Stellvia vs. Vandread, abridged

June 24th, 2007 by Author

When Owen linked me, he chose the “Tandem Crew” entry.

On reflection, the entry made very little sense, because it wasn’t in its context. When I wrote it, the blog wasn’t listed yet and thus not read by anyone. The real pencil note which stated it read “Stellvia === Vandread”.

I did not mean that Stellvia was a remake of Vandread. Their stories are not very similar [^1]. But I meant to note that they a) both are examples of mecha-as-a-backdrop shows and b) made to the equivalent level of quality.

Steven Den Beste summed the mecha question thus:

I’ve now seen at least ten series which featured mechas and I was only really enthusiastic about one of them. Most of them I found to be a complete waste of time; several I didn’t even bother to finish watching. The problem is that the writers, and presumably the fans they’re writing for, are entranced by the idea of the mechas, and concentrate on the gee-whiz equipment instead of such basics as plot, characterization, and human warmth. That also applies to things like steampunk, or fascination with dirigibles. Generally, when the gizmos are viewed by the writers and artists as particularly nifty, everything else tends to get shortchanged. It’s theoretically possible that there could be a good series like this, and in fact I’ve seen a couple which I liked, but the odds are tremendously against any particular one being any good, and it’s a risk I choose not to take, since I do not have infinite time or infinite money.

When seen from this angle, Stellvia is an attempt to tell a character story with heroic action, which happens to have mecha in it somewhere. To illustrate, the Stellvia’s fanbase does not obsess with Keity’s combat loadout (unlike Gundam’s fans). Vandread takes the same route.

I saw Vandread basically because of Steven, after I’ve seen Stellvia. It wasn’t just the review, but the general advocacy too. And about halfway into the show I scribbed the “Stellvia === Vandread” note. They were leaving a similarly sized emotional imprint. Both let secondary characters flourish within reason. Both had protagonists which were a bit irritating (Hibiki with his pseudo-macho, Shipon with her tears). Both were drawn well and directed well. Both have a mid-series climax.

There was a number of dissimilarities, too, but they somehow compensated each other for the comparison. For example, the worst part of Vandread, long term [^2], is the bickering in the kitchen, sick bay, etc. The worst part of Stellvia, long term, was watching Shipon’s breakdowns. Vandread has a tight plot which explains everything, and Stellvia doesn’t, but you have to use Steven’s powers for retcon to uncover it. So for me, Stellvia makes more sense. Not that either of them was in any way realistic anyway.

So, there we have it. I gradually became enthralled with the “Stellvia === Vandread” meme and plug it unconsciously, and well past it “sell by” date, which is how the “Tandem Crews” came about.

^1: You still can find similarities if you are Joseph Campbell.

^2: Ending of Vandread was so phony that it left me livid, but that was an singular moment.