Anime Secret Santa Gifts (Slightly Unwrapped)

Every time I participate in the Anime Blogger Secret Santa project, I try to take on all three of the shows that I’m recommended at once and make a point to finish at least one of them. This year, I received three totally fascinating choices which had me anxious to check them out, but I also ended up with the least time that I’ve had in a while to afford to them and only ended up watching a little bit of each.

If you know much about me, then you probably know that I’m often a lot more interested in the meta side of anime consumption than I am in actually watching things. I like putting shows into a grand narrative or context and trying to uncover greater truths about anime via the things that I watch. The recommendations that I got this year were perfect in that only one of them was a show which I’d already been planning to watch because I thought I’d enjoy it, whereas the other two could lead to fascinating avenues of meta.


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Space Dandy’s Response to the Sci-Fi Tech Issue

When a sci-fi series in any medium tries to invent all kinds of everyday-use technology, it invariably ends up dating itself. A future filled with CRT monitors and gigantic cell phones is always going to mark itself as pre-flatscreens and smartphones, for instance.

Space Dandy, however, is atemporal. In its desire to be at once a futuristic sci-fi series, but also a throwback to the style of sci-fi pulp stories from the Space Adventure Cobra days, it elects to throw technology from different eras into a blender and create something that transcends time.

Dandy’s robot, QT, runs like an old, hunky PC, with limited battery life, outdated software, and printed-out punchcards. Meow uses a smartphone to take pervy pictures of the ladies in the Boobies bar, that seems to be running on a totally modern Android OS. Dandy’s ship can warp through space, but the teleporter is an “old model,” that takes about as much time to transfer people from one place to another as a camera did to take a picture in the 1800s.

The entire show is an anachronism. It’s digitally drawn, but Dandy looks like he walked out of the 70s. Aliens range from looking like menacing, planet-burrrowing space worms, to resembling adorable Pokemon. For that matter, it’s aspacial as well, with simultaneous releases in the US and Japan, each with their own dubs, so that it can’t be said where the show first aired. It’s an anime series which transcends space-time to occupy a totally unique plane of existence.

Now to watch episode two.

Kill La Kill and Nudity of Concept

Throughout the first two episodes of Kill La Kill, I felt that Matoi’s costume design was meant for something a little more than fanservice. It’s not meant to be a commentary on the audience; sure, everyone who ogles her is represented as stupid, and she usually kicks their asses, but Matoi is nonetheless embarrassed to wear it, and there’s nothing to actively punish the viewer for ogling it. The point is more about saying: it’s okay to have a sexy character design; and rather than be coy about it, it should be a matter of pride.

Kill La Kill is utterly absent of pretention. It seeks simply to be an incredibly badass technical action showcase, and it thoroughly succeeds. Hiroyuki Imaishi is perhaps the most influential and important animator in TV anime alive today, and his new studio, Trigger, has brought his style into its own life. Unlike his previous shows Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking, which felt like a blend of a huge number of styles from a large group of contributors, Kill La Kill feels focused and uniform in style. It’s also Imaishi’s best directorial work yet in my opinion; the pace is insanely fast, but it’s also very consistent, unlike Gurren Lagann which could feel all over the place at times. In every technical aspect, Kill La Kill is as good as it could possibly be.

The storyline is simple as they come, and the show pulls no punches in being as over-the-top with action and fanservice as it wants to be, not holding back anything for anyone. Episode three is all about embracing that naked, unashamed nature.

Matoi is embarrassed to wear her armor because it’s scantily clad, and guys are ogling her—but she always holds power over them. She knows that they don’t matter, but she lets it upset her anyways. This shame in the very thing that makes her powerful, ends up being her downfall. Not unlike a show or movie created to be an action vehicle, but bogged down in attempted realism or a pretentious/overwrought storyline, Matoi can’t be the epic fighter that she needs to be if she’s busy being ashamed.

The school president, meanwhile, doesn’t give a single fuck. She knows that she’s amazing, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says. She’s determined and true to herself—able to stand naked in her conviction and say, “come at me bro.” And in witnessing how the president’s determination trumped the opinions of those beneath her, Matoi is inspired to embrace the nudity that brings her power and fight with true conviction.

…did I just blog anime?!

What’s Missing From Four Eps of Suisei no Gargantia

Gargantia is awesome. It does an amazing job of suggesting an enormous amount of shit through visuals alone, even if that shit isn’t really delved into. For instance, the huge space battle in the first episode features all these fantastic patterns, formations, and suggestions about the nature of the main character and the current battle.

So what’s the show missing? Well, more of what it does best! Everything that’s shown in the series manages to suggest a lot; the problem is that in three and a half episodes of Ledo being on Earth, not enough has been shown! Ledo spends the better part of episodes three and four literally sitting on the mast of one ship in this huge Gargantia fleet, and while we’ve seen a bunch of short clips of Amy running through the town, and plenty of sweeping shots of the fleet, it feels like we’ve hardly even seen an ounce of this would-be fascinating location.

In episode four, Ledo finally gets off the starting boat and into town, but things are happening too quickly (not pacing-wise, mind), and he isn’t seeing enough. The episode is too quick to jump into a series of dialog dumps from its principal characters, instead of allowing Ledo to learn about them and their home organically.

While Ledo’s conversation with Bevel helped him start to comprehend these people, having this conversation is a wasted opportunity regarding what makes Ledo interesting. He’s a super-observant, quick-learning character, so if he’d been given enough time aboard the ship interacting with people, these emotions could have been brought out of him by way of his own observations, rather than hamfistedly being told to him by a slew of characters who probably won’t matter at all outside of teaching him things.

This hamfistedness is altogether the biggest trouble with Gargantia. It’s created a serious, involving world, with believably rational characters, but is too quick to tell them exactly what to do, like it’s working its way down a character development checklist. In episode three, the whole idea about Ledo not killing people is handled in a ridiculous manner. They still fight the pirates, and both sides assumably take casualties, so… huh? Was there no way to teach Ledo the importance of human life other than to take unnecessary casualties on their own team? Wasn’t the damage caused by Ledo killing in episode two already done, so at this point it didn’t matter anymore?

The Earthlings are not as logical of thinkers as Ledo, but having the military leaders apparently instruct Ledo not to kill seems a bit backwards. I expected them to let him off the reigns, at least towards the end when lives were in serious danger, but no one says anything, and Ledo persists in sparing lives (successfully, fwiw), because he’s not really on anyone’s side. I don’t question Ledo’s actions so much as those of the fleet.

Anyways, I’m still enjoying this show a lot despite these issues, and looking forward to what might come, especially after finding out this is an Urobuchi Gen show. In the coming episodes, I’d like to see the show pull back on the dialog a bit and let Ledo actually explore the Gargantia, preferably alone, without side characters constantly pointing out the significance of what he’s seeing. Flesh out this grand setting and make us feel a part of it, and let Ledo learn on his own, now that he’s past the first knowledge barrier.