Seriously, how do I keep coming back to these Studio Xebec shows? They've produced so much over the years, and some of it is actually decent, but not this one. Zoids (Chaotic Century if you're American) had a huge amount of potential, but was completely watered down with flat visuals, a bloated cast of shallow characters, and way too many episodes of what amount to filler.
This show had all the ingredients to be one of my favorites. It follows all of my stupid rules to make a great mecha show:
-It keeps the same theme song throughout
-There's a robot battle in every episode
-The robots are in CG, which is dank as hell!
-They play the theme song at the climax of each episode to reinforce the hype
But none of this could keep me from being bored out of my mind within the first 30 episodes.
I started this show on January 1st, and finished on May 6th. That's 126 days, so 67 episodes/127 days gives just over 1/2 an episode as a daily average. Even giving myself the advantage of watching every episode at double speed, I could not bring myself to watch more than that. Let me not understate how bad that is--I have watched far worse shows at a religious one-a-day pace just to end the pain, but I was so disinterested in this show that I couldn't be arsed to spare 12 minutes a day for it.
Let's examine why this might be:
The direction is beyond uninspired. Every shot is framed well enough so the kids at home can keep up with what's happening, but forget about going above and beyond to add any visual intrigue to the show. The standout eyesores for me were the establishing shots which far outstay their welcome, and are almost unbearably slow even at double speed. The art style, which leans towards realistic proportions, does not lend itself to having expressive characters. Sure the characters are on model very consistently, but half the time they look like cardboard cutouts with a terribly drab and muted color palette. This style may have been a choice to fit with the more rigid lines of the Zoid designs, but they really shot themselves in the foot by taking away the one means by which their boring characters might have had a small amount of visual flair.
These boring characters are all pretty one dimensional. At most a character will have one defining trait, and receive little to no character development throughout the entire run of the series. I can recall maybe one or two episodes focused on developing a backstory or exploring character motivations for each of our main cast. That's one or two episodes out of almost 70. A great majority of episodes do nothing to challenge our characters on a personal level, and just involved the aforementioned regularly scheduled robot battle. The antagonists show similar levels of depth, and are really only relevant to the story if they have a powerful Zoid.
What really confounds me is that they had a lot of great ideas to work with and could have told a gripping story. In episode ONE we establish our heroes are looking for an ancient artifact/location called "Zoid Eve" that seems like it could drive a long running mystery plot, only to be cast aside and never mentioned for a vast majority of the episodes. There is a planet-wide military conflict that our characters become wrapped up in, but almost no focus on what motivated the war or its repercussions on the people of each nation. Near half way through there is a time skip, and it does nothing significant to grow or change our characters. Don't forget that they're on a planet crawling with giant robot animals that they go out of their way to show are sentient, but never pause to make our characters wonder about the morality of people's relationships with Zoids by taking the Pokemon route.
So who should watch Zoids? If you're looking to commit long term to an easygoing shounen series with abundant robot battles, Zoids is a good candidate for you. Those looking for anything of substance should steer clear.