Archive for February, 2009

Turn-A Gundam: Turn! Turn! Turn! A!

The confusion implicit in this screencap (Dianna is Kihel here), more or less, is Turn-A in a nutshell.

This post is circa episode 23, so expect spoilers when applicable.

If Universal Century Gundam is Tomino’s exploration of human evoution more than a masterwork of anti-war anime (and you’ll have to forgive me as I’ve forgotten where I read that; I think it was a comment somewhere around the aniblogohedron, perhaps Schneider?), then Correct Century is Tomino actually taking on the anti-war angle more head-on, it seems. First and foremost in my mind is the shifting lines between who’s fighting for whom, when. Unlike Zeta Gundam’s gradual fractioning of the various agencies that compromised the Titans and the A.E.U.G., this isn’t necessarily betrayal; rather, it’s much more complex than that.

For one, Kihel Heim and Dianna Soriel switched places. The inherent comic irony in having the grand leader of Dianna Counter swap places with the secretary to a now-useless Guin Lineford–very much a princess-and-the-pauper effect, even if Kihel is extremely ladylike herself. The usual accompaniment of morality associated with the classic tale of role reversal is clearly present: Dianna learns about the hardship of human life on Earth and experiences up close the ravages of war in the surgical room; Kihel, meanwhile, finds her hands full trying to balance out all the duties of state, appease her advisers, Dianna Counter, and the Militia alike. And, even if it’s stressful, both recognize the other’s feats: Dianna feels genuine grief over the death of Kihel’s father, and Kihel delivers (as Dianna) a declaration that expresses Dianna’s innermost feelings better than she feels even she could.

In the midst of all this, of course, people shift sides almost recklessly: Will Game meets Dianna, the girl his grandfather always reminisced about, and, not realizing that she is Dianna, joins Dianna Counter to travel to the moon and meet Dianna, and gets himself killed. Corin Nander, a decidedly psychopathic killer unleashed by shadowy Moonrace factions in order to provoke more tension between Earth and Moon, is defeated by Dianna and Loran, only to show up later at Keith’s bakery as a kindly if eccentric travelling monk, sans memories of anything except the terror of the Turn-A Gundam. Corin’s accomplices Jacop and Bruno attach themselves to Teteth as she embarks on a quest to assassinate Dianna (not realizing that Dianna is Kihel), then when luck turns bad attach themselves to Loran’s Gallop and nearly unwittingly assist in the eventual death of Teteth. Harry Ord, he of more potent manliness than Char Aznable (I’m half-expecting a SUPER HARRY moment a la SUPER ASIA although I know it’s not coming), is forced into fighting Dianna Counter in order to protect the true Dianna from Poe rampaging with a giant beam weapon.

Does this sound confusing? Not as confusing as this was to me:

I still cannot believe Agrippa Maintainer has such cute pyjamas. Like, seriously. You dont wear those pyjamas when youre an EVIL-LOOKING MASTERMIND.

I still cannot believe Agrippa Maintainer MIDGARD SORRY GUYS has such cute pyjamas. Like, seriously. You don't wear those pyjamas when you're an EVIL-LOOKING CONSPIRATORIAL MASTERMIND.

Turn-A’s war is a literal quagmire of a war, one where a unified will doesn’t exist on any one side. Lines blur; the greatest enemy for the Moonrace might be a faction in their own ranks, and the same for the loosely banded Earthrace. Driving a lot of the actions are raw emotion: Sochie refuses to give in to the Moonrace because of her father’s death, and so prolongs the conflict in her rage-born attempts to wreak revenge. Poe is similar, except rather than any one particular death, she’s instead obsessed with defeating the Turn-A, which she can never seem to do; each successive attempt drives her even further up the wall with rage and steels her resolve to take the battle to the next level. It’s a distinctly different sense from the betrayal-prone Zeta sides: Zeta factions were in tenuous alliances with each other that eventually disintegrated; Turn-A has people from both sides working towards a certain, common goal, one they can’t seem to agree on the exact nature of, and doing it through wildly varied means.

Amidst this all stands the Turn-A, more useful, it seems, as impromptu cow transport, clothesline, washing machine, and inadvertent comic relief as it tries to reattach its head in the midst of sudden combat. It is a focal point for the combat between the two sides, but it’s not really been doing much of anything, really; it didn’t even start working until the surprise Dianna Counter attack and quickly came to dominate the dialogue between the two sides. Loran refuses to fight in the Turn-A as much as possible, keeping damage and causalities to a minimum when he does. For all of its threatening to Corin, who deems it the “white devil of the Black History”, it has that comical moustache that makes it look fairly silly. It’s allegedly dangerous, and that’s why the Moonrace rushes to control it, to prevent the Black History from happening again.

But–again–it’s not doing anything. So what gives?

(Of course, I–having already seen the series–know exactly what’s up, but, since this is a post limited to the first twenty-three episodes, for the sake of my sanity and thought process, and your presumed spoiler inhibition, all I can really say is that. Alas. Now I want to watch more, harder, better, faster, and stronger*–more or less so I can write what is now tumbling around in my mind and at least give some kind of weird voice to stray thoughts.)

