Imagine, if you will, a world where nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons were all rendered obsolete by nearly invincible mobile fortresses called “Objects.” Then imagine that one day, two grunt soldiers destroyed one. That’s the world of Heavy Object.
Heavy Object is set in a future version of our world where, like with the invention of the airplane, tank, and aircraft carrier, the very nature of war has been altered by the invention of new technology, in this case, Objects.
Objects are giant tank-like machines with armor so strong that conventional weaponry, including hydrogen bombs, can’t even scratch the surface. Because of this, the only thing capable of fighting an Object is another Object. Conflicts between Objects are battles of attrition when it comes down to it, with the Objects battering each other with extremely powerful weapons until one or the other is eventually rendered helpless or destroyed.
A large part of Heavy Object is spent exploring the ramifications of such a weapon and its effect on not only war but also human society in general. For one thing, borders are much more fluid and change based on which country brings the most—or best equipped—Objects to the fight. This means that nations are often territories scattered across the globe and are connected more by ideology than race or history.
Further, in a world with Objects, all other forms of military become just this side of useless, and maintenance crews are far more important than foot soldiers in the new zeitgeist. It is in this setting we meet our heroes Qwenthur and Havia.
Qwenthur is a student studying to be an Object designer. He has been assigned to be an engineer on the aging Object “Baby Magnum” as part of his studies. His best friend Havia is not another mechanic, but rather a radar analyst. A noble, he hopes to gain prestige through military service, even though his job is little more than clearing snow off runways.
While Objects are incredibly valuable, so much so that even the most powerful countries can only afford to build and maintain a handful, the pilots are even more valuable. These pilots, or “elites” as they are called, are the best humanity has to offer and are specially trained from a young age. Almost nothing is denied the elites as their comfort and state of mind are as important as keeping their Objects perfectly maintained.
So when Baby Magnum is heavily damaged in a fight and the pilot, Milinda, captured, Qwenthur and Havia enact a daring plan to rescue her. And in the process, the pair do the impossible: Using Qwenthur’s in-depth knowledge of Objects, they manage to destroy the enemy’s Object while on foot. This, in turn, signals a new change in the nature of warfare, where the heretofore invincible Objects now face the creativity and ingenuity of two young men and come up short.
Heavy Object as a whole follows a simple plot structure. Qwenthur, Havia, and Milinda (with Baby Magnum) are dropped into unfamiliar terrain, be that ocean, desert, rainforest, or abandoned city, and are forced to battle an Object specifically designed to fight in said terrain. Moreover, as Baby Magnum is a first generation Object, it is an all-terrain model, making it a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Thus always at the disadvantage, the trio must battle against ever stronger Objects and ever craftier opponents.
Of course, if they didn’t win each time, Heavy Object would be a short show with an abrupt ending. So the story builds its tension not on “if” the trio will win, but rather “how” they will snatch victory from overwhelming odds. In this way it is somewhat like a Columbo-style mystery. We all know Columbo will catch the killer by the end, the only question is how he will do it.
The other thing that keeps the show interesting is that each new Object they face adds something new, thus fleshing out the world. Our heroes hail from the “Legitimate Kingdom,” a more or less free society run by a noble class that prizes lineage above everything else. Other major powers include hyper-capitalists (that outright punish charity), a faith-based empire, and a nation built on the idea that knowledge is power. Over the series, each Object we see and character we meet expands on the complicated political nature of the world, and how with each victory our heroes further upset the status quo.
In Heavy Object, conflicts are relatively bloodless compared to the wars of today. The only ones in danger are the Object pilots, their support staff, and any poor SOB who gets in the way. Yet as the series goes on, Qwenthur and Havia basically become WMDs in their own right. An Object’s purpose is to gain or protect territory. Qwenthur and Havia’s purpose is to destroy Objects. And if two random guys can take out Objects again and again, it stands to reason that other clever, intelligent people can as well.
But if Objects are no longer seen as invincible, then they no longer work as deterrents, meaning the world could very well transform back into a much bloodier place. So while the two only wish to protect their comrades and their home nation, what they are doing has world changing effects. It is an interesting look at the consequences that stem from the most noble of thoughts and actions.
As great as it is to see Qwenthur, Havia, and Milinda overcome life-or-death situations again and again, the three are rather underdeveloped characters. In the first three episodes we are introduced to them and see the formation of their friendship. But from that point on, the three never really change. Qwenthur is the smart one, making plans and developing new tactics. Havia is the brawn, an expert shot and willing to run into danger to help his friends, though complaining all the way. Milinda is as innocent as she is serious. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and is uncertain how to deal with her emerging romantic feelings for Qwenthur, not to mention her jealousy whenever anyone else shows any romantic interest in him or vice versa.
They are the archetypical knight, loyal companion, and princess as even the series itself is quick to point out. And beyond finding out what Havia hopes to gain through distinguished service, there is little in the way of personal revelations or character growth to be found.
The other thing of note (though whether a positive or negative is up to the viewer) is the amount of fanservice in the anime. Bouncing breasts and titillating camera angles are likely to be found in any scene with a female character present. This is especially true in scenes with the trio’s busty and short-skirted commander (who is literally being auctioned off like a breeding animal in one episode). So while never as over-the-top as something like High School of the Dead or Kill La Kill, the fanservice is still prominent enough to be a major part of the show.
The concept and, subsequently, the world it creates are the big selling points of Heavy Object. Watching the three beat the odds again and again is a fun ride; and the thought put into the consequences of their actions is a welcome addition to the action-adventure plot. While the characters are static (though enjoyable) and the fanservice heavy, as a thought experiment about the future of war and its impact on our world, Heavy Object certainly excites the imagination.
Heavy Object aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be viewed for free and with English subtitles in the US on Funimation and Hulu (and in AU/NZ on AnimeLab).
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