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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.
An 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.
Armitage III provides examples of:
- Applied Phlebotinum
- Artificial Limbs
- Battle Couple
- 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.
- Broken Bird
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: 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.
- Cool Shades: When Naomi puts them on, she's mad at something.
- Cute Bruiser
- Da Chief
- Deadly Upgrade/Super Mode: In Dual Matrix. "Heaven's Door."
- Evil Knockoff/Evil Twins/Robot Me: The twin Armitage clones from Dual Matrix.
- Fan Service
- Fantastic Racism: The witchhunt against the Thirds, and the anti-robot tension in Martian society in general.
- Fetish Fuel Station Attendant
- First Episode Spoiler: Naomi Armitage is a Third-type robot.
- Heroic RROD
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl
- I Have Your Daughter
- Implacable Man: Apparently D'anclaude.
- Informed Ability: Both Da Chief and Ross comment on Armitage's stellar police skills. To the viewer, these consist of yelling at robot meter maids and stalking Ross.
- And driving a motorcycle straight into a gang of cyborg gangsters in the movie.
- 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.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: A familiar-looking set of sex-toy androids in the OVA.
- Lightning Bruiser
- Mama Bear and Papa Wolf: Dual Matrix spoiler -- Naomi and Ross.
- Nigh Invulnerability
- Non Standard 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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
- Rollerblade Good
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence
- Small Girl, Big Gun
- 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.
- 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 modern-day South African whites - 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 Sex Bot! 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 machines 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.
- Super Prototype: Naomi
- 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.
- Virtual Ghost: Dual Matrix spoiler -- Julian
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: "If humans didn't want me, then why did they create me?" - Armitage
- Who Wears Short Shorts?: Armitage's pants aren't exactly regulation.