It’s the start of a new year, and with it comes the promise of a new year of anime! One of the first new shows we’re getting is Metallic Rouge, a sci-fi production by Studio Bones. Metallic Rouge is a mysterious mecha anime, in a world where humans coexist with androids called “Neans.” When a group of Neans known as the Immortal Nine rises against society, another Nean by the name of Rouge Redstar (aka “Metal Rouge”) and investigator Naomi Orthmann must head to Mars to hunt them down.
Is it worth checking out? Are we starting the year out on a good note for anime? Let’s see!
The good of Studio Bones’ Metallic Rouge
As a fan of noir, sci-fi, girls getting into fights, and noir girls getting into sci-fi fights, Metallic Rouge ticked a lot of my boxes. The first episode is entertainingly atmospheric, with dark techno visuals mixed with a haunting score. One scene in the beginning has some particularly fantastic vibes, as Nean singer Sarah croons out a synthy ballad in a dark club of humans and Neans alike.
Most scenes occur in dimly lit bars, secretive alleyways, and other locations where you might hold sketchy meetings rather than fighting with big robots. It’s a mecha anime, but it’s much more grounded than something like Gundam. Instead, it felt more in line with Blade Runner, in both aesthetics and themes.
In this world of cyber-noir, we find our protagonist Rouge is a bit of a laid-back ditz, following orders without knowing where they’re from and quick to brush off the sting of dehumanization. She’s Nean hunting down Neans for the human government, and it doesn’t seem like she’s questioned that even slightly, even though humans around her do not view her as worthy of respect. In one scene, a man bumps into her and expects her to apologize, which she does unquestioningly. Rouge shows more emotions about eating chocolate than she does about being tasked to hunt down members of her own kind or her own dehumanization.
This episode sets her up for a future rude awakening and a hell of a character arc very well. At first, the way she was introduced made it seem like the anime might lean closer to the “cute girls doing cute things” subgenre (which is fine, but not my cup of tea). Thankfully, Rouge Redstar is closer to “a cute girl who wrestles with morality as she reckons with the fact that she is a willing tool in the oppressive machine.” The amount of pain from Neans she’s willing to overlook in this episode means the weight of her eventual guilt will be crushing. Great news for fans of deep inner turmoil!
Rouge is paired up with her informant Naomi, a similarly laid-back individual with a stellar character design and mysterious motives. She’s chipper, witty, and talks out of a bird sometimes. We know very little about her, and she is already my favorite character. So far, they’re a fun pair.
Morally vague girls in space teaming up to have big robot battles will always be a good concept. I always appreciate the “are-we-the-baddies’ angle, and that’s definitely the path these two will go down. How long will the women we are meant to root for fall into the trap of “just following orders?” Will they wake up and work towards a better world together, or split up and fight alone? A thematically rich journey awaits!
That being said, in this episode we don’t learn very much about them. The premiere is solidly rooted in introducing us to the world of Metallic Rouge. We see Neans struggling to get the substance they need to survive, we follow club singer Sarah as she’s hunted down by a mysterious android, and generally speaking, there are just a lot of shady nighttime meetings lit in neon.
This episode is all about world-building, which, unfortunately, doesn’t quite land.
The “meh of this new mecha anime series
A disclaimer: I am not a connoisseur of mecha anime. If you are, you might have a much easier time getting into the world of Metallic Rouge. If you know what a “Gladiator” is, you’re going to have a much better grip on the story.
That being said, Metallic Rouge is its own unique world, and it was a little difficult to get into all aspects of it, not just the mecha. I’m typically a fan of little to no exposition with world-building. If the story keeps me excited and intrigued, I welcome being confused with the promise of everything sliding perfectly together at some later point. Done well, it pulls a viewer into the world without sacrificing interest or hype.
Metallic Rouge almost hits the mark on this. With terms like “Alters” and “Scarface” thrown about with little to no explanation, I certainly want to know more. I want to know why some Neans have marks all over their faces and why some look human, I want to know what exactly nectar is and where it comes from, and I want to know more about the possibility of androids being connected to aliens. I especially want to know how our main duo got to where they are, and the mechanics of how they work.
Unfortunately, Studio Bones didn’t quite hit the mark on the balance of hype and intrigue. It’s clear what the episode was trying to do: a slow mysterious build to a final burst of action, where we get a cemented understanding of our main character and where she stands in this world.
Metallic Rouge premieres on Crunchyroll this week!
Regrettably, the first episode left me confused enough that the final fight and reveal did not hit me at full impact. I didn’t fully understand the stakes or what our heroine was fighting for. Mostly, I was trying to figure out where everybody stood and what kind of robot they were. The fight faded away to an underwhelming laser show, and it just didn’t get me excited.
If you can keep better track of what’s happening, you might have a completely different experience than I had. Personally, I’ll give this one a solid “We’ll see.” There’s plenty of potential here. The show seems like it will be a slow build, and I think it will be worth the ride. I’ll be checking out episode two when it drops and making further judgments from there.
The first episode of Metallic Rouge premieres Wednesday, January 10, 2024 on Crunchyroll! Are you planning to check this one out? Let us know on Twitter or our Discord!