It’s hard to be a hero, especially when you have decided to do something else with your life. This is the bind in which Layfon Alseif finds himself in the post-apocalyptic world of Chrome Shelled Regios. The title refers to the large, domed mobile cities that roam a wasteland that is filled with mutated monsters called contaminoids. These creatures take many forms, usually insect-based, and ranging from close to human-sized to the size of one of the cities themselves. Human life on this blasted earth now exists as a feudal sort of arrangement, with each city having its own autonomy and government. Layfon starts out as one of the twelve supreme warriors of the royal city of Glendan, called the Heaven’s Blades, who actively combat contaminoid threats that other cities avoid.
The epic battle that starts the series turns out to be nothing more than a flashback sequence, as we find Layfon ready to start his new life: that of a simple student in the academic city of Zuellni. But fate takes a hand when he reveals his martial talents while rescuing a girl from danger. He is made to join the school’s military wing, specifically the 17th platoon, led by the headstrong Nina Antalk.
The series revolves around Layfon’s inner struggle to leave his old life behind while not disappointing his platoon. His abilities are obviously far in advance of nearly all the other students. He alternately holds himself back from showing his true talents and impulsively taking on nearly overwhelming threats, such as an entire horde of contaminoids to save his newly adopted city. For all its emphasis on militaristic action, Chrome Shelled Regios really shines in its development of its myriad characters. Along with Layfon’s struggle, we also see his platoon members driven by struggles of their own, such as Nina’s constant feelings of inadequacy. Felli Loss in particular is a fascinating character. She is drawn to look younger than her compatriots and she tries hard to maintain her aloofness while at the same time revealing strong feelings and a need to be accepted and loved. The emotional content is what drives the series, and Layfon, in typical anime fashion, becomes the object of desire for several of the girls at the academy. Add to this Layfon’s feelings about the girl he left behind and problems with those who want revenge against him for things in his past, and it is quite a tangled web.
Most of the series is animated with a rather typical, but competent anime style. Layfon and his friends are all visibly appealing and the battles are suitably exciting, if sometimes gory. But every so often other scenes — curious flashback sequences that seem to belong in a whole other series — randomly intrude. These scenes seems to take place in a typical urban environment – i.e. no roving cities and cars on expressways – and have a more horror-show feel to them, with the unfamiliar characters battling what seems to be some sort of demonic force and the art done in a much darker, grittier style. To further confuse the viewer, these ‘extra’ scenes at times seem to be a TV show that the students at the academy are watching, or something that may have happened long ago. They may tie in with odd psychic abilities Layfon’s old girlfriend Leerin seems to possess and perhaps have something to do with the origin of the contaminoids themselves, but they are never fully explained.
There are hints on the mystery of why Layfon left his previous life slowly revealed throughout the series, but the full story is never told. Ultimately, nothing is resolved and the series leaves quite a few stories untold. While building to a good climax, the ending almost seems like a reset. We see a few of the other Heaven’s Blades as Leerin tries to come back into Layfon’s life, but the glimpses we have of them and of those hidden parts of the past beg for more explanation. The series is appropriate for older teens and up. There is no nudity (there are a few jokes about breasts), but the series has a pretty high gore content. It would most likely be safest shelved in an adult collection, as it may be a little intense for the middle school crowd. However, ultimately the appeal of Chrome Shelled Regios would be much greater if we knew that the rest of the story will be told.
Chrome Shelled Regios: the complete series
directed by Itsuro Kawasaki
600 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, Season set
Company Age Rating: 17+