Content Warning: fanservice (episode 0 only)
What’s it about? Inspired by her personal idol, Nodoka sets out to become an Actress: a young woman capable of wielding high-tech weapons and fighting the aliens that threaten humanity.
HIDIVE’s blurb for this series throws all sorts of cool concepts at you: alien invasion! Mech suits! Humanity fighting for its survival in the battlefield of space! If all that gets you hyped up for some sci-fi action, you’re probably going to be… a little disappointed. Alice Gear Aegis Expansion tosses about 30 seconds of space-mech-fight at you in its opening moments, then snap transitions into 22 minutes of zany slice-of-life shenanigans in a setting and art style that brings to mind New Game!.
Which, alright, listen, I’ll bite. Blending the epic with the everyday is something I can really enjoy in speculative fiction. The issue here is that there’s no blend: the world of laser guns and space monsters feels wildly detached from and unrelated to the cutesy character storyline that takes up the majority of the premiere. The show almost seems reticent to acknowledge that they go together, zooming past any allusions to the sci-fi elements in favor of focusing on Nodoka getting a nosebleed every time she makes eye contact with her idol senpai because… it’s meant to be funny, I guess?
If you have any questions like “what’s a Gear?” or “what’s an Actress?” or even “what do you mean Earth is under attack by aliens?” your queries will go unanswered. Likewise, even more basic worldbuilding questions like “who are you people?” and “what is it that you do, again?” go by the wayside. It’s baffling, but more importantly from a writing perspective, it means there’s no stakes: when government agents (??) turn up at the end of the episode and announce they’re shutting down the Actress’ place of work, it doesn’t actually mean anything or have any weight because the audience has no clue what the company is or does.
Allegedly Actresses put on mech-tech and fight aliens, which seems pretty important, but I had to cobble that info together from the short opening and the goddamn series blurb. Sure would have loved it if the series showed us that, or even explained it with dialogue, but it had more important things to do like, er, a workout montage where one of them is wearing a military uniform and whipping around a riding crop?
And all this is just in reference to Episode 1. Alice Gear also comes with an Episode 0, which dropped simultaneously and which I, like a fool, watched first because that’s how numbers work. This is not a lore-deepening prequel; this is a summer-themed gag bonus episode where everyone is in swimsuits, the girls fight a giant frog that was accidentally summoned with ninjutsu gone wrong, and the power of idol music blows away a tropical cyclone. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this more if I had any context for any of these characters or the in-jokes they’re clearly referencing. Instead, I came away thinking, “Well, that was pretty wild, but the first episode and the start of the story proper will be different and make more sense”. Again, like a fool.
Alice Gear is very silly, and because its tone and lore are so at odds it’s silly in a way that’s baffling rather than fun. Its refusal to engage with its sci-fi premise beyond the most shallow of levels is a bizarre writing choice that probably won’t endear fans of that genre—and I have to wonder if the sci-fi stuff is just present enough that it will put off viewers primarily looking for the idol/cute girl content, too. It’s also got some downright dumb “ooh! This girl has a crush on this other girl! But only in an over-the-top funny way that we’re not going to sincerely acknowledge as romantic attraction!” stuff going on. So nobody wins! Hooray!
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