Archive for the 'gundam' Category

Rethinking mecha

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

It is quite plain that a certain level of anti-mecha sentiment festers among the anime fans. In my recent memory, Impz wrote about it, and so did Steven den Beste. The core belief here is mecha series generally tend to suck because the shiny metal takes the focus away from the characters and the story.

I used to subscribe to this notion, but I am starting to wonder if it’s true at all.

Over the years I saw a number of series and movies with mecha in them, and taking stock it becomes clear that quite a number of them did not suck outright. Here is the cream of the crop:

  • Banner of the Stars: I’m going to go on a limb and consider the assault ship a degenerative mecha. It is crewed with 20, but we only ever see 5. The amount of gizmo obsession going around there can put Macross to shame (I am talking about the cutaway views of VF-1 here). Fans of the franchize discuss solemnly the imaginary properties of weapons and ships in the way Gundam fans do. So it really is a mecha series, but it provides excellent story and characters.
  • Dai-Guard: An underappreciated series with the goofiest-looking giant robot. Surprisingly deep characters and an interesting storyline, and there’s more going on than meets the eye at first. I think I watched it first at a convention when nothing else was available. What a serendipitous chance.
  • Stellvia/Vandread: Essentially twin series in my mind. Decent story and characters in both, although the mecha is not goofy like in Dai-Guard, just impossible and/or magical. Stellvia I watched because I liked the OP; SDB’s relentless advocacy made me watch Vandread.
  • Gurren-Lagann: This I dropped after the 3 episodes to ease my fansubbing duty because I knew it was going to be licensed. But it’s a very decent series with manic action. Bloggage was quite positive.
  • IDOLM@STER Xenoglossia: Dropped too, but it’s on my list to watch if I have money when it’s licensed in R1. Cutest animation; characters somewhat shallow, IMHO; plot is driven by a conspiracy and girlmecha.
  • Macross, or whatever the right name is. I place it undeservingly low on the list, I know. More about it below…
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: Parts are good, parts are bad. Referrential, breaks the 4th wall, uses patterns too much, has filler, and the harem lead sucks. But it still has a certain amount of goodness. I haven’t seen the ending yet.

To be sure, quite a number sucked as well. I didn’t like NGE much (although perhaps I didn’t watch it right), GiTS:SAC was a silly derivative, Sakura Wars the Movie was ruined by the whitewashing of the prewar Japan, Dual was not too bad as far as mindless fluff goes, but failed to resolve the harem, Escaflowne the Movie was goth, Voltron‘s mechanical tigers were ludicros, Macron 1 was just old rank-and-file series, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs ditto, and the less is said about Zoids, the better (except that admitting to watching that should be as embarrassing as to watching Yu-Gi-Oh).

In the end, the final suck ratio is not that bad. Harems produce about the same divide, too, for instance. It may be some kind of Sturgeon law in action. Why single out mecha for punishment then? There’s no rational reason.

But if done right, mecha provides interesting possibilities. My personal favourites would be the ace and power multiplier. They were provided by air forces, especially during the WWII, in the real life, so they are realistic. Anyone with a martial arts experience knows how a stick multiplies power of an adept user, but is dangerous for an inept one. More sophisticated weapons tend to magnify this effect. This is how Galland’s Experten, Bong, Pokryshkin, and Sakai came about. These people were fascinating. All mecha needs to do is take this a bit further (but it has to stop before the progression reaches the absurd if director is any good).

Now that my worldview is adjusted, I’m going to give mecha a fair consideration. In simple words, gotta see me some of dat. But what?

Gundam is obvious. I always avoided it because the franchize was too extensive, with a truly bewildering array of series. But after reading about it on the Net, it appears that there’s not all that much that stands out. I saw some of the W in the U.S. broadcast and the story seemed overstretched. The 0083 looked like having good comedic moments (I wanna hear the following classic in the original Japanese: “Yes, sir!” — “Don’t call me “sir”, you idiot! I’m your enemy!”), but it was too little. Brickmuppet linked an article about 0080 at ANN, which seemed interesting but not quite there. So, after careful consideration, I’m going to look at 08th MS Team for starters and then we’ll see.

