Ingress is a game. It’s an augmented reality game played on smartphones where two factions, the Enlightened and Resistance, battle each other in a neverending capture the flag tussle.
Niantic might be best known for Pokemon Go and the forthcoming Harry Potter Wizards Unite, but Ingress is their intellectual property. They own the game, so they don’t pay a license fee for it or have a risk losing the contract, and it can be their guinea pig.
It’s easy to see the business goals behind Ingress the Animation, and that’s a shame. If those marketing objectives had been invisible to viewers, as unlikely as that may seem, then it would have meant the anime was so good you forget why it was commissioned. Ingress the Animation does not reach those heady heights. Instead, we are shown a dependable and solid anime. It reminds me of Guilty Crown and that’s not a bad thing.
In the Ingress TV show exotic matter, shapers and the battling factions are real. People die at the hands of shady organisations fighting for contorl. It is also a game, mirroring the game’s lore, someone took the Ingress scanner technology and made it publically available on smartphones. Some people play Ingress without knowing it is a real thing and a secret war.
I honestly can’t decide whether that set up is cool or corny.
Importantly, neither the Resistance nor the Enlightened are the villains in the piece. That would screw up the important distribution of new players into the game. That’s not to say the Resistance and the Enlightened are treated the same in the anime. Viewers might not appreciate the bitter rivalry that sometimes the two groups and perhaps might not, therefore, understand how rare significant cross-faction alliances and missions are.
The Resistance are the powers-at-be, the establishment, and those who see the strange exotic matter Ingress is fought over as a threat to humanity. It’s a threat that only they should control and use. The villains are aligned to the Resistance in the Netflix series, you see it when their eyes turn blue, but presumably, they are not acting as The Resistance. The most dynamic, most fun, hero character in the show is Resistance too. An agent called Jack who, while under a blue field, has Matrix-like bullet dodging abilities.
The Enlightened are those who think a few elites shouldn’t control the exotic matter, and who see it as a gift to humanity. In the anime a group of freedom fighters are Enlightened, and we meet the NPC Hank Johnson. Significantly, the hero who introduces viewers to the world of Ingress becomes Enlightened. Makoto’s eyes glow green when he taps his powers under an Enlightened field.
The characters are the strength of the show. It’s possible to like both Makoto and Jack. There’s a third character, who also has powers, but isn’t aligned to either faction (and therefore glows white) called Sarah Coppola.
Sarah is perhaps the best of a good bunch. She’s capable, decisive and charismatic.
The first half of the series has Jack chasing after Sarah while Makoto does his best to keep her safe. I’m not sure she needed his help very much. As you might expect from an anime, there are increasingly dramatic plot pivots and escalations once we get past the halfway mark. That works.
Sarah introduces the world of Ingress to the newbie Makoto, explaining about XM (exotic matter), portals and that the scanner technology was smuggled out into the world and presented as a game. I’m not sure those explanatory asides work, but then I already know Ingress. I’d be curious to how it came across to someone who didn’t know the lore or even how to play before watching the show.
The characters are the strength of the show, but a challenge is fitting them all in. We meet ADA, in a way, and Hank Johnson. There’s the villain businessman, three main characters, a couple of supporting characters and even a flashback to Jahan. That’s a lot. I think it just about works.
When you couple Sarah explaining the Ingress mechanics to Makoto, a tour of a few NPCs of the game, with all through the new cast of characters, then it can feel a bit thin at times. On the other hand; it feels like it would have been wrong not to include ADA. What choice did they have?
Overall? I’m glad I watched it, but I’m struggling to assess the show. I don’t think it’ll turn Ingress fans into anime fans. I’ve not seen a surge in new players since the show started to air a week or so ago. That said, I think it might recruit a few more players into the game.
I think I’ll file this one as might as well watch, especially if you’re an anime fan. You’ll likely enjoy the characters.