Zegapain is a 26 episode 2006 series about a high school student named Kyo Sogoru. He is a model student, gets good grades, and is the sole member of the soon to be dissolved swim team. One day he sees a beautiful girl on the diving board and rushes there in excitement for a potential new member. However when the girl dives and hits the water she disappears and Kyo has no idea what's going on. He sees the girl again, whose name is Shizuno Misaki, and asks her to be in a promo video for the swim club and in exchange he agrees to pilot a mecha called the Zegapain Altair against an enemy known as the Gards-Orm. When he asks what this world is he's told it's a game.
What follows is a tale of a world gone by that questions what it means to be human and just what is reality. In 2023, Sunrise announced a sequel project called "Olta Moda Arc".
It's very hard to talk about the plot without giving away major plot points as the amount of spoilers below will attest.
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Justified they are Celebrants from the organization Celeblum that protect the Maitama server in the real world and therefore have the ability to edit it as needed.
- Ace Pilot: Justified Kyo was a former pilot that was rewritten into the server and is good because he still has the skill of his former self. Ryoko is played straighter but still justified in that she is a Witch. Also it's implied that pilots are chosen because they have been screened to be good.
- After the End: The real world has been destroyed and the remnant of humanity exists solely as data in Quantum Servers that sit among the rubble of destroyed cities.
- Applied Phlebotinum: LOTS AND LOTS OF IT. Quantum Servers, QL energy, Holonic Loaders, Holonic Armor, Zegapains, Deutera Areas, etc.
- Armor Is Useless: First Subverted then played straight when the Gards-Orm develop the Anti-Zega.
- Catchphrase: Kyo's "It can't be."
- Chekhov's Skill: Kyo's penchant for punching enemies when out of Phlebotinum comes handy later.
- Death Is Cheap: Not to the main characters. Also when Kyo still thinks the real world is a game he thinks the destruction of the Shanghai server is no big deal and says it aloud to Jen May-Yu and Jen May-Yen earning a punch in the face from Mao Lu-Shen. But also subverted in that a person can be destroyed permanently.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Played straight since Kyo often uses punches after his QL runs out to finish off remaining enemies. Also subverted when he fails to destroy the Duetera Core in time to prevent the destruction of the Shanghai Server.
- Evolving Credits: The opening credits change slightly to fit the circumstances of the plot.
- Gratuitous English: In the Zegapain Cockpits, although the voice actor chosen clearly speaks English fluently if not as their first language.
- Gratuitous French: In Chris and Arque's cockpit due to them being French Celebrants with assumedly French-made Zegapains.
- Gratuitous Greek: Duetera is Greek for Monday.
- Gratuitous Spanish: In the original broadcast their cockpit uses Spanish.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: Caused by the Maihama Server resetting periodically, and restarting the memories of everyone but the Celebrants.
- Japanese School Club: Kyo is obsessed with his Swimming club, and Ryoko's membership in the Audiovisual club plays a part on the story.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Kyo's specifically asks for a katana for his Zegapains close range weapon. Subverted in that he almost always uses his gun first and only uses the katana when he runs out of gun ammo or an enemy gets way to close.
- Meaningful Rename: Misaki Shizuno is a Line-of-Sight Name given to her by the previous Kyo. People who know her from before still call her Yehl.
- More than Mind Control: The Quantum Servers and Celeblum can make people control what people pay attention to so if someone disappears people just ignore them unless specifically brought up and even then they just brush it off.
- New Transfer Student: Subverted Shizuno is just written into the program so she doesn't have to be a transfer student.
- Parental Abandonment: Justified. They don't exist to lighten the load on the Quantum Server. The Server just tricks its residents into believing they do.
- Psychic Powers: Celebrants and Awakened can manifest "force shields" and other tricks (see below) within a Server.
- Rule of Symbolism: Bad guys have a snake motif (Naaga, Orm (ancient Norse for dragon), Coatlicue (feathered Aztec snake god), good guys have eagle related names. Snake slaying eagles are a common good vs. evil symbol; to stress the religious meaning, the good guys are called Celebrants. Tao / Zen is also invoked; a tenet of which is "going with the flow" and not messing with the natural order. The good guys' ships are named with Deluge mythology in mind, which emphasizes humanity surviving even against overwhelming odds against them.
- The famous "butterfly dream" of Zhuangzi is mentioned early in the series.
- Last Year at Marienbad is mentioned in Episode 18. This movie's theme is memories and their relation to reality... Interestingly enough, the movie was supposedly inspired by Adolfo Bioy Casares The Invention of Morel, a novel about a machine in a desert island that can record and reproduce reality and uses simulacra of real people to replay the same events time and time again. Its inventor killed everyone appearing in the re-enaction because after being recorded they were functionally immortal. The book is also strongly reminiscent of a certain TV series about weird events in a desert island.
- Discussing irreality and betrayal over an elegant virtual supper.
- Take a Third Option: Resurrect or eternally loop? What about joining the enemy and becoming like them?
- Theme Naming: Oceanus Class Ships have names having to do with flood mythology. Gards-Orm mecha usually have Ophidian names, Zegapain mecha have the names of mythical birds.
- Tron Lines: The units are some of the shiniest mecha on record.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Orm is an old Norse term for dragon... And ORM is also Object-Relational Mapping, a programming technique for creating virtual object databases.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Kyo, with the excuse of being a swimmer.
- The War on Straw: To make a case for Immortality Immorality, memories gain the attributes of souls, the guy supporting immortality is a genocidal Mad Scientist and his evolved humans feral Blood Knights.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Explored with the Gards-Orm, contemplated with the artificial intelligence characters among the Celebrants.
- Wistful Amnesia: Dead Celebrants are erased from memories or conveniently Put on a Bus from the point of view of people in the Servers.
- Xanatos Gambit: The attack on the Maihama Server couldn't really go wrong, at worst being a stalemate. Kyo tried his best to mess it though.