Heavy Objects is a recent anime available on Hulu (subtitled) and is based around the premise of warfare being radically changed by the emergence of 'Objects' supermassive war machines that duke it out over various objectives Robot Jox style, and conventional warfare falling to the wayside. A single pilot controls each Object, being supported by officer corps and intelligence corps, in ultra-weapon duels. The premise is not the most original, but pilots driving uber-weapons while fighting against a political backdrop is a decent enough premise. Gundam has been pumping out series after series based on this. Heavy Objects has a lot going for it. The animation is decent quality, and the concept of building sized war machines blasting away at each other offers plenty of visual appeal. The 'Baby Magnum' used by the main characters looks like the Epcot Center toting seven battleship cannons like spider legs.
But despite this relatively easy premise, Heavy Objects fails.
1. The Star of the Show isn't the Star of the Show
The HO Baby Magnum and it's pilot, Milinda Brantini, are not the main characters of Heavy Objects. Ranking characters by lines, screen time, and other metrics put them as 5th and 4th respectively. The focus of the show is actually the duotagonists Quensor/Quenthor Barbotage and Heivia/Havia Winchell, a pair of basic privates in the Legitimate Kingdom military. These two chuckleheads shovel snow, snoop through the jungle, count bullets, and other menial and punishment grade tasks when they aren't lusting after their commanding officer, anything with jugs, fantasizing about food, breasts, and then suddenly turning into paradigm shifting badasses who have been responsible for saving Baby Magnum several times, and destroying a number of enemy HOs.
The Fix is relatively simple, instead of acting like a forklift driver who occasionally pulls a trigger, Milinda Brantini, the Princess, should be the obvious focus of the show instead of a couple of chauvanist incel wunderkid morons. We don't get a chance to understand what it takes to control a war machine the size of a roller coaster packing the firepower of a battleship engaged in duels to the death, and how armies were made inferior to a single person sitting at one command console. Gundam does this better, Evangelion did this fantastically. HO fails miserably.
2. Excessive Fanservice
While I am not opposed to a little fanservice here and there, HO goes completely overboard and I am left to wonder what mystic force has prevented it from metastasizing into a full blown hentai disaster. The most egregious offender here is obviously the writers, who I am convinced are just caricatures of Japanese stereotypes creating this juvenile content, but followed by Major Froleytia Capistrano, a pneumatic buxom femme dom wet fantasy that spends almost every scene animated from a suggestive or crude angle, humiliating her subordinates in a thinly veiled sexual manner. Where most shows might slip in the incidental panty shot or the compromising situation, HO has an entire scene where Barbotage, Winchell, and Capistrano have a prolonged shouting discussion about the proper way for a woman to show her panties to her subordinates.
Brantini is played as Capistrano's foil. Where Capistrano is over the top aggressive, dominating, and humiliating, Brantini is the more trope boyish young woman who is submissive to a fault, mousy and servile, and borderline jailbait. Cough cough Rei Ayanami much cough cough.
Why do I keep watching? Because it is mostly on in background while I am writing.
The Fix, turn the fanservice knob from 9/10 down to 2 or 3. Capistrano can still keep the aura of a femme dom, without actually pole dancing in the middle of the mess hall. Capistrano can be a strong an assertive woman without manspreading to show the audience her panties, and there is not real reason for Brantini to be stripping to her underwear while driving Baby Magnum. Massive ordnance and unimaginable power should be able to sport AC.
3. The Complete and Total Lack of Character Development
The hallmark of a good, strong, character is that they are developed, nuanced, and are changed by the course of the story, or they persevere through the story by the strength of their convictions. Unfortunately none of this applies to the crew of Heavy Objects. Barbotage and Winchell remain basically enlisted privates despite doing actions that should have them win cases of medals and ride home as heroes, or be thrown in the brig for sexual harassment, dereliction of duty, or just be dead. Instead after whatever heroic task they have completed, what unimaginable victory they have won, at the beginning of the next episode they have relocated to a new base and are back to peeling potatoes.
The Fix is more difficult. Where the women of HO are hamstrung by fanservice and shitheel writing, the men are inane caricatures of people. There isn't wit, there isn't satire, there isn't commentary. HO isn't smart enough or self aware enough to be a parody of the genre, it is a painfully By The Trope experience. Let Barbotage actually be the incredible genius who plots out how to destroy the indestructible without being a loony teenager throbbing for big jugs. Winchell can be a more seasoned and serious character, he has seen campaigns that would leave others with PTSD and night terrors, and shouldn't be obsessing about underwear and fried chicken like a diabetic weeb.
