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Posts Tagged ‘mecha’

In three days, I watched all 26 episodes of RahXephone.

I was just recovering from being sick, and I had the free time (and admittedly, a low drive to do anything else), and I’m a real sucker for narrative once it gets going. Narrative makes me feel like I’m on a steam train with no way to stop or get off until the end of the line is reached. Now that I’m at the end of the line, I’m looking around in a dusty, mostly-empty town, with no money in my pockets, wondering, “Is this it?”

I’m not familiar with the source material, but this anime` has the quintessential adaption problem of “What to exclude?” 26 episodes showed that it included far too much material — that is obvious, yet, only one episode was truly filler. Not only that, but it included the wrong type of material to make the series work; boring metaphysical explorations made the cut, but revealing character motives and thoughts didn’t. As a result of the characters’ unjustified actions/motives, the series lost a lot of resonance. It felt assembled by force, hollow, and sadly superficial.

No simple summary is possible here, but the story revolved around Ayato — who he is, and what he becomes. For the genre, it’s humane mecha/SF, which means that most of the time, the emphasis is on the characters and not the battles. The battles rarely feel forced, and even those show the psychological side of the fight. This is neither your typical shonen battle royale, nor an emotionless Macross. There’s a fair amount of dystopia and genetics involved as well as heavy doses of romance and quite honestly, a bit too much sexual spice for my tastes. The latter element is rarely blatant, but more risque, and never important to the plot.

Early on, the dystopia feel is more prominent, and the music supports this excellently — an atmospheric, timeless minimalist jazz or passionate strings or solo piano pieces. Unfortunately, the music and the tone aren’t always in synch and its quality decreases by the later episodes. The writing is usually strong with a few episodes not quite as good as others. The animation is strong throughout. Bones is the animation house, and the style is a level of detail a few notches below their masterwork in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but still enjoyable.

A better choice of source material would have explored the characters’ thoughts, which would have allowed us to really understand them. For instance, why is Makoto Isshiki such a jerk? Yes, he had a horrible childhood. That’s it? Why not show how he thinks, and how he justifies mistreating other people?

And why does Itsuki Kisaragi NEVER acknowledge the affections of Sayoko Nanamori? Sayoko is red-headed, intelligent (she’s a research assistant), and foxy as all get out! The guy completely ignores her and as a result, she ends up sleeping with Isshiki. I don’t get it. He works with a girl that had the hots for him day after day after day, and he never once asks her out? What prevents him? The series never really says.

The Foundation deserved more time and attention, too. As it is, I’d have to watch the series three times to get a better grasp on that aspect. That I don’t want to shows the fundamental flaw with Rah-Xepohone: it is not deeply resonant.

The sense of stolen time intimated so strongly by the music and the early episodes simply vanishes about episode 20, for no real reason, and that dystopic feel gets lost in an overcomplicated plot. The latter is typical with Japanese works, actually, and it is even satirized by Jinrui wa Suitar Shimashita. The meaningless Shintoistic indulgence doesn’t help, and the vague Christian implications don’t save it. All of this confusion and attention given in the wrong places makes the ending especially hard to swallow.

The two main characters, Ayota and Haraku, do end up happy. However, the happiness that they have is boringly ordinary (bordinary), that is made even more routine by the explanation of Ayota’s painting. This ending is completely unjustified by the previous 25 episodes; the Harry Potter movies resulted in a similar unconvincing ending. Was everything that occurred merely symbolic of the struggles of a relationship? All of the battles, maturation, injuries, anger, and self-sacrifice led merely to this? It doesn’t seem worth it.

RahXephone is at times, interesting, but the journey is not worth the effort. It is, in a word, unjustified.

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I tried to like Mobile Suit Gundam 00. I really did. I watched four episodes of the second series, courtesy of Awesome Toons. However, all that I’m left with is emptiness.

First, there are a bazillion characters, and even after four episodes, I can’t name them all. Second, every freakin’ episode has either a new mecha or a new weapon introduced and at least one flashback to four-to-five years ago to explain why the characters are doing what they’re doing. Third, the pace of the show is fast, so there’s very little time spent exploring the characters’ personalities. It’s all plot, plot, plot.

So even after four episodes, I don’t feel like I know any of the characters and only have a general idea as to what’s going on. It’s not emotional. The deepest part of the show are the episode titles. It’s yet another mecha series that salivates over gee-whiz battle scenes and uses excellent artwork and above-average animation to compensate for the fact that the show is about machines and not people. In short, Gundam 00 is soulless.

Welcome to the graveyard, Gundam 00.

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One thing I’ve discovered is generally anime` based on games are nothing but disappointment squared. Sure, there are exceptions, but Gunparade Orchestra, sadly, is not one of them. The structure of the series is to blame, because it starts over with a new set of characters every nine episodes, so by the time you’ve gotten to know Sara and the rest, it’s time to begin again. Not only that, but the characterization and plots get markedly worse after episode eight, so even if you stick around, there’s nothing to see. I understand now why Conclave stopped after ep. 8.

This leaves me in a strange position. I truly enjoyed the first chapter (ep 1-9) , but I couldn’t get into the rest of the series for the aforementioned reasons. So I’ll just give my short review of ep 1-9 and tell you where you can get them. Fair?

Gunparade Orchestra is, in the words of some anime` site I’ve forgotten, a mecha/comedy/drama/romance/slice-of-life series, and it’s one of the rare ones that works. The first nine episodes are more than competent. The animation is well-done, the music is used appropriately (and itself is better than average); the dialog is tight, and the characters, sharply defined and interesting. The Hard-boiled Penguin rocks! Additionally, the balance between serious emotions and humor is carried off effectively. It’s never artificial or unreal.

There’s usually a few profanities per episode if that, and only rarely something risque`. While there are no theological themes as such, God is referenced positively on a few occasions, and common themes are the importance of heroism, respect, life being about more than your job — putting first things first.

Ep 1 — Very good. You get to know Sara Ishida and are introduced to the dysfunctional company. A few unnecessary profanities. You have to do research or have watched Gunparade March to understand the world and the Phantom Beasts, though because the series assumes you’re already familiar with it. Alternately, you can watch the episode a few times. 🙂 The intro song is great.

Ep 2 — Very good. More background on Sara and mutiny simmers just beneath the surface. Tense ending. One profanity.

Ep 3 — Very good. Tense.

Ep 4 — Excellent. Emotional.

Ep 5 — Good. Origin of the phrase “muscles mean justice”. Several profanities but a dramatic (in the good sense) plot and emotional tension.

Ep 6 — Good. Interesting plot. The origin of the phrase “Total victory over public baths.” Humorous and victorious. One risque` scene, and more profanities than usual.

Ep 7 — Excellent.

Ep 8 — Very good. Several profanities, though. Tight plot, and the company finally comes to respect Sara’s leadership.

Ep 9 — Just OK. Long fight scenes can be boring and this one is. The very end is moderately good in that it provides some closure, but you still care about the characters and this is the last you’ll ever see of them — so in that sense, it’s the worst possible ending. Their story ends here.

Episodes 1-8: Conclave
Episodes 1-24: Gunparade Orchestra on isohunt

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