Friday, January 20, 2017


Story and Art by Hitoshi Ariga | Created byHajime Yatate

The second BIG O manga volume picks up where the last one left off, as author/artist Hitoshi Arita presents an adaptation of the anime’s second episode, “Dorothy Dorothy”, which means that good ol’ Beck is our villain for the fifth consecutive chapter. This time he continues his plot to rob the Paradigm City Mint while Roger does some deductive work and learns that Dorothy — full name R. Dorothy Wayneright — and the much larger Dorothy I megadeus were both built by Doctor Solderno based on blueprints provided by one Timothy Wayneright. But by the time Roger finds Timothy, the old man has been murdered by Beck.

Piloting Dorothy I, Beck makes another go at the mint, but is thwarted once more by the combined efforts of Big O and Dorothy. I'm the end, with both of her “fathers” dead, Dorothy comes to reside in Roger’s penthouse as his maid.

One thing I've always found odd about BIG O is how wealthy Roger Smith apparently is. He's ex-military police, so he didn't make his fortune there. He's Paradigm City’s “top negotiator”, but exactly how much does that job pay? I don't know what negotiators/mediators get in real life, but it doesn't seem like it would be enough to live in a palatial penthouse and employ a butler!

Anyway — with the opening episodes adapted and the status quo finally in place, Ariga departs once again from the TV series’ plots, going his own route even as he introduces more characters from the show. First up is the mysterious Angel, who debuts here in a chapter titled “Ghost Ship and Fallen Angel”. Angel introduces herself to Roger as “Casey Jenkins from the Ruins Research Group” and asks Roger to help her investigate a so-called “ghost ship which has been haunting Paradigm Harbor.

I like this chapter quite a bit. For the first time, Ariga captures a bit of the mystery which permeates the BIG O TV series. Thus far, he's treated the manga more or less like any giant robot serial, with little lip service paid to the fact that Paradigm City is weird. We know there was an “Event” forty years ago that cost the citizens their memories, and we know megadeuses and androids wander the city alongside humans, but it's all been played very matter-of-factly in the prior chapters. Now, however, as Roger and “Casey” head out into the foggy bay to check on the ghost ship, the eeriness is ratcheted up to eleven, and this becomes the first of the original (non-adapted) manga chapters to honestly feel like an episode of the TV show.

That feeling continues into the subsequent installment, “No Name, No Memory, No Future”, in which a cyborg wanders Paradigm, systematically killing several people who were alive prior to the Event. Roger eventually deduces that the guy’s programming had been dormant for forty years until something triggered it and restored his long-lost memory of a hit list to be completed. There's no indication of why he's killing these particular individuals, but that detail is really unimportant to this tale. The “why” is far less relevant than the “how” this time, as we readers (but not Roger) learn that the cyborg’s memory was unlocked when he found a megadeus hidden in catacombs beneath the city. But the behemoth remains inoperative for now, as this is the first chapter to not feature Big O battling any sort of giant monster — instead it simply helps Roger against the cyborg, who perished in the end before he can reveal any answers to our hero.

“No Name, No Memory, No Future” also introduces R. Instro, a robot pianist from the anime who is, for a time, Major Dastun’s prime suspect in the cyborg’s serial killings. Instro appears earlier here than in the TV series, where he doesn't make his debut until around the halfway mark. But while that episode of the show highlights him as a major character, his role in this manga chapter is strictly secondary.

Television characters also make their debuts in the volume’s final chapter, “Tief Im Schwartzwald”. Here, a month after the cyborg serial killings (which the military police is trying to keep secret) we meet Michael Seebach, a reporter for the Paradigm Press — and we also learn that the Paradigm Company essentially owns Paradigm City, functioning as “Big Brother”, editing and censoring the press to control the flow of information to the public. Also featured here, though not yet identified by name, is Alex Rosewater, Paradigm Co.’s president —and standing by his side, apparently in the capacity of secretary, is Angel — who was last seen in “Ghost Ship and Fallen Angel” stealing some sort of data from the ghost ship without Roger’s knowledge.

