TL;DR – Steampunk anime about a boy seeking to survive in a war torn world through boxing.
Review (warning: spoilers)
This is the story of a boy named Levius Cromwell, whose mother became a human shield in order to protect him. During a time of war, Levius lost his right arm and now has a replacement cybernetic one. His mother lies in hospital in a coma, and his father has already been killed in action.
Thus, Levius finds himself in the care of his uncle, Zacks, who initially can’t connect with the boy. Listless, lifeless, Levius displays no inclination to do anything. That is until, he stumbles on an arena where he witnesses for the first time metal boxing (i.e., boxers with cybernetic arms). Searching for meaning in his existence, Levius starts training to be a metal boxer with his uncle, who used to be a boxer and now owns a gym.
The underlying plot revolves around the mystery of Green Bridge where Levius experienced the devastation of war and witnessed the apprehension of children at the hands of giant mechs owned and operated by Amethyst STEC (Steam Technology Enterprise Corporation).
Amethyst is run by Dr Clown, a masked individual, who has knowledge indicating that the children of Green Bridge are able to utilise and withstand the strain and pain of using steam technology longer than other people due to the type of water that ran through that town. Dr Clown is a Machiavellian sociopath who seeks to “collect” Levius and have him fight in the boxing ring to create beautiful music (i.e., Dr Clown sees metal boxing as an artform that can create a symphony only he can hear even if it results in a boxer’s death).
One of the children Amethyst kidnapped is named AJ Langdon, a young girl who cried out for help to a young Levius who was hiding behind some debris at Green Bridge. When Levius discovers AJ has now been turned into one of Dr Clown’s puppets and is an elite metal boxer, Levius vows to save her.
Initially, I was not sure if I could it make it through this series. The anime uses extensive CGI, which made me wonder whether this was going to be a series purely about how cool it looks with no decent story.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Visually, the boxing scenes are stunning, and I found the attention to detail surrounding the steampunk technology used in metal boxing fascinating. The skills required in boxing, along with the enhancements of armour and technology, are adrenalin pumping, and the anime could have easily fallen into the trap of making the technology override boxing skill. Thankfully, it does not and the anime is better off.
However, these visuals would not have elevated the anime above the average if not for an interesting plot. While standard tropes are used in terms of character design, they don’t detract from being engaged with their plight.
Levius’ opponents have back stories that are revealed through this first season that generate the necessary empathy to show they are layered characters and not mere fighters who only think about boxing. The cast includes:
- Malcolm Eden – a demoted grade III fighter who continues to get steampunk enhancements to his body to compete even though he is past his prime.
- Hugo Stratus – the number one ranked fighter in grade II, who is scheduled to face off against Levius for promotion to grade I. However, in a “warm-up” match he is defeated unexpectedly by AJ.
- AJ Langdon – the girl Levius could not save during the Green Bridge war. She is now a metal boxer that is mind controlled and used by Dr Clown.
Dr Clown, the main antagonist, is suitably unstable with megalomaniac desires that your focus will be wanting to see his demise. A small quip is that it is never revealed in the first season why Dr Clown is the way that he is. His origins remain a mystery, so I did feel he was one-dimensional in his motivations.
The supporting cast around Levius – Zacks (his uncle and trainer), Bill (his engineer) and Natalia (his sparring partner) – are solid if stereotypical.
The season ends, as expected, with Levius successfully defeating AJ while saving her from Dr Clown. Levius gets promoted to grade II boxing ranks, and AJ joins the Cromwell family. Dr Clown escapes with his motivations still a mystery.
There is enough unexplained to warrant a season two, and I hope it does come around.
8.5 out of 10