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Super Dimension Century Orguss – whimsical space and time travel nonsense

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. Read the rest of this entry

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Star Driver

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. Read the rest of this entry

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

[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. Read the rest of this entry

Tekkaman Blade – a syfy Freudian fantasy

Tekkaman Blade should really have consisted of nothing more than awesome robots and dramatic posturing, not the Natural Born Killers-esque story of familial slaughtering and rampaging 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.

10 minutes of “space lance” and other assorted bad acting

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.)

Awesome fighting ability - check. Mysterious psychic connection to the lead character - check. Destined for fight to the death - check. Prefers the color red - check. Be careful. He is a CHAR! 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.

The man on your left is your ideal self. The woman next to her is an advancement for your brother's dominance in the family. The man in the middle is your brother ultimate opponent for genetic dominance. The little girl is your obsession and idealization of innonence. The man to her right is your shadow and your means to self actualization and authenticity through his defeat. The man to his right taught you how to fight, so be grateful because he taught you to be a man. 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 drastically improved second opening of the series, “Woo My Destiny”, featuring unexpected Gainaxing by the very young Milly
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