I recently read about the new film bring worked in by Hayao Miyazaki called How Do You Live? He wants the animation to be so detailed that his 60 animators are only able to accomplish 1 minute of animation a month! At this pace, the film can be expected to have its animation completed in another 6 to 9 years, assuming a 90 minute to 2 hour film line Miyazaki’s other work. The man is 79 years old. My fear is that the film will either not be finished or he won’t live to see its release. If it’s as beautifully animated as the process suggests, what a note to go out on.
Navigating this quarantine takes the form of whatever it needs to be for everyone. Your mental health is important and you need to focus on what is right for you. For some it’s doing as little as possible, possibly as mindlessly as possible, to get by. Others need to dive into something to take their minds off of the world or even how much this change has impacted their own lives. There are all sorts of things. For me, being one of those people who is fortunate enough to continue working (so far…), I’m mostly distracted during the day and then need to channel my anxiety elsewhere in the evening. It should be obvious that I’ve taken up writing again, but at other times I game. This is the perfect time to go into one’s archive of games. Not me. In fact, I abandoned Hollow Knight literally at the end of the game. I’ve landed on a couple of games that somehow straddle the line between mindless and meditative. These are my comfort food games.Continue reading “Comfort Food Gaming”
In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, a couple of friends and I have decided to try to virtually watch anime together. There is a neat Chrome extension out there called Netflix Party that allows users to invite other Netflix users to sync up their video and watch together – with a chat window on the side. Despite what I personally consider shortcomings (Netflix-only, computer-only, text-only), it’s pretty cool and pretty convenient. We all used to be in a group that regularly came together to talk about anime, like a book club for anime, but this seems to be another approach to it. Realtime discussion with discussion encouraged.
After two sessions of the painful to watch Cagaster of Insect Cage – which I had to abandon because the protagonist sexually assaults a young woman, but only after the story deliberately tried to create a backstory for him in the very same episode that was intended to make us sympathize with the attempt – we landed on Beastars. I walked in with very little knowledge of the show. All I knew was that it featured anthropomorphic animals and people joke that it will turn you into a furry. Five episodes in and the latter isn’t true.
Five episodes in and I have so many questions.
At first glance, Super Dimension Century Orguss is a fluff piece of children’s science fiction that ultimately, and oddly, aims to sell fewer toys than its Super Dimension sister series (Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, both of which were adapted into the mega-series Robotech worldwide). At second glance, the series clearly has no other aim than to be a light-hearted science fiction piece of fluff television. It’s only upon a third glance that the viewer sees the series as a broken science fiction epic. Continue reading “Super Dimension Century Orguss – whimsical space and time travel nonsense”
Unfortunately, Star Driver is an anime series that is not worth a full essay. No, the best summary is, “Modestly entertaining, but ultimately disappointing.” I expected more from the writer of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Instead I got a slight retread in terms of high school students dueling in some sacred space with the future of humanity at stake but lacking in the surrealism that made Utena a true standout among other shows of its time. Continue reading “Star Driver”
As always, I applaud media that takes chances. That series took the type of chance that likely wouldn’t happen in America. It’s almost too avant garde for the general public.
[Author’s Note: If you’re just curious about what I thought of the movie, skip down to where you see the asterisks. Otherwise, this is a very lengthy post. I’ve noticed that no one tends to read the entries about anime (except for the dozens of people who keep coming here for Tekkaman Blade pics), so I went crazy with it. If you want to read a 2300-word post, knock yourself out. I promise you none of it will be on the exam, though.]
It is difficult to find good, creative, original science fiction. Sure, some people might have that one friend who does nothing but read science fiction anthologies and keep up with all of the latest material on the web, but the rest of us have few sources and even less time. What the popular multimedia world is most often known for are the scifi retreads – either of old works or old ideas. “It’s the delivery that matters!” we say to ourselves. While true, it also opens ourselves up to eating the same cereal so long as the marshmallows are offered in new shapes and/or colors. For example, I loved four and a half seasons of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica despite the fact that it was a retread of the original BSG that invoked the darker and edgier trope and borrowed heavily from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner and a little from the rest of the Philip K. Dick library. I recognized the sources clearly but still moved forward. That may very well be the reason why I was able to move forward with it.
There are no more original ideas. It’s all be done before. The movie trailers on TV look like items from either a few years to a few decades ago. It seems like movies are being made just so the studios have a steady flow of product coming out. No one holds off for the great ideas. No one devotes time to meticulously perfect a creation. Having something out there is generally regarded as being much better than having something great.
