Archive for the 'a-i' Category



Turn-A Gundam: Turning A Fresh Page

"...and within it were all the problems of the world...

Turn-A Gundam ends, as it always does (especially when you’re Tomino), in a psychedelic freakout that might even rival that (in)famous ending to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, albeit with less Thus Sprach Zarathrusta and with more Kagiri Naki Tabiji. (more on music later, it’s an interesting aspect of Turn-A I keep forgetting to address properly)

It also, notably, almost ends in a samurai sword showdown. Not a beam saber showdown. A samurai sword showdown.

As Gym Ghingham unearths the Turn-X, both of the Turn units start to react to one another and begin using the ultimate weapon of doom, the Moonlight Butterfly. Almost as a side effect of the resonance between the two units, the loosely allied factions crumble into even more disparate factions than I can keep track of. I’m pretty sure, by the end, it was Dianna Counter plus Loran, Sochie, Kihel, Miashei and Harry versus nearly everyone else. I’m not entirely sure how Dianna Counter went from “Dianna sucks let’s have a coup d’etat” to “We love you Dianna please come back” in the space of 13 episodes (I suspect the death of Agrippa Maintainer as much as I do Tomino ex Machina), but there you go.

More importantly, perhaps, is the nature of the Black History: namely, the Universal Century. Of course, that’s not all–the three AU Gundam series made prior to Turn-A‘s release (G, W, and X) are referenced. I admit I’m not that good enough to remember/catch the W and X references myself (I think someone had the Harmonica Cannon from X, and I think I saw Wing Zero at one point, but I’ve no idea what Wing Zero looks like so…). The basic, implicit premise is that, in Correct Century, war has been repeated over and over again, hence the repeated insistence that various characters not repeat the mistakes of the past. Of course, then again, the Black History itself was sealed off and known only to a few. And then there’s that old saw about those who do not learn from history being doomed to repeat it.

Of course, by broadcasting the Black History to everyone, Dianna ensures that all know of and understand the Black History’s repeated sequence of war after war after war, and can now hopefully learn from it and not repeat it. There’s probably a meta-joke here, about how Dianna starts the healing process towards peace by essentially forcing everyone to watch Mobile Suit Gundam, but I won’t make it, even if I just did.

And building on the “Miltonian conflict” between the Turn-A and the Turn-X discussed earlier [->], I still say that the Turn-A (at least in Loran’s hands) represents the force of peace, and the Turn-X represesnts the force of chaos (or war, or what have you), but even if they stand for each other’s moral opposites, they both, essentially have the same effect: the Turn-A can easily be used in a peaceful way, but it can just as easily–and almost by its very programming–be used for war. Worse, the Turn-A left the Turn-X with a battle scar the last time they dueled, and, as Gundam teaches us, if you get a scar, you have to seek vengeance on who gave it to you, no matter what. The essential effect is that, even if Turn-A is fighting for peace–even if its pilot wants to end war forever, without resorting to the Moonlight Butterfly–it still brings about war and destruction. Hence the Moonlight Butterfly: the ultimate peace enforcer, it just wipes everything out and says “TRY AGAIN [Y/N].”

What does happen in the end, though–whether metaphysically influenced by Loran’s use of the Turn-A throughout the whole series, or simply the nature of its default programming following a close encounter with the Turn-X–is the two unit’s Moonlight Butterfly effects literally reforming a cocoon around the two units (and, incidentally, sucking Gym Ghingnham up with them) and creating a virtual Pandora’s Egg for the twin warriors of war and peace. This description, of course, might seem to imply that Gym Ghingnham is the personification of Hope, but note that Loran seemed to evade the tendrils of the formation. Rather than a “creation”, then, perhaps it’s a “re-sealing” of Pandora’s Box, leaving Hope on the outside, wearing a stylish white pilot suit and clutching a broken sword.

