Archive for May 1st, 2008

Real Drive: Cyber-Diving Old Men and Kawasumi Ayako Clones

Production I.G., Shirow Masamune, and Furuhashi Kazuhiro have collectively lost their minds. And it’sawesome. And, yes, I skipped over all the old men diving naked and etc. for a pretty picture of Aoi Minamo, who is awesome in multiple ways.

But, yes, they’ve lost their minds. Furuhashi Kazuhiro has a rather interesting track record: he directed Binchou-tan, which is the cutest thing that I haven’t seen all of ever, and Zipang. I assume that Real Drive is more like the latter than the former, as I have yet to see any cute anthropomorphizations of charcoal show up in Real Drive, but that’s not to say that it won’t happen. Because, at this point, Binchou-tan could show up and it’d probably make sense in the context of the series.

I’m not really sure where I get this from, but I picked up a very noticable old-school Western science fiction riff from these first two episodes. I think it’s the world setup, maybe. I don’t really know where this feeling comes from, but the thought I had running throughout both episdoes was “wow, this feels old-school.” It’s not retro like Project BLUE: Earth SOS was retro, but it’s definitely got an older kind of sensibility coming from it. It feels kind of like Shirow channeled the spirit of Arthur C. Clarke and added pantyshots. That may not be the right author comparison, but I swear it feels like a modern version of something from a distant age.

The other fun thing about the series is the crazy pairing of the main characters. We get Haru Masamichi, who’s been stuck in a coma for fifty years and therefore looks like a wrinkled old man. We’ve got Aoi Minamo, a cheerful and upbeat fifteen year old girl who is apparently doing a school project or community service project at the hospital with her classmates. Iit’s a crazy age gap between the two major characters in a series. I’m guessing it’s done this way so that Minamo can act as a kind of foil for Haru, and vice versa.

And, speaking of Minamo, I am really liking the character designs in Real Drive. For one, the girls in the series aren’t impossibly skinny. Look at Nonaka Ai’s character–she’s got some heft to her. Not quite the heft of the dorm manager in Blue Drop, but enough to make you feel weird when you hear Nonaka Ai’s voice coming out of her. The rest of the girls we’ve seen in this series thus far haven’t been quite that extreme, but even Minamo has some flesh on her bones. The other characters (Souta, Haru, Eiichiro, and Holon) stand out from each other just fine (especially Haru because he’s old while everyone else in the series hasn’t aged at all in 50 years).

The other thing I want to mention is Minamo herself, or, rather, her presence in the series. As above, I assume they’re planning to use her as an age foil for Haru, but her appearance kind of jolted me a bit (and not just because I wasn’t expecting that pantyshot). Prior to her appearance, I thought that we’d have a series that dealt with adult characters (and most of the characters are, in fact, adults). When she showed up, however, it took me a few minutes to track and change my view of the series, especaily because given the serious tone of the series before that moment, the lightheartedness/cuteness snapped me into a different kind of mood.

Probably Minamo, in all her glory, exists in Real Drive as a direct result of moe and its far-reaching influence on anime. I’ve heard it said that it’s practially impossible for an anime to be successful if it doesn’t contain a cute girl of some kind or another in the series, the series would inevitably be much less of a success than it would be if there was a cute girl present. And I started wondering, would Minamo exist in Real Drive were it made in 1988 instead of 2008? Perhaps she would, but then she might be an older, more mature, no-nonsense woman, and not the cheery and genki and other bouncy adjectives Minamo that we have.

It certainly seems to be true; much of anime fandom, myself included (so don’t think I’m getting on my high horse and talking down at you) enjoy the series we do in part because they have cute girls in them. I can quite honestly say that, for me, enjoyment of the girls is a secondary or even tertiary reason to watch and enjoy a series. I’d argue (and will argue, once I get the time to sit down and write this post that’s been brewing in my head for months now) that, in anime, enjoyment of the women in a series is and pretty much has always been an integral part of anime viewership. What separates the hardcore moe afficinados from those who watch older series isn’t necessarily that the former is overly girl-obsessed and the latter is all about otoko no roman; even the manliest of shows from the 70s and 80s and even the 90s have their fair share of token eye candy female characters. The difference is in the kind of girl the girls are.

I’m not nearly well-read enough on pre-2000 anime compared to post-2000 anime (my major weakness, I’ll admit, but one can’t know everything), but from what I’ve seen (especially the really old series like Super Diminsional Fortress Macross, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Zeta Gundam) that there’s no less an element of tacking on female characters in series that don’t really need them, but the kind of girl they are is distinctly different. There’s probably more series nowadays that are heavily cute-girl-centric, I’ll admit that, but there’s a lot from earlier decades that got swept under the rug never to be mentioned again. It’s one reason I find criricisms of the moe phenomenon from fans of older series somewhat perplexing–it’s the same thing, it’s just a different kind of girl. It’s like the age-old argument between Western comics fans and manga fans: Which is more degrading to women, comics or manga? The answer is, of course, both are capable of being incredibly degrading and incredibly empowering. It all depends on your taste, and what you’re used to seeing. And taste varies wildly across the board, so there’s no accounting for it.


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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May 2008