I usually end my twelve Christmas posts by thanking the bloggers and readers of the anglotakusphere. You guys are great!
Well, all the bloggers could stand to proofread and redraft a bit more and a lot of you have aesthetic criteria so unconsidered that it’s a miracle I still subscribe to your feeds… but I do, so well done. You guys aren’t great, but for a bunch of humans you’re alright. Readers: you’re great.
I don’t really post any more, and reading back through this blog I’m dissatisfied with most of my old posts. I do miss blogging with ideas, though, despite the fact that they were usually rubbish ideas. Continue reading
I don’t have an image from Dennou Coil, and I’ve chosen not to find one. Because I don’t have copies, legal or illegal, of any of its episodes.
Thing is, you see, I’ve been watching it at an anime club. I used to avoid those, but, having returned to university after graduating and working a desk job for a spell, I was feeling sociable and gave this one a try.
It’s true that these societies don’t have the practical function that they used to, allowing the efficient showing of rare VHS material. But it’s fun! Everyone I’ve met seems to be able to hold down a conversation. People make jokes I couldn’t have thought of myself, which I think is one of the most excellent, most gracious functions that humans perform for each other.
Speaking of humour, the club also solves one of my anime-watching problems: usually I only find comedies funny if I watch them with other people. And the club is also a useful device which makes me watch titles such as Dennou Coil. I’ve known it’s good for ages, but left on my own I’d never have managed to tear myself away from my solid diet of giant robots for long enough.
* * *
This is likely a short-term membership, because the wheels have been coming off my postgraduate career lately. I think I’ve become a bad investment, and I’ll probably be leaving again within the year. But I’m nevertheless glad I returned to university: I’ve learned I was wrong about a lot of things, and one of them was my judgement of social watching.
Freighting the smallest actions with importance, and making them take up lots of tense viewing time, is Kaiji‘s stock-in-trade. The second series started well with a willing surrender to excess, as Kaiji dug himself still further into debt in the Teiai Group’s underground labour camp. It was good to reconnect with our hero’s hapless side.
But Kaiji’s not a bungler when he’s in a nasty enough place, so the real payoff was his subsequent rise, uniting the debt-ridden lowest of the Teiai slave undersociety to beat Ootsuki at his own game. Those bloody dice narrowly edged out Cure Aqua’s lightsabre in the competition for my choice of Weapon of the Year!
One of the best bits of Redline was the bit during which it looked really good: if you have a copy to hand, that’s from about the first minute to around the ninety-eighth minute.
But it was also pretty witty. I don’t mean it was funny in the sense that one could gather some friends and laugh at all the ridiculousness—though it was—I mean, there are some neat little jokes, and some neat grand ones too, come to think of it. (The gradual disintegration of Roboworld’s plans into a maelstrom of self-inflicted disasters, for example…)
I particularly recall Machinehead’s restaurant entrance. Ooh, this Little Deyzuna guy is in trou- no, he’s oka- oh, crap. Oh crap.
(And in this post ak offers one possible reason, modified in the comments, for Machinehead’s presence in that restaurant in the first place…)
The Shamblo owned much of the latest episode of Gundam Unicorn.
I like good mobile armours, I think because they’re usually bestial, and it does the soul good to see a small humanoid figure (the Gundam) squaring off against something like that. And it’s a salutary reminder that Gundam is at least as much unstable psychics riding monsters as it is hard-bitten soldiers piloting war machines—you will note that the painting stuck in Banagher’s memory is not titled The Lady and the Ordnance QF 17-Pounder.
The original Pretty Cure is simple and repetitive in ways that even its successors aren’t. Years ago I argued that this kind of austerity might have its uses. I wouldn’t put it in those terms, now, because I’m too conscious of my ignorance and too scared of that kind of exegesis, now, but I still think along the same lines.
