Super Dimension Century Orguss – whimsical space and time travel nonsense
At first glance, Super Dimension Century Orguss is a fluff piece of children’s science fiction that ultimately, and oddly, aims to sell fewer toys than its Super Dimension sister series (Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, both of which were adapted into the mega-series Robotech worldwide). At second glance, the series clearly has no other aim than to be a light-hearted science fiction piece of fluff television. It’s only upon a third glance that the viewer sees the series as a broken science fiction epic.
The beginning of the series introduces viewers to the protagonist, Kei, as he sleeps with his latest conquest and then flees from her angry father. Kei’s good friend Olsen just happens to be outside of the house to act as the getaway driver. After that, they go to battle against an enemy that is not revealed to the viewer, but we find out that they are involved in the planting of an oscillation bomb at the base of an orbital elevator. There’s a mishap that Kei tries to fix, of course, but then it detonates. It sends Kei 18 years into the future – and Olson, who was nearby, is sent ahead only 13 years.
Kei is discovered by a race of traveling salespeople known as the Emaan. They are remarkably humanoid in appearance save for a pair of tentacles/antennae that grow out of their hair. (I would say head, but these things are the same color as their hair – red, brown, blue, green, etc.) They explain to Kei that an event that happened years ago caused many different realities to start collapsing in on the one in which they are all now currently sharing. The Emaan are joined by an evolved dinosaur from an Earth in which they did not go extinct, and later they pick up two companions from a world in which robots are the dominant species. It is discovered the the dimension bomb is the cause of reality’s current state, and now Kei and Olson, due to their proximity to the explosion, somehow have some special energy that will allow them to right the issue. Some translations call them “differential points” but an infamous one refers to them as “differentiated idioblasts”.
Speaking of Olson, he serves the odd role of wake-up call to Kei by informing him that A.) the military group pursuing Kei is actually from their Earth in the future, and B.) the green-haired ace pilot that’s been so close to defeating Kei is actually Kei’s daughter conceived the night just prior to the explosion. All of this, plus the conception of another child, this time with an Emaan girl named Mimsy, helps convince Kei that he needs to do something or lose everything.
This is where the series gets especially weird, but it’s appropriate given that it’s the last episode of the surprisingly long, full of filler, series. Kei and Olson enter the Big Differential Point (not making that up) and are transported to the moment of the oscillation bomb’s explosion. Time is frozen and they meet with their past selves. The only solution they can find is to shoot each other/themselves dead. This results in an image of six Earth’s splitting out of one central Earth, followed by quick glimpses of seven different endings in seven different realities. The viewer is left believing that somehow all of those realities are true and that, somehow, the events of the series both did and did not occur. I did not appreciate the lack of explanation.
Super Dimension Century Orguss 02
The first I had ever heard of the Orguss series was the sequel OVA that came out in the early 90’s. It looked cool, but I am so glad I did not pick it up when I was a kid. The story, despite the title, is meant to stand alone. Unfortunately, it completely fails to do so by slowly introducing elements beyond the mecha about midway through the series. It’s a shame, too, because it was almost brilliant otherwise.
Orguss 02 is the story of a world at war, where both sides are escalating the conflict by excavating mecha leftover from the original series. However, the nations are run by medieval-style families with backstabbing and betrayal similar to that found in Game of Thrones. The king of the land of Revillia is slowly poisoned by his queen so that her 6 year-old son, secretly fathered by the head of the military, could be king. Meanwhile, the king’s first child, born of his previous wife, has been pretending to be mentally impaired for the past six years because he was smart enough to know that acting keen would likely get him killed by his step-mother. He later poisons his “half”-brother, driving his step-mother insane (the type of insane in which a woman walks around with her sons corpse, demanding that people bring him something to drink because he’s clearly thirsty), and then captures the head of the military and forces him to publicly confess…before deftly cutting him open with a sword.
And that’s just the side-story! The main story, focusing on a mechanic named Lean who joins the military in order to pay the debts his deceased mentor left behind, loses quite a bit when the nonsense of the original Orguss is involved. Lean encounters a woman who is pursued for her psychic ability and decides to protect her, then discovers her hair tentacles. Later they have a botched escape from capture in which the Orguss 02 intervenes, and it is revealed that the pilot is none of than one of the two robots adopted by the crew of the original series. From him the viewers learn that his presence, as well as the presence of the girl and all of the mecha, is a result of Kei’s and Olson’s supposed fixing of the collapsed Earths. The mecha and some of the characters, such as Mimsy, were thrown into Lean’s world. He also revealed that Lean’s world will eventually be host to the world of robots. The only way to fix the world is to analyze the girl’s psychic energy and then activate another oscillation bomb. When he does that, he, the mecha and the girl all disappear.
My care for Orguss 02 also disappeared. This would have been a great series, even if it were only Orguss in name only. Instead, they required that the series be connected to the original series somehow, so they made it inherit the original’s nonsense. I like time travel stories as well as stories about interdimensional travel, but these series did not know how to handle it. I guess the big problem is that they did not sketch out how exactly it works. They just left it as this…thing that happens. Want to fix a rift in time, go back to it and create a paradox! Hey, a psychic girl can fix any lingering effects and cause the disappearance of hundreds of mecha and various other robots. It all makes sense, right?
Further reflection on this series just leaves me disappointed. I could forgive the original series as a whole for having approximately 24 episodes (out of 35) that were nothing but fluff filler. It was a children’s series after all. But the series still had some interesting ideas. The Emaan species, the evolved dinosaur and the shocking revelation of the grown up daughter are all great ideas that somehow didn’t have a great series to support it. The ending, which retroactively fixed the series, actually served to break the series – and it bled into the sequel and broke it as well.
But at least the show had one really cool, unique sounding song on its soundtrack. Does that make any of it worthwhile?