl named Dorothy. There’s also a mysterious blond woman who works as Rosewater’s secretary but has an agenda of her own.
As a negotiator Roger deals with all kinds of situations, most of which involving kidnapping though some have to do with getting a person to accept a severance check or helping lower the price of fish. After the job is taken you can expect some human drama ended with a battle between Roger’s giant robot, Big O, and another robot or kaiju.
The emphasis on the story here is that it is very episodic and formulaic but it never gets boring. There’s a good array of stories that all contain some sort of mysterious element beyond the norm. The few recurring bad guys are not the most interesting but are good for what they are and most of the minor characters throughout aren’t boring.
The biggest allure of Big O is the style. Sunrise did some contract work on Batman: The Animated Series and you can definitely see the influence (and if you can’t, you’re blind). The western animation style is interesting and the approach to the style is where a lot of the mystery comes from. It’s a great study of noir with blacks and whites, shadow and light clashing to provide one of my favorite animation styles of all time. The gothic architecture outside combined with the strange, futuristic design inside the domes gives it a dream-like quality of two worlds meshed into one. On top of that, the character design and archetypes help build that air of noir that fans of my reviews know I love.
But even then Big O isn’t done impressing you with genre artistry. The robot designs of the show are some of the most memorable in anime and when Big O comes out to play, you know you’re in for a show. I love how the military police shoots at the robots from below, not affecting them at all as buildings are destroyed, cars are crushed, and huge swathes of destruction are left in the wake of each battle. It’s a throwback to Godzilla and classic kaiju movies.
One of my favorite parts of the whole series is how much Roger seems like a good guy yet in the first episode his Mega Deuce bursts from the ground and through an apartment building, probably killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of dollars of property. As the series progresses, you wonder why Roger cares so much about saving a couple of people on a Ferris wheel when he just punched into the air so hard the shockwave blew holes through three buildings.
This blend of genres works immensely in a style as well as a writing sense and is helped even further by the fantastic soundtrack. The iconic opening is a cheesy ode to Flash Gordon while the ending is a strange but pleasant love song duet. The music during the show ranges from classical compositions to jazz to cheesy monster movie music. A bit more variety of songs would have been nice but what is here is definitely worthy of a download.
The first half of The Big O is a very well-rounded experience. It has the cheesiness of classic Batman combined with the feeling of a crime movie of the 1940’s and the excitement of a giant monster movie. Every episode is interesting and decently written with my personal favorite being a very poetic crime drama centered on a military policeman’s dreams of watching an old French movie. It’s the kind of show that revels in appealing to fans of classical animation, movies, and music.
But the last episode is where things fall apart, as I mentioned. Roger starts having memories of certain events, people are being killed off who are remembering things they shouldn’t, a farmer implies that he was the one who implanted those memories and starts making abstract and weird metaphors about tomatoes; everything gets wacked out. And it’s not bad in any way, it just starts to feel overwhelming. There are biblical references, visual and spoken metaphors, and it’s all topped off by a final moment that makes no sense to me.
The series was originally intended to be 26 episodes but failed pretty miserably in Japan. When it played on Adult Swim though it became a huge hit. And I can understand that. This is a show that most likely has a lot more appeal to a western audience. Not only is the animation style familiar and classic, but the style of story and world is very western too. With the words “To be continued” at the end of episode thirteen, it had to be pretty sad for Sunrise when the show wouldn’t be greenlit to finish its run.
But Cartoon Network jumped in to provide support and a second season was aired in 2003.
As an aside I really want to own the DVD for this series but it’s out of production because of Bandai Animation going under. Currently Sentai Filmworks has the rights to the show and I’m sure they’ll be releasing it on Blu-Ray at some point. Most likely it’ll be sold as two separate seasons and cost sixty dollars for each one because fuck consumers who don’t want to spend ridiculous prices for their anime DVDs (I’m looking at you Kill la Kill release). But that’s a completely unrelated rant….
The Big O’s first half is an excellent show. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I hope it is resurrected soon and interest returns. Nowadays it’s an underappreciated gem, shadowed by the more contemporary Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. But to me, it’s better than both.
Here’s the half of Big O that ultimately decides whether or not you love it or hate it. While the first half had confusing ideas and may have been hard to follow at points, it was still a solid and enjoyable episodic experience with unique style and memorable characters. The second season amps up the confusion in what has to be the most mind-bendingly crazy finale of any anime I’ve ever seen.
This second season starts where the first one left off with Roger and Big O battling three Megadeuces who come in from the sea. This is where things heat up for the series as a whole. We are introduced to a group of people known as the Union who are battling Paradigm City’s leadership and attempting to take fragments of memories. Roger’s negotiations through the first part of the second season has him facing off against Rosewater as well as the leader of the Union.
