Archive for October 5th, 2008

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Welcome (back) To This Crazy Time

このふざけた時代へようこそ
君はTOUGH BOY TOUGH BOY TOUGH BOY TOUGH BOY

Or, uh, maybe not…

At any rate, despite being an extended 24-minute cameo sequence with explosions an episode focuing on what will probably be a series-long conflict between Setsuna and Saji (opening joke aside, I quite respect his emotional outburst and the subsequent aftermath of it. He’s had a harsh life up to this point) with brief cameos of other major characters there to set the stage and create palpable excitement for the second and final installment in the Gundam 00 saga. First, the cameos:

  • Soma and Sergei are living together? What kind of insanity is this? Soma is still a bundle of cute (doubly so now that Sunrise’s sinister plot has been revealed), but is this an assertion that Sergei is actually a dirty old man? Pretty good job, however, bagging a cute girl like Soma with a scar like that, though, so he wins.

    (yes, I know he’s probably just her protective, legal ward. Just like Julian was Yang Wenli’s “protective, legal ward”. Keep the snickering to yourself, ‘kay?)

  • I don’t know if I just missed Graham’s mask in the ending of Gundam 00 Part the First or if I’d forgotten it, but I still had a moment of both unintended hilarity and overwhemling manliness. Graham is probably the only person who could wear a mask like that and still be a manly man.
  • Billy and Sumeragi living together (or at least sharing a bed)? I saw it coming, but…
  • Ribbons, you bastard. You and your corruptive, manipulative ways, luring Wang Liu Min into your clutches.

    (she was evil before, yes, but she was hot evil. Speaking of, there’s someone noticably missing at the moment. I wonder who it could be…)

  • Felt will have very un-feminine thoughts when Neil Lyle Dylandy struts onto the bridge, according to the episode preview. I miss her poufy twintails, though, but she is still the Felt we all know and love. Complete with Haro.

More important, I think, was the establishment of conflict between Setsuna, the strict devotee of Celestial Being’s policy of armed interventions as a means of bringing about world peace forcibly, and Saji, whose life has been so affected by Celestial Being’s methods of bringing about world peace that he’s now on the complete opposite side, refusing to even shoot Setsuna because that would make him exactly like them: killing to save lives. I don’t think Mizushima is planning on pulling any punches in the philosophical war of how to end physical war. If it can even happen. Apparently, even though Earth united at the end of the first season, now we’ve got war in space with colonies, a much more familiar setting for a Gundam series, yet somehow having the backdrop for how Earth unified has the potential to make the subsequent colony/Earth war much more interesting. On the other, the terrestrial nature of the first season might be gone, but I don’t think the addressment of real-world issues will be gone.

In short, uh, I’m strangely estatic and happy and overjoiyed and ready to spend the next half a year finding out what goes on in 00 this time. In light of recent events, I’d been a bit worried about what’d happen when Gundam 00 started back up, but such worries have faded for now. Or else the Gundam 00 fanboy in me has just kicked into full gear again, ready to obsessively dissect and analyze the series again, for little reason.

Here’s to hoping that the drama will be contained in weekly 24-minute chunks and not a constant six-month battle. That’s almost as bad as the current election season!

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Tetsuwan Birdy Decode: Philosophical Musings on Shared Mentalspace

Well, okay, I’m probably lying about the “philosophical musings” part, and at any rate “philosophical” is a horribly overused term at times, which means that it effectively has been ascribed a truth value of zero, so I guess I’ll just call it what it is, or will be, which is ‘rambling nonsense” and leave it at that.

Also this post has spoilers, so you are warned!

So I’ve just finished Tetsuwan Birdy Decode, a series I went into with little to no expectations (and, honestly, in a niggling corner of my mind, expecting to dislike it, based on the totally inexplicable and frequently broken rule that “anime popular in the United States, in the 90s, from the 90s, I usually don’t like”, even though Tetsuwan Birdy Decode itself is from the 2000s so there goes that theory), and yet came out fairly impressed. Is it a spectacular series? Well, no, because if spectacular series were commonplace, the world “spectacular” and similar hyperbole-conducive words would become worthless.

