Having seen the plot synopsis for this series, I was all but ready to declare Shangri-la as "Captain Planet for the 21st century". However (and perhaps thankfully so) things aren't quite that simple.
The series opener begins with the release from prison after two years of Kuniko - We aren't told the reason for her imprisonment at this stage, but we can pretty much guess from her action's throughout the rest of the episode, as she proves to be a rather hyperactive kid with little interest in her heritage or responsibilities, and with something of a loud mouth to boot. It transpires that Kuniko is supposed to be the successor to the Metal-Age group, a bunch of people who I get the impression aren't exactly anti-environmentalist per se, but they want to be able to use technology and modern means to progress, something that appears to be nigh-on impossible in the world we're presented here, one dominated by carbon taxes and credits.
Yes, that's right, there is very much a heavy political presence to this series from the off surrounding its environmental issues, but in all fairness to it we don't get the usual "pollution bad, green things good" rhetoric here, but rather a more balanced equation that seems to be decrying rampant environmentalism (particularly when politicised or turned into a profit-making exercise) while also suggesting some level of marvel at the beauty of nature.
However, it has to be said that much of these points are lost in the midst of the more general good and bad points of this first episode. On the positive side of the coin, Kuniko is already quite the lead female character, an entertaining blend of teenage bravado and clumsiness that could prove a winner in this series. Oh, and her boomerang is pretty awesome too - You never saw Rolf Harris slicing the barrel off an armoured tank, I bet.
On the negative side, Kuniko's "mother" is straight out of The Birdcage, putting in a cringe-worthy performance that is really painful to watch. This is perhaps only bettered by Lady Ryoko, who is clearly one of the villains of the piece and as a result seems to be surrounded by plenty of sterotypical villaneous paraphenalia and cronies, while also exhibiting the kind of perpetual bad mood that only evil people can muster.
With all of this in mind then, it's a bit of a mixed bag for Shangri-la thus far - Range Murata's input on character design doesn't seem to have had much of an effect that I can see thus far, and that aside we have some potentially interesting characters and situations mixed in with horrifyingly annoying or cliched ones. Which side of that conflict will win out in this series? I suppose I'm going to have to check out a few more episodes to find out...