Prima Doll and the War on Terror

Key and Visual Art created this multimedia franchise called Prima Doll. It has some popular voice actresses in the Japanese release of the anime. It’s quite amusing to me, because it takes some staple moe otaku tropes, add Visual Art’s tried and true value props, and shoop it on top of this post-war world-story that resembles Steampunk Taisho (in other words, Sakura Taisen’s setting) and features these androids and war robots as well as other robotic humanoids doing various things. I guess at one point in the past they all went crazy so they’re now outlawed in the country the story takes place in?

Spoilers ahead for Prima Doll anime.

The story orients itself around its main female robot cast, who do this song and dance and cafe stuff. The robots are overseen by this guy, who turns out to be a robot scientist slash military scientist trying to both deal with his childhood trauma caused by his friends from back then, who were prototype girl-robots, being used as tools for war. In a way he feels responsible and looks after the other robot members of his cafe-and-theater, as they were all used as weapons during said war. He also performs maintenance on the robots because, I guess, the robots are all shut down and outlawed other than the ones under his supervision. To be clear, the robots are either intelligent and human-like, or they are completely mechanical-looking and is capable of only a few tasks. The girl-robots are all the former type. The cafe also employs the latter, simpler robots to do menial tasks like cleaning and cooking.

Each of the robot-girls are also some kind of decommissioned/retired pieces of mechanisms for war. One of them is like a jet fighter/Gundam. One of them is good at subterfuge. Others are for communication or logistics and command. The “main” robot character seems to be more human-like (in terms of uselessness), and faithful to the trope, the story only reveal her true nature at the climax. Much of the story has been about stumbling on to these old war machines, and trying to get them readjusted for civilian life. I guess at some point the war ended, because one side got wiped out or something?

The climax has to do with another girl-robot, who somehow managed to go crazy and took control of all the dumb-type war robots that were in storage, and caused a big uprising.

Aside from the story, Prima Doll anime has definitely running themes about PTSD and other post-war sort of ideas. Not that Japan has been in a war in recent memory, so let me co-op this note with, say, the USA. It’s a country that has been in a lot of wars in the past 40 years, and as recent as 2021. Specifically, I’m thinking about the War on Terror.

One statistic that stands out to me is the amount of US deaths as result from terrorist attacks. It’s as if after America blew up the Middle East, now it’s America’s turn to blow itself up? While it is an unfortunate thing to think about, in context of what Prima Doll is really trying to address, it’s also oddly appropriate. What’s the real enemy isn’t the actual people and the mechanisms that enabled the harm and destruction, but really it’s the junk in people’s head. To use a more grounded term, it’s extremism. Sure, in Prima Doll, it’s the extreme thinking of a robot. But to me, this is not some AI apocalypse message (even though I think that’s the correct read), it’s way more human to think of it as simply stiff and stubborn beliefs not based in updated facts or logic. If anything there are probably other anime and manga stories that played out in similar ways, without all the robots. The bad thing is not actually a thing, but a vibe? The fear and terror, the betrayal and distrust, the madness–these are the real motivations.

So yeah, don’t get into that bad PTSD vibe. Don’t be like, I don’t know, Sephiroth (FFVII)? I’m not sure if Prima Doll is any good at this point, that said. I really enjoyed some of the episodes in the middle of the series, they felt quite on point and was charming in the way it went about to those on-point stops. As some would say, maybe Prima Doll won’t quite stick the landing, but I’m almost there and it wouldn’t be Key/VA to see a car crash end, and I’ve already went so far for that!

PS. This series already has a fan club… ?? Did they poach the Gochiusa people or what.

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