Shangri-La is the anime adaptation of Eiichi Ikegami’s light novel, which was originally published back in 2004 within the pages of Newtype magazine. The folks at MVM Entertainment are distributing this Gonzo Studio animated series, in the UK, starting off with “collection one” which contains the first twelve episodes of what is a twenty four episode show. At the time of writing Amazon have two copies of this two DVD set for sale retailing at £23. If you are interested in checking out the series I would however recommend hitting up United Publications instead, as they are selling the same collection for a mere £16 (plus postage.)
The series takes place in the near future where the world’s governments have finally decided to take action against global warming. I personally don’t see what the big deal is. Going to the beach during a winter heat wave sounds lovely, although I suppose that Dope smokers would not be amused if rising water levels resulted in a submerged Netherlands. To combat climate change CO2 emissions are tightly monitored and nations that spew out too much smog are hit with hefty carbon taxes. The globe’s economy now revolves around the carbon trade, with investors trading CO2 levels much like how stocks are handled today.
Unfortunately for Japan, a nation that attracts natural disasters like I attract mosquitos, the carbon laws are affecting the reconstruction efforts that commenced after the country suffered a massive earthquake. Most of Japan’s citizens are forced to live in jungle ruins whilst the wealthy elite gets to reside in the rebuilt Tokyo city. The only hope of a better life lies with winning a lottery that grants its winners access to the lavish capital. Well that sucks. If I were living in Japan I would be screwed as my terrible luck prevents me from winning prize draws. To date I haven’t even managed to score a tenner from the National Lottery! Oh well, living in a jungle isn’t so bad. All those trees must come in handy for absorbing the excess carbon dioxide in the air.
Shangri-La’s protagonist is Kuniko Hojo, a teenage girl who is skilled at tossing oversized mechanical boomerangs. Despite her age, Kuniko is the leader of a resistance group that protects the town of Duomo from oppressive military forces. This has all the trimmings for an action packed show featuring girls hurling Australian weapons, but surprisingly the story is much deeper than that. The narrative regularly switches from Kuniko’s exploits to other girls who seem to be big players in the Shangri-La universe. The first of these is a genius hacker named Karin, who uses her computing prowess to manipulate the carbon markets. The other gal in question is Mikuni, a creepy cult leader who can crush anyone foolish enough to lie to her via telekinesis. What role these characters have in the grander scheme of things has yet to be revealed. Although the plot is building up to something it is taking its sweet time getting there.
My rating for the first collection of Shangri-La is a three out of five. The show reminds me of another Gonzo series named Last Exile, although it is much more slower paced. Things were so dull at first that I was tempted to drop the show altogether, but thankfully things get more interesting once the main cast are established. What a diverse cast it is too. The characters include a whip wielding transsexual and a ruthless tycoon who slaughters younglings faster than Anakin Skywalker. Things really pick up once you start viewing the second DVD, which kicks off with Kuniko trying to escape from a high security prison. After watching that second disc I am sufficiently invested in the story to see the series out to its fruition.
Even though Shangri-La isn’t a big name series it comes with more extras than your average anime release. As usual you get text-less free versions of the opening and closing themes along with trailers… wow adverts for other products, what a generous “extra.” The more substantial goodies come in the form of a mock promotional video for a parody magical girl show staring one of the Shangri-La characters. Each DVD also comes bundled with an episode commentary staring some of the English language voice actors. Sadly the commentaries aren’t particularly funny or insightful. I strongly recommend skipping the second one, as not only is it a bit boring, but it also gives away spoilers! Curse that blabbermouth. If he spills the beans again I will ask Mikuni to squash his gob with her psychic talents.