I’d love to see Macross too. I saw bits and pieces here and here, and it looked intriguing. But I still cannot figure out what the definitive version is. Also, it’s long in all incarnations.

Finally, I am going to watch the new NGE movie. Maybe Asuka is not such a bad bitch in it anymore. One can only hope.

These three items should do mecha justice that it was denied, and I’m going to keep an open mind in the future (Kaminaaaaaaaaa).

UPDATE: Nick Istre writes:

Just to throw out one hypothesis, it might be a reaction to the sometimes rabid fanbase of mecha? I know a few people who are hardcore mecha fans. Heck, a few of them form the core of “Mechacon” that’s held here in Louisiana.

Could be.

Reader Michael Gardner asks what is GiTS:SAC a derivative of. Of the original movie, of course, which was quite good. Coincidently, the movie didn’t have any mecha (unless we consider a tank a mecha). It certanly didn’t have a mechanical insect with an outhouse stuck to its butt.

UPDATE: Oh, snap. Netflix lists 08th MS Team as “3-disc series”, starting with v.2 (ep.4). It’s not just “availability unknown”, but seems like v.1 never existed. Now what? RACS seems to have v.1 on sale for $12.98… I wish I knew it last week when the previous order went in (I gave up on hunting RahXephon and just ordered a thinpack). Still, ordering a standalone v.1 seems retarded, so I suppose the best course of action would be to netflix v.2, check if it’s any good, then get a thinpack. Hey, the out-of-order thing is all the rage these days since it worked for Haruhi.

UPDATE: Owen insists that I watched Code Geass. In my judgement, it is too fresh to rub with the likes of 08th MS Team, so I added it to the common queue. It is #40 now. I might see it in about 18 months from now if nothing bumps it.

UPDATE 2007/09/10: Fledge makes a post about upcoming live-action Robotech (which is an ugly child of Macross, or perhaps vice versa). I am not holding my breath, because of two words: Wing Commander. Hollywood is capable of trampling any great franchize into dirt.

UPDATE 2007/10/14: Watched 08th MS Team. I torrented the gaps in Netflix’s coverage.

Gundam 08th MS Team starts

Friday, October 5th, 2007

In full accordance with the plan, the 08th MS Team begins. The first impression is that of something plotted in simple and predictable ways. I’ve gotten used to stories and characters which were more subtle, but it’s quite serviceable.

The feel of the Real Robot is quite nice too. For some reason I never liked the Super Robot. We may rest assured that a World Reset is not going to happen either.

Gundam 08th MS Team rolls

Monday, October 8th, 2007

I am quite relieved to report that the show starts rolling by ep.06. Up to this point I contemplated writing something like: “If this is the best Gundam franchize has to offer, I do not want to know what the second best might be”. But perhaps now it won’t be necessary.

Using desert sun to reduce shading. Clever.

Manabi Straight also took its time to line up all of its ducks, but since I was on a diet of seinen for years, I knew right away that it was going to be good (granted, Kamichu deceived me by a strong start, but I was not alone; anyway, it’s an exception). However, I have no clue what to watch for in mecha or military action. So I had no choice but to be patient and trust the 08th MS Team to deliver eventually.

Is the odd shape of Eldora’s head supposed to indicate comedic relief?

The OP tried very hard to send the right signals about the Real Robot, which helped somewhat.

Hopefuly this color key is an artistic trick and not a degradation of the master.

Aside from the plot, animation was rather middle of the road for 1995. Some of it was outright cartoonized, but fortunately not all.

Post-action relaxation with light show.

Cheating with lightning and ambient darkness.

Since the DVD v.1 is not available to me, I was reduced to downloading a few episodes, and they turned out to have a strange 17:12 aspect ratio. This is the first time I see anything like it. The R1 DVD is mastered in 4:3.

Gundam 08th MS Team

Friday, October 12th, 2007

The 08th MS Team turned out quite epic in the end; pretty much Shingu and Stellvia level of epic.

Norris is my favourite character. He lived well and died well, and is a good role model. I’d love to be Norris when I grow up. Ginyas though… gives us engineers a bad name really. Bad creators, no cookie. The main couple managed well, although Shiro was sort of simple. Aina masterfuly navigated her conflicting interests. The way love makes a woman stronger was played to perfection too. An inspired and powerful performance on merits, but somehow didn’t grab me personally.

