'Guys in giant armor' films don't usually take me by surprise and by all rights this Zone of Enders OAV should have been just like its relatives. The film inherits its plot basics from a game, and a series (Zone of Enders - Dolores) came out of it. Earth has come to dominate the martian colony, not only in terms of weaponry, but in sheer body mass and bad attitude as well. The Martians have opted to appear cooperative but work in secret to create a suit of bio-armor that will outgun the current generation or mecha touted by earth.
I Dolo (not Idolo, no matter what the DVD English says) is the name of the prototype orbital frame, and Radium Lavans has been assigned as its pilot, with his girlfriend Dolores he has moved to a secret base where he undergoes training. But I Dolo, made of the mysterious metatron element is no simple servo-mechanical suit. Somehow it harmonizes with Radium's inner anger at Earth's oppressiveness. As the suit reaches its full capabilities, its pilots humanity begins to deteriorate.
Which, unlike most mecha films, is where this OAV diverges from the pack. The focus here isn't the battle scenes, but on the thinning boundary between human and machine. Radium must face what he is losing and, with Dolores' help regain his ability to do what is right rather than indulge in random destruction. When the Earth forces discover the secret Martian base and the climactic lesson, in a characteristic Japanese way, raises as many questions as it resolves.
The artwork is very nicely done although in an older style than we've gotten used to in the latest anime films. The character designers have avoided the 'big eyed' look, making the faces more expressive. Since this film is very much about the feelings of the characters, this works perfectly. You may want to keep away from the dubbing - it's a little too freewheeling. In addition to the one-hour feature there are a set of short interviews with the director and the designers.
I'm not precisely a mecha fan, but I Dolo is special. Make a point of seeing it.