Mecha Declaration of Year Start

I don’t normally follow anime as it airs, Gundam and, lately, Precure excepted. (I’m looking forward to Smiley’s Precure. Apparently the Cure colours will be grey, brown, and grey-brown.) Following a few seasons behind and gleaning up titles recommended by trusted minds more or less guarantees a steady stream of things I enjoy, while trying to catch things as they air would doom me to running into something I dislike. Oh, and, Gundam again excepted, robots seem rare at the moment. However, January brought a bunch of things I’d like to keep up with, and two of them even have robots!

First, there’s Aquarion Evol. I’ve known of Aquarion for a good while, and a few years ago I dipped a foot into the original series before deciding that while the CG mecha were technically impressive, they were also annoying. Evol‘s CG mecha are even more technically impressive, but still annoying: juddering, weightless and disgustingly pristine. I haven’t got a great eye for this stuff, so I’ve little sense for how much of that is my taste and how much, if any, really is a fault it’s worth banging the table over. But it does rub the wrong way, especially when titles like Unicorn and that Votoms Finder one-shot—and yes, I understand that they’re not on television schedules and budgets—have convinced me that I like well-integrated CG mecha work. Hell, even the oddity that was Soukou no Strain got away with fairly bad CG by putting it in a weightless and pristine environment.

And the combination-as-sex thing doesn’t amuse me for (although this is not Evol‘s fault) I just finished watching Godannar. Actually, let me talk about Godannar for a paragraph. Godannar seemed to me to be built along the lines of jp’s description of Giant Robo: an attempt at ‘how we’d like to remember giant robot anime’. But instead of amazing production values Godannar has a soap opera-ish story about a young married couple, and lots and lots and lots of fanservice. Maybe it was just made with half an eye to people who did watch robot shows as kids, and were old enough by the early 2000s to want a soap operaish story about a young married couple mixed with lots and lots and lots of fanservice. I don’t know. I do know that Godannar made me laugh a lot and I recommend trying it if you haven’t yet and you like giant robots and ludicrousness.

Anyway, back to Evol. Evol is saved by its stupid finishers.

Second, there’s Rinne no Lagrange. I’m a bit surprised more noise hasn’t been made about Lagrange‘s sense of place. The brief reported remark about tourism here sent my mind in this direction, but really this stuff drips from the episode titles, from Madoka’s dedication to Kamogawa and from her suspiciously encyclopaedic fighting knowledge of the town’s layout and inhabitants. I’m hoping, but not expecting, that Lagrange will amuse me by exhibiting some small vein of conservatism similar to that which, I am reliably informed, ran through Hanasaku Iroha.

There’s a hint at this rootedness tying back into the plot sometime in Madoka’s defiant claim that Kamogawans’ love for their town is just as strong as the Demetrians’ love for their planet. I think I’ve come across a version of this issue in re: the problem of pain, the question being about whether these things are cumulative: can you add each individual’s love of their home into one big mass which you can then feed into your felicific calculus? Or is the love one person can feel for their home the maximum relevant amount? And all that sort of thing.

More importantly, robots! The ancillary stuff, that deployable runway, the useless lasers, &c—that’s some convincingly sharp mecha paraphernalia. Plus the robots’ own shape, their transformations, the workings of their blades and shields feel coherent, part of one thought-through effort. So far the fighting itself is very easy on the eyes and, importantly, has fun ideas. Madoka’s been pulling out the sort of attacks that belong in a slightly different breed of robot action, with mixed but consistently amusing results. I initially judged that Lagrange was not a mecha fan’s mecha show, and I suppose it isn’t, really, but at present it is, on a few measures, rather putting Evol to shame.

By loudly disliking Lagrange on Twitter Ghostlightning has prompted a defence; I’m not sure decades of mecha piloting can be quite so breezily reviewed, and I don’t think Madoka’s get-up-and-go can be so easily pinned to some kind of post-Fukushima need for pep, and even if it can, there’s no necessary connection between that and Lagrange being, like, good… but I do like this post. There are snippets in there which capture enjoyment rather well. Meanwhile, on GL’s blog but courtesy of DKJ, we have a post which captures the opposite of enjoyment. I’m not sure it really mounts much of argument for Lagrange being bad, but then I’m not sure I’ve mounted much of an argument for it being good.

What is interesting is that final paragraph; from what little I know I’d say there’re certainly connections in pacing and profit model between basal mecha shows and basal magical girl shows. In some respects they’re closer to each other than to their extrapolated forms—but Lagrange is not basal. However, at this point I’m probably just BSing. More than usual.

5 responses to “Mecha Declaration of Year Start

  1. That’s what bothers me about both Aquarion shows. Being a component-piloted combining mech, I’ve never really seen Aquarion (and its parts) get damaged gravely, since that could potentially harm the combining mechanism or cripple the pilot. Its weight is awkward, too, and it really looks top-heavy to the point that any kind of ground fighting just looks clunky.

    Good that you brought up the robot designs in Lagrange: I’ve read somewhere that the Chief Creative Officer of Nissan Motors had a hand in them. The fighting is not as hot as I would like, but Madoka’s clumsiness has its own charm.

    • I think I’ve seen Nissan’s logo somewhere in the credits. I hesitate to draw too strong a link between their involvement and the fact I like the sleek/weird look, but maybe there’s something in that.

      I should probably revisit the original Aquarion someday, I’m told that outside the mecha bits it can be amusingly mad.

  2. CG in EVOL can be uncanny valley clean but it’s something I think we will have to live with since I do not think Satelight is going to go back to hand drawing those scenes, maybe as time goes on they will get better at it so the crank it out at a better standard.

    According to crunchyroll Nissan had a hand in the designs and The human logo whether intentional does periodically morph into the Infiniti symbol, Nissan’s luxury brand.

    Rinne is certainly cut from a different kind of cloth, and for better or worse Madoka either comes off as cheery and brave, or naive and ignorant. I belong to the former camp as I grow tired of self-righteous soap boxing that Gundam routinely resorts (though AGE is taking a different tack). I understand the naive and ignorant argument but then again intelligentsia have a knack for asking stupid pointless questions about a cartoon that seems fairly simple in premise and plot. I just think it’s a losing battle to demand angst and excessive sophistication in a series with such a bright color palette and the robots seem to rely more on a magical memoria than fossil fuel/nuclear power/fusion power to go.

    The line of demarcation for Rinne was the Midori doing a suplex on Array, if you liked it you are in the right place, if hated it you should probably move on.

  3. Well, one thing’s for sure: with Lagrange, as the show is more of an action-comedy, there’s nothing else to lose except to have a good, bellyaching laugh while watching — the first anime of this year that *actually* made me break away from my worries and smile… and yeah, a very guilty pleasure, so I’m keeping this (and so do a hundred or more who are watching it right now). :)

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