Even though Turn-A Gundam was made in 1999, long before SEED and 00 were even contemplated, Turn-A is probably best seen as the conclusion to the whole Gundam cantos (can you tell I’ve been reading Dan Simmons [->] lately?), the moment where the endless wars of Gundam fame are finally laid to rest, and people get on with more important things, like “roleplaying Henry David Thoreau and/or Ralph Waldo Emerson” and “building buildings” and “not marrying Sochie” [->] (oops how did that last one slip in there?). A capstone, if you will–certainly fitting for Tomino’s last entry into the Gundam franchise (unless he’s persuaded otherwise).

A NOTE ON THE MUSIC

I think, perhaps, my favorite part about the soundtrack–probably my favorite of Yoko Kanno’s, not that I’m a SUPER-EXPERT on Yoko Kanno’s prolific output–is the constand weaving of folk/ethnic/native musical themes into the soundtrack (I am going to call it “folk’ even if it isn’t, so TAKE THAT musical snartypants) . The first opening sequence [->] starts with throat singing of the words “Turn A” (and you don’t get more folkcore than throat singing, let me tell you), and many of the background pieces have a decidedly folk bent, especially the ones surrounding the Moon Hippies who have an extremely shamanic chant motif. The many versions of the second ending theme (“Tsuki no Mayu”/”Moon’s Cocoon”), too, are impressively folkish, with its rhythmic, entrancing drumbeats.

The nature of Turn-A lends itself well to the running folk themes, with its tale of death and rebirth, and the cyclical nature of everything sounding very much like animistic/spiritual teachings of various aboriginal cultures (you know, the ones who were going along just fine until some white devils showed up ….sound a bit familiar, perhaps?). Even Vicinity (and maybe Nocis City) had elaborate shamanistic rituals for the “coming of age” that centered around the White Doll/Turn-A.

In short: my rewatch of Turn-A Gundam was quite fruitful indeed. I think I have a deeper understanding of why I find it among the best Gundam series, something I think I felt innately when I first watched it, but, perhaps, not truly understood until later.

Or maybe I just really like pseudo-religio-spiritio-mythological mumbo-jumbo. This no doubt makes me a Nut Job, I am sure.

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Eureka Seven: Seven Swell? More Like Seven Crescendo

There are only SIX colors in the Seven Swell! No wonder it was called the Summer of Love.

I'm pretty sure that's not ROY G. BIV order, but that's okay.

Alas, “Seven Crescendo” is not quite as delightfully alliterative, and anyway the Seven Swell Effect isn’t much of a crescendo, even though Eureka Seven is.

Upon my seemingly never-ending plate of “series to rewatch” that has accumulated over the past few years (and is currently almost obliterating the notion of watching “newer series” for the time being) is now Eureka Seven, a series that I’ve looked forward to rewatching since I finished watching it the first time, in 2006. Eureka Seven places high on my list of “series that had an emotional impact on me”; indeed, I remember finding it hard to watch or read anything for several days in the wake of watching the final 15 or so episodes in one go. I also remember, the Monday after, nearly breaking down in tears while driving just because “Nirvash typeZERO” from the soundtrack was playing.

Upon revising the series, even after many of the specifics have faded from memory, I now better understand the reasoning behind the Tokyo Anime Fair’s award to Eureka Seven for “Best Screenplay”. One of the most common criticisms I’ve seen launched at Eureka Seven is that, for one reason or another, the early episodes of the series are “uninteresting”. It’s easy to understand why this is held against it, as many of the early episodes are, essentially, Renton and His Comical Misadventures Aboard the Gekko. To someone promised awesome with Eureka Seven, the early episodes are frequently a letdown, it seems, depending on what the individual’s definition of “awesome” entails. Does it entail cool surfing robot fights? Well, they tend to be disappointed, as there’s not a whole lot of that; but for those with more interest in characters than cool surfing robot fights come out almost equally disappointed, for there seems to be too much of the robots and not enough of the characters. And let’s not even talk about those for whom the phrase “surfing robot fights” should never be preceded by the adjective “cool“, ever.

