Dissecting Japanese Imperialism in Anime

After the first two episodes of this season's Muv-Luv Alternate: Full Eclispe, it was hard to avoid noticing the similar thematic elements it had going with the classic Gunbuster.  There is the idyllic school setting prelude to a blood bath of a war, the masses of faceless space monstrosities, and the rather hilarious acronym names given to them.  Most importantly though, there is the abundant usage of of Imperial Japanese imagery and verbiage in both shows.  That last bit reminded me of the following.
This is a series of essays written about a year ago dissecting Gunbuster and viewing it through a Japanese Imperialism lens.  Knowledge of Gunbuster is not a prerequisite to understanding the content of the essays, but previous viewings of it as well as historical knowledge of Japan during the World War II period will help.   (Note: I did not write any of these, nor contributed to any of them.)
Episode 1
Episode 2 (NSFW)
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
If you enjoy this form of analysis of any form of media, not just anime, the above pieces are definitely worth your time.


Not Game Related: Music as Narrative

I had a wall of text written speaking to my reactions to this Kids on the Slope, but in hindsight, it really was just an excuse to get people to watch and listen to the following.  So I'll save that for a later time and keep this brief.  Kids on the Slope sets up musical pieces as important points in its story: music that symbolizes the wishes and motivations of the characters.  In this scene, we see Kaoru and Sentaro, two friends and musical partners, coming back together to reclaim both their personal connections as well as musical connections they had lost.  Moving through My Favorite Things, Some Day My Prince Will Come, and Moanin', all pieces that set up major points in the story told so far, they remind each other as well as the viewers of just what they are reclaiming.
More, than anything else though, it just sounds so good.  So listen, and smile.


Gundam 00 The Movie: A Wakening My Fanboy Rage

This post might be better titled "How Cross Textual Knowledge Bites me In The Fucking Ass"
I finally decided in a bout of grad school workload caused insomnia and depression to jump the shark and watch this movie.  I always knew it was bad, but man.  Mannnnnnnnn.  The story and character portrayals are bullshit.  Building the ultimate Gundam for the ultimate Innovator so it can go fly off and take a psychic history lesson about some pieces of living liquid metal?  Seriously?  I don't need to go into that.  But what makes me angrier is all the ways it so clumsily tries to ape the better moments of superior shows and present loose ends of actual merit and discard them completely.

Descartes Shaman, one of the first innovators to appear after Setsuna, proved to be a xenophobic racist, calling non-innovators the inferior species.  One would think when a wave of innovation(TM) is spreading across the human population, the movie would do well to touch further upon this racial tension right?  Nope.  Lets just kill him off.  Further, lets completely abandon any notion of that sentiment and by the end of the movie, let a population with 40% innovators live in complete peace and harmony because apparently he was the only racist in the history of the species except for all the innovades that came before him.

And then there are the referential moments.  Andrei Smirnov and four of his GNX buddies using transam to push a giant ELS capitol ship as it falls on earth, and exploding just as they succeed.  Well doesn't that sound familiar?  The movie was literally shoving a shitty tasting poopsicle in the shape of Char's Counterattack into my mouth and I was literally giving my computer screen the finger.  You're going to replace Amuro with Andrei?  Seriously?  You couldn't at least do it was a character that was memorable in anyway and give Graham the heroic death he so dearly deserved despite his antics as Mister Mushido (His first Name Is Mister)?  (For the record, SolBraves is a pretty awesome name for a MS team.)

And then of course there is the whole Jupiter Express of enemies.  The fact that something in here reminds me of the glorious Diebuster is an absolute affront to the latter.  But it doesn't take a seasoned film critic to know that this show can ONLY end with humans and aliens finding peace.  So what better way to present an alien enemy than ones completely devoid of any character at all.  In shows such Diebuster or Gunbuster where the mass of characterless aliens are titled the Space Terrible Monster Crowd, that is excusable.  In fact, that is what you should be doing.  In a show where our man protagonist is suppose to be having a dialogue with them at the climax of the movie, this does not effing work god damnit.  The fact that it made all combat between the armada of GaGa Squadrion in GN Lance costumes and the Feddies a snore fest is not lost on me either. 

