It seems odd, I admit, to be blogging a season finale a day after doing my final “First Impressions” post, but such are the vagaries of this Spring season. It’d be interesting in the back-story behind Ozma – what drove the decision to put it in this purgatorial 6-episode time slot, starting weeks before the rest of the Spring shows? There are hints that it might have been originally conceived as a movie, and it certainly had a closing credit sequence like one. I think Land-Q and Gonzo would have been better served to treat it as a movie and scale back the story considerably, because a major flaw of the final product was the lack of real character development. There just wasn’t time for it.
I liked a lot of what happened in the finale, which in spite of the limitations of the format managed to conjure up a measure of the classic Matsumoto sense of scope. It’s been apparent for a while that Ozma was actually some sort of mechanical construct, a kind of genetic Noah’s Ark, so that aspect didn’t come as a surprise. I hadn’t predicted that things would ultimately come down to Maya having a make a choice herself – to tell Ozma to repopulate the planet with the creature from The Zone, and take her chances – or to preserve the status quo, with the dying Ideal Children on top of the pile. I’m not sure exactly how that latter choice would have worked, but there was never really any chance Maya was going to go that route anyway.
Too many things in the finale just sort of happened, without any real background. Just who made Ozma in the first place, and why is Maya the key to making it do what she decides it must do? How is it that Dick managed to bust his way out of whatever box Gido’s presence had locked him in, just in time to pilot the Monokeros and save the day? It made for nice drama – Dick coming back to the surface in time to say goodbye to Bainas – but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of the story. I’m also not sure how Ozma knew only to target Danga’s ships and not Maya’s friends. This is the sort of detail that gets sacrificed to a six-episode time slot.
So we have a happy ending, more or less, with the Earth repopulated and the reign of the Ideal Children at an end. I wonder if Bainas will ever tell anyone what she saw in the end, that Dick had indeed returned – would his brother be happier not knowing that? I liked a lot of what we saw here, starting with Matsumoto’s wondrous character designs, ship interiors and underground landscapes. His style is often copied but never captured, and even in a low-budget series like this his unique vision shines through. Ozma also did a very nice job with the battle sequences, with some exciting cat and mouse battles between Bainas and Gido.
I can’t help but wonder what this show could have done with a full cour of episodes to flesh out the characters, and a decent animation budget to really do justice to Matsumoto’s designs. None of the characters really had time to break out beyond their designated roles in the story – they were plot-drivers more than three-dimensional people, Sam and Mimay included. Bainas certainly had some interesting moments, and I liked the sort of cynical, hard-drinking friendship with Luna-sensei – that had the makings of a Misato-Ritsuko pairing, a couple you’d have loved to eavesdrop on at the bar. Bainas’ determination and her longing for Dick (sorry, I don’t know how else to say it) were the closest thing to real compelling human interest, but there just weren’t enough of those moments. Too much plot for a movie, not enough for a TV.
I certainly wouldn’t call Ozma a failure, though it’s definitely second-tier Matsumoto. If this happens to be your first exposure to Matsumoto Leiji’s work, I highly recommend you check out some of his A-list titles – Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, for starters – of which there are many incarnations you can check out. There’s a reason he’s arguably the second-most revered mangaka ever, after Tezuka himself, and you can get a taste of that here. I’m glad Ozma was produced, because it’s always nice to have a new Matsumoto work (even if it’s an old new work) on our screens. And if you’re deciding whether to check this series out, I say go ahead – it’s a decent ride, with some memorable imagery and old-school anime charisma.