Sunday, December 8, 2013

cowCase Reviews: Kimera

Kimera is a one-part OVA, 45 minutes in length.

Selected scene from Kimera, 1996: An Air Force official maintains a roadblock on a rural mountain path. He is armed, and there are numerous uniformed soldiers clearly visible in the background, as well as the flaming wreckage of an overturned army-green transport. As a bystander approaches to, y'know, see what all the fuss is about, the official levels his assault rifle, its muzzle six inches from the man's head, and says “you can't be here, it's dangerous, run!” The bystander does the absolute last thing that any thinking human being would do: Pushes the barrel of the gun aside with his hand and demands to know WHAT, exactly, is dangerous about this situation. Yes, it soon becomes clear that this particular OVA takes place in a very special setting, a hilarious pseudo-reality crafted with such bumbling ineptitude that it eventually makes the logic of our own world seem warmly inviting by comparison.
There’s nothing remarkable about the way Kimera looks. It’s cheaply made. The backgrounds are flat and minimal, and the color palette consists mostly of a muted mishmash of grays and dark greens which, combined with the generally low production values and lack of ambient lighting, give the OVA a very dull and industrial aesthetic. The design work isn’t much better; Kimera’s human characters have square, blocky, seemingly featureless faces with dime-a-dozen expressions, while its monstrous villains look like half-baked concoctions of various oozing creeps from B-grade sci-fi films the world over. The animation itself can vary, and at its best it’s actually not too bad, offering suitably squirmy movements for the abundance of disgusting, gore-seeking tentacles. However, speed lines, quick cuts away from action, and other budget-savers are just as abundant, providing for a weird fifty-fifty split between modest but acceptable animation and terrible animation. Quality control appears to have been skimped on altogether, and the show can’t maintain a constant level of visual detail for more than seven or eight minutes at a time. Some of the more consistently animated portions of its blessedly short running length include a gratuitous sex scene and a thirty-second shot of a man’s organs exploding out of his chest and forming a neat little pile on the ground. These serve as good indicators of where the priorities of the work’s creators lie, if nothing else.

Kimera’s score bats a perfect zero—without fail, when there was music playing, I found myself wishing there wasn’t. Oh, the music itself is plenty awful; its constituents include squealing, high-speed violin compositions, overwrought operatic organ pieces, and vaguely 80s-sounding synth-rock, none of which should have ever been allowed the privilege of existing, much less coexisting within a single forty-minute span of time. It’s all bad enough that I feel sorry for whoever was tasked with integrating it into the OVA in a way that would benefit all parties involved. That poor soul must have tried, because Kimera usually at least attempts to put two and two together and play music that is supposed to be sad over scenes that are supposed to be sad, fast-paced music over scenes of action, so on and so on…but, honestly, the effort was doomed from the start. The soundtrack is such an ill-considered, intrinsically conflicting mixture that it's pretty much unworkable, and it's the factor that pushes some scenes in Kimera over the thin line between “weird and nonsensical” and “unintentionally laughable.”

In fairness, it's hard to not laugh at a story like this one. Kimera posits that earthly legends about vampires are actually the result of alien beings from another planet (who survive by sucking the life force out of other beings) landing on Earth in the past. Lately there has been turmoil on the vampire homeworld, they're in danger of becoming extinct, and now three vampires/aliens have crash-landed their spaceships on Earth with the intention of starting a population of vampires there and using humans as their livestock. The key to doing so is the female vampire, Kimera, who is captured by the Air Force and kept in an underground lab. Our two lead characters encounter Kimera before she's captured, and one of them falls in love with her. Okay, so the concept itself sounds like the demon-spawn of many terrible, terrible things, but they could make it work if the execution were good enough. Unfortunately, it carries all the hallmarks of hacky storytelling. There are unexplained leaps in time, unexplained transitions from one scene to the next (at one point the setting changes, as if by magic, from an Air Force facility in the middle of nowhere to a bustling city). Most of the backstory is revealed through a short flashback which occurs thirty minutes into the OVA, which is quite untimely, to say the least. The progression of events is hectic, cluttered, and everything in between, and while it's not quite bad enough for me to say I couldn't tell what was happening, it's pretty close.

The next time a work of fiction introduces its two protagonists as “the hardest working corn cereal salesmen in America,” a fact seemingly slipped in just for the purpose of explaining why said characters know each other and why they are driving through a deserted, mountainous, Air Force-patrolled region in the dead of night, I'll probably take the hint and go watch something else. Their names are Osamu and Jay (or Main Character and Blonde Guy, if you prefer). Their personalities initially appear to be pretty clear-cut—Osamu is a tepid and uninteresting everyman, Jay is a constantly ribbing, buddy-buddy jokester type. We've seen them before.

However, there is a gaping discrepancy between what these characters are supposed to be and what they actually are. Our two “cereal salesmen” break into government laboratories plastered with warnings about biohazards seemingly on a whim. One of them spends a good portion of the OVA french-kissing a green-skinned alien succubus who has never even spoken one word to him. Jay is the bystander mentioned above who appears to think that swatting a loaded gun out of someone's hands is a good idea. It's one thing for characters to make devastatingly stupid and irreversible decisions; that's certainly not a problem in and of itself. To err is human, as humans like to say. However, in reality and in well-written stories, these would be weighty choices, potentially carrying great consequences; the kind of choices that nobody would make without putting some good, hard thought into it. But neither of these average Joes appears to have any regard for life and limb. With the exception of an initial, brief “this might not be a good idea” from Osamu, the two treat breaking into an Air Force laboratory like it's a prank, giggling with schoolyard glee about whether or not they'll need a password to breach its giant interlocking doors (and they don't, because that would make sense). And so Kimera rolls on, with nobody ever pausing to consider anything, gape at any of the fantastic events that occur, or do anything that would cause real human beings to understand them or feel a connection to them. Point being that these are only “characters” in the most cold and mechanical sense; they're wheels that turn thoughtlessly to carry the plot to whatever ridiculous landmark it wants to visit.

Ironically enough, it's something in the same vein as that quality which prevents me from giving Kimera the lowest possible score. I don't think this OVA is meant to be taken as a joke, yet, having seen it, it's very hard to think of it as anything but. Do I recommend watching this? No, definitely not. It's excessive, poorly written, poorly presented, cheesy, and constantly straining to cover its own screwups. But it's not truly mean-spirited, and there's a (very) little something to be said for this tiny universe where everyone, good guys and bad guys alike, are brick-stupid, and the switch for common sense, reasoning, and decision-making is covered with cobwebs which permanently tether it in the “off” position. In spite of and because of its silly incompetence, it inspires just the tiniest bit of admittedly condescending affection, enough for me to turn the dial one unit to the right of where it probably should be. Kimera says “take me seriously,” and we can only shake our heads and smile knowingly, as if gracefully rejecting the outlandish request of a child.

Score: 2/10; terrible.

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