Though for the sake of being fair and balanced, I will say one thing.  At least the Zabanya was entertaining to watch.  Lockon actually used its bits (fins, funnels, fangs, DRAGOONs, WHATEVER) dare I say, intelligently.  Rifle bits are fucking RIFLES and shoot from far away.  They don't go charging into melee range.  Shield bits are shields and they not only defend the MS itself, but also the rifle bits from incoming shots, prolonging its combat capability.  Totally nominating the Zabanya for Saimecha 2013 because it made me enjoy this movie for just a few moments, and that is a fucking momentous achievement.


It's Robot Voting Time

The nomination phase for the second annual Sai Mecha has started once again.  This is a time for bloody battle, vitriol filled hate, and the drinking of the tears of anyone who thinks Shin Getter Robo has a chance of being nominated.  Head over to the the main site for all the information on how the brackets will break down, but I'll leave the rules for submissions here. 

1. Choose up to 10 mecha, and email them to executiveotaku@gmail.com. One entry per person. Please put the series the mecha is from after each.

2. The 32 mecha with the most nominations will be put into a randomized bracket and split into the Earth Side and Colonies Side. 

3. The following 4 mecha cannot be nominated as they are the final four of the previous year and are already seeded: Zaku II, Eva Unit 01, VF-1 Valkyrie, YF-19 Excalibur
For all of you guys going "Fuck you and your animu robots.  I'd rather nominate something out of Mechwarrior", go watch Flag, and then nominate the HAVWC.  That's about as real world practical but remain sci-fi fancy as you can get.

Here are my own submissions in no particular order.  The VF-1 is my first love and YF-19 my true love, so it's a good thing I don't need wax emotionally about those two and have two more slots in my list.   I have a general lean towards reals over supers, so anyone wondering why Gurren Lagann is not on there, there you go.  (Also I'm trying to have as few renomination as possible and Gurren Lagann made the list last year.)
1.  YF-29 Durandal (Wings of Goodbye).  It's the latest variable fighter entry in the Macross franchise and oh god what a beauty this thing is.  While the VF-25's Tornado pack might let it roll like no tomorrow, the Durandal has a slimmer, far snazzier frame while still inheriting the VF-25's ridiculously good looking battleroid mode.    

2.  GP-03 Dendrobium Orchis (Stardust Memories).  Probably my favorite design out of the Gundam franchise, it is a giant mobile armor weapons platform carried on the back of a Gundam.  It fits its flower derived name as it is one giant flower of death for entire fleets with its array of beam rifles, bazookas, chain mines, and cluster missile packs.  All this firepower takes up space, and it's nice to see one of the few mecha designs in general that does not streamline it all into the frame, and instead gives it a proper amount of bulk.  Also a fantastic enough of a design that Marvel Comics ripped it off wholesale.   