What happens is that in addition to the wacky antics of Maurice, Maeter, and Linck annoying the bejezus out of Renton, of Renton being hazed repeated by the other Gekkostate members are tiny bits of foreshadowing and character development. Holland throws Renton in the brig after he tries to rectify the mistake Eureka’s children mad–and Maurice, Maeter, and Linck follow him into the brig, to serve their due punishment as well as afford Renton some well-deserved respect for taking the heat they would have gotten otherwise. Most of those I knew during Eureka Seven‘s heyday had nothing but burning hatred for Eureka’s three “children” (mostly, it seems, for their habit of crying in a chain-reaction…just like real kids do); while their role might be small, they, with everyone else, demonstrate early shades of their personality beyond being a thorn in Renton’s side.

Kids on a spaceship: Not just for Gundam anymore.

Perhaps most telling is the rather rapid decline and fall of Holland from suave, unspeakably cool counterculture figure to, well, a man who had his growth interrupted by the military. Even this early, the idolized Holland Renton has in his mind is slowly disintegrating as Holland proves himself to be…well, Holland. Even as Renton anguishes over Eureka seeing him in the elaborate hazing ritual Stoner and Hap put him through, lamenting his perceived (and false) “uncoolness”, Holland watches Renton’s escapades in his underwear in near-total darkness, drinks a beer, has a slight snicker, scratches himself, turns it off, and admits his own uncoolness. There’s a lot more at work than Holland simply being a callous bastard (his relationship with Renton’s sister Diane, for instance, the complicated interplay involving Eureka, and the lingering menace of Dewey, among many others), but the point is pretty clear: Holland might talk tough about being “mature” and “grown-up” and forcibly tries to knock sense into Renton , but it’s difficult to tell which of the two have the greater share of growing up to do.

While I doubt that scripts for every episode was written well in advance of the production, there’s a definite feeling that most of the series was planned in vague terms long before they first placed stylus to tablet. Indeed, for me, the pacing of Eureka Seven is nearly perfect for a 50-episode, four-season series: it’s a slow, gradual buildup that rewards, rather than a 50-episode sequence of instant-gratification. I was interested from the first episode, but it was only around episode 9 that my nascent taste-awareness confirmed my initial judgment. The narrative structure has more than a few echoes in Xam’d: while shorter, Xam’d was well-paced and carried the same near-mythical ethereal feeling Eureka Seven has, as well as the feeling that events in the series are on a track set by fate that the characters are simultaneously fulfilling and overcoming.

And this time, the 60s/70s counterculture references are leaping at me in full force. Maybe it was the semi-oblivious mindset I first watched the series in; I caught the Summer of Love reference but all else blew past or was noticed but forgotten in the course of the story. Indeed, with the pile bunkers, the world setup itself is a huge counterculture reference: the government literally pins down the Scub Coral to prevent them from uprising by driving the pile bunkers into the ground (although this seems to have little effect). Even the governmental logo–a hand maintaining a firm grip on a pile bunker–is more than a little reminiscent of The Man keepin’ people down.

The environmental aspect of the series even gets a kick-start early on–the Compac Drives especially, which I never really managed to (consciously) figure out or understand the first time through. They’re more or less products of the Scub Coral, manufactured by humanity, and harmonize with the Trapar flow to enable machinery to work. And they seem to run better, or at least get more active than boring green, in the presence of deep affection or love of some kind–or, more specifically, I suppose, harmony. The harmony doesn’t necessarily have to be with the planet or Scub Coral itself, but just present; feelings of dischord seem to either lower functionability or break the Drive entirely. Sounds corny and overly hippie, yes, but I highly enjoy it; you have to remember that I highly enjoyed the ending to Dan Simmon’s The Fall of Hyperion which is quite similar. And it still leaves open the question of what Desperation Disease is, although that’s a much later concern of the series.