While the season starts confusing, it falls back into the same episodic nature of the previous season pretty quickly though there is an overarching story. Roger takes a contract to negotiate, human drama, giant robot battle.
But then there’s the last few episodes…
The Big O II has a finale that has left people baffled for as long as it has been around. Four years ago after watching it I had to Google what the fuck I’d just seen and was taken to a ten thousand word essay on all the major symbolism and what the ending means. But I think it was looking much too hard into it.
The memory fragments are individual people, most of which we actually meet. They’re the ones who can pilot the Bigs because they are basically reincarnations of people of forty years before (right before the memory wipe). Gordon Rosewater was in charge of the government at the time and he and his fellow politicians genetically engineered perfect people without knowledge of the past not only as a social experiment but as a complacency measure. The defects were sent into the wastelands where they would form the Union, a people angered by the fact they were cast aside despite having the capacity to remember…
That’s a more literal interpretation and I don’t think it’s what we’re meant to be thinking. I want to say that this is a meta anime, perhaps the most meta anime ever made. Near the end we see that Angel’s childhood home was merely a set being recorded by cameras. The clouds above the city, a perpetual feature of Paradigm, clear up and it’s nothing but studio lighting. Roger mentions not needing memories to define himself as a human.
This is an anime about a bunch of people realizing they’re in an anime.
It’s a simple idea and this theory works from the start. Why else would nobody have memories of the past? Because the show was written from a starting point. The characters all live in a present with superficial memories added in to give them character. It’s kind of like watching a three-dimensional character trying to understand why he’s in a world of two-dimensional characters.
Gordon Rosewater is the scripter. He is where these characters all come from, their father. He takes the good tomatoes (ideas) and puts them in the main city to be our heroes. He takes the defective tomatoes and tosses them into the wasteland where they plot against their creator.He keeps one favorite defective tomato and puts him in a place of power because it’s hard not to love a favorite, even if he may have issues.
What does that make Angel? She’s the director. She manipulates the story. We see her play both sides but never get truly close to either. We see Roger try to reason with her about being a person before the world is reset. The negotiation Roger was always meant to do from the beginning was negotiate with God. The angel inside The Big O may be a messenger of the director–a memory fragment from the director.
We see a small scene at the very end with Angel manipulating the controls of the city outside of what she’s doing in the city. Definitely a directing role. We also see Roger and Dorothy there for negotiations. So perhaps it worked and Roger has negotiated with Venus enough that he has transcended the anime and become a true character. And Dorothy is there too because what’s a Roger without a Dorothy? Perhaps she holds his memories?
We see Roger being manufactured like a robot and then see concept designs of Dorothy and a doll of her standing atop them. This is the creative process, the work being done before placing the characters on the stage.
I think it’s all about anime characters realizing they’re in an anime.
Usually shows this pretentious and hard to understand leave people with a bitter taste in their mouth, something I can occasionally understand, especially when an anime is trying so hard. But I don’t think Big O is trying too hard to be smart, I feel it is inherently smart. Tons of things were hinted at early on in the series and I think there’s a lot of meaning to be found if you really crack the show open even further than I have. The idea of the anime being a huge “meta” experience may not even be correct. I like shows that leave you thinking and interpreting. These are the anime that stay with me long after they’re over and make me want to watch again to see if I missed something the last time.
Season two of The Big O may be better than its predecessor in most rights. The characters are even better with an entertaining Joker-esque baddie as well as the return of first season favorites, the plot is even more exciting, and the conclusion is satisfying in a weird, abstract kind of way.
The Big O is one of the greatest anime ever made. The characters are all entertaining and memorable, the plot is great, the design, action, and music are all damn near perfect. To me, it only fails in two departments (which are truthfully the same complaint for two areas). Too much reuse of music (even though the music is absolutely stellar) and too much reuse of footage.
If you haven’t seen The Big O, drop everything you’re watching and commit yourself to it. It’s one of my favorite anime of all time and the entire series overall is about to get a score I’ve bestowed only a few times before.
Art: The first thing I noticed was the the unique art style. It may look dated to some viewers, but I was a fan of the film noir-themed art direction. Many of the character designs reminded me of Western cartoons I had grown up with and I didn't mind the subdued colors.
OST: It was fair and suited the majority of the show's episodes. I like instrumental or orchestra music so I may be biased. Although, I didn't find the OP/ED to be all that memorable.
Characters: Roger Smith started the series as the enigmatic Negotiator and ends the series on a similar note.
I never got a clear sense of his background or motivations. I know it could be a major theme related to Memories but it felt incomplete in the end. R. Dorothy was supposed to be a major supporting character but she had limited screen time and I wished I understood her better. I agree with some of comparisons made to Batman/Iron Man made by other reviewers. The minor characters do get a small side story related to them per episode but it was focused on the two I mentioned.