The biggest issue with the show is that it takes 5 episodes out of 11 to line things up, starts moving in ep.6, and only gets into awesome in the second half.

Liked: Yes
Rewatch: No

P.S. Oh, yes, the mecha question. Now that I think about it, there was some mecha in the show too. I seem to recall some in Vandread as well, and heck, it was far more magical there.

TNK on Gundam 08th MS Team

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Found in a pile of old notes is a review at TNK, written with some pathos:

Visually, 08th MS Team is probably the strongest Gundam series ever. Its use of heavy shadows and sense of scale with the mechanoids is something truly magnificent, unseen outside of itself and Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. Even the latter title doesn’t make as great use of size and depth, of light and shadow.

That much is true, and I have screenshots to prove it. But the interesting part of the review is that it fails to mention Aina even ONCE. Manabi without Mikan, Haruhi without Kyon, Ranma without Akane, this omission is right there with them. Not sure what it is trying to tell us, but it certainly screams.

UPDATE: Hidoshi says: “I didn’t mention Aina for a reason. SHE SUCKS.” I understand where this comes from, but doesn’t Ginyas suck more?

Animanachronism on 08th MS Team

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Daniel’s piece picqued my interest in part because I liked the 08th despite all the mayhem (I never liked the idea of watching protagonists struggle and lose, a-la Silmarillion, Das Boot and so on). And he delivers. Here’s a taste:

The 08th is, however, a war story, and a love story. I think the word ’story’ must be stressed: this show’s realism is much-touted, yet in truth I’ve never found it especially realistic (if that is the right question to ask in the first place). It can be gritty and convincing, yes, but there’s also something operatic about The 08th MS Team, a sense of convenience and arrangement which at times makes it feel like a vision.

Too true. But then, it’s Gundam.

What’s not to like? // The last episode, that’s what. Sinking to a homily on the subject of naming is simply gauche. It’s especially gauche at the end of a series which managed, most of the time, to convey its messages without shouting.

I simply consider the ep.12 never made. I deny its existence; it’s the only way to appreciate The 08th, IMHO. The pandering of the last frame scene [+] is just as disgusting as Geneon’s pandering in Kamichu‘s DVD booklet.

More good stuff is at the link. There was also a reference to this blog, but I swear that I started writing this entry before I knew it was in there.

[+] The way Aina had to sit back was amazingly womanly, so I appreciate the skill that went into the scene, but it’s still a pandering.

Gundam Build Fighters begins

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

It does not seem a surprise of the season, for a couple of reasons: it is about what was expected, and it started in the previous season. But as an anime for little boys, GBF excellent. I do not recall when was the list time I saw self-referencial humor done this well:

Oh, and this is just an unfair move by Sunrise, a strike below the belt:

Ironically, I’m enjoying the Kirara/Fellini part, even if she’s completely not my type. While painting in kind, shounen-appropriate brushstrokes, they unfolded a character that is given an object lesson in burning passion (of Gunpla) – see ep.15. And she’s not even the only one. The path of discovery is presented very convincingly, IMHO. Not that it’s going to turn any mecha, Gundam, or Gunpla haters, but otherwise — well done. Not heavy-handed at all.

Bandai made the anime available at Youtube, which is great. The ads are a little repetitive, sadly, but it has a lot of advantages over Crunchy, such as the streaming actually working with my version of Flash.

UPDATE: Steven picks on the name “Kirara”. One thing to know is that Kirara is a stage name. Her civilian name is Mihoshi (family name unknown), and she’s one to maintain a boundary between artist and her artistry so to speak. Again, the split is given a down to earth treatment in GBF. Mihoshi is cynical about her occupation to an extent, but it’s nothing grotesque like Akira(-sama) of Lucky Star. The very name “Kirara” is a play on “kira-kira”, or idol sparkle, chosen purely for business reasons of course.

Gundam Build Fighters ends

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

GBF is one of those anime that wear their soul on their sleeve. Its robust, open, fun nature makes it a great entertainment for the weary. Remember how the “chemo for pseudo-intelligenzia shows”? That wasn’t one, but this sure is.