Lack of spectacularity, however, doesn’t imply a lack of quality. One thing I noticed while watching the series was that it continually defied my expectations of where the story was going to go. Based on the first two episodes, I’d assumed that the series was going to be a kind of cop-and-robber (cop-and-evil-alien-genocidal-psychopath, rather) series, but then it shifted and became something slightly more complex, by killing off the characters who’d I’d assumed would be around harassing Birdy for a while in episodes 2 and 3, along with the untimely destruction of effeminent robotic “buddy” Tute. Then it spends a lot of time focusing on the relationship between Sayaka and Tsutomu, and then starts killing more people as Sayaka is revealed to be the host to the evil world-destroying Ryunka, leading to a battle of will between Birdy (and Tsutomu) and the ominous and clearly evil C.E.O. of mysterious origin Satyajit Shyamalan (and, with a name like that, you  can expect that there’s a few plot twists involving him too). All that and an ending that isn’t quite what you’d expect. I did guess the method of capturing the Ryunka (about five minutes before it happened, and it was one of those guesses that makes you happy when it happens, rather than upset at how predictable it was), but I didn’t see what happened after coming, making the final few minutes horribly depressing despite the always happy and upbeat Afromania ending song. At least I know there’s going to be a second season.

And, oddly enough, despite the fact that the series looks like it’s going to be this rowdy, action-packed, beat-’em-up, it isn’t. I think somewhere in there was where my initial assumptions about the series got tossed out the window–since it is a work from Yuuki Masami, part of the four-man team who, collaboratively, created the Patlabor franchise, I was expecting a lot more in the way of things being punched by Birdy’s light-enhanced fist of doom (which makes the concept of a fight between Birdy and Kenshiro amusing), even though I know from watching the first movie that Patlabor focused more on the characters over the fighting. Since a series that mostly revolved around punching things and not much else wouldn’t have held my attention very long, it was quite refreshing to spend several episodes not dealing with punching at all, but, rather, establishing the relationship between Tsutomu and Sayaka, which became one of the most bizarre triangles I’ve seen (I can’t really call it “love”, since Birdy more wants to kill Sayaka to get at the Ryunka in her, rather than jealous of her affection for Tsutomu).

The fun about the long stretch in the middle with the relationship buildup (and assorted menacing statements from Shyamalan) was more in noticing the very different aspects of mind duality in Tsutomu/Birdy and Sayaka/Ryunka. Tsutomu is conscious of the fact that he’s stuck within Birdy’s physical body (even if she can transform it into his physique through the unexplained power of alien magic), and, while there is a risk of the two separate consciousnesses merging and interfering with one another, they’re still clearly separate people. The two have to work together to acheive each other’s objectives, leading to moments where Tsutomu can’t do what he would like to do because of Birdy’s investigative work, and vice versa.

Opposite that, however, is Sayaka, who, rather than being conscious of the presence of another in her mind, is simply, and unknowingly, merging with the Ryunka. Rather than being at calm and ease with a bizarre co-habited mind as Tsutomu is, Sayaka grows ever more paranoid and worried about things around her and strange changes in herself–the same paranoid fears and worries that enable the parasitic Ryunka to obtain more control over her body. One of the best episodes of the series seemed like a throwaway episode–there’s a killer stalking the subway system, choking people to death, and, throughout the whole episode, you’re led to believe that it’s Sayaka doing the heinous crimes (she has dirty feet in the morning!). By this point in the story, the audience is well aware that Sayaka is the Ryunka host, so the mounting doubt and fear in private (having been built up over several episode as well), coupled with the calm demeanor at school, made for strangely compelling viewing. While the culprit turns out to be a malfunctioning android from Shyamalan’s company, there’s still a palpable sense of “if Sayaka isn’t doing that at night unawares, what is she doing?”.

Of course, the building fear and anguish leads directly to more reliance upon Tsutomu, who continues to support her even as the Ryunka takes greater control of her body. This is where the agonizingly depressing ending comes in–by removing the Ryunka from Sayaka, her memories of the previous three months (and, therefore, of Tsutomu and the events that had transpired between them) vanished as well. And then she gets transferred to a different school. To my romance-fiction-addicted heart, this was woefully tragic and deliciously heartbreaking, doubly so because the only way I can describe Sayaka is “amazingly cute”, a label made more deadly through the talents of Noto Mamiko. Call me a wuss if you must, but I enjoy heart-melting, even minor degress of heart-melting.

And yet, even after the whole series, I still wonder why people haven’t seen this. It’s not a MODERN CLASSIC by any means, but it seems woefully underrated for its merits.

Or maybe it’s just me.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

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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