3.  Genesic GaoGaiGar (GaoGaiGar Final).  It is a robot that runs on courage.  If you dislike it, you are a horrible person who does not deserve to see the light of day.  Unless that light is caused by GaoGaiGar swinging down the full might of the planet sized Goldion Crusher.     
4.  Big O (The Big O).  When the class of your super robot is called a Megadeus, you envision something that exudes gigantic strength.  Something that is thick, lumbering, seemingly indestructible.  That sums up the design philosophy behind the Big O.  When it punches with its arms, you can feel the raw power behind those strikes.  It also helps that it is piloted by the mother fucking batman as well as a far more awesome Robin, and serviced by an Alfred that knows how to use grenade launchers.     
5.  Knight of Gold (Five Star Stories).  While the lead Mortar Head of Five Star Stores, it is not my favorite design in that universe. (That vote goes to either the AUGE or the Blazing Empress).  However, it is the only one that was animated and is still one hell of a sight to behold.  It tugs at my heart strings for mecha of a very regal design along with a beautiful golden color scheme, just as the name suggests.     
6. Escaflowne (Vision of Escaflowne).  Speaking of mecha with regal ass designs, you really can't go wrong with this one.  The show (much like FFS) has it's armored beings serve not just as usual pieces of military hardware.  They are the swords and steeds of knights, and look and act as such.  As a sword, Escaflowne is clad in white armor.  It needs no fancy schmancy weapon platform system, satisfied with the sword in its hand that allows for duels.  As a steed, it turns into a mother fucking dragon.      
7. VF-25F Messiah (Macross Frontier).  Another variable fighter coming out of Macross Frontier, the Messiah is probably the first one of its kind with a battleroid mode that I'd consider pretty.  Also that pitch.  That yaw.  That mother fucking roll. (Can anyone tell that I'm a giant fan of Kawamori's designs yet?)     
8.  Delphine (Broken Blade).  The trope of putting an inexperienced pilot in a relatively overpowered suite is not a new one.  But the way Rygart's fights with the Delphine plays out most definitely is not the norm.  Swords, kunais, nunchucks, spiked bulldozers with a sword in it, and a giant ninja star yoyo of death.  It's final fight was one of my favorite moments of last year, and I still stand by that.      
9. Mazinger Z (Shin Mazinger Z).  The original Mazinger series was way beyond my time, so I am quite happy with the ability to watch it yet again.  I've always liked the design of the Black Castle of Steel: simple with a great color scheme.  It's modernized version still boasts many of its iconic moves including the rocket punch and breast fire.  But it also has a few more tricks up it's sleeves.  Such as turning into a giant rocket punch, or summoning a legion of rocket punches that turn into one giant rocket punch.  For the super robot that originated that attack, it definitely makes the most of the incredible legacy.     
10.  Hyaku Shikki (Z Gundam).  Here are the reasons: 1. It is piloted by the most awesome version of Char (the one that wins because he's a good guy for once lol).  2. It looks pretty as all hell.  3. It's designed by Kawamori.  I really wish Gundam Unicorn's Delta Plus kept that gold paint job.  I'd nominate that instead if it did due to its transformation that looks better than almost every other new variable mobile suit Z Gundam vomited out on a per episode basis.     

Calling for all ME3 articles

It's probably with some depressing irony and self-hatred that the situation surrounding this game has turned into a rather fitting topic for a paper in one of my communications courses.  I won't bore anyone with the preliminary outlines of the paper.  What I'm asking for is links to any articles or reviews published in reaction to either the game itself or the community reactions towards the game.  
Yes, I realize I'm asking you guys to help do some of the research leg work for me.  But taking advantage of the sprawling network here is probably going to be a lot more effective than trawling on Lexus Nexus.  Feel free to either leave the link in the comment section, or sent to me as an PM.  Thanks all for your help.


Noboru Ishiguro Passes Away

I'm personally not familiar with many of his works where he served as director.  Shows like Lupin III, Astro Boy and Space Battleship Yamato were too far before my time.  But there are two that served as the most formative experiences I've had with the anime medium.  Super Dimension Fortress Macross drew me in and never let me go when I watched a syndicated version of it in China in 1990, 8 years after its initial release.  After all, what 4 year old boy could say no to F-14 Tomcats that turned into robots fighting aliens in space?   And about 19 years after that initial experience, long after many, me included, thought Cowboy Bebop may have been the apex of the medium, I stumbled upon Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and realized the anime that would ruin all other anime for me through sheer brilliance was created back in 1988.
So here's a cheer to the man that that directed two of the most marvelous animated experiences of my life.

Persona 4 Episode 4: Three's a Trend, And Our Heroes are Helpless

When I started my attempts at internet blogging about two years ago, one of my first entries was on Persona 3.  What drew me to that game was the nature of the enemy, and the futility of the conflict.  The ultimate evil in that game was Nyx.  It was a being of death manifested by and attracted to the negativity of mankind.  It knew no malice and did not seak power.  It was instead manipulated by mankind's unconcious negativity.  Our heroes fought against it, and even with the "Power  of the Universe", the strength to perform miracles, all the main character could do was use his own life force to create a seal, blocking Nyx off from man kind's thoughts.

