Kiddy Grade (2002-2003)
Directed by Keiji Goto

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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Sometime in the distant future, mankind has spread across the galaxy and colonized numerous worlds, which are united within the Galactic Union. One branch of this government is the GOTT, the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs, and two of its agents are Éclair, an incredibly buxom sixteen year old girl, and her younger partner, Lumiere. Making use of Éclair's superhuman strength and agility and Lumiere's ability to control electronic devices, the head of the GOTT sends these two on a variety of dangerous clandestine missions, which include apprehending criminals, investigating stolen technology, and delivering important documents. While performing her duties, however, Éclair becomes increasingly aware of her own forgotten past and of the malicious intentions of powerful individuals controlling the Galactic Union.

Keiji Goto's twenty-four part animated television series Kiddy Grade is both visually appealing and consistently fast moving. Most every episode is filled not only with a variety of well realized action sequences but also with numerous personal conflicts, plot twists, and machinations. Sadly, the story told over the course of the program is extremely uneven and can severely detract from its enjoyableness.


In fact, Kiddy Grade does not so much tell a single story as consist of three related segments. While these are connected with one another, each has such a different emotional impact that the series as a whole does seem disjointed. What is more, the means used to transition between these sections are extremely awkward and distracting. That said, if the viewer can get past such annoyances, he is likely to enjoy all three parts of the program.

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Each of the early episodes of the series presents an independent adventure, all of which are fast paced, exciting, and genuinely fun. About mid-way through the program, however, these light-hearted stories give way to a connected and much darker narrative, which, while still exciting, is substantially different from anything that came before it. Unfortunately, this second part of the series is not as well crafted as are the protagonists' earlier adventures, and some of its narrative details are more than a little arbitrary.


Even if the viewer is able to ignore such faults, and Kiddy Grade's radical shift in impetus, it is almost certain that he will be jarred again when, about three-quarters of the way through the series, the director shifts its trajectory a second time by introducing a truly unexpected and very disturbing plot twist. Although I will not reveal the nature of this development, suffice it to say that it is extremely disconcerting. Moreover, it is so arbitrary that Goto is forced to spend a substantial amount of time both explaining it and attempting to account for the inconsistencies he has introduced into his story. Sadly, even after two episodes of flashbacks and exposition, the viewer is still likely to be troubled by a number of points that simply do not add up.


Despite such faults, Kiddy Grade does have a number of virtues that do, at least to some degree, compensate for its inadequacies. For instance, its protagonists, Éclair and Lumiere, while they are given little depth, are so consistently appealing and entertaining that the viewer is likely to find himself involved in and affected by their daring adventures. Éclair, in particular, with her invariably skimpy costumes and nubile figure, is a real joy to watch. Furthermore, not only is she an endearing and captivatingly sexy individual, she is so impossibly athletic, quick, and agile that the various fights in which she is involved are both enthralling and exhilarating.


Most of the series' supporting characters are, however, forgettable, and a fair number of them are more than a little childish. Be this as it may, many of them are still appealing and, whatever their flaws may be, these are never so severe that they greatly detract from Kiddy Grade's enjoyableness.


Lastly, I should note that although the animation used in Kiddy Grade is neither technically impressive nor indicative of any great aesthetic sensitivity, it is, nonetheless, always attractive and well realized. While it is unlikely that the viewer will be awed by the series' visual style, he is still almost certain to enjoy it. The character designs are, almost without exception, attractive, and those of young female characters are especially fetching. Éclair, for example, is wonderfully athletic, genuinely beautiful, and endearingly adorable.


Even though Kiddy Grade is not, ultimately, entirely satisfying, so much of the series is enlivened by its likeable protagonists, its exciting action sequences, and its attractive animation that it is well worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen

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