AMAIM: Warrior at the Borderline (Season 1): Anime Review

AMAIM: Warrior on the Borderline was an anime series from Sunrise Beyond (formerly XEBEC), which touted itself as being a mecha series that continued with having fully hand-drawn mecha, instead of ones created using CG. Unfortunately, it ended up trying to surf into some politically awkward waters, in terms of its plot, and while it may have navigated them successfully, it didn’t try to do anything interesting either.

AMAIM puts its bad foot forward by basing its premise around the idea that Japan’s declining birth rate has led to several foreign powers sending citizens into the country under the auspices of assisting with the lack of people to fill Japan’s workforce, in turn causing multiple foreign governments claiming special occupation zones, with now Japan having no official government, and instead multiple foreign powers fighting over Japan, with the people caught in the middle, and Japanese culture being persecuted. That should be a Bingo on your Japanese Right-Wing political talking point bingo card.

These wars, I should mention, are fought not with actual human soldiers, but mech drones called AMAIMs – so the only people actually endangered are the civilians caught on the crossfire.

The main 3 leads of AMAIM and their robots.

Amou Shiba is a war orphan, who lives with several other kids. He’s of high school age and has a stipend that allows him to live on his own and go to school, but he’s also aware of how the Japanese people are treated. While scavenging out in the woods, he ends scavaging parts for an AMAIM – specifically to repair an abandoned unit he found in a bunker, along with a sentient AI unit. However, in the course of this project, he ends up on the wrong end of the local occupation forces, the “Confederation of Oceania” (meaning “Australia and New Zealand”, since all the names we’re given are Anglo), he ends up having to flee with his piloted AMAIM unit, and joins up with the resistance movement – Yatagarasu – who seeks to take the country back from the occupation forces of Oceania, North America (mainly the US, though possibly Canada), Eurasia (Russia), and the “Asia Free Trade Entente” – which going by the names is generally China.

So, let’s get the big political stompy robot in the room out of the way – outside of Right-Wing “our birth-rate is too low!” bingo, there’s also the fact that of the various factions, the one who is the primary antagonist of the series is the Asian one – which would be made up of countries (or just a country) that the Japanese Army committed war crimes against in World War II – crimes that they have not acknowledged happened, have refused to acknowledge happened, and in the case of the more right-wing warhawk wings of the Japanese government are concerned, either deny that the crimes happened, or believe they were right to have committed them. It’s gross.

There are bits that land – the North American faction is guilty of the same sins that the US occupying forces in Okinawa are charged with and are still guilty of – such as sending US military personnel who are charged with crimes against Japanese citizens back to the US to face charges, and not providing any closure as to the verdicts of those crimes to the victims and their families – at the bare minimum.

That said, the show never quite does anything with it. We have some memorable personalities in the US and Eurasian forces, but not Asian and Oceanian forces – which is an issue, because those latter two are not only the most high-profile villains of this season, but also the most two-dimensional (with Asian forces in particular literally engaging in human trafficking out of Japan – which is particularly rich considering the Japanese government has not acknowledged the IJA kidnapping women from Korea, China, and even in Japan to use as forced prostitutes or “comfort women”). However, they pull their punches even there – the kidnappings are discussed, but what is being done to the people who are kidnapped is not described or shown, and the plot in question is resolved very quickly.

To the credit of the show, they show the forces of Yatagarasu doing things that aren’t launching military attacks, such as getting an abandoned village on its feet, and assisting some refugees in settling there on the down low, and otherwise getting them fairly self-sufficient. It’s something that Falcon and the Winter Soldier did a little with the Flag Smashers – they give this material more time here, to make the Resistance forces more meaningfully sympathetic, and for what it’s worth does a good job of presenting a larger concept of what a sympathetic resistance movement in fiction can be.

However, this is all also somewhat sidelined by the introduction of an AMAIM operated by a fully autonomous AI known as “Ghost” – which basically derails any plot where Ghost comes up, until the very end of the series. The show has moved from a two cour to a split-cour series, and it sounds like Ghost is likely going to come up in the second season. Hopefully, they will be integrated better there.

AMAIM: Warrior at the Borderline is currently available for streaming from Funimation.

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