In Which We Discuss Random Animu

27 07 2009

Since I’m on an animu kick lately, I may as well take some image macros I found and yammer about them a bit. Mostly because a06 is in severe preproduction — the outline’s not done yet, so it won’t be launching today, and I’d like something to post about.

Ah, Evangelion. How I adore you, how I LOATHE you.

One of my fondest memories of otakudom was attending Katsucon years ago, and deciding on crazy impulse to stay up all night so I could catch a 4am showing of End of Evangelion. (This was back when cons ran 24 hour schedules.) On finding out that basically it ends with Shinji being a prat and dooming the human race because Hideaki Anno is a misanthropic little pusbag, I ended up wandering the con in a daze of alienated, sleep-deprived confusion. …then Sean Gaffney, spotting my weird mood of depressive anxiety, introduced me to collecting UFO catcher dollies and the rest was history.

Eva’s got one more bite at the apple with the new movies, which seem to be retelling the series in a way to MOSTLY fixes up its problems. Shinji is still annoying, but at least the plot’s moving in another direction. I’ve seen 1.0 and plan to see 2.0 as soon as I can.

Oh, and I remain highly amused that ever since the series launched there’s been an endless parade of horribly off-canon smiley Rei and Asuka quasi-yuri product produced for the otaku marketplace to gobble up. It’s like their bodies are repurposable for damn near anything. Maids? Catgirls? Pop idols? Catgirl maid pop idols? You got it! Even if, y’know, 0.02% of the original character comes through in the representation. There’s money to be made, dammit.

Bleach failed me deeply. The first 20 or so episodes were freaking awesome — sort of a schoolyard Ghostbusters series, with great and varied characters in the form of Ichigo’s classmates, friends, rivals, etc. Rukia was definitely my favorite character, a fun mix of contrasts (Serious Business + cute little poorly drawn crayon bunnies). If they kept hunting down Hollows and getting into various sorts of antics, I’dve named this one of my favorite animes of all time.

Then they went to Soul Society. Then our interesting cast was replaced with endless yammerings of these generic, similarly dressed, boring as hell bunch of posturing douchebags who, for some inexplicable reason, had trained extensively in the art of fighting OTHER posturing douchebags instead of, y’know, the giant monsters they supposedly were tasked to clobbering. And they stuffed Rukia in a tower to angst. And it went on. And on. AND ON. AND ON.

I actually sat through the whole goddamn Soul Society arc, just to say I finished it, and it was an experience akin to a boot stamping on a human face forever. I gave up after the big reward for FINALLY springing my favorite character from her angsty doom was that she left the series. (Save for showing up again in the craptastic filler arc, which I didn’t bother with.)

Haruhi almost lost me. The side-splittingly horrible first episode, with the poorly made student film, was what hooked me; it turned off my friends severely to the point where I had to insist they keep watching (It Gets Better, Trust Me) but for me seeing all the little touches of amateurishly bad filmmaking was pleasant. Then it settled into a fairly ordinary wacky school comedy, complete with deliberate playing off various otaku fetishes. Yawn.

Then they started dipping into existential philosophy and I sat up and took notice. Wacky school comedy PLUS mind screwing worked here in the way angsty school drama plus throwaway gags plus mind screwing failed with Eva.

The resulting mash of tropes and reality-bending worked nicely for me — although I prefer watching in chronological order instead of the TV show’s nonlinear skipping around. Blasphemy, I know, but there’s enough going on here that reorganizing everything on top of that is just a pain.

I haven’t actually seen a ton of Escaflowne, but I am very amused at the Random Robots that keep showing up in various animes. It’s like, “Hmm, we’ve got X and Y and Z which already scratch otaku itches. What’re we missing? Oh, right, giant robots! I’m sure we can jam some backstory in our world document to justify them. Or hey, why bother? Just treat it like big suits of armor when our dudes go out to kill other dudes.”

Lawl.

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36 responses

27 07 2009
demota

Might I recommend: Bakemonogatari

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I can only assume it is about baking delicious guitars that play in mono rather than stereo.

