Archive for December 30th, 2007

Gundam X got rather good all of a sudden

I don’t know what actually happened, but After War Gundam X, mid-series, just got a hell of a lot better. It’d been quite enjoyable before, although I could really see why it got canceled. Gundam X is a strange beast of a Gundam. It feels really weird, and a lot more “episodic” at first. Oh, there’s multi-episode plot arcs galore, but they all felt rather standalone. However, in episode 21 we got the introduction of the midseries upgrade, the Gundam Double X. It looks suitably scary and imposing and like it’s about ready to blow up small islands at the drop of a hat. We also get the actual antagonist entity for Jamil and co. to fight against by 24.

What sets this series apart from other Gundam series (and why the first 20 episodes feel so weird) is that it’s not about fighting a war so much as fighting the spectre of war. The name of the timeline is well suited to explaining this–since the series takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it is indeed After War. This isn’t a Gripping War Melodrama like most other Gundam series tend to be (except for G, because Imagawa Yasuhiro is…well, Imagawa Yasuhiro), it’s a Gripping After War Melodrama. See what I’m getting at?

What do we find as the focus of many of the early arc plots? We find that they tend to revolve around old, abandoned projects that might have been table-turning in the war, if they had ever actually come to fruition. There’s the whole sequence in the snowy fort dealing with the Patrouria and artifical Newtypes to destroy the world again. Then there’s the whole sequence on the ocean where first they’re helping Newtype dolphins escape the fate of being turned into radar systems (The Newtype dolphin, by the way, is quite gar) and then they’re confronting Project L, another remnant of the war that poses a threat to the crew of the Frieden.

This isn’t quite a war to end all wars, like we’re getting in Gundam 00 right now. Instead, it’s something more subtle–it’s trying to, as is bandied about before the Double X gets stolen,  fight against the future and prevent another large-scale disaster like the massive colony drop. It’s not quite the same, but there’s a clear semantical difference between X and other Gundam series. I think it’s that difference that contributed to why it ended up “failing”, but it’s also that difference that makes it a good series. It’s one of those series that, while not ahead of its time, people just weren’t ready for it at the time it aired.

We’ve got 00 airing right now, and I’d really like to see what Sunrise does with the franchise after both seasons of 00 have finished airing. The only Gundam I’ve ever been disappointed in was Destiny, but I also haven’t watched Wing and ZZ, which are usually the most reviled, but I plan to when I get the chance to. It’s quite fun to see what each new alternate Gundam universe does that’s different and strange from the others.

G is still the best, though. I refuse to budge on that matter.

Well, that was unexpectedly cheerful and upbeat

I just want to know what that other paper airplane was.

Just when you think the Renji x Chihiro arc is over with, whoops! It’s not! Contrary to my predictions, ef was ultimately not quite a tragedy, or even very bittersweet–instead, it’s something more. Since episode 7, the series has sent its loyal and devoted viewers on an emotional rollercoaster of sorrow and triumph and heartache. As with all things, I value the getting there much more than the conclusion (a value that is almost essential to being an anime fan) but, in ef’s case, the conclusion is very strong indeed. ef really is a romance story done the right way–it’s not comfort food like those slim Harlequin paperbacks you see at Wal-Mart, but rather a twisted, tangled path to the ultimately happy conclusion.

I guess the ending in bittersweet in the sense that all the characters had to prevail over intense emotional suffering before ending up in an ultimately happy position–Chihiro over the pain of trying to forget about Renji, Renji over Chihiro forgetting about him, Hirono over being torn between two girls, Kei over the pain of losing Hirono to Miyako, and Miyako over the pain of a meaningless existence. The video director guy (who I still can’t remember the name of, and I’m sure it was in this episode somewhere) is just kind of…there, to give Kei someone to be foisted on after Hirono chooses Miyako. One weak character in this cast, however, I can forgive.

The coda was quite nice, and we get to see that everything seems to have worked out happily for everyone involved, which is never a bad thing. The ending didn’t feel like they artificially made it happy just because it’s easier to end on a high note. Rather, it felt more like the logical next step. Of course Chihiro wouldn’t forget about Renji quite so easily (although if she was really determined she would have conked herself in the head with a mallet and remained unconscious past the time limit). Of course Hirono would choose the lonely Miyako over the almost domineering Kei, whom he sees more as family than as a potential love mate. Foregone conclusions never hurt something on their own; see previous post for the emphasis placed on execution over originality.

ef is certainly a high watermark for the eroge conversion genre, and if more eroge (and their adaptations) learn from it, this can only be a good thing. I said before I’d like to have strong stories (with sex) rather than sex with a bit of plot in it. Still stands.

Fuko + Party Hat = Win

Fuko ;_____________________________________________________________;

As one of the few Fuko fans around, the actual conclusion to her arc was beautiful. I was afraid they’d kill her off or something horrible like that, but instead we get a bittersweet wedding. The best part of it was the milling crowds outside the school after the wedding–after everyone forgetting about Fuko and the wedding, they all mysteriously remembered the day of the wedding and showed up to wish congratulations upon Fuko’s sister. I, personally, am incredibly happy that Fuko got to hand her sister a starfish–I didn’t quite cry, but it was about to happen.

Speaking of crying, that’s what I like about Key games (or, rather, their respective anime series)–the actual resolutions to character arcs are, when deconstructed into their most basic form, sound really, really cheesy. I’m a firm believer in the power of execution over concept, as there are really no concepts that you can’t boil down into a really silly sounding sound bite, and Key games prove this. It’s hard to put my finger on why, exactly, but, somehow, with a combination of good writing and Kyoto Animation’s always extremely competent directing, even the most trite and ridiculous of resolution can fill one with emotion. They’re not anime masterpiece classics in the making, but they are extremely fun to watch, if your deal happens to be getting all tied up emotionally with an anime girl. They’re extremely good at this, which is something I’d expect from what is essentially one of the pioneers of the moe trend.

Another highlight of episode 9: Fuko forcing Nagisa and Tomoya to refer to each other by first name. They’re such a charming couple, it’s wonderful to watch their relationship take little steps like this. I guess I’m just a big ol’ softy.

And I remember seeing screencaps of Fuko in PARTY HAT in a later episode, so that means I get MORE Party Hat Fuko and I can die of cute overload. Party hats are now the most moe headgear ever.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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December 2007