The FREEDOM PROJECT, a collaborative effort with Katsuhiro Otomo to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Nissin’s Cup Noodle, launched last year and it’s only now that I’ve finally seen the episodes that have been released so far (3 of 6, although I think 4 just came out). I think the reason I hadn’t checked it out yet — especially strange considering my longtime love for the works of Otomo — is because the project confused me. Was it just an ad campaign? Well, after having watched the first 3 episodes yesterday, I can definitely say that it’s much more than just that.
It needs to be said that Otomo only contributed character and mecha designs, but the story does feel like something that could have come from him, and should please many fans that were disappointed with STEAMBOY. One thing that has many people excited is the use of cell-shaded CG for the animation. Although some character interactions come off as a bit stiff, what I found most amazing was the way the backgrounds were rendered — it’s really the closest I’ve ever seen, in animated form, of Otomo’s art, looking like those old computer-colored issues of AKIRA that were released in the US through the Epic imprint. I also love the opening sequence — certainly the best since PARANOIA AGENT — with very cool animated renderings of a “manga page,” which you can see pictured in this post. And the story? I’m liking it, and episode 3 ended with a great cliffhanger. The series is being released straight to DVD, with each episode coming out every 3 months or so.