27 07 2009
meagenimage

That’s a mashup of “bakemono” (monster/ghost/scary thing) and “monogatari” (tale/story). I’m slightly ashamed that I know that.

27 07 2009
gothstar

wait.. cons dont run 24 hour schedules anymore?

27 07 2009
tozetre

BAHAHAHAHHA *snort* AHAHAHAHAHA
hee
hoo
okay. Yeah, That Eva bit; truth. My reaction was also identical regarding Escaflowne. Ruddy brilliant explanations btw.
Basically, I find it’s best to ignore anything that gets really popular, because it inevitably repeats Dragonball; one good season, followed by 3 or 4 seasons of pointless churn to generate moneys. Dragonball is Naruto is Bleach, yaknow? I’m happy, in retrospect, that there was not a second season of Eva. Can you imagine how utterly shite it would have been? 1/2 of the episodes just catigrl maid idol filler episodes?

Well, okay, actually, I have to admit, a couple episodes of Rei and Asuka as catgirl maid idols wouldn’t upset me, exactly. But you know what I mean.

27 07 2009
bigscary

Random Robots that keep showing up in various animes
Toys. Absolutely and completely more toys to sell. This is also often why robots get upgrades.

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Admittedly all I have to go by is Otakon, which is in a convention center and thus shuts down at 2am and opens at 9am. Ones embedded in hotels might go all night, like Katsucon did the years I was attending.

27 07 2009
gothstar

ah, ok, yeah I guess that makes sense I’ve been to some cons just in hotels that run all night and some in convos that moved night programming into the hotels (like AX)

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Ah, yes — the Toyability factor. Same reason why we had three different Cobra Commander figures (hood / helmet / body armor) and all the weird TMNT figures with like space lasers and cyber armor and crap.
The only giant robot show worth a damn is mother!@#$ing MEGAS XLR, unsung bastard hero of the genre which deserves a DVD release. All others can die in a fire.
Yeah, I said it. I stand by that.

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I think if Eva went any longer… well, it couldn’t, by virtue of the countdown ‘o angelic doom which pretty much ensured the series would end in short order.
But if it DID we’d see it more like the early episodes, with wacky Misato fanservice, slapstick Asuka sight gags, cheery upbeat music, Pen-Pen, GIANT ROBOT FIGHTAN, etc.
That initially threw me about Eva. The first episodes are your basic color by numbers big robot show. All the zany antics clash hard with the mindscrewing that happens later; it’s a severe bait and switch, crashing to a depressive halt when Third Impact reduces humanity to a lake of 100% Identity-Free Kool-Aid and Shinji fails completely to make anything of the situation.
I might’ve accepted the dark and dismal stuff more if it was less of a donkey punch.

27 07 2009
tozetre

As a long-time giant robot fan, I have to agree that M-XLR is indeed the bastard hero.
But TF, even though it was an open and disgusting “BUY AR TOIZ” show… I mean, Optimus Prime, come on. The hell with Megan Fox.

27 07 2009
tozetre

Strooth. Well, Anno, depressed, &c., you know.
I’ve been heading into the orbit of western SF again, motivated in part by Firefly. Stargate SG-1 has surprisingly good writing and fantastic acting. I just got my hands on Muppets In Spa- er, Farscape, which I’m told is excellent.
I think the thing is, you can pretty much trust that anything from GAINAX will be, y’know, entertaining. You just have to accept that it might also hurt, and that the more you relax the easier it’ll be. Really, it’s like prison sex.
:|
Okay, so that’s not exactly a recommendation.

27 07 2009
midnightlurker

“The only giant robot show worth a damn is mother!@#$ing MEGAS XLR, unsung bastard hero of the genre which deserves a DVD release. All others can die in a fire.”
Four words for ya.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
AKA “Gainax’s Apology for Evangelion.”
AKA HOLY FREAKING CRAP HOW CAN THEY MAKE IT MORE AWESOME NEXT EPISODE. Over and over again.

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

No. Megas ftw. Chicks dig giant robots.
You cannot win this argument because I will go back in time and kill your ancestors.

