12 January 2003 | justinvn
Stumbles a bit towards the end, but good overall
Key The Metal Idol is something of a diverse anime show. I first saw an ad for it on another video a few years back, where the premise of the show was described: Key's a robot who needs to find 30,000 friends to make her become human. I saw it again later in a local rental store and decided to give it a shot.
At first glance, that's pretty much it: Key's robot-like behaviour is pretty standard at first - she speaks mostly in monotone and rarely uses First Person pronouns. Oddly enough on her trip to Tokyo (Key lived in a small village when her "grandfather," her guardian and alleged creator lived before he gave his dying instructions to Key for her to become human) she runs into her old friend Sakura - a friend from when she was in Junior High. Sakura takes her in, but is very skeptical about her mission to become human. Sakura also has a male friend named Tataki, but they are only friends - even if Sakura has an obvious thing for him. Tataki is the head of the fan club for Miho, the current top idol singer (an idol singer seems to be the Japanese counterpart to the flash-in-the-pan singers like NSYNC or Britney Spears in the US). Key is facinated with Miho, and realizes that Miho must have at least 30,000 friends, so her desire is to become an Idol Singer like Miho. Tataki is a kind person and takes an interest (friend only) in Key, enough to want to solve some of the mysteries around her.
But, like in almost all anime and most good dramas, things are not what they seem. The chief bad guys, Ajo and "D" want to capture Key because they believe her to be source of a power box that would allow their robots (called PPORs or Sipes in the show) vast strength. They seem to have a tie to Key's grandfather, her hometown, and even the Idol singer Miho. Even more bizaare, when these PPORs get around Key, they have a habit of blowing up. Key has something of a bodyguard, a man named Wakagi, who was her grandfather's assistant. He is mysterious and usually arrives just in time to help Key when she is in trouble. On top of this, Key already seems to be making a transformation. When in intensely emotional situtations, Key's robot-like voice and appearance are changed to that of an emotional, powerful girl who seems to have superpowers that disappear as soon as they happen - and then she passes out and wakes up with no memory of these moments -- back in her robot mode.
With all that I've written, I've still only scratched the surface of this complex show. The series is 13 30-minutes shows, along with two 90-minute rap-up shows. By far the most interesting character is Key. Her appearance is that of an thin, almost aneroxic teen (very non stereotypical anime) who has odd personality ticks and habits that annoy Sakura and interest Tataki. Her brief moments of her humanity beginging to take form are the highlight of the show, and are demonstrated in their 4th episode - one of the best of the series. She is almost contrasted with her friend Sakura, who I found to be somewhat irritating. Sakura almost doesn't fit in on the show: she looks like a stereotype of every anime teen-girl. She's somewhat annoying with her outbursts at Key and impatience with Tataki. But, she holds a key to Key's past.
Some fans have been very upset at the last two episodes, nearly 3 hours worth of material. The first long episode (13) is comprised of nearly all backstory, almost all of it given to us by conversations and grumblings of former friends of Key's Grandfather and Ajo. Wakagi and Tataki sit in a park and talk about Key's family for almost half the time. This in and of itself is not terrible, but there's very little to break up the time, so the show drags a bit here. The final show, without giving much away, is a bit better, but feels like it could have been about 10 minutes longer to give us some sense of closure with these characters. The feel of the final two shows are different as well, it's hard to describe except to say that it almost feels like a different set of writers finished it.
But that alone shouldn't detract people from seeing it. It's a good show that is very addicting. It feels like a PG-13, and maybe even R. There's a bit of nudity (most of it from the Robots Ajo creates and has a very disturbing relationship with, plus the standard fan-service Sakura shower scenes as well as a trip to an X-rated movie producer -- all of it getting a bit tiring after awhile), language, and a few rather violent scenes.