I’ve always been an anime fan. The general anime fan likes to cite creativity as a reason why s/he prefers Japanese output over American. I’m not that fan. I’m not an otaku, as I’ve said before. I watch what I watch. While the ideas over there are decidedly different in origin, they area also quite plagued by hackneyed ideas. Watch enough Japanese content and you find that it becomes increasingly more difficult to find original ideas. (Even in writing this introduction to a review about The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya I’ve realized that it is not entirely original because it could be considered a lighter and fluffier version of Akira. I’m still moving forward with this idea of original content, though.) No matter where you look, people borrow from ideas that they find interesting. Continue reading “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya”
When UPN debuted Teknoman some Sunday afternoon in the mid-90’s, I felt like something special was occurring with American releases of anime. The series debuted with a mini-movie featuring the first four episodes, and then the show was aired directly opposite of syndicate channel WXYZ 20’s Dragonball. This was the time to be an anime fan. This was the renaissance.
This was the hyperbole of emotion felt by a pubescent fan who thought that everything good did not have American origins. Dragonball ended after the very first story arc 13 episodes into the series, and Teknoman never reached its climax. Anime’s popularity would not be driven by a fantasy comedy or soft scifi series. Instead, a few years later, Dragonball Z’s mindless, endless action and Pokemon’s obvious support of slavish consumerism took the United States by storm. Teknoman faded into obscurity, despite the occasional fan’s asking, “Remember that show Teknoman? That seemed cool.”
Which is hilarious because, years later, I found out that it was the American version of Tekkaman Blade, itself a remake of Space Knight Tekkaman – which was also dubbed for American audiences in the 70’s and similarly fell into obscurity. To be fair, however, the original Tekkaman was a goofy and silly looking series, and the American version had horrendous voice acting that serves to set the bar extremely low for everything to follow.
Then comes Tekkaman Blade, which starts off incredibly good before falling into storytelling that Freud could easily interpret to say the worst about its writers and director. Takaya Aiba and his family (minus his dead mother, of course) are caught by a parasitic alien species called the Radam while on an expedition in space. Each one is placed into crystal and provided an extra powerful form called Tekkaman. Takaya’s father is rejected from the process for indeterminate reasons, so he uses that time to save Takaya, his favorite son. Takaya escapes to Earth and befriends the Space Knights, who rename him D-Boy (for “Dangerous Boy”, but “Douche Boy” fits better) because he refuses to provide them with his real name. They join forces to fight the Radam monsters.
Where the story gets more interesting is that Takaya’s central conflict comes from Shinya, his twin brother. While Takaya transforms into the good, pure, Tekkaman Blade; Shinya turns into…well, Tekkaman Evil. Shinya claims that the conflict was a long time coming not because he was taken over by the Radam but because as twins they came from one being – so only one should be able to survive. This “blood destiny”, as he calls it, exists because of the natural drive to prove who should or shouldn’t exist. (Or a battle for authenticity.)
Tekkaman Evil is eventually made into a sympathetic character in a one-off special taking place during his inevitable death. He flashes back to his childhood where he accidentally knocked over a candle while only he and his mother were home. She stuffs him in an old grandfather clock to keep him safe, and he watches her burn to death. He then grows up with his father obviously resenting him and favoring brother Takaya. Then we see what happened to the father after he freed Takaya from the Radams – he runs over to where Shinya is being processed and is promptly killed by the guy. Treasuring memories of the mother while slaying one’s father is certainly suggestive of Oedipal themes.
Later in the series, it’s discovered that the rest of the Tekkaman are of relation or close crewmembers of the Aiba expedition. Tekkaman Omega, the actual leader of the group, is never before mentioned older brother Kengo; Tekkaman Sword is Kengo’s fiance whom he never got to marry because they were waiting until they reached Jupiter – but they were attacked before that; Tekkaman Axe is their martial arts instructor and mechanic; Tekkaman Dagger is a dude named Fritz; Tekkaman Lance is a guy oddly named Molotov; and Tekkaman Rapier is cherished little sister Miyuki. Miyuki also manages to get away from the Radam. She is also a calming visual for Takaya. Even someone bearing a passing resemblance to the girl is enough to soothe him during critical moments.
Naturally, Takaya needs to slaughter his family and crew in order for the human race to survive and also to become a man in this tale of xenowar. Some are emotionally easier to kill than others, interestingly enough. Takaya didn’t show any hesitation in fighting Sword, for example. This is a story about a man’s having no problem with killing his male family members or the women they love.