 The conflict was against a being of man's own creation and unconscious manipulation, and fighting against it directly was futile, as refuting the will of all mankind with just your own was futile.  Far outside the JRPG norm, this is what made Persona 3's story appeal to me.  When Persona 4 came around, I loved it, and yet couldn't help but feel a twinge of disappointment because of how the balance of power played out in the conflict.  The heroes fought against the monsters, and each time came out victorious.  Personal acceptance of one's demons became less life threatening as the ability to fully subdue them over and over was always there.
And then came along the Persona 4 anime.  Within the last 3 episodes, we have seen three boss fights and none of them gave us an Investigation Team victorious on their powers.  Narukami fought Shadow Yosuke to a standstill at best.  Shadow Chie had Jiraiyah and Yosuke tied up with her bondage hair.  Shadow Yukiko's flames were more than even Pyro Jack's absorb flame affinity could handle.  Once is a fluke, but three is a trend.  The conflict puts emphasis on the futility of combating psychological beasts with brute strength.  Every time, it took a change in mind set on the part of the host to give our heroes a fighting chance.
While the criticisms of melodramatic nature of the self-acceptance is understandable, in this sense, it also makes sense.  One cannot win through fighting, and hold the shadow back is already a near impossible task.  The priority is acceptance, one that the heroes need to work towards through emotional appeals more than anything else.  The change in this emphasis is also backed up by an expansion on the back story and motivations of the characters that I have praised in previous writings.  The true source of Chie and Yukiko's friendship, the set in stone routine of Yukiko's life at the inn, what people really think about Yosuke behind his back, these moments help gives depth to this new priority.
Persona 3 showed the supreme power of the subconscious.  It is good to see the Persona 4 Animation following in those foot steps.

Persona 4 Episode 3: The Rights and Wrongs of Social Links

Social Links are the non-linear story threads of the game.  It allows for the player to delve and discover the depths of the many side characters the game throws at you.  They are not required for progression, and yet are essential for fully experiencing the game.  However, they are again, non-linear.  Persona 4's attempt at translating this into the linear anime format leads to success and failure, both conveniently placed in the same episode.

Episode 3 begins with what is probably my favorite scene so far.  As you develop the Chie social link, one of the later levels has Chie telling you about how her and Yukiko met, little lost puppies and all.  It helps further develop their friendship.  The show takes perfect advantage of this, placing it within the same episode as Chie's confrontation with her shadow.  

Her hidden motivation for being friends with Yukiko, the enjoyment of being Yukiko's master, the latter whom cannot do anything without her, is meant to be her true face.  The game responds to this not with grim acceptance at her own perverse motivation, but with a "the ends justifies the means" kind of attitude, that as long as she and Yukiko are friends, nothing else matters.  This has never sat all that well with me.  It wasn't a true acceptance of self, but pretending its alright because of what it results in.

However, by adding the social link scene so early on as the show has done, it brings a new level of legitimacy to this line of thinking.  Chie and Yukiko befriended each other long before this perverse relationship between them came into being.  They became friends as children, innocent of all the faults that currently tarnish them as teens.  Their relationship had a pure beginning, and that's what counts in the end.

On the other side of this magnificent scene however we have the symptoms of over indulgence in references rearing its head.  A proper reference gives much to those that catch it, but does not take away from those that do not.  And the following moments fail this rule.

There was no reason for the Kou Ichijo scene, and its presence felt very much like a "hey, remember this guy" moment.  The sports team social link however is not the only one at fault.  It merely is the least subtle.  In the second episode, the auditorium announcement is preceded by a quick pan of the teachers standing on stage.  And of course, one was a gym teacher, one was wearing a pharaoh head dress, and one had his right up holding a sock puppet.  Not as heavy handed as the Ichijo moment, but any viewer unfamiliar with the game would probably look at the characters, and be dismayed by the ridiculousness.
In other less analytical news, Narukami's cheating ways continue.  Two more rank ups in stats and pyro jack all before Yukiko's castle is even finished?  How dirty are you going to play.
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