Archive for April 27th, 2008

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The Levithan of Character Development

My Custom Haro is preparing for battle. You would be wise to be terrified.

So after a protracted “discussion” with Owen S from Cruel Angel’s Theses he practically instructed me to write this post, so I am!

The most common criticism I hear leveled against Gundam 00 is the supposed lack of character development. Now, first, I checked Wikipedia for what is most likely intended by the phrase “character development” and, lo and behold, I was looking at it slightly funny. Character development, of course, is the procees of a character changing in some significant way over the course of a work of fiction. Which I already knew. However, I had somehow folded characterization into the definition of character development, as it makes more linguistic sense to me. If you are “developing” the characters, wouldn’t it track both a deepening of the personality and a change over the work?

Thinking about it, it’s probably somewhat accurate to state that Gundam 00 did not have “character development” in the sense of the actual definition. What happens to the characters, especially the Meisters, isn’t a gradual change in their personalities, but rather a deepening of the viewer’s understanding of their static character–the process of characterization. I posit two things: one, that it is most likely outside the scope of Mizushima’s intent with Gundam 00 to “develop” the characters as one might expect; and two, what we have at the moment is only half of the entirety of Gundam 00. We have no idea what’s going to happen in season 2, so it’s possible that all the change was saved up for then. And as for the first, as SDS points out, Gundam 00 is more like the original Mobile Suit Gundam than any of the other AU series, in the sense that it portrays how war affects people. Technically they should change, but what we have in season one is a 25-episode study in how war affects the human consciousness. Mizushima accomplishes this more through portraying the character’s emotional reactions to events in the series. A character having a strong emotional reaction to some kind of external event that they can’t control is valid characterization, as it shows you what they find upsetting; you may not like it, which is perfectly acceptable, but it isn’t invalid.

In conclusion, I guess, the main difference between fans of Gundam 00 and not-fans of Gundam 00 is a difference in how they wish to see characters portrayed in their anime. Characterization has a certain kind of style to it, and if you don’t like the style of a certain series’ charateriation, then you’re going to like that series less. It’s like how I’m ambivalent (or, really, downwright bipolar) towards Kaiba: objectively, it’s good; subjectively, it fails to grab me in any significant way that makes me appreciate it the way Yuasa intendts me to appreciate it. DIfferent strokes and all that.

I also notice that a lot of the criticism of Gundam 00 of this nature comes from those with limited exposure to the Gundam franchise, and so therefore they’re bringing a different perspective to the matter. Most people with more exposure to the Gundam franchise I’ve seen do one of two things: enjoy Gundam 00 wholeheartedly, sometimes with reservations; or watch two episodes of it and declare it Gundam Wing Part the Second and dismiss it out of hand. That’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s to say that there’s two ways of looking at the series: as an anime that started in Fall 2007, and as a part of the Gundam franchise. SInce I subscribe to the latter, the former is a mystery to me.

kure-nai: Level Up! Gained New Ability: Shampooing One’s Own Hair!

I cannot take any more Murasaki cuteness. First she can’t reach the button in the elevator (and complains about it and is summarily trapped in said elevator) and then she finally figures out how to shampoo her own hair. Badly, of course (you have to scrub the whole hair, not just the top, dear) but that’s Murasaki for you.

The reason behind the mysterious kidnapping of Murasaki by Benika at the start of the series is revealed, as well as Benika’s reasons for putting her in the care of Shinkurou. It’s a well-matched set of events, and I can already see that their plan is starting to bear fruit. Murasaki is quite different than she was in episode 1, where all she could do was talk down at Shinkurou. Shinkurou, for his part, seems to have grown a kind of affection for Murasaki as well. If he didn’t feel affection for her, he wouldn’t chastise and rebuke her as much as he does, let alone get into a shouting match with her like last episode. And his immediate shift from passive sackdoll to aggressive guard dog when Murasaki was theatened has much, much more of a parental nature than a business one.

Before I watched this episode, I got curious and looked up the definition of “kurenai” [紅] on edict (it means “crimson”, perhaps meaning blood) and discovered an interesting fact that you’d only get by looking at the Japanese names of the characters: Shinkurou’s last name is, of course, simply Kurenai (full name: 紅 真九郎). The “beni” in Benika, however, is the same kanji (full name: 柔沢 紅香) but an alternate reading. (The 香 [ka] part of her name, incidentally, means “incense, fragrance”; in keeping with the idea of 紅 as “blood” perhaps this could mean that her name literally means “smell of blood”, a charming name for a charming lady). It’s a silly little touch I noticed. I haven’t determined if it means anything or not. although I guess it could imply a sort of blood tie between them.

I’m finding it hard to figure out exactly what attracts me so much to kure-nai, aside from the Murasaki Moe Moments, which would be enough to carry any series. There’s something more than that, however, and the direction for the series absolutely shines in ways I hadn’t considered when I watched Rozen Maiden years and years ago. Matsuo Kou is truly a talented director, and just watching kure-nai I’m getting the urge to be the third person ever to buy Red Garden DVDs and watch them. I don’t know how much of this is the influence of him and the main screenwriter, and how much is the influence of the original author, Katayama Kentarou, but the series is extremely skilled on all three fronts in maintaining a sense that the characters who know each other, know each other well. You see this whenever Shinkurou is at school: the dialogue isn’t like most anime, where the characters dump exposition on each other in casual conversation; you instead get the feeling that these people have known each other for years and years and you, the viewer, can sense an undercurrent running under what’s actually being said.

It’s the combinatrion of the writing, both original and adaptation, and direction that turns kure-nai from “cute series about cute girl” to a strong followup to true tears. It’s always the case for me that whenever a season ends and a series I’ve grown attached to is over with, I feel strange, like nothing that’s good in that special way will come along again and the pervasive fear that I’ll mysteriously fall out of anime somehow creeps upon me, something always comes the next season and knocks those feelings away. It’s a necessary feature to being a loyal follower of anime, I find, this willingness to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. If one dwells on one series too long, one forgets to appreciate series that one sees after it and finds that they are drawing comparisons between what they’re currently watching and what they’ve loved in the past, and these comparisons are always negative for the series more fresh in their memory. Not that you can’t have favorites (I certainly have mine, and I have quite a lot of them, so I have trouble with top ten lists), but nether does the quality of series from the past negatively impact the quality of series in the present, or in the future.

And now I step off the small soapbox I just got on and conclude with this thought: Murasaki playing Nintendo DS. I am now envisioning Murasaki trying to play Ouendan, and this mental image is wonderful indeed.


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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April 2008