The result of a crowd-funded campaign, Under the Dog was originally envisioned as a 26 episode series with an animation style hearkening back to shows like Ghost in the Shell. The plot follows an UN-sanctioned assassination group called Flowers, made up of young teenage girls who have special abilities formed after a massive terrorist attack occurred during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Failure of a mission means death for the agent, as well as family and close friends through the use of implanted bombs.
The Episode 00 OVA focuses on a Flowers operative, Togetsu Hana, who was inserted undercover to a high school. She seeks to succeed in her mission to prevent the death of her family in case of failure. After finding her target, Nanase Shunichi, she is tipped off by her handler that a US Military Task Force is enroute to the school, their objective is the escaped Research Subject “P”.
As the school is evacuated and communications jammed, Hana and Shunichi engage and escape the military forces, while the appearance of a monster (a Pandora) wreaks havoc on both sides. As more and more extreme measures are used against Hana, other Flowers help out, but not before Hana is overpowered and Shunichi is captured. Flowers 03, a Scandinavian girl named Anthea Kallenberg, arrives on-scene in a missile-equiped drop pod. The commander on the ground realizes who was arriving and orders his men to avoid contact, Anthea being the most feared one by all other standard military units. This is too late as Anthea’s drop pod destroys most of the US Military forces.
Finding Hana, Anthea mercy kills her fellow assassin, while elsewhere, Hana’s parents are killed by the implanted bomb while another Flowers assassin arrives to take care of her younger brother. Asking permission to continue Hana’s mission, the Flowers handler approves it and Anthea runs to the target.
Engaging the Pandora on the roof (who had rescued Shunichi from the US Military), the two pit their respective powers against each other before a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from a US Navy ship destroys the school.
Anthea survived by running back to her drop pod, while Shunichi survived because the Pandora protected him. It morphs to his father, whom Shunichi has said had abandoned him when he was younger. Unfortunately, Shunichi was the cause of his death, the initially ‘white’ listed teenager had morphed his hand to a Pandora’s and had stabbed his father. Anthea eliminates him while their handler is off to investigate why someone they thought was ‘white’ turned ‘black’.
It ends with a monologue, stating that they were meant to be the killers of the light of humanity, their families and friends held hostage and they are forever bound by their mission. Which is to kill what could potentially cure them of their pandorization that grants them their powers, to kill their hope. Yet they’re told “still, there is hope”.
So, if this is an attempt to harken back to a show like Ghost in the Shell, I’m not sure if I’m truly hooked. There was a fair bit of gunplay and action, but I wanted a little more substance in what was going on. I think that’s my issue with the Episode 00.
The setting seems a little absurd. Unless the 2020 Tokyo Games was dirty bombed (would make sense if the setting is in a ‘Neo Tokyo’), I highly doubt Japan would let its ally shoot up then destroy the school. Granted some folks who tends to read this blog would say it’s just a matter of time, but I guess I attract some kinds of people here. Nevertheless, this is in addition to a United Nations sanctioned group of teenage assassins that made me go “wtf m8”. Granted the Flowers seems to be a group specialized in killing Pandorized humans, which goes with their tagline “Our mission is to kill the light of humanity”.
Well they aren’t cyborgs like in Gunslinger Girl, but they’re ‘ability users’. The Flowers have a chance to turn into Pandora, as evidenced by Anthea’s vitals noting her Pandorization rate. So in effect, much like Black Bullet’s gastrea. They’re seeking for a way out of their current predicament. So when Shunichi went from being categorized as ‘white’ to ‘black’, he was instantly eliminated and I imagine hopes of normalcy was dashed.
I enjoyed Black Bullet, Gunslinger Girl, and Ghost in the Shell; shows I’ve compared this Episode 00 to. Coupled with the action, the setting which is making me want to know more of the show, call backs to previous series in terms of style or plot; I should like Under the Dog.
But I didn’t, not in first viewing at least. It took off rather slowly, and I was confounded by the sudden appearance of the US Military storming a Japanese High School. Granted when the action started I started to get clued in, but it still felt off. And I think that’s what happens when studios have a falling out with each other and people in the production team is replaced. I don’t blame the producers in wanting this to be funded by a kickstarter. I maintain that 2007’s year of moe is still being felt 9 years later, with shows providing mostly fanservice or shallow plot, and it’s harder for something that this blogger feels is of any substance to break out.
Under the Dog really needs a series, something I can watch a week later to understand what is going on, and not just sparse tidbits in-between some damn good action and a short monologue with a montage in the end.
Going off on a bit, I wanted to bring my thoughts I was discussing with some folks, and might explain a bit of my views on the industry as a whole.
Readers, y’alls don’t have to agree with me as this is just my personal opinion. I still think that the glut of moe in the early aughts and the state of the fandom because of it (or rather, a mixture of the result and the cause) is what led to shows like Under the Dog to seek funding through other means for fear that it wouldn’t be ‘popular’ with a wide enough audience to recoup production costs. This is why I somewhat fear for this upcoming anime adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. What I consider one of the greatest space operas put on screen, to be dumped into the current market where sex sells, characters have to be cute, and talking must be hot blooded (or dark and edgy).
Granted, I might be looking through the whole medium in rose-tinted glasses, with a tint that would be dark enough to be used in spacesuit helmets.
Imgur Gallery (Still Getting a Hang of This):