What really struck me, though, was when Shinya was freed of the Radam parasitic brain slug. He looked at Takaya’s love interest, one of the very few female characters, and said that he knew Takaya was in love with her because she bears a passing resemblance to their mother. If this isn’t Freudian, then I don’t know what is. To add to the statement in the last paragraph, this is a series about killing off the male legacy of one’s family and fantasizing about the female side. The writers certainly had things to work through when writing this story.
I want to say that this was a good series otherwise, but I don’t like lying. The first 26 episodes showed true promise and direction. The latter 23 were an obvious extension that were written due to the series’ popularity. The story got dumber and longer, which I dislike. A concise story is a strong story (says the guy with the overly long write-up for a series he found disappointing). The series lost its way. At least there was a drastic improvement in animation and art.
The worst part is how the series ended – with an obvious rip off of the 80’s Z Gundam. The hero, having witnessed first-hand the death of his friends and family but having won the war nonetheless, is reduced to a state of psychic shock via some convoluted means – which is ultimately supposed to symbolize the tragedies of the natural disaster known as war and the horrible PTSD-inducing effects it would have on anyone but especially our pure-hearted hero as he comes of age on the battlefield. It’s horribly tragic, but the inability to remember is a sweet relief for our hero. However, Z Gundam did it first and better a decade prior to Tekkaman Blade. Plagiarism is flattering, but sometimes people need to learn how to copy things right.
The anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena is really hard to describe to people – but in the best way. What looks like just another shojo (basically, meant for girls) series is actually anything but that. Sure, in the end love and friendship do save the day to some degree, but in the long run it’s all just a complicated mess. It’s a coming of age tale that explores issues of roles not only in life (i.e., gender roles) but also within the fantasy genre itself. Many of the characters serve multiple roles, like Utena herself being a princess but wanting to serve the role of a prince and a certain damsel in distress also being a witch who has caused the whole complicated mess. In the end, it’s hard to interpret good and bad from the intents presented.
My favorite part of the series, however, was noticing the Buddhist influence throughout it. One character is inflicted with eternal pain and suffering until a revolution is brought. Utena may be the representation of the Mahayana Buddhist “vehicle” that aids people in transcending to the next plane and out of the painful cycle of death and rebirth.
And in the movie version, Utena literally becomes a vehicle.
Did I fail to mention that Utena is a surrealist enterprise? A character becomes a cow because of her fixation on being fashionable and later think she lays an egg because she’s reached the age to have done it for the first time. There’s a lot of meaning rolled into the series, forced and otherwise. It’s a deconstructionist’s/Gnostic’s/Buddhist’s playground series.
To get right to the point, the popular Dragonball anime has evoloved itself past basic cable to solidifying itself a place on premium movie channels. Dragonball: Evolution should not be seen in theatres. That’s not saying that it’s a horrible film. It was a film worth sitting through and experiencing. It might even gain something through repeated viewings. It’s just not a movie people should go out of their way to see, and it’s far from a gateway film for the actual series.
A few friends as well as a few sources on the internet suggested that DBE (which got a tongue-in-cheek reference from Bulma early in the movie) would be an entertaining film. I cannot say I was lied to in any form. Existing solely as a means of entertainment, it was fine. I sat through the film without walking out. It was not bad. I think I feel shorted because the movie was not challenging in the least.
The movie is about as simple as you can get: outsider teenager goes on a quest to not only save the world from a villain who spends a total of 20 minutes on-screen but also to become a man. Becoming a man, of course, requires that he get together with his love interest. Kind of boring when looking at what it has accomplished. Very little time was invested in what Goku’s dual identity entails, which is much more intriguing than anything else. Maybe we’ll get that in the sequel, if it ever comes to pass.
My biggest problem with DBE, though, is that it felt horribly truncated. I understand that it was an abridged version of a 200+ episode TV series, yet it seemed like it was an abridged version of itself. The editing was horrible. It gave the impression that things were happening immediately with no real passage of time, and there was no time given for reflection or thought. The movie only clocks in at 84 minutes. It gives the impression that there was more movie than was released. I’m just afraid that what it really means is that this was the best of what they shot. But hey, given the choice between viewing this or Dungeons & Dragons on a rainy afternoon, I can definitely vouch for Dragonball: Evolution.
Bechdel Rule: FAILURE
The females, Bulma and Chi-Chi, did a good job of not interacting with each other through the entirety of the film. However, their only interaction, which wasn’t actually an interaction between the two (a lot less complicated than it sounds), was the implication that one hooked up with a guy.