NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
Despite a lot of people’s preconceptions, anime actually has its fair share of kick-ass girls who are a force to be reckoned with. ‘Iria: Zeiram the Animation’ is a series about a girl who is on a mission to find her brother and kill a terrifying alien. No distracting love interests, no men coming to her rescue – just Iria. Hooray for strong role models.
‘Iria’ is a rather retro series, airing in Japan in 1994, but it’s still an enjoyable watch 19 years on. It’s a short OVA (original video animation) series with just six 30 minute-long episodes to it, so it’s got to pack a lot in to three hours. If you like your good old 90’s space anime like ‘Gundam’ and ‘Outlaw Star’, ‘Iria’ should be right up your alley. The story is relatively straight forward; Iria is an apprentice bounty hunter who accompanies her brother, Glen, and boss, Bob, on a mission to find out what has happened to the crew and mysterious cargo of a space station. The dangerous cargo is the terrifying beast Zeiram, who attacks Glen and Bob. Glen forces Iria out of the ship and remains behind to destroy it and Zeiram. However, when Zeiram makes a dramatic return to Iria’s planet, she sets out on a journey to find her brother and learn about the terrifying alien’s identity.
Although the animation in ‘Iria’ might be a bit dated, it’s still very beautiful. The cities and landscapes are very sci-fi in essence and the soundtrack has some brilliant battle tunes mixed in. The director is Tetsuro Amino, who has also worked on ‘Macross 7’ and ‘Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam’, so you can rest assured he knows what he’s doing with ‘Iria’.
My favourite thing about ‘Iria’ is its characters. I’ll skip straight to Zeiram, the alien, because oh my gosh it’s actually pretty scary. It sounds like two strangled feral cats, has a freakish demonic face, and is simply a killing machine. No sad back story that we know of (remember this is a short series) and no reason to feel sorry for it. Sometimes you only have to be a terrifying monster to be a good villain. Iria’s a likeable character; she knows how to fire a gun, is independent and is a dependable tactician. Glen is effectively an older, male bishounen version of Iria, and Bob is a boss. Our other main characters are Fujikuro, an older bounty hunter who is competing with Iria, and Kei and Komimasa, two street urchins in search of adventure. It’s a big cast for a small series, but the story moves quickly enough to give them depth and for the audience to grow to like them.
As this is a sci-fi anime, you can be assured there are plenty of ugly monsters, guns and violent deaths spread across the six episodes. I found Zeiram a lot more creepy than I expected, and you really do feel a sense of helplessness when it goes on a rampage. This show completely bypassed me as a child, but I think a lot of people might remember it as one of their first shows and rightly categorise it as a ‘classic’.
‘Iria’ isn’t without its faults, however. I personally found the show ended very abruptly and could have done with just an extra five minutes to round some things off. However, after some research I found out that this is actually a prequel to an original live-action film ‘Zeiram’, although there are apparently a number of contradictions between the film and OVA series. I probably won’t watch the film but I enjoyed ‘Iria: Zeiram the Animation’ as an enjoyable stand-alone series. This is a great addition to a sci-fi fan’s collection, and it’s available now from MVM Entertainment!