4. The Melancholy of Quenthor Barbotage
Quenthor is the biggest fricken Mary Sue I've seen in a long time. Looking like an expy of Edward Elric (Full Metal Alchemist), Quenthor is a blonde military student who despite still being in school has destroyed several indestructible Objects, prevented the destruction of the Baby Magnum several times, and a personal point of absurdity, used a semi-auto pistol to relay a message to the Baby Magnum by firing it in a binary pattern to deliver a twitter length message allowing Brantini and the Baby Magnum to shoot through a mountain and destroy a super powerful enemy Object.
He can shoot a pistol. In binary.
The Fix is more difficult, Quenthor is a walking amalgamation of Mary Sue/Marty Stu, deus ex machine, and biological plot device. At least in the Gundam 'verse, these individuals are typically portrayed as being genetically engineered to by super intelligent, hyper situationally aware, and otherwise being superhuman in their cognitive and physical abilities. Give Barbotage a REASON to be so absurdly badass when it comes to undoing to most powerful weapons created by mankind. It takes something special for a teenager to be be able to bring down war machines that can canon survive being hit by direct nuclear strikes.
5. Military, we don't need no Stinking Military
By it's very nature, HO should be a by the books military anime. There are plenty of scenes of jet fighters, tanks, and even aircraft carriers being used to move the Baby Magnum (cough cough Asuka and Unit 2's first appearance on a carrier cough cough), and plenty of enemy soldiers being shot up. But when it comes down to it, Baby Magnum doesn't have air cover or recon, there are no scout elements, no artillery support, no support of any kind other than the duotagonists running around armed with a single rifle and a few explosive charges. This works in the bombastic flair of Gurann Lagan, but in HO it comes off as juvenile and lacking the seriousness the series needs.
The Fix is simple, and would tie into the above mentioned fixes. The Legitimate Kingdom has no reason to not have the 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion to be staffed with plenty of infantrymen and recon forces, and when Barbotage and Winchell go out blowing baddies up, they should be part of a commando force, or coordinating things from command centers rather than running around like really lucky idiots. I feel the need to reiterate that there is no real parody or satire, this is a by the tropes treatment of the genre. The incel heroes are bumbling and borderline incompetent, obsessed with teats and treats, shouting and whining as they are deployed solo again, until there is the finger snap and then become Olympic level performers with plot power.
6. The Straight Arc
There is no real story arc to Heavy Objects. No characters grow, no one develops, the stakes never rise or fall, and ultimately nothing done in an episode relates to any other episode. In many ways, Heavy Objects feels like a mecha-less mecha anime running by 1960s Hanna-Barbera rules. There is no great war, there is no rising action. Each episode or pair of episodes represent stand alone encounters that don't even have to be put in any particular order.
The fix for the lack of an over-arcing plot would be to put one in. Let the first few episodes show the build up to a major conflict, and let early team up turn into reluctant duels, and for the duotagonists to grow into leadership positions, and for the series to demonstrate the concept of the Objects, and how it can win or lose, and how war, regardless of how 'clean' and 'chivalrous' it is fought affects the people who do it. Brantini and Capistrano are noble blood, and they have to deal with non-military nobility, and then with non-patriarchial powers and how their power structures are.
7. Capistrano and the Squickening
There is a slowly growing arc that has started worming it's chauvanistic head up through the series and it is that the busty and aggressive Capistrano is being pursued by a number of noble men because of her family pedigree of Capistrano women only having male children. Yes. The only semblance of a greater plot revolves around men trying to get the lead female character of the show as their barefoot and pregnant wife.
As a counterpoint, thus far there has only been one male Object pilot, and he was shot and nearly killed in his appearance, and this still didn't stop him from trying to claim ownership and I kid you not, breeding privilages
The Fix can be handled one of two directions, and I am equally fine with either. The first option ties into most of the above recommendations and that is to completely and totally drop the breeding squick completely and never speak of it again. The second is to fully embrace it. The Legitimate Kingdom is a patriarchal maybe oligarchy? and let Capistrano be the subject of repeated courtly wooing and Dune level intrigue. Brantini is likewise of noble blood, and would also certainly be of courtly value, trading the effete manners and posturing of the Kingdom with the brisk and efficient manners gained from military service and routinely placing herself in the line of fire in her Object.
Too bad we get neither