At the beginning of the season, World Conquest: Zvezda Plot was one of my time casualties, a show that I dropped after the first episode because I simply didn’t have time for it. I ended up picking it up a little more than halfway through the season for my time guesting on the CrunchyReport, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.
World Conquest is a whimsical, imaginative and bright little show that holds a lot more weight than it seems on the surface. It’s wonderfully creative and quirky, with a distinct sense of humor and a few bones to pick (sorry, smokers). And underneath all that are valuable themes on family, childhood and ideals. World Conquest is a high 7/10 from me (ranked over at the Ongoing Rankings Page) and, significantly, earned an instant entry into my re-watch queue.
World Conquest is A-1 Pictures’ second strong entry this season along with AOTS Silver Spoon (together, they more than cleanse A-1 of the calamity that was Galilei Donna last season). And, considering this is an anime original production, A-1 perhaps deserves even more credit for crafting a well-structured story that never lost sight of its identity.
The production values from A-1 are quite strong, as the visual presentation looks excellent, including both backgrounds and character designs. I have a particular soft spot for the textured pattern in the background art. It’s simple and pretty, yet distinctive and quite unique from the types of backgrounds I’ve come to expect from anime. And, even more importantly than being unique, the look adds to the show’s sense of whimsy. Art style being used to enhance the story? Not a novel concept, but one that is not as frequently used as might be expected or desired. The OST functions in a similar manner, as do the OP and ED themes. The ED theme in particular, which sounds like a callback to the ED of Humanity Has Declined, had a happily haunting sound that slotted in nicely next to the artsy animation and overall atmosphere of the show. It’s rare that there is this much synergy between all the elements of the presentation of a show, and World Conquest is much stronger for it.
Structurally, World Conquest is among the best that anime has to offer, with the structure so well submerged into the narrative that it is almost invisible. There are really only two (maybe three) true episodes of set-up before World Conquest throw Asuta into the midst of Zvezda’s plans, plots and activities. And while some of the episodes may seem to be one-offs, there are few wasted moments in this show. Even the “random” episodes, like the smoker’s war and the UDO reactor crisis episodes, have their place and are always revealing character, even if the plot seems stuck in one place. However, the plot never really does stop, because the nature of Kate’s conquest means that everything that is conquered is a step towards her final goal. And when World Conquest decides to take its turn into the final resolution in the last three episodes, all the narrative threads, thematic veins and character arcs are masterfully tied together into a single package. It’s very good writing, and solid proof that good structure is essential for a good story.
There are a lot of characters in World Conquest, more than there appear to be at first glance, and they are all handled pretty well, both as individuals and as players in the plot lines. The main viewpoint character, Jimon Asuta (or Dva, as he’s named by Kate), seems at first glance to be just another spineless main character, but none of the characters here are what they appear to be on the surface. Asuta is introduced as having run away from home, and that’s significant because that is an action. He maintains fairly active throughout the show due to the fact that Kate cannot conquer him the way she does others, which means that every action Asuta takes is of his own volition. He may get swept along with the flow at times, but he takes a stand when he needs to, including at the final battle.
The rest of the cast is attractively designed and each is given their due attention with backstory and motivations. Kate is the common theme running through her team’s lives, but World Conquest doesn’t take the easy way out by using that as an excuse to ignore the rest of Zvezda. Backstory is managed very, very well in World Conquest, being slipped in here and there, never intrusively and always at appropriate moments. Perhaps the best example of this comes in episode 8, when the Chief takes on a member of White Light, flashbacks of his past interspersed with images of the fight, giving meaning and depth to the fight beyond just the flashiness of the battle.
Calling World Conquest a comedy would be an oversimplification, but the show is undeniably funny, irony and sheer randomness serving as the lynchpins of the humor. Impressively, even when the show goes into “serious” mode (if there really even is a serious mode for World Conquest), it continues to maintain its identity as a funny show, slipping random asides into fights, serious plot or conversations. And why not? This is a show about a bunch of kids and those who are kids at heart.
I won’t go too deeply into a discussion of themes here, as most of the ideas about theme I picked up from other people, but I do want to highlight one that I hit on myself. As said earlier, Kate is the common theme running through the lives of all the Zvezda members. And as the anime progresses, a web of connections is revealed between Zvezda members and the members of White Light. It’s fascinating, because this quest to conquer the world isn’t just a grand ambition that involves Kate and no one else; it’s a family affair and sometimes a romantic affair for these characters. Lines are drawn between family members, but because of Kate, everyone more or less ends up on the same side at the end of the day.
And World Conquest doesn’t stop with conceptions of family at only the blood level. It also explores the idea of the created family, the family of friends that can be chosen. For Asuta, who has run away from home, Zvezda is a place to belong, a home and a family. For the other members of Zvezda, too, rescued by Kate from their various isolations, Zvezda is more than just a quest to dominate the world. It is a place of acceptance. And all this from the love and trust of a child. Zvezda reads, at some level, as an endorsement of childhood, or at least of the wide-eyed wonder, shameless trust and hope children possess, those beautiful marks of childhood that are so often stripped away as we grow old and experience more of life.
Overall, World Conquest: Zvezda Plot is a surface silly show with a lot more going on beneath the obvious chaos. There is an internal logic holding the show together, but it’s one constructed outside the logic of the adult world, which makes it hard to see. But it is there. And it’s a call to remember the innocence of childhood, the days when conquering world seemed like a real possibility.
World Conquest: Zvezda Plot is a light-hearted, hopeful show that espouses the virtues of family and childhood. It’s something of a wake-up call in our adult-oriented world, a reminder of the optimism that we may have lost, of the dreams on which we may have given up. Strongly recommended.
Reasons to Watch:
- Colorful, unique art style.
- Thematically rich, and potently delivered.
- Strong writing and structure throughout the entire show, supported by sheer imagination.
- A lovable, well-realized cast of characters.
- A great fun factor.