It is the year 2031. An energy device called the Quantum Reactor has been created to tackle the planet’s decreasing fossil fuel reserves. When the Quantum Reactor goes out of control, it bathes the entire planet with unknown energy. Fast-forward to 2038, and one of the original scientists behind the Quantum Reactor, Leon Lau, works with a mecha team to research what happened, and to see if it can be fixed…for the sake of those who survived the accident.
Last Hope began airing in April 2018 with the name Juushinki Pandora, as a 26-episode series, premiering on Netflix Japan on March 29th 2018, with its TV debut on April 4th. Co-produced by Satelight (Aquarion, Symphogear, Macross Frontier) and Chinese animation studio Xiamen Skyloong Media, and directed by Shoji Kawamori (Macross, Escaflowne) & Hidekazu Sato (Aquarion, Nobunaga the Fool), Last Hope will be released in two parts; part 1 has 13 episodes and is out now, with the second part (and another 13 episodes) at another time. I went into this show absolutely blind; I didn’t even know it was a mecha show until probably a week before release. Maybe you can blame the new name for that, as I was aware of the show called Juushinki Pandora. I’m not totally sure why Netflix decided on a drastic name change like this.
In an attempt to find a solution to the low fossil fuel reserves, the ‘Xianglong Crisis’ ended up covering the planet with energy fields, affecting the world’s AI, as well as animal and plant life, making them evolve and even merge, with animals sometimes increasing in size and having metallic and robotic limbs/shells/etc. Humanity has had to adapt and survive in all this, and with the quantum reactor that was originally designed to replace fossil fuels now potentially falling into the wrong hands, our protagonist Leon Lau has to put together a crack mecha team to prevent that. Bearing in mind that this was the same Leon Lau whose obsession with the quantum reactor caused the Xianglong Crisis to occur in the first place, he has a lot to do in order to regain trust and to get some kind of redemption for all the damage he and his research have done.
Wow, that was a mouthful. More famous mecha shows have a lot less background story than this, and can charm us a lot easier too, and so what do all these other mecha shows have that Last Hope does not? Well, I think the screenwriters ended up trying to write so much lore in this show that it has effectively smothered it, making the viewer just…not care. You begin not to care that one of the bounty hunters in the show, Doug, has a thing for cats, or that another bounty hunter, Queenie, is good at martial arts. You even begin to care less about this brother-sister ‘family contract’ that Leon and Chloe, who are not related by the way, have. For nearly every mecha show, an excellent story is required to keep viewers interested when mechas aren’t fighting whatever bad guy they’re up against next. The idea behind the antagonists is a curious one though; the B.R.A.I. are essentially animals that have ‘evolved’ at a dramatic rate thanks to these energy fields that ended up covering the planet. One would think that, considering the resume of the creators of this show include the likes of Macross, Symphogear and Escaflowne, anything that they touch instantly has heaps of charisma (like the others do), but Last Hope is just so…bland and boring.
The world that Last Hope is set in is a dark and very miserable place, and the first episode doesn’t exactly fill the viewer with much optimism for the remainder of the show. Science and technology present in this show isn’t really explained as well as we would like and thus we are left confused a lot of the time, wondering what on earth is going on. The below-par animation doesn’t help with this either, sometimes with frame rates dropping and leaving random text (equations, formulas, etc.) just lingering on screen. Even in the first episode, as Leon powers up the hyperdrive in his unit to maximum, we are treated with a bizarre scene that I can only describe as ‘bonding with machine’ where Leon is shown naked and his body is ‘replicated’ across the screen, almost like something from Star Driver.
Only the thing is, Star Driver was actually quite a good show when it got going; Last Hope doesn’t really have anything for us to hold on to and to keep us gripped.
Our English dub sadly falls down this same slope too, as while you can tell that the dub team try their best with what they are given by the show’s writers and directors, it just doesn’t work, with some points in the show just sounding like a translated script. Maybe the voice actors saw this depressing show get more depressing as time went on coming too, and just decided not to really put any passion into the characters they voice. The opening theme is “Sirius” and the ending theme is “Spica“, both by Bump of Chicken.
A past project by Kawamori, Escaflowne, fell victim to story collapses too. Although the character design, world design and animation was just exceptional, there were a few times when you wish that the story itself could have been a little better. Aside from that, Escaflowne is a show that hasn’t really aged much at all. The thing is, Last Hope (or Juushinki Pandora, whatever you want to call this) has a lot of faults. It has an interesting background story, somewhat believable character designs and an okay soundtrack, but it’s where all of this combined is where the show falls apart. The more you end up watching this show, the more you want things to get better…but then they don’t, and you end up kicking yourself for wasting your time on it all.
Hope is a very precious thing. Every anime fan goes into a new show with hope: hope that things will get better if the first episode doesn’t live up to any expectations they had before diving in. As every episode passes, this hope gradually disappears, regardless of whether a show is good or not. And so I began with hope while watching…umm…Last Hope. But after the first few episodes, this hope was almost all gone, as I had started to get tired of how things weren’t really getting any better. By around episode 6, it was gone completely, and started to cringe at a lot of stuff.
It’s a shame, because if the creators had been more careful and had given more time with this, then this show would have actually been an alright watch.
Individual parts of this show can be merited, like the original idea of the antagonists, but combined, they just fall apart like a Jenga tower. Last Hope is a disappointing watch, and most certainly not something to clear your diary or calendar for. You may even want to think twice if you plan on picking this out of boredom.