With Netflix fully committed to its pledge of producing more original anime, A.I.C.O. Incarnation is a bold, gripping sci-fi series that manages to silence the critics with an impressive 12 episodes of entertainment. Although it starts slowly and at times feels like its own lore is in danger of getting away from itself, A.I.C.O.’s plot interjects at just the right time to avoid this occurring. There’s some well shot action scenes here too and they occur frequently enough to keep the pacing consistently quick. Despite the plethora of action scenes, there’s still a consistent build toward the climactic finale that not only delivers a satisfying conclusion, it also manages to produce some well worked twists and turns along the way that help make A.I.C.O. such an enthralling anime.
The story begins in 2035 with two figures escaping from a large, blob-like organism called The Burst, a biological experiment that went horribly wrong. With Kurobe Gorge completely consumed by the strange organism, we cut forward to our protagonist Aiko (Haruka Shiraishi (Japanese); Christina Jopling (English)). Confined to a wheelchair and mourning her Mother and Brother who died as a result of a Burst attack, Aiko lives an ordinary school student’s life until mysterious transfer student Kanazaki (Yūsuke Kobayashi (Japanese); Alex Alvarez (English)) interjects and changes her life forever. What begins as a rescue quickly escalates to a dangerous mission that sees the two characters tasked with travelling to Primary Point in the heart of Kurobe Gorge where the key to defeating The Burst once and for all lies.
In truth, the first few episodes throw a lot of story and ideas around and it can be a bit overwhelming to begin with. It’s especially jarring as the pilot episode in particular feels like two separate animes as it cuts away from the Burst attack to Aiko. Thankfully, the opening credit sequence does manage to provide some clarity on not only the geography of the world but the key characters whom we encounter throughout the show which. It’s a nice touch and certainly help give a sense of scale.
A.I.C.IO.’s animation is beautifully presented too. There’s a great deal of detail put into the finely drawn scenes and everything from the character models to the backdrops through to the pulsating, red Burst itself has a polish and finesse to it. Some of the smoke CGI is really nicely implemented, blending in nicely with the hand drawn art and subtle enough to avoid overpowering the artistic flair at work here.
All of this would be for nothing if the characters themselves weren’t likeable and thankfully A.I.C.O. does a good job building genuine empathy for Aiko and the characters around her. Kanzaki does present himself as a cliched, generic black-haired warrior but there’s some good character work done here to buck that trend and help make him stand out. It’s worth noting too that although there is English dubbing for this one, the Japanese is far superior and does a much better job of portraying the emotions of each character. Whilst you can certainly enjoy the show with the dubbing, in truth the English is actually pretty poor and detracts from an otherwise decent anime.
Hot off the heels of fellow anime B: The Beginning, A.I.C.O. Incarnation is a confidently written, enthralling anime that manages to mix action, great twists and an intriguing, original sci-fi idea together. Despite the poor English dubbing and a confusing opening few episodes, A.I.C.O. slowly unravels and begins answering the questions it raises. Beautifully written and accompanied by some detailed animation, A.I.C.O. Incarnation confidently presents itself as one of Netflix’s finest animes to date.