In the future humanity is a space faring species who is in perpetual conflict with the alien armada known as the Gnosis. Vector Industries has been developing many different weapons to fight the Gnosis. The newest one is a combat android called KOS-MOS. After an attack, a few survivors including the android's creator Shion Uzuki end up aboard a salvage ship.
A detour would be an understatement, but now Shion and her comrades are at the for front of the conflict to defeat the Gnosis, but also thrust into a load of conspiracies for which they only get a glimpse.
Some might consider my review to be unfairly harsh. Note that I haven't played the game. I don't really hate Xenosaga, I pity it. There are many glances into what could be a wonderful bigger picture, but it's hidden by this badly put together anime. I feel hesitant to give this show my lowest rating, but why have a lowest rating if you won't give it to a title that manages to do everything wrong?
Animation wise there are two characters, Shion and Kos-Mos who are well rendered. In particular it seems like the creators understood that the key focus would be the uber android anime babe and made it a point to make sure she looked good (not awesome but good).. The rest of the Xenosaga looks terrible. Most designs were simplistic, and the mecha and ships lack details and interesting shapes. Even worse are the sequences where there aren't explosions; things just dissolve into CGI sparkles. Seriously? No explosions?
Honorable mention should go to the terrible sound track. It was attempting to sound epic I suppose, but attempting sounding epic and being epic are two different things. The musical score is hollow and uninspired, going through the motions as is the rest of the anime. Even worse the music is inappropriate in many places.
Characters weren't terrible aside from the fact that Shion is the only one that feels even somewhat developed. The general plot(s) are stuffed into time constraints that are obviously not capable of going where it needs to. It gets even worse when it spends a lot of time on elements that aren't needed. When your plot is in the back dying and coughing up blood, why spend minutes showing a boring worthless sequence of a ship docking in space? Skip that crap and salvage the story! Ugh! So frustrating! The dialog in this show is just often so bad, I'm not sure where to start. In a similar vein, Xeonosaga likes to drop ominous sounding terms and codewords all over the place, yet only half of them are conductive to the plot. As such you get lost in this soup of terminology that just confuses you.
And then in episode 12, there was suddenly cool animation. The plot focused on something significant, and it managed to actually build up a bit of emotion for some of the characters. Shion has come full circle, at first horrified by KOS-MOS and the tragedy years ago, thinking KOS-MOS may be developing empathy and emotions only to understand that she is in fact intended as a weapon and plays the part. But then Shion finally grasps that KOS-MOS may only be a weapon, and has no emotions but she can very much be the key to saving people if directed properly. I wish this anime had managed to pull out great ideas through the whole thing instead of stumbling over it at the end. In fact I liked episode 12 despite the music and dialog being terrible. It unfortunately highlights the fact that Xenosaga could have been so much more if done right.
I could go on and on, but I'm going to stop there. As I said before it's not that I don't like Xenosaga, I'd like to like it... but it just manages to screw up pretty much everything. I believe that 12 episodes is not long enough to develop a story of this caliber with so much involved and trying to inject all of that was a mistake. A considerable amount of filler garbage should have been scrapped, and many of the side elements ignored in order to focus on a more simplified stronger story. I have the feeling that the game must be pretty cool, and if I have a recommendation to those who haven't played it but are interested in the series, play the game don't watch the anime. If you've played the game, be happy with what you got because the anime is just a jumbled rehashing of it anyway.
Albedo: The vermin have eluded the trap. Ha! So then we'll hear it. A legendary song. Mwa ha ha ha!
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