Alas, I am only on the tenth episode of the rewatch, so I’m going to be mum for a while until I can at least find something solid to grasp upon rather than meander around the dense thematic world of Eureka Seven and trip over a root that I didn’t realize was there. There’s a lot to cover, and past trends point towards the fact that I probably won’t get anywhere near a properly scholarly treatment (or, at least, as close to a properly scholarly treatment that the Internetoblogohedron ever gets) of the variegated thematic structures of Eureka Seven, so I won’t worry too much about that, even if I’ll always feel like I’m leaving out something deeply interesting because I’m tired from investigating everything else that’s deeply interesting.

Turn-A Gundam: Gym Ghingnham and the Sippy Teacup of Doom

I still find it hilarious that the most evil man in Turn-A Gundam has a sippy teacup. Its zero-G, yes, but...sippy teacup?

I still find it hilarious that the most evil man in Turn-A Gundam has a sippy teacup. It's zero-G, yes, but...sippy teacup?

It is with a heavy sort of heart that I notice that, in Turn-A Gundam, there only seem to be three people who actually seem to want actual peace: Loran, Harry, Dianna, and Kihel. Considering that, at this point in time, the latter two are essentially the same person, this does not seem to be a very good situation to be in.

In fact, by this point (episode 40), I don’t think there’s a single group of people larger than about ten people who aren’t also working at cross purposes, even if they are “allied” with other groups of people. Dianna Counter has more or less betrayed their namesake for a coup d’etat and are functioning on different aims than the Agrippa Maintainer faction (which itself doesn’t have the greatest control of its elements) despite being set up by them; Luzianna and Guin Lineford seem to be on shaky ground most of the time, even if Lily Borjanon sticks around Guin and the Militia and the Suicide Squad cooperate with each other easily. Even in the “Loran and Dianna faction”, everyone has different motives, and even Harry Ord seems to be operating counter to Loran’s expectations.

And then Gym Ghingnham shows up with his Evil Sippy Teacup and an actually menacing object: the Turn-X. If the Turn-A is the famed White Devil of Black History memory, then the Turn-X is humanity’s savior in giant green Gundam form. As Gym conveniently expositions to us, in a voice that could only belong to Takehito Koyasu, the Turn-A and Turn-X are brothers and enemies–the X of Turn-X is literally the Turn-A’s symbol stacked on top of a similar A to produce an X–and, since both have been reawakened, both must now, as in the Black History, duel for the fate of humanity. The “rivalry” is deeply ingrained in the systems of the two units: Turn-A’s systems seem to respond almost innately to the Turn-X, much as it responded automatically when Dianna Counter botched the landing process on Earth.

Like Turn-A and Turn-X, Dianna and Kihel are two sides of the same coin--but they work in tandem, whereas the Turn-A and Turn-X work. (also pointless picture break)

Like Turn-A and Turn-X, Dianna and Kihel are two sides of the same coin--but they work in tandem, whereas the Turn-A and Turn-X work. (also pointless picture break)

In fact, in stark contrast to the AU Five Gundam Rule gold standard, and SEED and G’s cornucopia of Gundam units, Turn-A gives us two Gundam units, that are mortal enemies: one for progress and one for destruction. The Black History seems to indicate that the Turn-A is the Devil and the Turn-X the Savior…but who’s piloting them now? Loran uses the Turn-A far, far more for things that don’t involve destruction (and tries to avoid as much combat as he can); even the nuclear bombs he carried after the disaster at Lost Mountain that claimed Gavane Gooney’s life were used for positive means. As if gratifying the terrible burden in Turn-A’s chest Loran had borne (SYMBOLISM and that actually just occured to me now) Loran uses the nuclear warheads to prevent the destroyed Mistletoe colony from destroying the Moon’s capital. Turn-A is now some kind of hippie Gundam, in stark contrast to the Moon Hippies who violate all kinds of hippie rules left and right. Meanwhile, the Turn-X is in the broad, strong hands of the impeccably handsome Gym Ghingnham, who, quite unlike the romance novel model he is so often compared to, is anything but a kind, sensitive individual with an endearingly rough exterior; he opted for the “rough exterior”, decided against the endearing bit (this is extrinsically debatable but intrinisically a fact), and then forgot to get an interior. Joy.

