Though released several years later, this is a prequel to the two Zeiram movies, telling the story of the first encounter between Iria (Hisakawa, who was also Sailor Mercury) and Zeiram. At the time, she was an apprentice bounty-hunter, working alongside her brother Gren. They take a mission to rescue a VIP and recover the cargo from a stranded space-ship. However, once there, they discover the “cargo” is actually the alien Zeiram, which a corporation is interested in using as a weapon. The result leaves her brother apparently dead, and Iria now the target for the corporation, who want to hush up their thoroughly-dubious plan, by any means necessary. Fortunately, as well as her own skills, our heroine has the assistance of former rival bounty-hunter, Fujikuro (Chiva), endearing urchin Kei (Kanai), and Bob (Ikeda), a colleague whose consciousness has been turned into an AI.
The six-episode (about 25 mins per part, by the time you skip the opening and closing credits) series worked, for me, a little better than the live-action, simply because of the nature of animation: there’s no need for restraint. There were times in the movies where you could see where Amamiya wanted to, but has to restrain his imagination for budgetary reasons. Here, there’s close to a fully-fledged universe, with content which would likely be well beyond the budget of anyone not named James Cameron. There’s also a nice character arc for Iria: initially, she is probably too big for her boots, with an over-inflated sense of her own skills. When she meets Zeiran, she soon discovers she isn’t quite the cat’s whiskers, at least, not to the extent she thinks.
As with most animation of the time, it’s not going to be confused with Miyazaki, and it would be silly to expect otherwise. However, there remain weaknesses. Most obviously, and surprisingly – because it’s the same issue as in the live-action version – is the diversion of time to secondary characters, in particular Kei and sidekick, the latter of whom is there for one purpose only (too spoilerific to discuss in detail; I’d say it falls into the category of “surprising, but almost entirely pointless”). That’s true for much of the plot, which feels over-similar to the Aliens series, and at times, the conspiracy angles just seem to be there to fill in time, before we get to the inevitable final battle between Iria and Zeiram. It did generally keep my interest, overall; but I can see why it hasn’t exactly been remembered as a classic of the medium.
Dir: Tetsuro Amino
Star: (voice) Aya Hisakawa, Shigeru Chiba, Mika Kanai, Masaru Ikeda