In a Battling match, pilot “Bloody Reaper” Paygun’s Bloody Dog is attacked by several ATs and defeats them all. Paygun’s agent Ishruna watches the match from a luxury box. With the last man down, the crowd demands blood, so Paygun kills the AT pilot over Ishruna’s objections. In another part of the stadium, masked pilot “The Dark” (aka Irvine Lester) launches in his customized Dog The Dark as Paygun’s next opponent. The two immediately open fire on each other, and Irvine dodges Paygun’s attacks. Paygun gets knocked over and sees Irvine mocking him with a finger, so he gets up and opens fire. Irvine climbs up a metal shaft and jumps into the air to open fire. He then lands and knocks Paygun’s rifle out of his hands. Irvine repeatedly punches Paygun’s Bloody Dog and grabs his rifle as it falls through the air. Irvine then has unpleasant flashbacks and hesitates, which allows Paygun to recover and knock off Irvine’s left arm. Although he’s won the battle, Paygun wonders why Irvine didn’t shoot him. After the match, Irvine visits a bar to receive payment from his agent, Shirafu. Shirafu tells Irvine that today’s client wants to meet him in person, and Irvine notices that Shirafu is drinking expensive alcohol. Irvine visits Ishruna, and she notes that his skills are pretty impressive for someone who’s paid to throw matches. Irvine is flattered, and Ishruna asks if he’d like to have her as an agent. She tells him he’d receive better treatment and money, but Irvine says he’s happy with Shirafu. He turns to leave, and Ishruna asks if he isn’t ashamed about squandering his talent on fixed fights. She tells him he’ll make a fortune, and Irvine answers that though he needs the money, he prefers to take the losing role. Paygun then comes out of the elevator, and Ishruna tells him that Irvine is a new business partner. Paygun decides to ride with them in the elevator and lists his demands for new equipment: a large long cannon and several missile units. Ishruna says he doesn’t need that many weapons, but Paygun insists that he does to crush his enemies. Ishruna tells him he needs to control his blood lust and stop killing defenseless fighters. Paygun tells her to shut up and says that the battlefield is a place of life and death and that only the victor gets to live. Irvine speaks up and says that’s all garbage, adding that Battling is a game, not real war. Paygun dares him to say that again, and Ishruna reveals that Irvine is The Dark. Paygun then sticks a gun in Irvine’s face and demands to know why Irvine didn’t shoot earlier. Irvine then sticks a gun in Paygun’s gut and says he just played the role of a loser. He then exits the elevator, and Paygun demands that Ishruna set up another fight. In the city streets, residents run for safety as acid rain begins to pour. Later, Irvine wakes up from a nightmare about the battlefield.
The next morning, Irvine’s sister Donna wakes him up and tells him he’s late on an AT repair job. Realizing how late it is, Irvine quickly dresses and completes the repair job. Donna apologizes to the client, Denny, but he tells her that he prefers quality work over fast work. Irvine speeds around the hangar to test the AT, and Denny wishes he had that kind of footwork. He asks Donna why Irvine doesn’t participate in Battling, and Donna answers that Irvine only became a pilot because of the war. Denny thanks Irvine for the work, but Irvine expresses doubt that the new pincer arm will help in Battling. Denny suggests that they work together in a Battling tag team match, but Irvine kindly refuses. Denny is about to pay for the work, but Irvine tells him to wait until after his Battling match. Donna points out that they might not be able to pay their bills, and Irvine tells her it’ll be ok. As Denny leaves, Shirafu shows up with a present: a wrecked Scopedog. Irvine examines it and says half the parts are unusable, but Shirafu counters that that means half the parts are usable. Shirafu asks Irvine how he is, and Irvine says he still dreams about it sometimes. Irvine asks Shirafu the same, and Shirafu answers that his scars ache after it rains. He notes that he seems to be on Donna’s bad side and wonders if he’ll get the coffee he asked for. Irvine asks Shirafu about their “other” work, and Shirafu proposes fighting in a deathmatch. Irvine refuses, and Shirafu notes that winning even one deathmatch would give Irvine and Donna enough money for tickets to a ship to get offworld. Shirafu says he’s had enough of