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In the distant future, Mars has been successfully colonized by humankind and their robotic helpmates. Its domed cities are comfortable and cosmopolitan, and its population sophisticated and prosperous enough to support tours by famous performers from Earth. But one such performer, a country-western singer, is assassinated by a mysterious assailant when she arrives at the Martian spaceport.The investigation into her killing is assigned to police officer Ross Sylibus, himself newly transferred from Earth in the wake of a tragedy that left him the possessor of a bionic leg. He is partnered with petite, provocative plainclothes cop Naomi Armitage. What looks like a comprehensible (if tragic) killing, though, takes a confusing turn when it's discovered that the dead singer was not a human woman, but an android of hitherto unseen sophistication. And that she was not the only one of her kind living undercover among humanity — nor was she the only one of her kind recently murdered.What is the secret of the Thirds, the latest generation of robotics technology? Who is killing them, and why? And what is Naomi's own hidden secret? As Syllabus and Armitage delve deeper into the mystery, they must come face to face with prejudice, sisterhood, and ultimately the very definition of what it means to be human.A four-episode OVA miniseries written by Chiaki Konaka, Armitage III is tightly plotted and action-packed, yet does not stint on philosophical questions and quandaries. It is old enough to have been created entirely with traditional hand-drawn animation; quality control is high, though, and there is no sign of "rushed" or careless work. Both characters and backgrounds are crisp and detailed — the Martian cityscapes are a joy to behold at times, as are the main players in the drama, particularly Armitage herself.Armitage III, as brief as it is, spawned a sequel movie called Dual Matrix. It is somewhat less compelling, plotwise, than the original series, and a switch from traditional animation to computer-assisted methods resulted in some unappealing changes in character designs — Armitage, for example, went from looking cute-sexy in a leather-Loli way to looking like a psychotic housewife(though in all fairness, she sort of was a psychotic housewife, and with good reason!)In North America, Armitage was one of Pioneer/Geneon's first wave of imports in the early 1990s. Unlike most of the other shows in that noteworthy premiere, though, Armitage suffers from an uneven dub cast. In particular, Syllabus is quite wooden in English. To complicate matters, though, Pioneer edited together the four OVA episodes into a feature-length "motion picture" called Armitage III: Polymatrix and then dubbed it a second time with "name" actors — Keifer Sutherland as Syllabus and Elizabeth Berkeley as Armitage. Pioneer has also brought the sequel movie to North America, with yet a third dub cast, this one featuring Juliette Lewis as Armitage.A spoilerific note on the title: The title is often read, incorrectly, as Armitage 3, which might lead some viewers to wonder as to the whereabouts of the nonexistent "first two" Armitage OVAs. The title is correctly read as if it were the name of a person — Armitage the Third — which rather spoils the big reveal regarding Naomi's true nature. One imagines the creators might have selected the title intentionally, such that the viewer reads it differently before and after seeing the series.
Color-Coded Characters: Naomi and Ross usually wear red and blue, respectively, symbolizing their homeworlds among other things. The last episode of the original series has them switching colors, indicating both their closeness and their growing separation from both worlds' societies.
Flawed Prototype: Weirdly, Armitage hits this andSuper Prototype at the same time. She has both the Thirds' reproductive capabilities and the assassinroids' strength, speed and overall toughness, but it's revealed that she also possesses mental instabilities due to a bug that originally couldn't be worked out.
Foreshadowing: At the interview with the conCeption CEO Allen, Ross expressed his amazement at how human-like the robots are by saying, that they can do everything that humans can except reproduce. It is revealed later that the Third Series can do even that.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Dimitrio Mardini, the Big Bad of Dual Matrix,gets killed by his own Armitage-knockoff, as this knockoff was possessed/reprogrammed/hijacked/hacked by Julian, a Third, whose hardware had been killed but his software backed-up (thanks to Armitage) and who now aids the heroes from the background.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Armitage is already short to begin with (5'1"), but standing next to Ross (6'3") makes her look a grade schooler.
Job Stealing Robots: The cause of all the tension on Mars, and a pivotal plot point of the series.
Karmic Transformation: Ross Sylibus, the robot-hating detective, had a robotic leg since the incident that caused said hatred. He gains even more cybernetic parts as he grows closer to Naomi. D'Anclaude is happy to lampshade this as soon as he finds out.
"Surely the ironic humor of this hasn't escaped you?"
Lady Land: On earth, the average human female is super-privileged, so few want to immigrate to Mars, which keeps the colony from establishing the population it needs to declare independence. So Mars started building robots human enough to conceive children. When Earth finds this out, they pretty much declare The War of Earthly Aggression - scrap the baby machines and we'll send some real women, or you can all die. This is the reason female androids are targeted for assassination; it's because they're not "real" women.
Last Name Basis: While Armitage eventually starts referring to Ross by his first name, Armitage herself is only ever called Armitage. Dr. Asakura happens to be the exception.
Last of His Kind: Sort of played for laughs: Kelly Mccanon is the "last country singer in the universe". However, this takes on a serious tone when she ends up being murdered.
Only 0.2% Different: The different types of androids are numbered according to the order in which they were created. "Firsts" are non-human robots, "Seconds" are androids, and the "Thirds" are so close to human they can get pregnant. And yes, they can reproduce with a human. The "Fourth" were modeled after plants and are arguable improved versions of natural plant life (such as trees that are capable of moving around.)
Robot Me: The D'anclaude Naomi and Ross encounter in the first few episodes turns out to be an assassinroid built in the image of their creator, one Doctor Rene D'anclaude. (Another D'anclaude-bot was reprogrammed to serve as a lab assistant to Dr. Asakura.)
It's also been described as the anime version of Blade Runner. The two are undoubtedly very similar in moral and plot.
Straw Feminists: Earth's government. The backstory is given in snippets, but a key plot element is that feminists have become political powerhouses equivalent to Greens. It is implied by the presence of an Earth "observer" that on Earth, women have gained status equivalent to South African whites under apartheid - and few are willing to give that up just because Mars Needs Women. Space has been colonized, and Mars has been partially Terraformed, but has thus been unable to draw enough women to the planet to breed new Martians. Androids known as "Seconds" were created first as a source of labor, then upgraded to Ridiculously Human Robots as a immigration draw; come to Mars and leave the shrews behind for a sweet, willingconCeptionSexbot! The long term solution was to build fertile women - the titular "Thirds"; robots so human that they can be impregnated — and actually raise the children they give birth to. When the Straw Feminists find out about the plan, the threat to their power base pisses them off to no end, resulting in an ultimatum; scrap the baby makers or Mommy will come do it personally, along with as much of the landscape as necessary.
Suicide Attack: D'anclaude has a habit of turning second-generation robots into walking bombs. In episode 3, Armitage also uses her power of self-destruction to take out a D'anclaude clone. She doesn't die, but she's badly damaged.
The War of Earthly Aggression: A low-intensity version — the Thirds were designed to help pave the way for Martian independence (because Mars Needs Women even if they have to build them), and D'anclaude's goal was to ensure that couldn't happen.