27 07 2009
mtws

Objection! A Mr. Lagann would like to protest your assertion!
(…oh goddammit, now I’m imagining Kamina, Ace Attorney.)

27 07 2009
pyromaniac_ks

/a/ has collectively decided that him and Kittan have a buddy cop series in the afterlife after the series ends, if it helps. Along with Chief Genom.
“You’re a loose cannon, Kamina! I want you off this case!”

27 07 2009
mtws

Well now I’m contemplating two things too awesome to contemplate. Thanks a lot :p

27 07 2009
Anonymous

Most convention centers will stay open 24-7 on request now. Now, by ‘stay open’ I mean ‘They’ll leave the lights on and night security won’t kick you out’ rather than full service. If something happens like the power goes out, or you want coffee in the staff room, you’re on your own. If anything, it’s hotels that are getting stricter about when events can be scheduled. I’ll take a good center-based con over a hotel-only one almost any day.
– TH

27 07 2009
shachihoko

I’ve come to the conclusion that Bleach is better read than watched. Among other things, manga is cheaper, it’s faster to read, and you don’t have to slog through all of the god damn filler they made while waiting for the manga to get far enough ahead of the anime.
Escaflowne remains one of my favorite series; I have yet to watch my DVD copy of the TV series. (I can live a long, happy, and hopefully-productive life without going near the movie again.) I wouldn’t consider the Guymelefs “random” … but then, well, it’s Sunrise, aka The House That Gundam Built, and I’d have to dig to find something they animated that didn’t involve giant robots. (Mai-HiME … maybe, depending on whether you think the CHILDren fit that slot. Mai-Otome a little less debatably.)
I’m likely to procure the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, but I have to agree with you about the original run and End. Haruhi … first season was good, I have yet to see any of the second season but I think they fell prey to overly stylistic concerns at the cost of something that actually keeps the audience interested. The novels might be a better investment going forward, although a lot of esoteric Japanese references are apparently getting trimmed out; the story doesn’t suffer much from what I can tell.
As for other series I’d recommend? Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has already been suggested, which I fully endorse. In the vein of giant robots, I’d also recommend King of Braves GaoGaiGar, which is a long series (49 episodes, available in two 5-DVD boxed sets for cheaper than some series half that length) but is a full-steam return to the Old School of hot-blooded SUPER ROBOT FUN. One joke I’ve seen says that Sunrise made GaoGaiGar to tell Gainax, “This is what a super robot series should be!” and that Gurren Lagann is Gainax going “Okay, we get it now!”
I have some other series that I could recommend if you want my recommendations. Alternatively, hit my LJ’s history and look for anime series I’ve reviewed.

27 07 2009
cmdr_zoom

That’s because the first couple of episodes are bait, to keep you watching once Anno starts pouring on the nihilism.

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

WINRAR.

27 07 2009
Anonymous

I’ve made some recomendations in some previous post, not sure if you noticed, here’s the short list in case:
Xam’d: Lost Memories, Dennou Coil and Eden of the East.
Also motherfreakin’ Baccano! Prohibition era America is full of win, especially if you add tons of *characters* and an amazing *story* (which in itself is a rare sight in anime). Very highly recommended, but watch it whole in one session, it will be much better then, trust me on that.
Second season of Haruhi *will* kill you. No other anime studio would have the balls to have eight freaking episodes of the same thing (Groundhog Day style). And yes, each one is 100% new animation, just telling the same thing over and over again.

27 07 2009
midnightlurker

Please understand, I would never dis Megas. It’s just that TTGL is also awesome. ^.^

27 07 2009
midnightlurker

Second season of Haruhi *will* kill the studio. Not in a financial sense, it’s just that by next week they’ll all have been LYNCHED BY A RAMPAGING MOB OF OUTRAGED FANS. >.<#

27 07 2009
shadrad

I am still diggin’ FMA
And I read Bleach out of an unhealthy addiction I guess (I keep quitting BUT JUST KEEP GOING BACK)
and I don’t care what anyone says, it counts, but I am lovin’ me some Avatar.

