"Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog" gets its cyber-punk on with the science fiction OAV series from 1995
The Martians are Revolting.
Choosing a new anime to watch can be tough. Granted, it's not as tough as colonizing another planet, tracking down cybernetic assassins, or surviving anti-robot riots, but it can still be a little difficult. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help. Each week we provide additional info and cultural context, to help fans make informed decisions about what they choose to consume.
What's Armitage III?
Armitage III (read as "Armitage the Third") is a series of 4 original animation videos from 1995 with chief direction by Hiroyuki Ochi and animation by AIC. Originally released in North America by Pioneer (later known as “Geneon”), the series has been license-rescued by Funimation, and it is now available via streaming on Crunchyroll, who describe the story of Armitage III as follows:
Armitage is a brash cybernetic cop with a racy wardrobe who patrols a Mars metropolis. She and her stoic partner, Sylibus, risk everything to track a killer who is revealing his female victims’ identities as highly-advanced androids. On Earth, Armitage and Sylibus live peacefully under secret identities, until forced to battle an obsessive doctor and his deadly Armitage replicas.
A note of clarification: the fact that Armitage is a Third – an artificially intelligent android that is indistinguishable at a glance from an ordinary human being – is intended as a big reveal in the final act of the first OAV, so this description is a bit of a spoiler. Similarly, the final sentence actually describes the plot of the 2002 Armitage III: Dual-Matrix film, which is not currently available on Crunchyroll.
Understanding Armitage III is easier if you realize that the series draws great inspiration from famous American science fiction films: the narrative and visual stylings of Armitage III are largely drawn from Blade Runner (1982), with a little bit of Total Recall (1990) and The Terminator (1984) thrown in for good measure.
Heavy (Metal) Content Warning.
Armitage III deals with grim subjects in a grim manner. The anti-robot violence in the series can be quite gruesome and disturbing, especially because it specifically evokes imagery of misogynistic violence and the racist violence of lynching. This choice on the part of the film-makers is designed to shock and provoke, so viewer discretion is strongly advised.
The Ballad of Chiaki J. Konaka.
Chiaki J. Konaka's body of work writing for anime can be both inspiring and frustrating, as he is responsible writing for both some of the best episodes in some series (Gasaraki, Mononoke) and some of the worst episodes in others (The Big O, Devilman Lady, Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040). On one hand, Konaka wrote the ground-breaking Serial Experiments Lain. On the other hand, he also wrote the impenetrable Texhnolyze.
Konaka has a knack for cyber-punk and existential horror, though, and his skills are on full display as the screenwriter for Armitage III. Konaka's writing gives the series a depth of character and a subtlety of theme that would otherwise be lacking, so his presence as the brain behind the story of Armitage III is a boon rather than a detriment.
Like all good science fiction, Armitage III explores real world issues through layers of speculation and metaphor. At heart, it is a trans-humanist work that deals with questions of internalized prejudices, person-hood, feminism, colonialism, self-determination, and the economic and social drawbacks of an automatized labor force, just to name a few.
Thanks to our partnership with Funimation, Crunchyroll currently streams Armitage III in the United States and Canada. The series is available on Crunchyroll in the original Japanese language with English subtitles and on Funimation with English dubbed audio.
Armitage III is also available on DVD in North America from Funimation, and this collection includes both the 1996 Poly-Matrix compilation movie (featuring new footage, an alternative ending, and the voices of Kiefer Sutherland and Elizabeth Berkley) and the 2002 Dual-Matrix sequel film (featuring the voice of Juliette Lewis).
At times subtle and at times brutally blunt, like its titular character Armitage III is more than just the sum of its parts. If you're in the mood for an intensely political work of science fiction, if you can handle strong violence and sexual content, and if the series is available in your area, please consider giving Armitage III a try.
Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.