* this is why that is there, since that took place two hours ago from now, which is not the now you are reading this, but the now I am writing this, which isn’t even a single isolated temporal unit and oh forget it

Toradora!: Christmas on Valentine’s

Tears of a Tiger

Tears of a Taiga

It seems so strangely appropriate to catch up with Toradora! on Valentine’s Day, despite the fact that the three episodes I caught up with revolve around Christmas Eve–yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is The Christmas Episode of Toradora!, but, keeping with the standard Toradora! tradition, it does The Christmas Episode correctly but backwards. In fact–although I am no expert on Christmas Episodes, this one might just be my favorite yet–that might be afterglow, though, or an utter lack of remembrance of the other excellent Christmas episodes in the heat of the moment of NOW, or, most likely of all, me making things up.

And yet I cannot help but be impressed by how perfect the sequence of episodes leading up to the Christmas Eve dance played out–if this weren’t Toradora!. The fight with the outgoing student council president practically put Taiga and Kitamura together into happy matrimony in one fell swoop–hardly a day has passed before people start talking about how perfect a couple they are, and start instinctively finding excuses for them to be together–even driving Kihara, the loveable-yet-woefully-underused Ai Nonaka character’s mad drive to set Ryuuji and Taiga up so that she can steal Kitamura for herself. (Have I said lately that I love Ai Nonaka? I love Ai Nonaka). Taiga, meanwhile, simultaneously plays the part of Santa Claus and Cupid, fulfilling her end of the long-forgotten bargain they made at the start. It takes time, and even some heartache for Taiga herself (that poor star ornament…), but she manages to pierce though Minorin’s shroud of gloom long enough to get her to meet Ryuuji at the dance.

Everything went perfectly, which meant that it went  (as the patient viewer understands almost immediately) horribly wrong. Taiga only realizes Ryuuji’s sheer dedication to her after she’s sent him packing to meet Minorin–who, in turn, seems to sacrifice her own as-yet-unspoken feelings for Ryuuji after inadvertently seeing Taiga’s breakdown. It’s possibly significant in some small, minor way that we never actually seem to know whether Minorin likes Ryuuji in that way or not–after all, her entire personality is couched in studied ambiguity and a self-defeatist attitude that causes her to place others before her, not because she’s selfless, but because she feels them more worthy than she feels herself. We explicitly know so little of Minorin, and yet the fact that we know so little explicitly tells us much implicitly; she reminds me more than a little, somewhat jarringly and unexpectedly, of me, except I have much more normal-colored hair and I don’t have a voice nearly as awesome as Yui Horie’s (did I menton I love silky heart? I love silky heart, and I want to dissect the OP sequences at the end of the series if only to listen to it and pre-parade over and over again), and I suck at pitching. But then again, Taiga, and Ryuuji, and Ami, and Kitamura all also remind me of  me, in large and small ways, either as I am now, as I was in the past, or as I might be in the future.

Does she have feelings for Ryuuji? Hard to tell, exactly, but it’s certain that if they Became an Item, there would be feelings involved in short notice. I leave the interpretation of “feelings” up to you, dear reader, but whether they exist or not, they’re tossed aside–casually, almost cruelly to both her and Ryuuji–simply to keep Taiga from the anguish that Minorin feels she deserves more than Taiga does. And, simply by that, the perfect Christmas Eve is ruined, dreams dashed and feelings laid bare, much like a certain Christmas tree ornament. It can be reassembled, and it really isn’t a bad thing–but it’s a team effort, and it’ll be different than before, maybe more beautiful, maybe less–but they do it, because it’s what they have to do.

Its like were in some kind of romantic comedy!

"It's like we're in some kind of romantic comedy!"

Now that I have a somewhat-grip on what will possibly happen in the next seven episodes, watch Toradora! take what I think is going to happen and upend it again. It seems to be quite fond of doing that lately; this is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite.

Turn-A Gundam: Diplomatic Breakdowns

The Cake of Unity above the Vegetables of Discord

The Cake of Unity above the Brussels Sprouts of Discord

Turn-A Gundam (∀ Gundam if you want to get really precise) has always been one of my favorite Gundam series; it more or less was my favorite Gundam series (excepting G, but that’s G) until 00 came along, and I still haven’t (and probably won’t bother) sorting out which of my personal Gundam Triumverate I like better than the others. Out of some kind of insanely wild hair, I added Turn-A to the roster of series I am currently following, and unexpectedly blazed through the first ten episodesl, faster, even, than my first trip through the series.

Turn-A was always the oddest of the oddball AU series–the first episode has a palpable lack of anything robotic past the first two minutes, and no robots are even seen until towards the end of episode 2. Fighting is scarce and rare; Loran and the Turn-A spend far more time washing clothes and chasing down livestock than actually beating other robots up. Part of that ties in with the thematics of the series as a whole (which will come in a later post, hopefully, even though I could do it now; I’d like to keep the posts contained to at least 10-episode chunks at the least), but early on it’s more or less imposed by the fact that the Moonrace and the Earthrace aren’t exactly at war, but neither are they at peace. They, instead, operate at a tenuous level due to miscommunication, bad planning and timing, and general communications breakdown. In the early episodes, neither Dianna Soriel nor Guin Lineford want to go to war–in fact, I think this general state of non-war extends throughout the whole series, more or less–but through actions entirely out of their control, they’re forced to war with each other, despite the intentions of both being pure.

