It's a little embarrassing that the episodes sat unwatched on my laptop for half a year. I recently found out that this series is done by one of my dream duo of Shinichiro Wanatabe x Yoko Kanno (of Cowboy Bebop fame most notably), which finally pushed me to watch it.
tl;dr: beautiful aesthetics (especially the background art, which I found out was done by Kunasagi unsurprisingly), and beautiful sound. Decent story for what 11 episodes can provide, but it's more so a social commentary, which very much reminds me of Higashi no Eden.
To be honest, I expected a much better story & character.
11 episodes is too short to develop anything, I'm becoming highly reluctant to watch any non-light hearted single season animes. This review sums up my thoughts on the story accurately. There's also a lot of symbolism (eg. wings, the seasons, why Iceland?) left unexplained. Compared to Monster*, which has a similar premise, was adapted to 74 episodes. However it is a good show if you see it as a fable with a message to deliver.
While I don't have a problem with Nine and Twelve being rather static characters since it's interesting to guess their motivation, I do have problems with Lisa, Five, and Hamura.
Lisa felt too useless for the majority of the series, and her significance is revealed too late. In hindsight I can understand why Twelve was attracted to her, but their romance still seems forced and it was seriously annoying to see her be so weak for the majority of episodes.
Additionally, I would've liked to learn more about Five. Then again I'm a huge sucker for the type of relationship between Five and Nine. Her farewell to Nine seems so disconnected with her usual obsession about beating him. I'm unsatisfied to have her simply be obsessed about winning, but then again I had the same complaint regarding Fukubei's motivation in 20th Century Boys*.
I also had hopes that Hamura become more useful, and progress into the hope in the police rather than just being a convenient sidekick for Shibazaki. The ending scenes could have been:
Hamura shows up together with Shibazaki. As the US starts shooting Twelve, Shibazaki jumps in to try to save Twelve, but dies as a martyr. Hamura holds Nine back from detonating the bomb (though I have doubts that the bomb is real) and is the one who heads the investigation about Project Athena.I do agree with the review linked above that there is too little death in the series. It feels weird that so little sacrifice was made. Destroy and Revolution does a far better job at depicting terrorism.
Overall, these 3 characters could've been used to create more impact by changing Twelve, Nine, and Shibazaki respectively, instead of being stock to advance the plot.
The saving grace of the ending is that it shows the irony of having Twelve killed to cover up US' involvement when the motivation behind Sphinx's actions are to reveal the secret Project Athena.
The ED sequence is gorgeous! The art style!! I'm a fan of Aimer's voice so that's a bonus.
The credits sequence is also gorgeous, which nicely parallels Bebop's.
*Sidenote about Urasawa Naoki's works since I didn't post about any of them: they're good but I don't get why they're that great. They remind me of Dan Brown's thrillers: fantastic page turners, twisting plots, and consistent across the different titles. But both also don't feel very deep nor contain a message, although I could be missing the point. I would suggest Santuary instead.
PPS. Now that I'm putting more effort into these posts, they sure take a long time to write. This confirms my believe that my writing skills lie in editing, which is really disadvantage in testing situations "orz