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
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.
Armitage III provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Armitage
- Always Night: We do see the day, but in true cyberpunk style, it's not often. Most of the action seems to take place in the dark.
- Androids and Detectives: Played completely straight.
- Applied Phlebotinum
- Arm Cannon: Armitage gets upgraded with this in time for the final battle.
- Artificial Limbs
- Babies Ever After: Ross and Armitage make one in the OVA.
- Battle Couple: Ross and Armitage.
- Beta Test Baddie: D'anclaude
- Bolivian Army Ending: Naomi and Ross versus the Martian military. Subverted in the epilogues of the OVA and The Movie.
- Brain Uploading
- Broken Bird: Armitage.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer/Cowboy Cop: Armitage gets away with her punk-rock outfit and tendency towards emotional blow-ups because, hey, she gets the job done.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Julian in Dual Matrix
- 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.
- Conspicuous CG: In Dual Matrix.
- Cool Shades: When Naomi puts them on, she's mad at something.
- Cranial Processing Unit: The Thirds are fairly resistant to bullets, but vulnerable to headshots, which are shown to seriously impact their ability to move and communicate.
- Cute Bruiser: Armitage again.
- Cyber Punk
- Cyberpunk Is Techno: The majority of the soundtrack, with the exception of when Cyberpunk Is Country And Western.
- Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain
- Da Chief
- Deadly Upgrade/Super Mode: In Dual Matrix: "Heaven's Door." She manages not to fully roast herself though.
- Determinator: Armitage can be stabbed, shot, electrocuted, and blown up, but in both shows, never shows any signs of yielding or backing down on her missions.
- Do Androids Dream?
- Dueling Hackers: Julian and D'anclaude.
- Electronic Telepathy
- Evil Knockoff/Evil Twins/Robot Me: The twin Armitage "clones" from Dual Matrix.
- Fantastic Racism: The witchhunt against the Thirds, and the anti-robot tension in Martian society in general.
- First Episode Spoiler: Naomi Armitage is a Third-series robot.
- Flawed Prototype: Weirdly, Armitage hits this and Super 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.
- Heroic RROD
- 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.
- Human Mom, Non-Human Dad: Inverted in Dual-Matrix.
- I Am a Monster
- I Have Your Daughter
- Implacable Man: Apparently D'anclaude.
- 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?"
- Killed Off for Real
- 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.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: A familiar-looking set of sex-toy androids in the OVA.
- Layered Metropolis: St. Lowell is one, with many of its buildings seemingly floating in the air above the lower levels of the city.
- Lightning Bruiser
- Mama Bear and Papa Wolf: Dual Matrix spoiler — Naomi and Ross.
- Mars Needs Women: The motivation behind the creation of the Thirds.
- Nonstandard Character Design: The Second-type androids, along with Naomi and Julian, are designed and drawn in a traditional, big-eyed Anime style. The humans, D'anclaude, and the Third-type androids are designed in a more realistic style (and with more visibly European facial features).
- One Woman Army: Armitage.
- Online Alias: "Pluto". Word of God actually says that all the Thirds have aliases based on the names of the nine planets of the solar system (as they were considered back then).
- 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.)
- Playful Hacker: Mouse from Dual Matrix
- Power Gives You Wings: The upgrade that Armitage receives at the end of the OVA plays with this, as the wings (and the subsequent mobility they provide) is half of the upgrade. Even Armitage finds them to be a little pretentious.
"It's a little too angelic for my taste."
- Product Placement: Pioneer (The company that animated it) appears a whole lot through the series.
- Proper Lady / Spirited Young Lady: The Third-types were all variations of this, the better to raise their children.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ross and Armitage, even down to the color of their clothes.
- Replacement Goldfish
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Especially the Thirds, which are human enough to get pregnant.
- Robo Family: Armitage considers Julian her brother and the other female Thirds her sisters.
- Robot Girl
- 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.)
- Robotic Reveal
- Robotic Spouse: Which is even able to get pregnant and bear children, the purpose the Third Types were built for.
- Rollerblade Good: The Armitage replicas.
- Sequel Hook: Mouse manages to fish one of the Armitage III knock-offs out of the garbage and get it to work, although it's never clarified, how well.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence
- Small Girl, Big Gun
- Space Western: Some aspects, in that country music is a part of the plot and Mars is very much a frontier colony (which probably contributes to Kelly Mccanon's appeal).
- Spiritual Successor: Armitage III clearly takes inspiration from Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel. Though Naomi Armitage is most probably cuter than R. Daneel Olivaw.
- 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 only implied, 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, willing conCeption Sexbot! 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.
- Stripperiffic: Ross even lampshades this in the first OVA.
- 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.
- Super Speed: Armitage pulls off some positively Sonic the Hedgehog-esque moves in the first episode.
- Super Prototype: Naomi
- Super Toughness: Armitage can take bullets, stab wounds and head-on grenade hits and keep going.
- The Power of Love: According to Julian, it takes more than the right "plumbing" for androids to be able to bear children, they have to be capable of motherly love to do so.
- Technopath: Armitage.
- Terraforming: Taking place on Mars during the story.
- There Can Be Only One
- 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.
- Torches and Pitchforks: D'anclaude drives the Martian populace to this against one of the Thirds.
- Uterine Replicator: The key plot element, and the true purpose of the Thirds;
Pluto: (It's) why the Thirds were made to seem so human, not just in appearance but emotionally, like the murdered singer and that novelist. They weren't just machines. They had souls. It takes more than the right plumbing to procreate. Yes, sir. The perfect receptacle for human babies.
- Virtual Ghost: Dual Matrix spoiler — Julian
- Also the murdered Thirds in general, whose ghosts live on in cyberspace. Armitage and Ross even become these temporarily.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: "If humans don't want me, then why did they create me?" — Armitage
- Who Wears Short Shorts?: Armitage's pants aren't exactly regulation.