A Japanese animated tale of conflicts between humans and androids on a colonized Mars, ARMITAGE III: POLY MATRIX offers above-average animated science fiction distinguished by the use of name actors for the English dubbing of the two leads.
On a colonized Mars in the next century, tensions rise as the population turns against the humanoid cyborgs known as "Thirds" living among them. Naomi Armitage (voice of Elizabeth Berkley), a diminutive member of the Martian Police Department, is partnered with Ross Sylibus (voice of Kiefer
Sutherland), a transfer from the Chicago Police Department, to investigate the murders of a number of female Thirds. They apprehend Rene D'Anclaude (Dan Woren), who has publicly called for the elimination of Thirds and has been implicated in one of the murders. Armitage reveals to Ross that she
herself is a Third. The murders continue and Armitage meets with a male Third, Julian (voice of Wanda Nowicki), who points out that female Thirds have the power to procreate.
Ross and Armitage visit the Conception Laboratory, where Armitage was created, to learn more from Armitage's "father," Dr. Asakura (voice of Barry Stigler). They learn that D'Anclaude is a cyborg, one of a whole class of D'Anclaude cyborgs known as "assassin-roids." The assassin cyborgs were
programmed to eliminate the procreating Thirds, who had originally been designed to increase the native Martian population in order to facilitate independence from Earth. However, an impending treaty with Earth and new calls for "Two worlds, one humanity" have created a movement to reduce the
robot population. After a battle with the military, Armitage and Ross, now fugitives--and lovers--flee to the Martian desert.
Armitage is the latest in a long line of spunky little scantily-clad heroines in Japanese animation. The fact that she's a cyborg makes no difference in the gutsy way she fights, jokes, searches for answers, and, finally, loves. The tension between humans and robots/cyborgs is a common theme in
anime, but in ARMITAGE III it's handled in a fresh fashion as a hot-button issue of politics and geo-interplanetary relations.
The character design is in the more serious science fiction vein of GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995) and the PATLABOR series rather than in the big-eyed, wide-mouthed madcap style of the DOMINION TANK POLICE and BUBBLEGUM CRISIS series. The production design affords an imaginative view of Earth-style
cities (including a Statue of Liberty duplicate) set against the red, rocky Mars landscape.
ARMITAGE III: POLY MATRIX is a compilation of original animation video (OAV) episodes reedited with new animation added for theatrical release. A chief problem for American fans of anime has been the poor quality of the English voice dubbing, due to the distributors' lack of money to pay
experienced vocal performers. For this release, Pioneer Entertainment has hired name actors, Elizabeth Berkley (SHOWGIRLS) and Kiefer Sutherland (YOUNG GUNS), to voice the two leads; they do a creditable job of making the characters more interesting and believable than usual for the genre.
(Violence, profanity, nudity.)
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