this and that they’ll never make money through fixed fights, but Irvine won’t budge. Irvine tells Donna she should be nicer to Shirafu, but she points out that Shirafu is involved with Battling. Irvine promises Donna that he’ll never fight again because the war is over. They both watch a ship fly by in the distance, and Donna wonders if it’s going to Daleria. She says Daleria hasn’t been poisoned yet by acid rain, and Irvine promises they’ll get there someday. Shirafu walks through the streets and is surprised when Ishruna pulls up in a limo. Later, Shirafu calls Irvine about a new match at midnight. He’s about to say something else before changing his mind and hanging up. Ishruna tells Shirafu the money he’s getting should be enough for a ship ticket. Shirafu asks Ishruna not to dig into Irvine’s past, but she says she’ll do as she wants now that she’s Irvine’s agent. Donna asks what that job talk was about, so Irvine makes up a story about a scrap merchant who wants parts. Later, Donna gets out of bed and sneaks into Irvine’s AT trailer truck as it leaves. At the arena, Paygun uses his upgraded Bloody Dog to take out more opponents. Donna is surprised to see Irvine in an AT. Irvine calls Shirafu over the radio and instead gets Ishruna, who says she’s now his agent. Irvine asks what’s going on, and she says she wants to see his real skills in another fight with Paygun. Irvine refuses, and she refers to him as “Bishop One.” She says Paygun is a loose cannon, so Irvine should be able to take care of him.
Irvine steps onto the arena and is immediately attacked by Paygun, who charges in and fires missiles. Irvine jumps onto a girder hanging in midair, but Paygun fires his cannon and knocks him down. Paygun then attacks at close range, but Irvine fires a smoke dispenser and escapes. Paygun wants to know why Irvine won’t attack, and Irvine says it’s not a battlefield. Paygun insists that it is a battlefield and starts firing wildly into the audience. Ishruna tells Paygun that he’s ruining her business, and Irvine slams into Paygun just as he’s about to shoot her. The arena begins to collapse after a series of explosions, and Shirafu blames himself for what happened. Ishruna escapes with Irvine in his truck and complains that her business is ruined, but Irvine points out she started it all. Ishruna says she didn’t know that Paygun would attack the crowd, and suddenly he appears on the road behind them and fires missiles. Donna is knocked out of her hiding place, and Irvine asks why she’s there. Several police helicopters open fire on Paygun, so he destroys them. Ishruna calls Paygun on the radio and tells him he won’t get away with what he’s done. He says that he’s just settling the score after being insulted on the battlefield by Irvine. The truck escapes, and Paygun starts looking through Irvine’s military record, which causes him to laugh. Irvine’s truck reaches Ishruna’s underground facility, where she makes a call to her contact in the police. She asks for a rescue team, but her contact refuses since one of her ATs destroyed the arena. She mentions how much money she’s given him, and he tells her that he only agreed to tolerate her presence, not blindly support her. Ishruna then says none of this would’ve happened if Irvine had killed Paygun, but Irvine says he was dragged into this. Paygun then calls and asks if Donna knows about Irvine making money on fixed fights. He tells Irvine to fight him and says there’s no other choice. Ishruna says that without help from the police, the only way to end things is for Irvine to fight Paygun, but Irvine says he refuses to be a murderer. Donna then cuts in and calls Irvine a liar. Paygun burns down Irvine’s repair shop and is called out by Shirafu, who is piloting an AT armed with explosives. Shirafu says he won’t let Paygun wake Irvine from his peaceful dream and attacks, but Paygun easily knocks him down. He decides to awaken Irvine and activates the explosives, killing Shirafu. Irvine tells Donna he fought in Battling for the sake of their dream. Donna says she was glad when Irvine came back from the war, but she sees now she was wrong because the real Irvine never returned. She runs away crying, and Irvine realizes she’s right. He then changes his mind and says he’ll help himself to Ishruna’s equipment. Ishruna changes out of her dress and helps Irvine switch out the equipment and armaments on his Dog The Dark. They load a new backpack, weapons and leg thrusters onto the AT.
