Taking place in the far future when there are many planetary colonies of man throughout the galaxy, Kiddy Grade follows Eclair and Lumiere, two low ranked members of the ES special branch of the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs (GOTT) as they are dispatched on various dangerous missions. Perhaps not the most interesting sounding set up, but what is compelling is the characters and that it’s evident that something strange and possibly sinister (the main thrust of the plot) is going on in the background.
Eclair and Lumiere are an interesting and complimentary pair of youthful protagonists (all ES members look pretty young). As we follow them on their missions (from prisoner transport to VIP protection to illicit weapon smuggler investigation) given to them by Chief Eclipse, and learn their back-story we see that Eclair is action orientated, whilst Lumiere who appears far younger is actually far more reserved and lady like. As ES members they both posses superhuman abilities, Eclair has inordinate strength and can manipulate her lipstick into a whip while her partner can remotely hack into machines and bend them to her will. They tend to approach things slightly differently but their styles complement one another and they are clearly very protective of one another.
Across the first 9 episodes, as we just watch mission after mission and before the story really kick off, the cast is rounded out with bit parts of various size given to the other ES members, a couple of recurring characters from the GOTT and the enigmatic auditor, Armbrust. Armbrust is easily the most interesting as he seems vocally loathe to do anything more than observe, but the series quickly ensures that you know that he’s operating under a different agenda to everyone else.
Kiddy Grade is a tricky beast. Whilst consistently beautiful to watch (due to the high animation quality), the pacing of the plot is fairly poor. Whilst hints are dropped throughout the early episodes that there’s something unrevealed about Eclair and that things just don’t seem right at the GOTT, it takes almost half the series before things really kick off. The problem is further compounded by the fact that once the main plot starts to get off the ground, everything is explained terribly.
As you watch the final episodes, most things will fall into place and suddenly you can see just what’s been going on the whole time, but you shouldn’t have to wait until the last 3 episodes of a series to have any idea of what on earth people were doing for the last 21. Even when all is said and done a number of the motivations and actions of the other ES members, who are largely walking cliches spawning new abilities as the plot demands, are entirely unexplained and details of how and why they became superhuman ES members are alluded to rather briefly and then largely glossed over.
Looking back on it, I liked the plot, it was somewhat complex with different plot threads (eventually) cleverly inter-weaved, dealing with such things as conspiracy, corruption, loyalty and morality but the series seems to rely on dropping tidbits of information via flashback that throw up huge questions or seem nonsensical but are clearly important and then just ignores them until later when things are tied together. This sadly leaves something of a mess of a plot, where entire scenes don’t make a lick of sense until several episodes later, so perhaps Kiddy Grade could best be described as ultimately satisfying in hindsight, but somewhat frustrating to experience going along.
The action in the series is great with a host of memorable fights between the ES members and their mission targets and a number of fun nicely choreographed space battles with some pretty awesome ships sporting interesting designs. Most of the ES member pairs are seen with their own ships and robots and the designs for Eclair and Lumiere’s ship, La Muse, and robot, Donnerschlag, are particularly good looking, display their own personalities and form the cornerstone of many of those space battles.
As previously mentioned the animation is impressive, especially since it’s now a decade old. The colours are bold, the designs are crisp and memorable and the action is both well staged and nicely captured. The series has some nice motifs playing throughout with one or two being pretty memorable. The dub work is pretty good across the board, with Colleen Clinkenbeard helming the cast with her usual flair and finesse.
Poor pacing aside the show is action packed and a lot of fun, with a different and interesting plot marred by how long it takes for the plot to fully come into view. So whilst it has its problems, I would certainly suggest that Kiddy Grade is worth the effort of sitting through it’s more confusing moments in order to be able to experience this gorgeous looking show as a whole.