The opening lines of Heavy Object depict an Earth that’s already coming to be – the wealthy vacationing on the moon, and cruises across space now as easy as firing a laser. Even seeing our wondrous advancement reflected back at us, the first commercial swing around the moon set to take place before next year is out, we’re in conflict with the truth that we still can’t find a solution to our self-destruction. Our story takes place following the fall of the United Nations in the mid-21st century. Countries as we know them have collapsed, and the world map shattered into a stained-glass window of warring coalitions. But even with the foundation of unusual sci-fi thoughtwork we’ve come to expect from A Certain Magical Index creator Kazuma Kamachi, Heavy Object does little but fling out wispy messages of liberation from tyrannical authority, albeit from some unexpected places.
In so-called “safe and clean” battles where powers vie for dominance signalled by a willing surrender, the Objects are superweapons that wound their way into common military use. Equipped with varied arrays of guns and “onion armour” that can survive onslaughts of nuclear fire, they’ve become a necessity against being mowed down by opposing forces in local-scale conflict. A handful of Elites are trained to pilot these weapons, but this show doesn’t take the typical approach of making this process the focus of the story. Instead, we follow two underdogs, Qwenthur Barbotage and Havia Winchell, both new transfers into the field and eager to rise through the ranks.
Pretty soon, the two find themselves embroiled in a battle that shouldn’t have been any of their business. By showing some initiative and problem-solving ability they rescue Elite Melinda Brantini from defeat by a more advanced Object. The show then proceeds to pat them on the back for pulling their weight when their talents are needed, because they happen to be a little smarter than the norm. The only means they can seem to find of displaying their status is in degrading their female superiors as sex objects. As respectful as they pretend to be towards their “Princess” Melinda, she’s still a flat moe item of desire for the guys to protect with their invaluable friendship. She’s compared and contrasted against more glamorous Elites, one of which – no kidding – is an idol who performs for the soldiers as Mini Skirt Santa.
Major Frolaytia, meanwhile, uses her dominatrix wiles to persuade the boys to do their jobs. Exploiting their preferential treatment, they take it as free reign for arrogance and demanding sexual favours from their Major. But then, out of nowhere, she gets some desperately needed agency towards the climax of the first cour. Among the nobility, she’s in high demand as a woman from a family that produces male children almost 100% of the time. As she says, she’s “a human resource they’d die to get their hands on. They desperately want the use of my uterus”. Apparently, in this series, it takes a life or death situation for the characters to be treated, and treat each other, as humans.
Even while a world of serving souls struggles against the corrupt powers-that-be, the trouble with the ongoing structure of three-episode battles is that little develops, a near complete reset following every inevitable victory. Even the grand destruction of the battles is plagued by grainy CG, aiming for stylised and coming off cheap. What works for machines doesn’t apply to nature, and the battlefield vistas end up resembling a pop-up book in motion. Where the two could have collided and sparked off each other as in Aldnoah.Zero, the same potential goes wasted here. Ultimately, Object falters in chewing the scenery over combat progress and politics, without any character charm or visual majesty to get us invested. For all the ‘assets’ squeezed into the outfit of mini-Death Stars locked in a war of morality, we failed to be seduced. Yes, even by the baby penguins.
Extras: English dub; episode 6 video commentary, episdode 9 commentary; clean opening/closing animation; trailers.