“Tief Im Schwarzwald” features a new mystery megadeus which randomly appears and vanishes, confounding Big O and the military police alike, as Seebach attempts to figure out its origins. Imagine his shock when he eventually realizes that he is the machine’s pilot, but his memories of operating it have been somehow blocked. He finally realizes his role in the thing’s operation during a battle with Big O which leaves him disfigured, after which he declares Seebach to be no more and names himself Schwarzwald instead, after a song he recalls from his childhood (apparently indicating that he has regained some of his pre-Event memories).

The TV episode which introduces Schwarzwald, “Underground Terror”, is one of my favorites. It's moody, mysterious, and chilling. “Tief Im Schwarzwald” doesn't quite match it in any of those categories, but it's a decent story in its own right, playing as it does with the idea that Seebach/Schwarzwald has some kind of split personality thing going on, which leads to a legitimate twist — and it has the distinction of showing us Michael Seebach before he becomes Schwarzwald, something the TV version didn't do.

Oh, and it should be mentioned that the mystery megadeus Schwarzwald pilots happens to be the exact same one that restore the mystery cyborg’s memory in the prior installment. One thing Ariga does here, which the BIG O anime tended not to indulge in quite so much, is to build his mysteries up chapter by chapter. The anime series, while it did feature certain plot point carrying over between a handful of episodes, was mostly a series of stand-alone tales. The manga, on the other hand, feels like a true serial even as its stories are mostly stand-alone as well.

Mind you, I find both these approaches equally valid and enjoyable. I love the BIG O anime precisely because it's less concerned with the overarching mystery in every episode, devoting more than half of its thirteen-chapter run to stand-alone stories. But just the same, there's something very satisfying about seeing Ariga lay seeds and pay them off in a way the TV show never did. (And again, I’m speaking specifically of BIG O’s original thirteen episodes. The second season from a couple years later is practically an entirely different show.)

All that said, now that Ariga has laid some groundwork for his ongoing plots, the next volume will go back to the “done-in-one” style for a few chapters, so we'll see how he handles that next week.


  1. I used to think that way of the second season, it's more of a self aware show in it's second run but I still enjoy it and even find the overarching storyline in the 2nd run makes it more of a complete story

    1. I really liked BIG O's second season when it started, even though it was so different from the first season. But by the end it had become too convoluted and the final episode just ruined it for me.

      Also, I wasn't a big fan of Alex Rosewater's hit man, Alan, though he didn't detract that much from my enjoyment.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I liked the ending, the season seemed to be all about identity and free will, the theme seemed to override logic by the end. Alan gabriel was a little too sadistic but it made the danger feel more real. I hated the use of continuity in season 2 the first time I watched it, stuff that seemed to be meant to be ambiguous in season one like the winter phantom event is played as a on the recorded event but over a rewatch I do think it adds some fuel to an overarching story as season 1 events had some meaning even if it didnt the first watch but that's if you look at season two pushing narrrative as a way to give a resolution.

    I'd like to see a prequel using season ones writing style

    1. I think my main problem with Alan was that he felt like he came out of another series. He just didn't fit BIG O's universe very well.

      Also, I agree that season 2 over-explained a lot of stuff season 1 had, I suspect at the time, left deliberately open-ended. All that stuff certainly does add to the ongoing plot, but it feels like they sort of retrofitted things that weren't meant to be ongoing into that mold.

      I sometimes wonder how much of that was Cartoon Network's doing. I believe BIG O season 2 was co-financed by CN after the success season 1 had over here, and I wonder if they pushed for a more serialized feel because that's what we Americans seemed to enjoy in our animes. Because season 2 is written by the same guy that wrote most of season 1, but it's just so different that it feels like there was some outside force influencing him somehow.

  3. well, we're lucky we even have it, it does make those background moments with angel or rosewater in episodes like Missing Cat feel more important when the first time I watched those scenes I wasn't trying to connect the dots and I do like the brighter take on paradigm in season 2, especially the callback with Roger and Dastun in his office

    1. True, and I do believe there was some very good stuff in season 2. I just feel it's not as strong overall as season 1, and the ending really bugs me personally.