Gems often pop up at strange places, and Solty Rei is a great example of this. I’m not sure why exactly I dropped it when it first aired, but it probably was something along the lines of “too dull” and “gonzo”. As it turns out, Solty Rei is a very capable anime and just as underrated.
Solty Rei does start out rather underwhelming, though. The cute characters and the dark-ish setting don’t mesh well together, nothing much really happens and the main character Solty is overly moralistic, with a typical storyline of “save the oppressed”. There’s also not much eye-candy for the viewer (none of the character-designs are really appealing and the animation has a lot of bugs). There’s honestly nothing much to get excited about, but thankfully a lot changes once this series hits its second half.
It’s rather hard to properly talk about this, since the entire second half is basically one big spoiler, but let’s just say that the first half knew exactly what it was doing, and merely was building up and fleshing characters out properly for a much, much darker second half. What shines the most is the character-development, where themes as family and loss play a central role central. The entire cast develops into something worthwhile, and not a character seems wasted.
But also the setting turns out to be much deeper than you’d originally expect. It starts out as your typical uninspired dystopia, but the series slowly develops this setting into something much more complex. The ending, at first sight may seem like another one of those overly ambitious endings, but it somehow works out and gives a great closure to the series.
Solty Rei is obviously a cheap-looking series, where Gonzo’s CG and the 2D animation just don’t mesh well together. The soundtrack is nothing special (apart from a small amount of excellent tracks that pop up once or twice), but what lies behind it is a charming series. It’s well-told (although it lies a bit too much on coincidences at times), it’s got a great setting and great character-development. It just needs to take a while to get fired up.