2061. The XXI Century has been very hard on Japan. A staggering economical crisis, the disastrous policies of the Government and the aging of population combined with low birthrate did cause its near-total collapse, and it became a failed State. Four powerful foreign nations (new flags, though one of them is called Oceania) stepped in to provide resources, medical aid or peacekeeping. But they ended up fighting what was called the Boundary War, in which mechas played a big role. Now the war has become a cold one, and there are mercenaries in the country, which is divided into spheres of influence. Near-total unemployment, no prospects of a future, and foreign military rule that disregards civil rights are all a young Japanese faces. Enter Shiiba, a middle-class war orphan who goes to an online high school, lives alone and has a second life as an occasional scavenger with three strangers he met online. They are improving their vehicles with the parts they find, but he is building a giant mecha in an abandoned factory. What for? Nostalgia. Hobby. Who knows. But there is an ambitious major from the Oceanian Army who wants to leave the countryside at all costs, and wouldn’t mind framing someone as a terrorist. And there is a shout of help coming from a forest in which there are mecha parts since the war…
I really got lucky with this one. This is mecha in all its radiant, roaring and polished glory, with a background of believable character drama and grounded social and political conflict, and placed in a beautifully depicted future Japan. Kyoukai Senki has beautiful cities by night, golden sunflower fields, mysterious forests filled with robot parts and abandoned industrial areas, and the fights are spot on. Plus, it seems that in this age most mechas (though not Shiiba’s) are unmanned, so I can enjoy the fights without worrying about the “other guy” in the cockpit. The sociopolitical context feels very relevant, too. I wonder myself what will become of my country, Spain, in 2061, with maybe a third of its current population (if the trend is not reversed), and its crumbling social and political structures. But the best part is probably our protagonist, who is building his secret hideout (every man’s dream, according to some AI) and his robot; who isolated by technology, confused by the social changes, longing for communion and meaning, not really believing that things may change. His world is certainly going to shift, and in interesting directions. It’s too soon to see if he will become a Shinji for my own generation. But, even if the plot goes through more standard paths, this could be a legitimately great ride.
AMAIM: Warrior at the Borderline (Kyoukai Senki) can be streamed at Funimation.
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