21. Vandread is the story of an existential war for the survival of mankind. Long ago Earth sent out colonies all across space. But recently, Earth has decided on a new plan, to kill all humans outside of Earth and use them as spare parts for Earth's benefit, which has long since polluted its own cradle into an unlivable hellhole. Yes, it's a strange premise, but it doesn't matter much. The point is there's an evil space fleet out to kill all mankind.
In order to live, those outside of Earth have to learn to cooperate. Only together are they a match for Earth's mighty space fleet, and the majority of their battle power lies in just one ship, because it has the 'blue crystal.' The enemy space fleet is powered by a 'red crystal.' These two crystals have magic powers well beyond all other technology, and are an even match for each other, which leaves the rest to the courage and intelligence of the warriors facing off.
There's a fun twist to this need to cooperate to overcome a greater evil, which makes it a little different from Lord of the Rings. In this future, men and women have gone their separate ways, at least in one corner of the galaxy, and inhabit different planets eternally at war with each other. This is such a beautiful twist, because it's so true. Men and women simply don't get along!!! If we had the reproductive technology available, who would really want to put up with women? Why would women really put up with men? We will soon be entering an age where machines can produce all the money necessary for living, and children can be created artificially through various cell technologies. Cloning is not beyond our power either. So, what will keep men and women together in the future? We would have to actually enjoy each other's company!
In Vandread, men and women are forced together by accident, and then by necessity, as they are both needed to use the blue crystal to its maximum power against the red crystal enemy which is hunting them. This ad hoc battleship crew initially resents having to work together, but slowly learns to enjoy each other's company. This quiet, soft transformation of a crew that sees nothing good in each other, to a crew that prefers each other's company to just more men or more women, is what makes Vandread so great.
Why should men and women coexist? Romance is an obvious answer, but homosexuality shows that isn't such a great barrier. It's conceivable that everyone could be raised homosexual, Greece did it. *shrugs* The story comes to a different answer -- there's vibrancy in diversity.
Sometimes having a different perspective helps. When a man and a woman are both engineers, they can share perspectives and come to new insights. Two men or two women would never have made progress, but a man and a woman can move forward.
It isn't just engineering that benefits. Morality benefits when you get input from both men and women, because we stress different things, that the others underrate, or overrate, respectively. A balanced perspective is closer to the truth, but for that, you need men and women. Politics, society building, is healthier and stronger when it's established closer to truth and morality, and so a community of men and women will be more powerful and effective than a community of just men or women. The benefits just keep on coming. Cooking is improved when there's men and women. Interior design is improved when there are both men and women. What can't benefit from having two different perspectives on the same thing?
We need each other precisely because we can't get along. If we got along, we'd just become a hive mind, a giant clone of ourselves that can never see further than our own brain. Men and women are designed to be different, to not get along, to disagree and fight. But civilization prospers when we make up. If men and women bridge those differences, compromise on them, and find a system we can both enjoy, then humanity is at the height of its abilities. This is why Vandread's crew is unbeatable. When men and women come together, there's nothing they can't achieve. The wonderful metaphorical way this truth is brought to light makes it all the more fun.
There's more going on in Vandread than just the glory of diversity. It also has a plot about romance in an age where men and women have never experienced cross-sex love, and have to stumble their way through it for the first time. Dita and Hibiki make a wonderful couple, for two people who have no idea how to be a couple or what a couple is. But even the densest couple knows the difference between smiles and tears. Hibiki eventually wants to be around Dita's smiles and not her tears, and that's really all a boy needs to know.
The inhumanity of their opponents, an entire fleet of programmed machines, controlled by just one human, an expressionless young boy who feels nothing for the entire worlds he is slaughtering, is a terrifying villain. While the good guys have to go through all sorts of depressions, distrusts, panics and betrayals, the machines can take any number of losses and just learn from them, mimicking Vandread's behavior the next time around and daring them to pull off something even more brilliant and novel. The machines, and the human, cannot be deterred. They can only be destroyed. Considering human armies can be forced to flee at 30% casualties, and nations forced to surrender at 10% population losses, the enemy in Vandread is just so sickeningly strong. They're like a fleet of terminators that don't know fear and cannot be stopped unless killed, but are just as intelligent and adaptive as you are!
Vandread has everything. A dramatic suspenseful danger, a romance, continuous action, an interesting plot full of interesting ideas and novel situations, great characters who are extremely different from each other but still learn to get along, and a happy ending. The art is splendid, even though the series is ancient by now, and the music is perfect for the series. The upbeat, sci fi, somewhat silly and crazy world they live in is matched by the music from start to finish.
If Vandread has any flaw, its the inclusion of less interesting characters which take up too much of our time, like the stupid robot comic relief. A lot of the lines of these annoying side characters could have been cut, which would have been a relief for everyone. The computer graphics that is the basis of all the fighting scenes also looks pretty clunky and outdated, to 2011 eyes. But I guess its greatest flaw is you can't take Vandread too seriously, since all of its premises are so crazy and don't exist in the real world. A story needs to be relevant, and Vandread isn't -- no one's arguing for mass homosexuality and cloning, after all, so what do we need Vandread for??? Who does it need to convince? Clannad is about things that matter. Vandread isn't. It just keeps coming back to the same issue.