Sunday, August 05, 2012

Ultraviolet: Code 044 – review

Director: Osamu Dezaki

First aired: 2008

Contains spoilers

This anime was based loosely on the Kurt Wimmer film Ultraviolet. Changes included an interplanetary aspect, and the idea that the hemophages, or phages, were people infected by a virus that developed naturally whereas the original film made it clear that the virus was engineered to create bio-warriors.

That still is within the story vaguely because, as well as people infected with the ordinary phage virus, our protagonist 044 (Romi Paku) is a clone created to act as a government super-agent and specifically infected with a super strain of the virus that gives her enhanced physical skills but has created a finite lifespan (think incept dates for the replicants in Bladerunner). At the end of the anime there is also the mention of a secret – that might hint that it was a created virus.

a phage
As the show starts 044 is on a mission to hunt down and kill phages. The phages themselves have developed an underground society and are led by someone known simply as King (Michio Hazama). He wishes to see an independent phage planet set up where the infected can live in peace. 044’s ultimate mission is to kill King. She has very little human contact, receiving orders from Daxus II (Koyama Rikiya), the head of the unification centre, and receiving medical care from Garcia (Horiuchi Kenyu).

Luka Bloom
Whilst hunting down king in the distant space city called Neo-Tokyo she faces several phages including a young warrior called Luka Bloom (Seki Tomokazu). Unable to defeat her he commits suicide by throwing himself into a sewage treatment reservoir. However she has fallen in love with him and rescues him, talking him for medical treatment. Her breach of protocol turns the central government against her, the phages have a reward on offer for her head and Luka hates her (and is almost outcast from Phage society due to their suspicion of why he was saved by her). Her only allies are Garcia and Matilda (Yamagata Kaori) – a doctor who is a friend of Garcia.

There is a story within this wider arc of a message being sent to her through her DNA by her donor. This turns out to be a female warrior code named Ultraviolet, who is held in the central unification headquarters. This may well be Violet from the original film. This, however, was not stated and is a supposition on my part. The idea that the donor could somehow speak to her clone through DNA was interesting.

glowing eyes
There isn’t much in the way of vampiric activity through the series. King has fangs and we get some backstory of the initial phage outbreak and see a vampire attack during that. Later in the series both Luka and 044 show symptoms of the phage that leads to violence and glowing eyes. Much like the film the underplay means that you could have removed the idea of vampires and nothing much in the story would have changed.

into battle
That said the story, as a whole, and characters were much better thought through and developed than the original movie. You came to identify with 044’s plight, her quest to love despite her impending death meaning that she turned her back on the only life she knew and turned from hunter to hunted.

Less impressive was the DVD print. I found the DVD on e-bay from a Malaysian source. With its holograph on the slipcase it looks kosher as a set but the print is muddy – to say the least. The series is on Crackle (dubbed) and is a much sharper print and the DVD print quality is a shame. That said I do not intend to mark down the actual series for a shoddy print.

This is not the best anime I have come across and, as I said, the vampire aspect is excruciatingly underplayed. However the story was compelling and I think the anime as a whole deserves 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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