Plot: The first arc of the story line was fairly entertaining with us following Smith with his cases and the mecha fights usually solves everything. I can't say I liked the second arc with the overall plot holes and unresolved ending. I tried to look up extra info just in case i missed some facts during my watching but nothing useful came up in my searches. I almost expected a epilogue for some kind of resolution for the characters but it ended up disappointing me.
Final note: Entertaining series worth watching for the art style but don't expect a overreaching plot or elaborate characterizations.
If you are an anime fan who has been searching for a show that combines giant mecha action anime with all the cool film noir tropes of a classic P.I. story, than look no further than the Big O. When this show was first described to me I thought that there was no way you could combine two genres that could not be more opposite. But somehow, this show manages to combine theme beautifully. The characters are cool, the dialogue is sharp, the setting is incredibly interesting, the main character is basically Batman if he were a private eye and had a giant robot, the
colors are muted,and the soundtrack is full of Blues and a lot of sweet, sweet Saxophone. It is a film noir fans dream come to life.
Plus the awesome giant robot fights are all cool and full of bad ass moments. Despite the shows age the animation holds up fairly decently. The stories of the episodes that have nothing to do with the main plot are all interesting and emotional. The first season is amazing and definately deserves a watch if you are a fan of more old school 90s anime.
Unfortunately, the over arching plot is confusing, overly complicated, and full of dumb twists. This is the main reasons why season 2 is so disappointing. Season 2's focus is pretty much entirely on the main plot, and all of the awesome film noir elements that made the first season so great are gone. The second season is bright, colorful, and has ZERO SAXOPHONE. The second season is not god awful by any means but there is a big drop in quality. I suspect this change in tone is due to the fact that the show was cancelled after the first season and got a revival a few years later. The creative team probably wanted to, or were forced, to change some things to appeal to a bigger audience but I feel it back fired.
The second season (episodes 14-26) is okay, but I honestly think it could be ignored entirely.
For me the first season is a masterpiece. It takes two genres I loved on their own and expertly combines them into something truly unique.
I'm baffled by the low reviews on MAL for The Big O. To this day I find it to be one of the most beautiful animated series of all time.
I don't think it deserves a 10 due to a few production errs. For instance, a few of the villains were designed a bit cheaply, and clearly there are differences in production quality across certain scenes. While I understand the complaints made about the final episodes of each season, I personally liked the endings to both seasons. Also, the intro theme song is TOO similar to Queen's Flash Gordon, and seems out of place (but still
better than 99% of anime intros).
Aside from these things, I can only rave. Very few anime (or any production) have such a unique aesthetic. Yes, Roger Smith is batman and Big O is Giant Robo. As they're fucking meant to be! The Big O takes these two classics (both of which the creators had been working on) and creates something completely new in the perfect noir setting of Paradigm City. In a way, the Big O is one the best fan-fiction anime series of all time. The Big O takes a collection of aspects and themes from these 2 staples and constructs an extremely well-blended new genre (gothic-mecha-noir?), highlighting certain pieces of the Batman and Giant Robo stories that were never focal before.
But Big O is not by any means a rehash. Roger Smith's life is not quite as luxurious as Bruce Wayne, as he has his job as the city's "negotiator". His history (which I won't spoil) aligns itself with the intriguing amnesic history of Paradigm City. The supporting characters (aside from Norman) are all original and well-crafted. In fact, Dorothy may overshadow Roger in terms of an interesting character, and her existential crisis is a nice parallelism to the crux of the internal conflicts found in the residents of Paradigm City.
I shouldn't have to say much about the music and animation.They are both phenomenal, and boast originality, quality, and aesthetic. Watch the first episode, and you should agree within a few minutes.
I might be scoring in a very bias way, but this was one of my favorite shows growing up as a kid. Whenever it came on, on adult swim, I would stay up for hours just to watch this show and all of it's re-runs while I was in elementary school. It was one of the most complex and entertaining, yet simple shows I ever watched. The character development was just so nice and the transitions of each episode just got you always craving more because they would leave you with so little yet so much information. My favorite thing about it is that they
added a bit of a "Her" twist to the story between the relationship of Dorthy and Roger Smith. God, I love this show so much. But, don't get my wrong. I watched this show about three whole times as a kid and once more in middle school before I got the plot of this. It might take a synopsis for some people, but most of the time, others will understand this show the first time around.
Big O is genuinely one of my favorite anime of all time. It's an enjoyable noir mystery with mechs and compelling characters that make the entire thing feel solid and well thought out.
The animation is very of-the-time but clean and nice to look at (especially in the blu-ray release, which I absolutely bought the moment that I could). The art style is more on the simple side for the characters themselves, but really shines when it comes to the mechs like Big O itself.
DO NOT go into this anime expecting a full on mecha anime. That's not what it is and not what
it tries to be. It's a noir, first and foremost. The mystery and the characters are what bring this anime to life.