It seems as if the pieces have been set for an epic Miltonic clash of Gundam proportiuon (a clash that will be quite unlike G Gundam, the most explicitly Biblical fanservice Gundam series of them all), except that, apparently, Paradise has already been Lost before (perhaps even several times over!! pseudo-spoilers!!) and it seems as if the table has been turned while no one was looking, sticking the Gundam units on the opposite sides and causing everyone else to move to odd places that they shouldn’t be in but are.

On a lighter note:

what.

what.

I note with relish that Turn-A Gundam is one of Tomino’s more light-hearted entries into the Gundam cantos, always a risky prospect with Gundam fans and with Tomino himself, apparently. But Turn-A seems to pull it off with Neo-Tomino stylings. I’ve not seen ZZ Gundam nor Victory Gundam (nor Daitarn 3, nor Xabungle, nor Vifam, nor…) so I’ve no idea how Shin-Tomino handled the “not being serious” thing, but if Turn-A‘s humor fails I forgive it because everything’s so patently ridiculous I don’t mind too much. I mean, we have Moon Hippies. We have Aztec analogues that worship a mass driver. Harry Ord has awesome if ridiculous sunglasses. I don’t think I know if it’s Tomino trying to be funny and failing or Tomino trying to be funny and suceeding (or how much is which), but it’s so far-fetched at times that I can’t help but love it. Even if the series itself is fairly serious, it doesn’t take itself seriously–a commendable fact that will frighten off as many viewers as it might attract for same, alas.

I now move towards the final episodes of the rewatch; I know what happens, and yet I feel like I don’t know. It’s oddly more…rewarding the second time through, perhaps because I paid more attention to different things than the first time through. Or explicitly thought about things I’d only felt unconsciously.

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

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.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Innovations

Ribbons is going to Innovate you all over the place.

As Gundam 00 winds its way towards its end–much to my dismay, as I will have to wait at least another two or three years before Sunrise decides it wants to create another installment in the Gundam franchise to get a newer, fresher Gundam take (using the interim time to catch up on the older series)–the puzzle that has been Gundam 00 is starting to, finally, look much more complete, especially as the Newtypes move into the final phases of Aeolia Schenberg’s plan.

Did I say “Newtype”? I meant Innovator, sorry.

I’m sure, in some deep recess of my mind, I’ve noted the similarity between Universal Century’s heroes and AD’s villains–made obvious, I suppose, by the fact that Ribbons Almark voice actor is Furuya Tohru (using a pseudonym–Sougetsu Noboru), better known as Amuro Ray–but I’m not for sure the full impact of this has truly sunk in. I’m sure this is a totally unoriginal observation–or not, depending on how mad people are at Gundam 00 for not being “Gundam” enough (or, alternatively, being too “Gundam”)–but it took Ribbons mentioning that he’d piloted the 0 Gundam, years ago, the same Gundam unit that had a profound effect on Setsuns F. Seiei, the very effect that would lead him to the position of Celestial Being’s Gundam Meister.

The in-show ramifications are rather obvious–as a result of the early encounter with 0 Gundam, which Ribbons described as a “field test,” Setsuna’s infatuation with Gundam led him to believe that it was Gundam that would bring about world peace. Setsuna insists that there’s no God in this world, but there is for him: Gundam, and, in some kind of weird twist of fate or irony, he believes himself to be the literal Gundam Jesus, the savior who will bring about world peace through his own personal Logos, Gundam.

