Mezzo (2004)
Directed by Yasuomi Umetsu

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * *

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Synopsis & Analysis
Yasuomi Umetsu's thirteen part animated series Mezzo, which follows the director's two part made for video Mezzo Forte, is consistently thrilling, fast paced, and sexy. While each episode of the program tells a self-contained story, and few of the episodes make reference either to one another or to the prior series, the various tales Umetsu tells are so wonderfully enjoyable and intoxicatingly exciting that the viewer is unlikely ever to be bored by this lack of structure.

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The series' stories generally revolve around the different assignments taken on by the shady Danger Service Agency. Over the course of the program, the three members of this group, namely, Harada, a bleached blond android technician, Kurokawa, a former police officer, and Mikura, a beautiful and extremely deadly young woman, agree to handle a variety of jeopardous cases. In one episode, for instance, they deliver a stolen briefcase containing a deadly virus; in another, they evict a group of gangsters squatting in a dilapidated apartment complex, and, in a third, they protect a man who has been threatened by a serial killer. Most of these adventures are not only exciting and filled with elaborately choreographed action sequences, but also include such bizarre details as clients who happen to be ghosts or extra-terrestrial aliens, a lethal virtual reality game, a robotic high school sweetheart, and the vengeful lover of a person killed by Mikura in the prior series.

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Admittedly, some of these stories are burdened by arbitrary narratives, abrupt endings, or awkward attempts at cleverness, but, as a whole, Mezzo is so buoyed up by its likeable characters, quick pacing, frequent action sequences, and vibrant sexiness that the viewer will probably find himself so enthralled by the experiencing of watching it that he will not only forgive it its faults, but fail to notice them. Mezzo truly is a pleasure to watch.

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The series' enjoyableness is further enhanced by the quality of the animation used in it. Although it is never as good as is that of Mezzo Forte, the program's animation is generally both accomplished and appealing. The character designs, in particular, are almost all engaging. Those of the female characters are usually cute and sensuous while those of the male characters tend to be quirky, strange, or repulsive. Mikura is especially well realized. With her cotton-candy pink hair, her absolutely adorable face, and her nubile figure, which is, more often than not, clearly displayed by her skintight orange jumpsuit, she is a real joy simply to look at. More than that, thanks to her impossible athleticism and acrobatic skills, watching her is, at once, enthralling and exhilarating. Although she may not be the most developed character to appear in anime, she is among the best conceived visually.

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Sadly, the quality of the animation is not consistent. At its best, it is detailed and either attractive or repulsive, but, at other times, it is crude and unaccomplished. Characters' faces and bodies are occasionally so distorted they are unrecognizable; different elements in a given scene are not always well integrated with one another, and there are even a few mistakes in continuity, as when, in one episode, a sheath repeatedly appears and disappears from a character's belt. Such faults do detract from the program's appeal, but, on the whole, it is still pleasing.

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In fact, despite its occasional narrative and visual failings, Mezzo is such tremendous fun that the viewer is likely to find himself nearly intoxicated by the experience of watching it.

Review by Keith Allen

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