Elsewhere, Paygun waits in a junkyard with his Bloody Dog, which has been upgraded with parts from other units. Irvine and Ishruna finish working on the Dog The Dark, so he suits up for battle and leaves in his truck. Irvine is attacked on the highway by Paygun’s monstrously huge AT. Paygun grabs the truck and tosses it into the air, but Irvine jumps out in his Scopedog and lands safely on the ground. Ishruna gets into a Scopedog to chase after Irvine, and Donna insists on coming along. Ishruna refuses and has trouble trying to get the Scopedog to move. Irvine speeds away from Paygun and fires his bazooka. Paygun says the outcome of the fight is kill or be killed, and Irvine vows that he’ll stop Paygun. Paygun grabs Irvine with his large grappling claw and calls him by his call sign, Bishop One. Donna and Ishruna speed toward the battlefield and hear Paygun reciting Irvine’s military record. Irvine’s Swampdog unit was led into a guerilla ambush due to bogus intel. In the confusion of battle, Irvine began firing everywhere, killing friend and foe alike and leaving no one alive. Paygun says that Irvine is the ultimate soldier, and Irvine breaks free and opens fire. Paygun says that he’ll kill the ultimate soldier and become the victor of the battlefield. Paygun presses his attack and fires his pile bunker through the Dog The Dark’s head, barely missing Irvine. Irvine activates his thrusters and opens fire on Paygun, forcing him to eject some parts. Irvine attacks relentlessly, causing more of Paygun’s extra parts to fall away. Paygun’s pile bunker rips open the Dog The Dark’s head, but Irvine presses his attack. He manages to rip open Paygun’s cockpit and knock him down. Irvine then pulls out a gun and takes aim, so Paygun tells him to shoot. He says that he lost and adds that the military must not take kindly to ally killers. He fires at Irvine, causing both ATs to tumble down to the ground. Irvine then has another flashback to the massacre he caused, including killing child fighters. At the time, he put his gun to his head to commit suicide. He does the same now, but Paygun shoots the gun out of his hands before dying. Donna runs over to Irvine, and he tells her that he couldn’t stop it again. On the battlefield, Irvine’s suicidal shot missed, and he was found by Shirafu. Irvine cries and says he wasn’t able to stop himself again. Donna cries and hugs Irvine, welcoming him home.
Case; IRVINE occupies an historical spot within the VOTOMS universe – it’s the first OVA since 1988’s Armor Hunter Merowlink to not focus on Chirico Cuvie. And since Merowlink‘s story tied in to the TV series, technically that makes Case; IRVINE the first OVA to have absolutely zero connection to Chirico. I’ve argued for years that the VOTOMS universe is very expansive and capable of telling many non-Chirico stories. Case; IRVINE proves that point, even though it doesn’t tell the most original of stories. On one side you have Irvine, a former soldier suffering from PTSD, and on the other you have Paygun, a bloodthirsty maniac who makes a sport out of killing people. As with all past depictions of Battling, people in the audience get killed, but Paygun takes it to a whole new level. There’s no indication of when this story takes place, but clearly it’s between the end of the Hundred Years War and the beginning of the next war. There’s also no indication of what planet this is on, but I get the impression that it’s some backwater. Wherever it is, it’s evocative of Melkia’s Woodo City – a sleazy town filled with shady people and an atmosphere poisoned by acid rain. It’s no surprise that Irvine and Paygun’s initial encounters would end with an all-out battle, although I thought Paygun’s monstrous AT upgrade looked rather silly. It was also surprising to see the AT combat go back to traditional animation after the shift to CG in Pailsen Files and Phantom Arc. In the end, although there’s nothing special about Case; IRVINE‘s story, it is an entertaining OVA, and I hope it paves the way for more standalone VOTOMS stories.