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.
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.
If you watch the eighth episode of Space Runaway Ideon, you will see Gije struggling to make combat honour work. If you ask me, his increasingly wild rules-lawyering provides much of the episode’s pleasure. ‘Okay, I had to take children hostage to make you duel honourably with me, but they’re being held hostage by my assistant, and the warrior code doesn’t apply to him as he’s a commoner, now can we get on with it please’.
Until last night I hadn’t watched any Ideon for roughly two years and ten months. Too long, I think.
The adventurousness of it all is what’s pleasing me most. I feel like the screen’s sending me messages along the lines of
- Cheer! As giant war machines clash in the depths of hyperspace!
- Gasp! At the grotesque lifeforms of a crystal world!
- Weep! For the champion killed by unthinking beasts!
There’s a lot here that comes across as pretty odd, though. For example— well, Zeta Gundam is noted for all the personal violence between characters, and that’s absurd, sure. But there’s a scene in the tenth episode of Ideon in which two characters exchange at least seven slaps to the face mechanically, like puppets. (I say ‘at least’ because it’s implied they continue after we leave the scene.)