Project to mark Yokohama City's 150th anniversary.
On Planet Abel, humans and robots co-exist. One day a mysterious stowaway on a transport vessel tries to invade the planet, but is discovered by Apollo (Hayato Ichihara), a robot that looks like a human; and Mikaru (Aya Ueto), a human that looks like a robot. The stowaway had in his possession a memory chip containing the latest in camouflage software, the mysterious "Cipher" OS. Apollo takes the Cipher chip simply for fun, but has no idea what he's getting himself into. He suddenly starts acting strange, but Mikaru has no idea what's wrong or that Cipher is behind it. What exactly is Cipher? What sort of secrets does it hold? Apollo and Mikaru will unravel a mystery encompassing the past, present, and future to find out.
Baton is an excuse to use 3d animation. Poor character design, poor actual animation [though stocked with an absolute fleet of animators it's a question why] and a flimsy plot with pretty bad voice acting, sound effects and soundtrack, Baton is simply an advertisement of what can be done stylistically.
A mini-movie-series, there are three parts, and actually almost the entire first part is dedicated to an action sequence. Immediately we are exposed to the vision of the creative staff. It's a myopic vision, but a vision nonetheless. A mix of fantasy and sci-fi compose the world of Baton, the planet Abel. Robots are the vogue,
and although the question of what is human and what is robot is posed, it's a rather rhetorical background theme until the finale. As such, what is developed in Baton is the animation and art style. It's the only real focus.
When watching Baton, you will feel its jerkiness as it is victim to a low framerate and for some reason jitter, but also you will notice the lifelike quality that the animation seems to possess. This is not only because they have shading and gradients applied during character processing that shifts the design to a more realistic theme; they've actually filmed people and then animated over, with white rooms and the like. The problem with this effect is that the caveat animation has at its disposal is suited namely to actions of hyperbole, and now it is removed. Our heros fight goons at a regular pace, and although having unrealistic stamina, do get knocked around a bit as well. Newtons laws are in full swing. There is a curveball in that some forces are emphasised, but they've done this with wires and animating the recorded film sped up. So fans of action anime may find that this title is actually not really for them. Though saying this, the characters do have a kind of magnetism when they are more lifelike- this is juxtaposed with the menagerie of robots and spacecrafty vehicle designs that is the main attraction of Baton we may ponder. The actual background art is reminiscent of Ergo Proxy, sparse yet colourful landscapes that seem desperately empty.
Morino Nobuhiko's soundtrack is hardly noticeable, not because it's well written bgm, but because it's cliche bgm. You've heard the same stuff a million times before, no-one is going to buy the soundtrack. Sound effects are especially cheesy, reminiscent of some low budget hong kong films, and excessive grunting and noises don't particularly help a cast of characters who are innately static as per their actual human properties.
The characters are hardly developed, and if I talked about them I'd have completely revealed all of them. While I would not say they are character types, none develop beyond being simple plot devices.
So overall Baton is a disappointment if you are looking for a provocative or thoughtful anime. Also a disappointment if you are looking for a specific genre like action, romance, or scifi. Instead, Baton should be watched as what it has been painstakingly produced as; a showcase of the mix of animation and art style; and even if it may have practical faults, it's an interesting watch. Especially reccomended for animation students and enthusiasts.
This is director Ryuhei Kitamura's second foray into animation, and it's not a bad one. Kitamura's more well known for action and horror titles like Azumi, Aragami, and VERSUS (all of which you need to watch right now. I'm not kidding. Open up another tab and order/procure a copy of all of these movies while you're reading this review, and thank me later), as well as the noirish yakuza short Heat After Dark-- which you desperately need to watch if you're a fan of indie films. He also directed the motion capture fight scenes in the Metal Gear Solid remake for Gamecube. His work on
this OVA is similar, in a way, as the live actors are rotoscoped--essentially painted over in post processing. You've seen the technique used in a films like Ralph Bakshi's American Pop, and A Scanner Darkly. Some of the designs are simple, but others, like an adorable armored space suit shaped like with a big over-sized head, really, look nice in the bubble gum pastel palate.
Kitamura's style places emphasis on slick, fast-paced and clever fight scenes, and you can tell that the plot is mainly gloss to slide the characters to the next fight scene. They're full of energy, and rather inventive, taking advantage of the medium to do things wire-fu can't. If you can get past the initial weirdness of the animation style, you're in for a good time.
A cyborg fight in a space port, and an aerial wrestling match are icing on a pretty thin storyline, but this... biscotti of an OVA tastes good just the same.
There are themes of rebirth, androids, rogue AI, and inverted memories, and some funny dialog to keep the lulls between fight scenes from dragging on too much. The episodes are pretty short, too, so it's not too much of an investment. The initial details about the world are pretty sparse, but it quickly thrusts you into a tale of synthetic lifeforms and interplanetary war in the far future.
Overall, it's a good way to spend an hour or so, if you want to see people getting punched. (you know you do)