Basically a two-part OVA series done by Fumihiko Sori of Vexille and Appleseed fame, TO is based on the old 2001 Nights manga by Yukinobu Hoshino. I haven’t read the source material so I have no idea how it is like, but it seems to be series of independent short stories.
Elliptical Orbit is the first one of the series and focuses on Dan, the supervisor on Midnight Bazooka (a space-station-cum-mass-driver) and its rendezvous with the Flying Dutchman, a interstellar cruiser going between Earth and Alpha Centauri at a period of fifteen years per trip. The Flying Dutchman is carrying a precious cargo of unobtanium which is hijacked by a bunch of terrorists intent on destroying a lunar base using it.
Symbiotic Planet is the second one and is set quite in the future where mankind has explored ninety light years from the Solar System. A planet is found to be suitable for terraforming, but the natural fungi living on the planet is getting in the way. The main character is Aon, chief researcher on the US-Euro colony, madly in love with Elena from the Eurasian colony.
(Spoilers begin here)
Elliptical Orbit’s main characters are Dan and Maria, who are well-known to each other and are hinted to be family before. Of course the exact nature of the relationship is the main twist occuring at the end of the story, but many hints are provided from the start, such as Dan’s opening narrative of about a comet with a 28-year orbit and the 15-year travelling cycle of the Flying Dutchman. If you can’t guess it by the end of the episode, (Maria is Dan’s mother), then you definitely need more exposure to sci-fi. Needless to say, it was a bit wasted they played the “mother is younger than son” card so late in to the movie, but you can think of it a little bit like Hoshi no Koe at the end.
Symbiotic Planet on the other hand is Romeo and Juliet with a little hint of Avatar in it. Basically, the planet’s organisms are symbiotic in nature and what mankind thought was dangerous fungi turn out to be harmless and even beneficial. Of course, the tension is pretty much played by using them as an antagonistic presence to humans, coupled with some generic political shenanigans between the US and Russia. It’s pretty arbitrary at the end at how the fungi finally solve all the human problems.
Both episodes have a respectable number of action scenes, but don’t expect anything ground-breaking. It’s basically very generic PEW-PEW-PEW LAZORS and random bombing runs.
I’m really not a fan of this weird 3D style that Fumihiko Sori is famous for, not to mention in TO, it looks a lot more like animated dolls than humans, giving me a very off-putting “uncanny valley” feel. It’s like if you guys are already doing it in 3D, why not dedicate some time and money to make sure the end-result is smooth! Especially if it’s going to have action and PEW-PEW lasers.
The age of the source material also shows in this two-parter, as both are quite trope-filled stories. While it may be ground-breaking when it was published, I don’t find them interesting anymore mainly because it’s so predictable. I pretty much already saw the ending for both OVA’s just past the half-time mark, especially for Symbiotic Planet.
But overall, it’s not bad, just mediocre and pretty much not worth checking out unless are a fan of the director/manga-ka or just in to classic sci-fi setups. It could surely use better 3D animation too. Good for a watch if you’re bored.