Apart from the stock-footage finishers combat is almost entirely physical, and the finishers themselves are pretty simple compared to successor titles. The cast is small and there are only two Cures. Even the Cures’ names are telling: other iterations give us thematic sets—Melody-Rhythm-Beat-Muse—but here we just have Cure Black and Cure White. That’s not random, but it’s pretty, well, you-know-what. (True, later on there’s Shiny Luminous, but she doesn’t count.) Meanwhile many of the players in the overarching plot are named in a wonderfully lazy way, so the villain is a couple of shades away from being called The Villain, for example, and he manifests as a dark humanoid… shape. Indeed, I’m going to risk saying that the overarching plot is tokenistic and that that’s not a bad thing. If I’m watching for my daily dose of Cure Black punching evil in the face, I’d much rather the story be a quiet background joke.
So, as something approaching a limit case, Pretty Cure reminded me that sometimes unshakeable courage and the occasional handy rebar are more important than narrative.
I reckon it took me about three-and-a-half years to watch Space Runaway Ideon, from the first episode to Be Invoked. This show’s plot tires you as you watch it, or at least that was my experience and the experience of several others I know—though I do also know one person who more-or-less marathoned it, so hmm.
I didn’t rate Ideon that high, in the end. But I was interested by the gradual revelation of what the Ideon is (scary) and what it can do (a lot). And doesn’t the Ideon just, well, stick out? It’s oversized within its own show, so big it has internal corridors and what look like its own point-defence weapons. When its ungainly red mass first hit my screen I didn’t expect the Ideon itself to become both an oddly cool sight and a puzzle.
This all culminates in Be Invoked, which I found a bit incoherent. That did not, however, matter, because I also found much of it spectacular and moving. I haven’t seen many other films with such a huge, huge, huge scale. Like, I’m sure there are plenty of stories which technically involve bigger spaces—I suppose Gurren Lagann‘s final fight comes immediately to mind for my generation—but while that was certainly awesome, it didn’t give the same impression that the distances are vast, the superweapons utterly monstrous, the casualty list endless.
By Be Invoked the Solo Ship’s crew have scraped together a half-understanding of how the Ideon functions. One of the more unhinged crewmembers tries to manipulate it by (stay with me here) standing on the outside of the ship with a toddler in her arms when it’s about to be hit by a comet. This works, in one way, and in another way it doesn’t. But whatever its result for the crew, for me it was a great startlement in a film full of startling things.
I was much happier to go along with this sort of thing in Be Invoked than I was when watching, say, Victory Gundam.
Welcome back to broadcast TV, Gundam. Now get out there and shift plastic off shelves!
Sometimes, I’m not sure I really watch much Gundam qua Gundam. Instead, I spend a lot of time watching for the pattern of reused, reconfigured ideas, and watching how that pattern interacts with any elements new to the franchise.
Thankfully I can still be prodded into dumping the reserve and getting into the spirit of things. Both capacities are operating when I say Grodek’s little private war is pretty Neate. I’m definitely up for protagonists independent of the larger factions not because they’re executing a peacekeeping mission, but because they’re vengeful. Besides that, well, AGE looks competent, the designs have been amusing, and I’m slightly excited to see when and how the multigenerational scope kicks in.
A moment? It’s in the picture up there.
SPT Layzner has been slowly emerging from the untranslated depths of the 80s for some years now. I always welcome the arrival of a fresh episode, interested to discover how the hero, Eiji, will become more put-upon this time.
The physical controls of the title robot are supplemented by a basic AI called Rei, who takes voice commands and issues alerts. A weaponised Siri, if you will. Rei’s simplistic, programmed desire to preserve Layzner and efficiently destroy its enemies brings out Eiji’s more complex goals, for the poor guy frequently winds up arguing with his computer to his job done.
But it becomes clear that there’s another computer in Layzner, one which will cheerfully act without consulting the pilot at all. This sets up what was to my mind one of the finer scenes I saw this year, Eiji’s attempt to provoke Layzner’s second computer out of hiding by shooting up his own cockpit. Excessive? Well, Eiji says that his cockpit is his world, and he has a point: he’s renounced his home planet, and has spent most of the show genuinely living in Layzner’s cockpit or its tiny support shuttle and fighting day-in, day-out. It can’t be fun when there’s something uninvited living in technology so intimately tied to your life.
As it turns out, Layzner’s second computer is not simply a malevolent actor—but I should really shut up before I unleash spoilers.
(Lest I give the impression that Layzner should be taken entirely seriously, I leave you with a link to wah’s handlist of lessons from the show.)