It certainly is not without its flaws. The premise of magical particles is somewhat weakly founded, in my opinion. There’s a lot of other age-appropriate writing, too. Recall the mafia guy, for one. Or any other villain, come to think of it. All of that reminds me very much about Mouretsu Pirates, except it works here. The only thing that really grated was the character and demeanor of Chairman Matsushita. Poor, poor Baker-chan.

Liked: YES
Rewatch: Definitely possible if opportunity comes along

P.S. What is the place of GBF in the Gundam family? I feel that I cannot tell properly, not being a well-immersed fan of the franchise. Certainly it succeeds as an anime, but does it succeed as a Gundam series? We need to ask someone who knows whom Baker was cosplaying in the flashback of her meeting with Matsushita.

P.P.S. I wanted to post the popular “A > B > C”, but on second thought, it seems wrong. Everyone is so great, I love them all, even bossy and self-centered Caroline. Kirara (Mihoshi) is probably the best, with her never-give-up nature. I just hope Fellini measures up. Aira atoned for Aina (possibly by design), Ranko is too noble for the obvious 4-letter acronym. And gosh, that Ral. I’ve not seen such epitome of Gundam manliness since Norris.

UPDATE: Twitter killed animeblogging:

Thanks guys!

Also! I asked our local expert:

<zaitcev> Just wanted to ask what “The Blue Giant” refers.
<Guncannon> Ramba Ral
<Guncannon> 0079 Zeon ace

So that’s why he’s “absurdly strong”. And this:

Apparently it refers to Sayla Mass in the original Mobile Suit Gundam.


Sunday, November 30th, 2014

As a part of pre-broadcast hype, a new PV came out, and a massive interview (translated in thesii). They cause some concern: the new anime is no different from the old one.

Something like that happened before: I dropped GBF TRY after 3 episodes. As much as I loved the original, what is the point? Re-heated leftovers could be tasty, but they risk to have trouble competing with other dishes.

It does not have to be this way. For example, K-ON 2 was quite worthy despite its heavily derivative nature. But the CG seems stacking poorly, especially since they gave us some hope initially.

Back in September, when they admitted to making an anime, Uzupaka was announced the officially blessed main character. That strong focus was supposed to make the new series different. Sure, Shiburin and Mio Honda were in too, but supporting. But now it’s 14? And they are having 20-hour committee meetings to flesh out each of them?

Of course the new series will differ in the small, just as TRY differs by, say, having a 3-person team instead of 2-person team. For example, they need to maneuver around The Producer. He is heavily hinted by the “zeroth” and first PVs, and Chihiro (Kotori of 346PRO) even addresses him directly in the latest PV. But the latest interview claims that the CG is set in the same world with 765PRO, so they cannot borrow him as-is. And the new company is headquartered in a “castle”, not an office with masking tape on windows. But big deal. I am still very concerned.

UPDATE: Omo says “worrywart IMO”. And yeah, as Russians used to say: “everything is nothing when compared to The World Revolution”.

UPDATE HARDER: Omo followed up with a whole post. As much as I can discern, his reasoning follows thus:

I’m not sure there is any real reason to assume we’ll get a GBFT, mainly because unlike those two shows Derem@s is just a different concept to begin with.

But how exactly is it different? Only different by being made from scratch:

[…] bake a second [Turkey]. I assure you it will not be at all like leftover.

I think he demonstrated the fundamental weakness of thinking by analogy more than he did the difference between iM@S TV and iM@S CG. Okay, it is baked fresh. Not a leftover. Is it going to be any different in design? I’m leaving aside the ludicrous claim of being different in concept, which he pre-emptively demolished himself by “can’t take the idol out of IM@S”. I already mentioned the superficial differences that are inevitable. But that is not enough.

When the work is created with conviction and can stand on its own, I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all.

I wish I could share the Polyanna view, but with GBF TRY is still in broadcast, the wound is too fresh.

UPDATE EVEN HARDER: “For character-driven enterprises, having very different characters necessarily means they are going to be different in a non-superficial way.”