27 07 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

*checks wikipedia*
Good lord, you’re serious. And they’re not even saving on animation costs?
I can see doing a time loop episode twice, MAYBE three times if the third iteration is drastically different, but EIGHT episodes that are nearly identical? What the hell?

27 07 2009
Anonymous

It’s the famous ‘buttfuck all the fans’ plan.

27 07 2009
Anonymous

Evangelion: mostly meh
Evangelion never really impressed me. Maybe it’s because I went in with inflated sense of its greatness because of all the hype. Not to say it’s bad, I just felt it could have been better. The horrible depressing moments didn’t surprise me considering I already knew what was going to happen before I watched it.
I will say that the one thing they handled excellently would be Asuka’s mind rape. I mean…Jesus, I was just WATCHING it and I felt as if my mind was being torn apart. And then when they actually dealt with the consequences of it afterwards and how she wanted to do nothing but silently play video games. Speaking as someone who has seen depression in other people, I can say few other series have come close to portraying it so…truthfully.
I never understood the fascination with Asuka and Rei. I see them more as poor, tortured teenage girls than Hawt Sex Objects, which is why it disturbs me a little when I see them portrayed like that. Ah, fans.
Otherwise, it’s mostly meh. Without the horrible depressing moments, this basically your standard mecha anime with absolutely no budget (the last few episodes LITERALLY focused on one frame of animation with the voices playing in the background).
And what’s with the horribly, convoluted back story? Someone tried to explain it to me and my reaction was “uh…huh?” Most of it seems so unnecessary.
Shinji actually wasn’t all that bad in the beginning. He may have been sad but it wasn’t unusual considering all he had been through and the parental abandonment and all that. He didn’t really start turning into a whiney bitch until the end. By that point everyone was either dead or whiney bitches.

27 07 2009
cmdr_zoom

Re: Evangelion: mostly meh
I kinda get the Asuka-Rei thing. “These are cute/hot character designs. Pity about all that depressing messed-up sh** in the source material. Let’s pretend none of that happened and use them in our own fantasies.”
(That said, my brief survey of Eva pr0n back in the day suggested that a lot of it was just as broken and angsty and squicky. Fruit of the poisoned tree.)
Also, as you note, Gainax has a bad habit of running out of budget halfway through the show and cutting corners to finish it. The first few times they did this – GUNBUSTER comes to mind – the limited animation was kind of cool and artistic. I imagine that’s what Anno was going for again here. Pity that he’s basically finger-painting with feces on the sanitarium wall at that point, and ranting at everyone who doesn’t understand his bleak genius.

28 07 2009
eyeless1

Keep up with Stargate, btw. Pick up Stargate:Atlantis too, as it runs in parallel for many seasons (and remains interesting during the last two seasons of SG-1 which drag a bit, IMO). Try to find the post-series movies too, as they wrap up all the hanging plot from the series-es.
And watch out for Stargate:Universe, ANOTHER SG spinoff, coming up soon for Sci-fi (NEVER Syfy).
Can you tell I’m a fan of the series? :)

28 07 2009
kowh

I kinda liked Eden of the East. Didn’t care so much for the story sort of pausing abruptly at the end of the tv season, to be continued in OAVs coming out a while later.

28 07 2009
kowh

Yeah, Avatar is quite good.
Kinda hoping the live action movie doesn’t suck, although the white-washing of the cast suggests otherwise.

28 07 2009
lirazel

I am the biggest Escaflowne fangirl ever, even though my cold, hard, scientific side has to agree that the Guymelefs (especially Esca itself) are made of awesome bits laced together by Fail.
I adore two things about it: the character (meaning the personal character of, not the character in the story) of Hitomi, and the ending.
I know many people with Western backgrounds find the ending disappointing — the fanon is full of alternates, including one that has a full-fledged Western wedding, complete with Jack and Jill parties. And at times I imagine my own alternates. But generally, I consider the ending perfect: you don’t know what happens later on, just like the characters don’t know. In a story that could define the term Deus ex Machina all by itself, that took some doing.
(By biggest, I mean in pounds. Or kilograms. If there’s a bigger fangirl, I don’t want to know.)

