Please do not watch this anime dubbed. It is possibly the worst dub I have heard. There was no emotion behind anything with the dub and any emotions I was supposed to feel during my time with the dub version were lost. So I beg you, to fully enjoy A.I.C.O., you need to watch the sub version. It is a billion times better and it helps make the characters actually have emotion. Now that that important note is out of the way, let’s dive into this review.
“In Japan in the year 2035, an accident known as the “Burst” occurs during a research project, spawning an out-of-control artificial life form called “Matter” that has spread throughout the Kurobe Gorge. The research city that was once hailed as the hope for humanity is cordoned off by the government. Two years later, 15-year-old Aiko Tachibana, who lost her family in the Burst, learns something unbelievable from Yuya Kanzaki, a new student at her school. A secret is hidden within her body, and the answer to the puzzle lies at the “Primary Point” that was the center of the Burst. Aiko resolves to infiltrate the restricted area, escorted by a team of divers and with Yuya as her guide.” (Story Source)
The Main City in A.I.C.O.
Straight from the start, we have something new and rather unique. An unknown and dangerous phenomenon occurs and threatens humanity forcing the remainder of humanity into a dangerous situation. Already, the world is unique and brings you into this dangerous world filling you with questions about how the “matter” came to be and how humanity is surviving and fending it off. Though the major questions of how “matter” came to be are answered, the way we are told how everything works is through made up science created in this world that is incredibly difficult to actually understand. In the end, we do find out what “matter” is and how it came to be… but other than that, we aren’t told much else.
The key point of the story is about Aiko, a girl with a secret that not even she knew about herself. A secret that is key to destroying the “matter” and solving the crisis. The objective is to get Aiko to the “Primary Point” so she and her team can stop the crisis.
Though I think the story is new and unique, I feel like it was rushed and not well fleshed out. Some episodes end up feeling the same and for the first half of the season, I was honestly quite bored and left facepalming to the scenario at hand.
Aiko gettin kidnapped
Aiko is basically kidnapped by a new transfer student by the name of Yuya Kanzaki and taken to a location where people called “divers” are (I’ll talk about divers shortly, so hold on). At this location, Aiko is brought to meet Susumu Kurose and Daisuke Shinoyama. Here, she is told about this elaborate plot to stop the “matter” and how she is actually an artificial life form that is linked to her old human self. Along with being told she is actually an artificial life form, she is told that she is the cause of the burst that created the “matter”. Then to stop the crisis, she is told that she has to be taken to the primary point to destroy the “matter” cause she is the key to its existence. I know that sounds like a spoiler, but you find this out episode 1 or 2… it’s no big deal, I swear.
So while she was being told all that information, which is a ton of information to take in. She seems to believe every last bit of it which made me just wanna hate Aiko with a burning passion. Though luckily, she ends up considering that they could be lying to her and tries to run away which made me thankful that she wasn’t so easily persuaded to believe anything someone were to tell her.
Anyways, by episode 3 we are introduced to a team of “divers” who is recruited to take Aiko and Yuya Kanzaki to the “Primary Point”. “Divers” are basically mercenaries for hire who go out into the danger zone where the “matter” is active to obtain research from labs, obtain data, and etc. They basically are hired to do fetch quests. These divers are equipped with weapons capable of fighting off the “matter” and are key to ensuring the safe delivery of Aiko.
On the journey to deliver Aiko, there is an overall question at hand that really makes you think. This question is whether you are really human if you’re artificially made. Aiko is capable of thinking, making her own decision, and practically capable of doing anything else a human is capable of doing. The issue though, is that she is just a copy/clone of her old self. This really does hit deep and makes you think. There was actually a game called SOMA that is very similar to this concept of whether you are the same person if you’re a clone, or even what happens to your mind/soul when you have a clone. Do you feel the same things, do you have the same memories, how do you see the world? Just loads of questions like these. I don’t wanna butcher the concept, but if you watch A.I.C.O., you’ll definitely understand what I mean.
So I’d say that’s enough about the story, let’s move onto characters.
Aiko Tachibana is the main protagonist of the story. Aiko is a girl who lost her family in the burst and continues her habilitation in high school due to being injured in a car crash. Eventually, she meets a new transfer student named Yuya Kanzaki and is shocked to find out that her family is still alive. Not only that, but she is informed that she is just an artificial clone of her original self.
Yuya Kanzaki is the new transfer student at Aiko’s school. He is the one to inform Aiko of the truth and tells her all about the “burst” and “matter”. Yuya is a genius with a mysterious past that we don’t find out much about until later on into the series. His goal is to reach the Primary Point by any means necessary to do so.
Kazuki is one of the divers on the team to assist Aiko and Yuya to reach the primary point. He is the only diver who really shows much personality and is actually a key character in the plot. In episode one, his prosthetic arm is engulfed by matter resulting in him getting visions of Aiko’s memories. Later on, he finds Aiko and falls in love with her ultimately protecting her at any cost. I’d like to add that I like his character and that he’s pretty cool.
Susumu Kurose is a researcher with the same objective to stop the “matter”. He provides the team support from outside the Matter area.
Yuzuha Isazu is the daughter of Kyosuke Isazu, the main antagonist of the anime. After a skiing accident, Yuzuha was left in a coma resulting in her father, Kyosuke, to try to figure out a way to bring her out from her coma.
Kyosuke Isazu is the father of Yuzuha Isazu with the goal of bringing his daughter out of a coma. During this struggle, he ends up threatening the divers’ lives and possibly threatens humanity as well by attempting to prevent the Matter from being destroyed.
The remaining members of the diving team who are sent out to assist Aiko and Yuya to reach their destination are just bland supporting characters who are very forgettable. Luckily, Kazuki plays a role and ends up being likable. Other than that, the rest of the divers could have died (and may die… not spoiling anything) and I wouldn’t have shed a tear.
Art, Animation, and Sound
Look how worried the guy in the blue is… It’s all good
I believe A.I.C.O. is lacking visual wise. That’s not to say that it’s a bad looking anime because it isn’t, just in comparison to more modern releases the art style is sort of outdated. Other than that, the anime does well with how dull and gritty the world is. It does give off the feeling that a crisis has occurred.
Human life forms emerging from the “Matter”
For animation, there is really nothing to complain about. The action scenes when the divers are fighting the matter are quite entertaining and look good. You get a sense of struggle and urgency from the divers while they rush to figure out what to set to put their weapons to so they can defeat the attacking matter.
Finally, we have sound. The OP is terrible… I skipped it every single time. It’s not even worth calling an OP. Along with that, the ending theme is an absolute snooze fest. In contrast to the gritty world, the anime is set in, this ending theme has no place. I refuse to link it because I’m really disappointed. The last handful of animes I have watched have done so well with their OP and ending themes that I’m absolutely heartbroken that A.I.C.O. failed to deliver.
The base sounds are perfectly fine in the actual anime. The lasers sound like lasers and the sound effects are done well… I’m just sad about the OP and ending…
Give A.I.C.O. a watch. It’s got a good and unique world setting. The action is entertaining enough and the sense of danger due to the “matter” is well done. On the surface, I’d say the anime is pretty bad, but they did manage to create this anime to have a deeper meaning that gets you thinking.
One last thing though! I have to emphasize that you can’t watch this anime with Dub. There is no emotion behind the voice actors and they fail to get the proper emotion across that the script is supposed to have. So please, I beg you to watch it in sub. If you wanna cringe at how poorly done the dub is, sure, go watch it dubbed. Either way, this is a solid anime. I wish the world was developed a bit more, but for what we get in 12 episodes, I was pretty satisfied.