Even at this early phase, there’s still the suspicion of Foul Play afoot amongst the Moonrace, but only in passing and only if you’re truly paying attention properly (or aren’t like me in the first watching, perhaps). Unlike other Gundam series (or, at least, those I’ve seen), it isn’t the leaders of the individual groups pushing them to war, it’s small factions within the groups themselves. Unlike other Gundam series, the two factions aren’t pre-existingly at war, and I don’t think they ever actually truly go to war. What should have been a peaceful landing for the Moonrace is, instead, turned into a nightmare of bloodshed and the awakening of the Turn-A through simple failure to communicate properly. The simple early mistake breeds mistrust on both sides, and events quickly spiral out of control, leaving Dianna and Guin scrambling for diplomacy in the face of continuous and nearly uncontrollable aggresion from both sides. Whereas civilians (in general) hardly ever seem to be anything other than a quaternary consideration in other Gundam series, Turn-A has a conflict instigated and started by the civilians of the factions, forcing the military and executive arms of the factions to engage in hostilities neither wish for.

Couple with that Loran’s status as both a Moonrace loyalist and a Milita soldier in the Turn-A, and the fact that Dianna and Kihel swap places for most of the series, and you have Turn-A: the Tomino Gundam that feels much more like 00. Rather than the grim feelings of revenge  earlier Tomino Gundam protagonists had, Loran wishes most for peace and harmony, even as he pilots the Turn-A, the major point of contention between the two factions, and, ironically, the very device he uses to help him assist understanding and facilitate communication between the two factions.  He is a freedom fighter, in the sense that he deliberately doesn’t bear arms for freedom, and engages in combat reluctantly. The lack of Gundam-standard flashy action, then, serves the theme of the series better than if it were omnipresent as it is in many other Gundam series–it is not a hindrance of the series, but a strength, one that, however,  can alienate a viewer watching Gundam more for action than for characters.

Perhaps it watches better than I feel I make it sound here, as seems to be the case for a lot of Tomino series (or maybe I’m trying t0o hard to both be coherent and spoiler-free beyond the first ten episodes), but whether or not I can actally describe things properly with words here or not, Turn-A seems almost better to revisit than to watch for the first time. An odd feeling, to be sure.

Kimikiss~pure rouge: A Tripartite Case Study

I think this sums up my mood at the moment.

It seems rather unfair to treat Kimikiss as anything other than a complete 24-episode unit–the dizzying roller-coaster whirl nature of the series rarely makes any outcome inevitable. At the same time, it’s also hard not to deal with the series in three  discrete units, one for each of the main characters (Kouichi, Kazumi, and Mao); even if two of them are essentially part of the same arc, reducing the series to two intertwined story arcs still seems to do a disservice to the stories of each.

All three of Kimikiss’s main arcs deal directly with a love triangle; polygonic though the series might frequently be, the triangular nature of the relationships remains when considered on a character-by-character basis. The points of the triangle remain the same, but merely shifted: the central character supported by a long-standing friend who cheers them on (to their detriment) and pursuing the promise of love. I was struck by the realization upon completion that Kimikiss was eerily like Toradora! in structure: the friends, each supporting the romantic pursuits of the other, while remaining blissfully unaware of what exists between the two of them in the first place. Whereas Toradora! seems to have mutually exclusive outcomes (barring a final episode that ends in a five-person orgy–which, let’s face it, would be the best outcome for all involved, character and viewer alike, in Toradora!), Kimikiss, by its bifurcated nature, can exhibit both possible denouements, and the inevitable heartbreak that accompanies both resolutions.

In addition, Kimikiss’s other strength is the high level of “show, don’t tell” execution. Even in the end, we never got an explicit reveal of the pasts of the characters, at least, not more than was necessary to aid in the understanding of the present, and always implicit rather than explicit. The implicit nature of the characterization and motives means that the viewer of Kimikiss cannot exactly be a passive viewer, it would seem; the viewer is forced to interact with Kimikiss, mentally and/or textually, in order to understand if not necessarily agree with the decisions made by the characters.

As such, I feel it necessary to split the discussion of the three main characters into three parts; there will obviously be crossing-over of paths for at least two of them, but it still doesn’t feel right to stick them both in the same post, being from different perspectives and having different ramifications. I’m going to play with paginated posts for this one, if only because a) three posts is ridiculously excessive and b) feature experimentation is fun.

This might be what you want to do to me after this post.

This might be what you want to do to me after this post.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Front Page: 1
Case A: Kazuki, Sakino, and Futami: 2
Case B: Mao/Kai Side: 3

Case B: Souichi/Yuumi Side: 4
Final Thoughts: 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5


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