I was drawn to this anime at first because it looked like Last Exile. I enjoyed that anime’s art so I gave Shangri-La a watch…I made it only halfway before I just gave up. Looks can be deceiving.
The world is undergoing a global warming crisis. The governments of the world shift their stock markets to trade only one thing: carbon. Japan is hit by a biblical earthquake. Despite the devastation the carbon trade isn’t lifted even a hair on Japan. Mind you, countries are charged for every CO2 emission, even from a lowly wood stove. Somehow the UN tracks everything. Anyway, Tokyo is transformed into a weird killer jungle that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. Japan starts Project Atlas, a giant lofted city that will replace Tokyo, but it can only house a certain number of people. Shangri-La follows the people who live below Atlas in a city surrounded by that killer jungle. The main characters, Kuniko, Nagiko, and the transsexuals Momoko and Miiko become part of a resistance movement against Project Atlas. The movement is oddly called Metal-Age. (No, the series doesn’t have any metal theme songs or anything.)
Mixed into this overarching plot are economic hackers, Mikuni (a little girl who crushes liars to death with her telepathy), and other characters I couldn’t really care much about. The story was a very strange, disjointed blend of sci-fi and fantasy elements…I had no clue what was going on after 12 episodes. The only part of the story I understood was the people on the ground wanted to live in Atlas. Metal-Age wanted to live there too…only not under the current government policies.
Kuniko was a likeable spunky girl, but why adults would look to a teenager as a leader of an anti-government organization made no sense to me. She spent 2 years in a prison at the young age of 13..but shows no negative side effects. Curious. Kuniko was a very confident character, yet at times she would reveal a vulnerable side. She cared deeply her body guard Momoko. Momoko was kind of a father/mother figure as well as a friend. Although his/her constant transsexual reminders got old pretty quick. Someone’s sexuality and gender really has less bearing on who they are than Momoko would make you believe. His/her S&M references just dragged on the story. I guess that was my entire problem with this anime: the characters did little to drive the storyline forward. The sub characters did a better job of story development. The main characters were…just schizophrenic with their bouncing between silly, goofy, and melodramatic.
The world of Shangri-La was rich, but I just couldn’t get into it with bland characters and a story that never really progressed. Yes, I know I only made it halfway, but after 12 episodes I should have felt something for the characters. Mostly I just felt annoyance and boredom. The general concept of carbon markets having a profound effect on citizens was interesting. We all product CO2 with our modern lifestyles so an economic system that measures every little output would directly influence all of us. It was just unrealistic to have the carbon hackers (who didn’t really fit well in the main storyline really) profoundly affect the economic health of a nation. Red flags would shoot up if suddenly a country’s entire economy dived.
It’s unfortunate Shangri-La’s story was so terrible. The animation was nicely done, and the general concept was quite unique. There was just enough elements that didn’t make sense even for a science fiction anime…like Kuniko controlling the carbon market with her mind.
This anime was just plan bad. Suspended disbelief can only go so far. Pass on this one.