Solty Rei's Roy Revant is the kind of protagonist you might encounter in the pages of a 1940s pulp serial. He's a kindred spirit to those private detectives that keep a bottle of whiskey in their top drawer and can identify city streets by the feel of the asphalt underfoot. World weary, he overcooks his eggs in the morning and struggles with the rent each month. But, as you might have guessed, this isn't the forties and Roy Revant isn't a private detective.
Set in an unnamed city (of distinctly North American design), Solty Rei takes place in the near future following a disaster known as the Blast Fall. Is this the reason a mysterious aurora hangs above the city? The catastrophe claimed the lives of thousands and profoundly affected even more. Following the incident, the world witnessed a growth spurt in fields of technological advancement. Society can now hide the disfigurements of the Blast Fall behind state-of-the-art body modifications. Some scars, however, run deeper than others. Haunted by the memory of his missing daughter, Roy Revant is a bounty hunter and gun-for-hire struggling to get by in this topsy-turvy new world.
The first six episodes of the series offer a fairly standard introduction to this setting and its characters. Episode one opens with Revant in hot pursuit of a 'Resemble' - a human with body modifications - as he flees down a darkened back alley. Meanwhile, a mysterious green haired girl is chased across the city's neon drenched rooftops by three armour clad women (old school anime fans will notice more than a passing resemblance to the Knight Sabers of Bubblegum Crisis fame). Of course, both paths cross and the lives of Revant and the green haired girl, later named Solty, become bound together... for better or worse.
From there each episode features a different case that requires Revant's services. An emerald theft, assassination plot and drug scandal all feature but it is the underlying mysteries that will entice you to keep watching. Details of the Blast Fall are slowly revealed alongside curious questions surrounding Solty and her origin. The world of Solty Rei is also revealed slowly with each episode tantalisingly peeling back a layer of the facade of a healthy society. Here's hoping that these slow reveals will eventually unveil a world much darker and more three dimensional than the one showcased at this early stage.
Visually, Solty Rei is unmistakable a Gonzo show. Their trademark, sometimes uneasy, mix of computer generated imagery and traditional animation is in full effect here. Like the Vanships of Last Exile, the mecha designs are entirely CGI and although never distracting, they aren't seamlessly blended either.
Although lighter in tone, all the ingredients are here for a competent Cyberpunk series - a head on collision of hardboiled noir and future technologies - but, judging by this first volume alone, Solty Rei is unquestionably Cyberpunk-light; a decaf alternative for those put off by Ghost in the Shell and Ergo Proxy's philosophising.