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.)
There’s very little point in me writing anything here.
I may have humourous qualms about the format, but it’d be a shame to let the tradition lapse.
The Be Invoked BD looks lush.
Mike on the Buff Clan:
[Their] awesome power, along with a dearth of insight into their real motivations, makes [them] a much less sympathetic villain. If anything, Ideon‘s means to a sympathetic villain is “make the good guys seem more like turds.”
Mike’s post is a very reasonable response to the first eighteen episodes. But I’d like to use it as a starting point, because it made me think: I’m not convinced that the show needs or wants us to sympathise with the Buff Clan. Instead, the verdict seems to be that we’re all bastards who deserve limited sympathy at best, and the only solution is to kill everyone.
That makes the famous kill-’em-all ending sensible. It’s not even especially sad, once you think about it: yes, we’ve had enough of these too-human humans. Wipe the slate clean. Give them a chance to start over. Maybe the ending of Space Runaway Ideon is just—compare Zeta Gundam, in which the finale’s distribution of deaths and vegetative states feels unjust for, after all, the AEUG are good guys. They aren’t guilty for resisting tyranny, as horrible as their war was.
That said I can spare a little fellow-feeling for the Buff Clan, despite rather than because of anything Ideon itself does. Unpleasant as the Clan are, their situation—trapped on a rollercoaster of military necessities which they helped start—is not unfamiliar.