Never mind that, even from very early on, we’re treated to Setsuna not as a strong, brave man–but as a defenseless kid, who’s been manipulated into killing his own parents. He presents himself as stoic and unshakable, because he’s trying to convince himself that he’s stoic and unshakable, not others. This all changes when he finds that the 0 Gundam, the symbol of the mystical power of the Gundam to end conflict, was piloted by none other than Ribbons, the leader of the Innovators who are acting contrary to Celestial Being–and with the fervor of the devout when faced with a challenge to their faith, he quickly takes action and corners Ali Al-Saarchez, the man who made him as he is today, before being stopped by the 00 Riser Trans-Am’s broadcast of Marina’s song with the orphaned children. I don’t think I moved, blinked, or thought throughout that whole ED sequence–I think I just stared, rendered speechless by the last seven minutes that, more or less, upheaved everything in Gundam 00.

To conjure up an old adage and bastardize it for the 21st century: Gundams don’t kill people, people kill people. Setsuna has now been forced to accept the collorary to that statement: Gundams don’t save people. Ribbons makes it clear to Setsuna that the Gundam is not an instrument of salvation, of peace-bringing–but a weapon. But, as before, if Gundams don’t save people, then people save people. The Gundam itself is not the Messiah, but, rather,  an instrument for people to bring about peace. A Gundam can be used for ill, just as it can also be used for good.

"In the beginning was the Gundamd, and the Gundam was with God, and the Gundam was God." (Note: this makes as much sense as the real John 1:1, i.e. none)

Perhaps even more subversive is the message encoded in the similarities of the Newtypes of Universal Century and the Innovators of A.D. In Universal Century, Newtypes are the “next step” in human evolution, a new race that will enable humanity to reach for the stars, and bring an end to conflict. Of course, this is UC Gundam, so it’s all muddled up, but I’ve always felt that the Newtypes were cast in a positive light (aside from the few Newtype villains, such as Haman Karn) with an implication that, once Newtypes were the majority, conflict would be eradicated.

But in 00, the Innovators–who have the same telepathic powers of the Newtypes, and who have names like Anew Returner and Bring Stability, names that clearly do not reflect their personalities–are cast as the villains, those who are trying to get in the way of the natural course of things. It is the Innovators who pull the strings behind the A-Laws (who feel suspiciously similar to the Titans in Zeta Gundam) who are sowing conflict across the world in the name of “world unification”. Celestial Being is opposing them as best they can, but only by playing at the A-Laws’ game and trying to stay one step ahead of them.

The 0 Gundam’s design similarity to the original RX-78 and its piloting by Ribbons, the leader of the Innovators, bear a trans-Gundam, or trans-anime, or even trans-national message: military machines and superhumans are not going to bring about peace in our time. And yet the 00 Raiser Trans-Am is the most powerful weapon in the entire series (I am set and ready to have a debate over Moonlight Butterfly vs. 00 Raiser Trans-Am at some point in time, just so you know), not because it kills, but because it unites–the Innovators can communicate telepathically with one another, as can Marie and Allelujah Haptism and the other super-soldier experiments, but the 00 Raiser Trans-Am gives everyone this power. It levels the playing field with the Innovators. The Gundam accomplishes what the Innovators cannot: uniting humanity.

Yes, it’s a paradox. Yes, Gundam is still an instrument of death, of chaos, of schism. But it can also be an instrument of life, of order, and of unification. Or can it? The new ED sequence is rife with Gundams, half-dismantled, growing moss and becoming part of the landscape. There’s still ten episodes to go in Gundam 00 until we reach the conclusion, and I lack the precognition necessary to know the ending beforehand. Even with a conclusion that results in true, peaceful world unification, knowing Mizushima, and Gundam, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be an easily-won peace, nor a low-maintainance peace. Peace is far too complex for that.

Gundam 00 is breaking my mind in ways the other Gundams never did, it seems. Maybe I’m imagining it–or maybe it just resonates with me, the way Zeta, or Wing, or SEED, or Turn-A resonates with others, and defines, for them, what Gundam means to them. In my case, it would seem to be a consummation, rather than a revelation–the affirmation that Gundam still has the power to affect people, 30 years and many, many merchandising campaigns later.

