What’s it about? After a quantum reactor explodes, it triggers a new age of evolution for the flora, fauna, and machines of the world, turning them into powerful cyborgs known as B.R.A.I. (Biological Revolutionary of Accelerated Intelligence). Humanity doesn’t seem to stand a chance. However, the eccentric genius Leon Lau may have the key to fighting back: the Hyperdrive. He, along with a small paramilitary group from Neo Xianglong, are the last chance for human civilization.
Shoji Kawamori is one of anime’s biggest eccentrics. He’s probably the industry’s greatest mechanical designers, having worked on influential projects including Ghost in the Shell, Outlaw Star, and Transformers. His story work, however, is a little more uneven—for every truly creative series like The Vision of Escaflowne, there’s pseudo-spiritual nonsense like Earth Girl Arjuna.
After one episode, it’s unclear where Last Hope will fall on that spectrum… but my money is on the latter.
Leon Lau takes center stage for much of the episode. He’s a brilliant scientist, but the powers that be exiled him from Neo Xianglong because of his role in the disastrous explosion of the quantum reactor. He is also a completely incompetent human being, about as capable of taking care of himself as your average two-year-old. He does things like forgetting to put clothes on before going outside, much like that dream you’ve had weekly since you were thirteen years old, and refers to eating as “refueling.”
We’re probably supposed to find his helplessness amusing or even endearing, but I only felt pity for Chloe, his adoptive little sister and caretaker. The absent-minded professor archetype plays into the concept of the singular male genius—he’s so occupied with thinking great thoughts and solving great problems that he simply doesn’t have the brain space to take care of himself. Instead, the labor of looking after him invariably falls to a woman.
Usually, these women are paid—maids or assistants or secretaries, whose job it is to care for their employer as they would a child. They’re the Pepper Potts to Tony Stark, the Joan Holloway to Richard Sterling. It’s typical gendered division of labor, wherein a man is too busy doing man things to do boring domestic drudgery like doing laundry or making appointments or feeding himself properly, so he needs a woman to take care of him.
The woman invariably feels exasperated at just how helpless this man is, but she does it because she knows he can’t live without her and she’s faithful, just like a woman should be, and she secretly gets satisfaction out of caring for him, because women are just natural caretakers. Hopefully he pays her well.
Chloe, who can’t be more than twelve years old, is forced to mother Leon, who can’t even remember to put on his tighty whities before wandering outside. She has to remind him to brush his teeth and wash his face, to cook and clean and do pretty much everything except work on the Hyperdrive. She must mother this full-grown adult man, and she’s not even getting paid to do it.
At least Chloe isn’t the only girl. There are at least two women in the military organization. They don’t have names yet, but then again, neither do many of their male comrades. They do, however, have giant bazongas. One is introduced with a close-up on her chest jiggling as her vehicle drives over bumpy terrain, before her face is shown. She also has considerably less dialogue than any of the male characters.
The other woman fares better at least than Chesty McChesterton. She’s a mecha pilot herself, and protects Chloe when she comes face-to-face with B.R.A.I. She’s tough and hotheaded and seems pretty cool—and of course her skintight pilot suit has a big old boob window.
This would all be forgivable if Last Hope were actually fun, but it really isn’t. The whole thing is colored with muddy gray-greens and blues, and while the mecha are very well-designed, they’re animated with choppy, poorly integrated CG. Everything being the same color often makes the action hard to follow, and while the character designs are attractive, they’ve been passed through the same dust filter as everything else.
(Also, why weren’t the humans affected by the reactor exploding? After all, we’re just animals in the end.)
The prognosis for Last Hope, frankly, is not good. The first episode was a mess, and people who watched the series before it came out on Netflix in the US have given it low ratings on pretty much every database and score aggregator. I’m not holding out much hope for this one.