Figure 17: Attention! Deficit!

Author pointed out that I didn’t explain why I found Figure 17 ‘hard to digest’. It’s probably good that he brought it up, because I’m not sure I’d really considered that myself. Justify, justify . . .

A brief preamble is probably in order: Figure 17 takes a premise from the magical girl genre (the young heroine has to use her powers to collect some objects) and unites that premise with an unusually kinetic style of action (the objects are monstrous aliens) and a startlingly intense amount of emotion (‘THE SCENE‘, for instance). It’s not quite The 08th Mahou Shoujo Team, but it may be as close as we’ll get, and I rather like it.

There’s much more than that to say about Figure 17: I could point out how good the animation is (barring the odd instance of re-use); I could praise the pleasant evolution of the heroes’ weaponry, in a kind of arms race with the monsters; I could pick out some examples of its beautifully drawn landscapes, which I enjoyed so much that they entirely sated my desire for any real countryside; or I could describe how it made me cry. But we have more pressing business.

The digestive problem was one of time. The double-length episodes and the resulting, worryingly large, amount of screentime which didn’t involve raucous guitar music and violence caused some thumb-twiddling. Because I enjoyed the action, quite a lot of my mind would have liked Figure 17 to be the anime equivalent of the perfect action movie. This, I think, is a problem with me and not with Figure 17: I thought that in theory you could separate the ‘Tsubasa and Hikaru Create zomgwtfbbqEdgarAllenPwnage‘ story from the ‘Hikaru Helps Tsubasa Become A Stronger Person’ story.

In theory, perhaps – but in bad theory, because Figure 17 is Figure 17, not two separate entities. I could treat the action part of the show as a story in and of itself, but that’d involve skipping everything else, and the sad truth is that action without preparation is action without emotion. (Unless you’re making something like Gundam Evolve. See Gundam Evolve 8: ‘SEED does The Matrix‘. Evolve‘s short sequences piggyback on existing anime for their emotional impact, if they have any.)

I suspect my problem is my attention span, not the way that Figure 17 is written. I’m just not used to sitting still for this long.

Further Reading

  • Den Beste thinks that it’s the show’s problem, speaking of ‘economy in story telling’. He may have a point; Richardson destroyed my nose for story-sprawl, so I wouldn’t notice either way.
  • ceriselumiere, while critical, says Figure 17 is ‘very good’ and blames her disappointment in it on misplaced expectations.

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9 responses to “Figure 17: Attention! Deficit!

  1. You know in many ways Figure 17 was an accurate parallel of the life of the average infantryman. Long periods of inaction punctuated by short bursts of intense and dangerous action. I didn’t mind the pacing way back then not sure if it be a problem now…

    In any case having watched LOGH I would have thought that by now you would have been able to tolerate the whole episode about a discussion about the upcoming battle. Then again how far did you get so far comrade? I guess having been toughened by the gregarious pace of LOGH before I watched Figure 17 allowed me to keep a longer attention span. If nothing else it was at least a competent attempt to make anime a longer affair.

  2. I’ve only seen the first 3 eps of Fig 17 – the 3 I was able to find on youtube long long ago and no more of the series is available on seeminly any steaming site in the internet. I also found the first DVD dirt cheap and bought it but, alas, it only contains the first 3 eps, and I never have the HD space to go for the whole show when it comes to mind.

    That said, I REALLY liked those 3 episodes and am almost sure the show would be one of my favorites. Yes, it’s slow to the point of slumber at times but I like that air about it.

  3. I’m with you completely on this one Daniel. Part of it is my fault–my attention span is shot. But part of it is the show’s fault. I just had little to look forward to, yet I cannot bring myself to press the fast forward button.

    Then again I can stomach the likes of Kara no Kyoukai, I don’t know what’s wrong with Figure 17.

  4. Figure 17 was one of the earliest series I watched waaaaay back in 2002, but despite the fact that I started watching it when the series was fully released, it still took me about a year to finish (and I spoiled THE SCENE for myself on accident, which pissed me off no end), which was how long the series took to air in Japan. I think that’s a common thing with this series (even diehard fans of Figure 17, like I am)–it’s not really any kind of problem with it, it still remains one of my favorite anime ever, but sometimes getting yourself to fire up the next episode can be an act of heroism in and of itself. And I say this, knowing that Figure 17 was one of the series that probably caused me to stick with anime as long as I have instead of the route my other friends (and many others who got into anime around the age I did).

    Personally, I think it’s the fault of the 45-minute episode length, the fact that you start the episode with BOY (which is an amazing song and I really wish I could find more of The ALFEE’s stuff because they’re been around since 1974), and then you segue straight into total calm, relaxing slice of life for 22 minutes and then the Maguyar attack and then it’s crazy action for 22 more minutes and then the episode ends.

    I don’t think watching it over a long period of time really hurts the series, though, obviously–I don’t think it’s intended to be something to be blasted through at mach speed, it’s something to be, well, digested. It’s been far too long since I last saw it (and I want to rewatch it so bad but The Figure 17 Effect is getting to me), so I can’t really discuss specifics, but I think it’s hard for anyone to watch, period, so I wouldn’t blame yourself, or even the series itself, too terribly much for it.

  5. its like you really dont want me to watch this show

    interesting, if depressing review

    “the action was good, but whats the point?” is the tone i got from it

  6. Oh dear, I have an attention span the length of a 4koma, so I guess this isn’t for me.

    Then again, I loved Kara no Kyoukai, but that was solely ’cause I’m a devout type-moon fanboy. sigh~orz

  7. Attention span might indeed be the issue; 9 hotlinks in approximately six paragraphs were particularly distracting. I’m not sure whether to applaud you or curse you for so artfully wasting my time. =P

  8. @ Crusader: I suppose there’s room for a slice-of-life series about average infantrymen, if there isn’t one already. (You could argue that Blackadder Goes Forth is a sitcom variation on the idea, really.)

    I’m up for episodes of tense discussion about future battles, or indeed for episodes of political intrigue, as found in LotGH (I’m in the mid-sixties so far), but Figure 17 doesn’t focus on such immediately-accessible topics.

    @ 21stcenturydigitalboy: If you liked the three episodes you saw, I’d suggest you redouble your efforts to watch the rest, as it is very good (you could beg/borrow/steal an extra hard drive, or something). Is it still available for ‘net rental? I’ve no idea how available anime is for DVD rental in the States.

    @ omo: I’ve never even entertained the idea of attempting Kara no Kyoukai so . . . it’s a conundrum. My first suspicion is my attention span, though.

    @ OGT: It certainly took me months to watch the show, and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone. But if you do pin the blame on the 45-minute episodes (and ‘BOY’, which is indeed a great song), wouldn’t the show have been better as thirteen normal-length episodes? I know for one of its broadcasts (the on on TV Tokyo, I think), they preserved the first and last episodes but split all the rest into two which must have been very odd indeed.

    @ berkles: Don’t get me wrong, I liked it a lot. It’s just like . . . I don’t know, a really entertaining lecture that lasts for three hours? Even if the best bit arrives at the two-and-a-half hour mark, everyone’s attention spans will have run out much earlier. I hope that analogy makes sense.

    @ xephyre: Type-Moon fanboys must be a dedicated lot, I guess.

    @ vendredi: Well, if you haven’t enough to say yourself it’s always worth bulking it out with links . . .

  9. Pingback: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da!

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