By Andy Hanley.
Modern warfare has shifted from troops riding in on horseback to the deployment of tanks and aircraft, onwards to the nuclear threat of “mutually assured destruction”, and now into a whole new era of unmanned drones. What will be the next seismic shift in the landscape of war? In the world of Heavy Object, much of the traditional machinery from boots-on-the-ground to vehicles roaming the land has been rendered obsolete, replaced with a singular driving force – the titular Objects. Massive, hulking behemoths of shielding and weaponry, an Object can resist any traditional attack – even a nuclear one – and lay waste to anything in its path… except for another Object.
This has transformed warfare into one-on-one skirmishes between rival Objects, in a world where nations themselves have also fractured massively into pockets of loose, ever-changing coalitions. At the controls of each Object are pilot “Elites”, who not only risk their lives in the service of their state, but must bear the crushing stress of representing the fates of so many.
So far, so Robot Jox. Into the midst of one particular Object-driven war stumbles a couple of young upstarts. These regular soldiers tasked with supporting and maintaining their state’s Object – known as “Baby Magnum” – are really just looking to serve their time in the military by leading as easy a life as possible. Qwenthur Barbotage and Havia Winchell (this series loves to give eye-catching names to its cast) have the quick-thinking, engineering know-how and sheer blind luck to turn themselves into unlikely heroes as they prove that Objects aren’t quite as invulnerable as they claim to be.
From mere soldiers, this bumbling duo find themselves turned into secret weapons, dropped into theatres of war to put their skills to the test and take down competing Objects – an agenda made all the more difficult on account of the constantly shifting allegiances and unseemly deals made behind the scenes.
All of this gives Heavy Object plenty to get its teeth into, with a well-realised world packed with larger than life characters from the pen of Kazuma Kamachi, the author of A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun.
The show’s Objects may not have the balletic grace and manoeuvrability you’re used to from mecha anime but there’s something pleasing about the varied designs and specific strengths and weaknesses which these hefty behemoths exhibit, and it can make for some tense but bombastic action at its peak. The series isn’t all about big machines and bigger explosions, as there’s a layer of political intrigue that sits atop the moral maze that Qwenthur and Havia have to navigate, balancing each missions with its likely humanitarian impact.
Above all, Heavy Object works best when it’s simply about watching our heroes winning against the odds and taking down massive war machines with little more than their brains. As much as the series can get side-tracked by its protagonists’ perversions and desires when it comes to the opposite sex, watching the underdog save the day and put a despot or two in their place in the process never ceases to be hugely satisfying, both when a plan comes to together, and just as compelling when it falls apart at the seams.
Even if the show’s particular brand of entertainment doesn’t strike you, where else are you going to find characters named Halreed Copacabana and Sladder Honeysuckle?
Heavy Object is released in the UK by Funimation.