I must admit to wondering what the hell a series with the slightly dubious name of Solty Rei may be about. But MVM's latest major title is not as s weird as its title suggests.
The story follows a hardbitten bounty hunter called Roy Revant
who plies his trade in world still recovering from a cataclysmic disaster known
as the Blast Fall. Resemble technology, a sophisticated form of cybernetic
repair and enhancement, has become the saviour of many of the survivors who have
replaced lost body parts with Resemble equivalents. However, such
technology is always open to misuse, and much of Roy's work involves hunting
down criminals who have used Resemble technology to enhance their bodies or
conceal weapons. However, criminals aren't the only thing Roy is hunting.
The Blast Fall separated him from his daughter, and his life mission is to find
her, if indeed she is still alive. His life is a bit monotonous, but
things get a little complicated when one dangerous bounty is stopped by a
green-haired girl falling on him. The girl has no memory of who she is but
demonstrates immense strength and power, and latches on to Roy as a parent
figure. Roy for his part wants nothing to do with her, but as you would
probably expect his rough demeanour hides a heart of gold, and he eventually
names her Solty and takes her in. Now Roy has to continue his search for
his daughter with the added problem of an impressionable, super-powered
surrogate following him everywhere and getting into trouble...
I must admit that Solty Rei wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The design of the lead character hinted at a kind of cyber-noir thriller with a rough diamond private investigator negotiating the seedy backstreets of a Blade Runner-esque city. The main character is called Roy Revant for god's sake, I mean, how cool a name is that? Visually it kind of lives up to the billing, with interesting design, some gorgeous backgrounds, cool characters and good action scenes. The music is good and the storyline solid enough, whilst the balance of
action, drama and comedy is relatively well handled. However, scratch below the surface and you discover a strangely familiar feel.
For all of its Blade Runner-esque setup and promising
style, it is just another anime series in which a hardbitten professional ends
up with a mysterious, super-powered and underage female sidekick. This
kind of dynamic has been done numerous times before - ADV's Noir,
Madlax and Najica Blitz Tactics spring instantly to mind - and the
harder edge the series initially has quickly gives way to by-the-numbers comedy
drama. It's disappointing really, at the start Roy is chasing down
super-powered Resembles across the city's rooftops, and by the end of the volume
he's dealing with comedy villains and a completely
unnecessary swimming pool episode. It's not badly done, it's just you've
seen it so many times before that it feels pointless and predictable.
There are a few glimmers of hope for future volumes however. Roy's search for his lost daughter is a refreshingly serious aside to the rest of the story, and mystery of Solty's past and current situation are still to be revealed. The animation isn't bad, and despite the familiarity of the story it is still entertaining to watch. However, you are always left with the nagging suspicion that it's not as good as it could have been. It's frustrating to see solid story elements relegated to the sidelines in favour of daft side stories about stealing
diamonds and the like. However, it's heartening to see that even these throwaway stories hint that not everything is as it seems in the city. A few references to a hidden underclass of people left homeless and without hope by the Blast Fall and an unspoken suggestion that someone is trying to create 100% Resemble agents lurk in the background, and the series may have some decent mileage if it starts to explore these elements.
Solty Rei vol 1 is an entertaining if somewhat throwaway volume that hints at more than it delivers. The central partnership of Roy and Solty is reminiscent of Ido and Gally in Battle Angel Alita, but by toning down the darker elements of the story in favour of comedy and formulaic filler it lacks the impact of Yukito Koshiro's cyberpunk tale. If Solty Rei had concentrated on what sets it apart rather than attempting to grab the teen audience it may have been a lot more interesting. As it is though this DVD is an enjoyable sci-fi actioner and with six episodes on the disc you get plenty of value for money, even if it does punch under its weight. Not bad, but strangely average.
Not bad, the usual trailer and clean opening and ending sequences are joined by a 15-minute talk by the English dub director in which he discusses how he cast the roles in Solty Rei. It's quite interesting, although you are unlikely to listen to it more than once.