ARIA the COMPLETION

I’m horrifically, hilariously late to the Aria the ORIGINATION post-party, as per usual, so I’m pretty sure that everything I say will have been said before, but that never stopped me before. I feel like Ai-chan in the picture above (who wears the Aria Company outfit quite nicely, I must say–but maybe it’s the Pair gloves and/or hair ribbon and/or final episode super-budget injection), nevertheless.

Starting ORIGINATION, I had the constant wondering thought of “why did they call the final season ORIGINATION?” I never quite got NATURAL either, and ANIMATION was a rather silly subtitle for the first season (surely, in retrospect, they should have given it something more exciting), but, as in most things, actually watching the series provided the answer.

ORIGINATION is, indeed, the culmination of the story of Akari, Aika, and Alice, the Undine trainees–as they, one by one, are promoted to full Prima status, there’s a tangible sense of acheivement, of success–but it’s not “the end.”  Alice skips the Single grade straight to Prima in episode 9, and is shown being horribly nervous on her first day as a Prima the next episode. Aika, too, earns Prima–rather subtly, as the audience didn’t realize  it until we’d seen her hiding her ungloved hands from Akari–yet she, too, has her own set of responsibilties to undertake as heir to the Himeya company. And Akari earns Prima last, but at the same time must assume the responsibility of running Aria Company almost immediately, as Alicia is retiring.

They’ve all earned the ungloved status of Prima, and the responsibility that comes with it, but there isn’t really a “happily ever after” feeling. In fact, even though they’ve attained what they’ve worked towards for the past 52 episodes, they feel as if they haven’t really changed. And yet they have, in that intangible sense, where, even if Akari is the same old persistently cheery girl, even if Aika still has her klutzy moments, and even if Alice is still a confounding mix of external confidence and internal insecurity, they’ve still changed in how they view themselves. They’ve admitted that they’re imperfect, compared with their allegedly perfect mentors–but by admitting they’re imperfect, however unspoken the admission might be, they abandon their quest for perfection, and so, attain Prima status. Perfection cannot be had, but acknowledging and living with one’s own imperfections draws one closer to the ideal. And their mentors are themselves imperfect, yet are viewed as perfect for how they handle their imperfections.

It’s deliberate, too, that there isn’t much closure to the series; with closure, we have finality, and Aria is very much not about “finality.” Finality imples that the story is over, done with, and even though the “plot” of training to be Prima has been completed, there’s still more to come. A stage in their life has passed, and there’s that feeling that although the sorts of days and fun times they’ve had up to this point are over with, and impossible to return to,  there’s a host of new experiences yet to come, some good, some bad, but new nonetheless. Acheivement of a goal is not the end, but a beginning, and a continuation of what transpired before.

It’s that distinctively mono no aware feeling, where change happens, and its passing is always poignant; but the same change opens up new paths even as it closes others. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about life while living it, it’s that it has a funny way of working itself out in sometimes ironic and amusingly unexpected ways. There’s some situations where, no matter how firmly you grasp, never seem to be in your control; surrendering control completely can often bring about the desired effect as nature takes its course and rebalances itself. The only thing you can reliably change for certain is yourself; digging your heels in tends to only make you more miserable, worsens your situation, and negatively affect the rest of your life as well.


I am starting to feel somewhat like Akari, and no doubt you are beginning to feel like Aika,

In sum: Is Aria a series for hopelessly romantic INFP idealists such as myself? Certainly it is, but that’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned. We could all use a bit of mono no aware in our own lives, I think. But I’m feeling kind of hazukashii-serifu’d out here, and when I spend more post-writing time being introspective rather than actually putting pen to parchment, and in the process coming up with far more to say than I can struggle to put into words that are merely going to be inadequate anyway, it’s probably time to stop.

But only temporarily. Completeing one post leaves room for another to come!


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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