28 07 2009
opmegs

Evangelion….how I loathe it as well. Which makes it this strange variety of pain wherein I like the characters. I like the mechs. I like the wacky metaphysical science of the early episodes. I absolutely, positively HATE the plot which decrees “no, at no point does anyone GET OVER IT. They never get over ANYTHING. It’s all nihlistic and edgy and hope you didn’t like these people, because apparently the appeal of watching the show is so you can cheer for their mental breakdowns”. Fuck that sideways, I say. I’m vaguely, minorly optimistic about the new movies thus far. Time will tell how they turn out.
Haruhi was an acquired taste to me as well, but I came to like it. The chronological order is to my tastes as well, really, especially since there’s actual character development in the show and keeping track of it in the bizarre broadcast order would cause my head to implode. It’s also well served in having one of the better dubs I’ve seen in recent years, up to and including having the dub actress dub songs sung by the character. I’m kinda hoping this whole “Eternal 8” or whatever it is doesn’t crash the series head on. The upcoming plotline from the novels they based the series on with Yuki stealing Haruhi’s powers to alter reality itself is somewhat fascinating to me.
Of course, being a MANLY MAN and all, I watched and enjoyed the principal mecha shows of the last year. Gundam 00 was perhaps the most enjoyable Gundam I’ve seen in some time because they didn’t kill off all the people I liked by the end of the series and it had an actual happy ending. Macross Frontier was….well, Macross.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been watching magical girl anime, which is funny because subverting the magical girl cliches seems to be quite the market these days.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (Seasons 1-3) is a wonderful show, for instance, with enough sugary sweet and genuinely warmhearted moments to balance out the fact that the writers enjoy their art and will repeatedly make one care enough about the protagonists so that our heartstrings are nice and taut when they run over them with a bus. And then they make it all better with the power of Magical Girl Superior Firepower by the end of the season, and so we can’t hold it against them. The fact the titular protagonist has earned such nicknames as “White Devil”(a Gundam reference) and “Demon Cannon Girl” by the fandom, and “befriending” is now a synonym for “beat them up and then make friends with them after inflicting grievous bodily harm with magical bazookas” in some circles, and this is one of the most unique magical girl series I’ve seen in recent years.
Compared to Nanoha’s “let’s tongue in cheekly tweak the magical girl homages”, Mai-Hime’s much like someone saying “y’know, this is nice and all, but really, I never felt they were in danger. I mean, it’s a magical girl series. The good guys win, the bad guys are defeated(in enormous explosions), and no one ever dies until MAYBE the last couple episodes.” Mai-Hime subverts that aplenty with how it’s set up, starts out vaguely mysterious and ambiguous, rises to a thundering crescendo of teamwork and friendship overcoming evil….and then hits the second half of the series where the magnificent BASTARD of a Dragon, Nagi, promptly sets the wheels in motion for the real Big Bad’s evil plan, which almost works if the old mentor figure of the group wasn’t similarly pulling a massive master plan of her own to counteract him. The series gets progressively darker with a number of main character deaths along the end of the series….which are, fair warning, mostly reversed in the ending epilogue. People are divided. Some people think it cheapens the deaths and the drama that led up to them. Me, I cared about the characters. By the end, I wanted to see something go right to stop the all the pain they were going through. That a brilliant 11th hour master plan by the aforementioned mentor caused a number of resurrections that just so happen to make their lives better in the process? I don’t care. I liked the characters. Seeing them get a happy ending in the end makes me happy. Maybe I’m a sap, but that’s why I enjoyed it. Happy endings in dark, dramatic series do not automatically suck!

28 07 2009
pyromaniac_ks

Nanoha is a series about gundams cunningly disguised as lolis.
It is actually pretty awesome.

29 07 2009
jaeai

*twitch* *SEIZE*
Keori…”introduced” me to anime with a non-stop marathon of Shinji. Second running through (because the first time is never enough, like sex), we played “Shinji whines.”
…god…I can still hear the screams.

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