After a few delays, I finally watched VOTOMS: Case;Irvine. All the while, I was stretching my mind to the limit to identify the inexplicable unease I had while watching the OVA. It wasn’t the forgettable story and unrelatable characters, because they stood out prominently. It wasn’t the garish action unbecoming of the franchise either.
And then it dawned on me: This isn’t VOTOMS, because it’s not ugly enough.
Let me explain myself for a bit: I find VOTOMS to be a show where ugliness is a virtue. The robots are drab, the battlefields are hostile and unpleasant, and everyone is wearing 80’s pulpy sci-fi fashion. Thus, I can take the gritty, unceremonious combat without reservation, since the foundation is carefully laid out for it. It works as a show, because it is ugly.
But Case;Irvine fails at laying such an aesthetic foundation. From step one, employing Hirokazu Hisayuki as character designer was a mistake. Ability-wise, there is nothing wrong with Hisayuki; however, he simply does not belong in VOTOMS. By his hand, Irvine belongs more in a boyband than in a cockpit, timeskip or no. (While Chirico was smooth-faced as well, he had a strong jaw and the determined eyes of a combatant.)
The city, despite being unpleasantly ravaged by acid rain, is nothing compared to the dirtiness of Uoodo in the TV series. People wear normal clothes for the most part–except for the distinct pilot suits and military uniforms, you wouldn’t know this was VOTOMS.
Did Case;Irvine try to make itself appealing to a new audience by updating its visual look? I think it failed, because it strayed too far from the original show’s aesthetic. Here’s hoping the others hold up better.