Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Category Archives: Mecha

Rinne no Lagrange (review)

Madoka suplexes the enemy mechaFinal impression – a mecha series without the angst (8/10)

Winter 2012 and Summer 2012 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (English title – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)

Madoka may be a boisterously cheerful, overly outgoing and enthusiastic young woman, but at the end of the day she’s just an ordinary high school girl with an odd personality.  So when she’s approached by mysterious, uniformed girl named Lafinty and invited to do her part to help the world, it’s understandable that she didn’t expect to become a mecha pilot.  Being an athlete of all manner of sports and martial arts, Madoka quickly adjusts to her new responsibility as a guardian of the Earth.  But when her older cousin arrives on the scene vehemently against this development, it’s clear that there’s more to the situation than everyone is letting on.  Read more of this post

Suisei no Gargantia – Morality of Feast and Famine

Ledo talks with BevelBased on my own research into philosophy and my experiences on the subject, it’s clear that morality cannot be categorized into good or bad, black and white.  It’s ever-shifting and depends entirely on the circumstances a society or even an individual finds him or herself in.  The culture clash at the heart of Suisei no Gargantia illustrates one of the times in which humanity might be forced to put aside its notions of protecting the weak and that’s the emptiness of deep space.

The thought of euthanasia and weeding out those people deemed incapable of contributing sticks in most people’s throats, but I think the key thing to remember is that Ledo comes from a very different society than we’re used to—one based solely on the quantity of resources. In space, limited supplies and proper allocation would be paramount to survival and it shows that when backed up against a wall, we’re capable of making tough decisions that are necessary for the benefit of all. Food, water, electricity and even oxygen are as precious as life itself (literally the essentials of life). Read more of this post

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo (preview)

Initial impression – never has there been a more appropriate subtitle

Autumn 2012 (alternate title – Rebuild of Evangelion: 3.0, Evangelion: 3.0 Q Quickening) (more info)

What a turning point for the Evangelion franchise.  A true revolution I must say.  As I sat awestruck in the theater after the movie finished, something crossed my mind that I knew I had to share with you.  “This was necessary.”  With the third movie, this revisit of the story first told back in 1995 has found its own identity and will not live in the shadow of its predecessor.

To avoid spoiling anything, but still giving you a taste of what to expect, I’m going to focus on the powerful transformations the characters have undergone that shape the story in new and exciting ways.

Asuka has given up the mantle of depression and tsundere indecisiveness and become a true soldier.  The degree to which she has matured contrasts most strikingly in her relationship with Shinji.  Where before she had trouble tolerating his naivety, she still had a modicum of sympathy for him and respect for his talent.  But now she sees Shinji as an irreconcilable child who has no business trying to save the world.  He’s no longer “stupid Shinji,” he’s become, “bratty Shinji.”

One of the things I was disappointed about in the third movie was how small Mari’s role is.  After her stunning battle with the tenth angel, Zeruel, and the stirring words of encouragement she gave to Shinji, I thought she would have a bigger influence.  But I will admit that she wasn’t necessary to most of Eva 3.0 and the primary reason for my disheartened feelings come from my love of Maaya Sakamoto’s acting, which hasn’t been so active lately.  Maybe in Eva 4.0…

Misato’s character has undergone what’s possibly the most drastic change.  Her softer side melts away to give rise to an icy, authoritarian woman who is large and in charge; she has to be for the sake of everyone around her.  She never fully trusted NERV and that serves her well as she finds herself facing a world balanced on the edge of a razor.

Gendo always sought control of things no man should hope to control.  Before, he was a villain whose motives could not entirely be called evil.  He now goes about pursuing his ideals with single-minded purpose and will stop at nothing to achieve those goals.  Any shred of humanity he had before is lost and nothing will satisfy him short of his personal vision of perfection.

As always, Rei is an enigma.  I don’t know what to think of her and neither does Shinji.  The distance between them is painful at times, but all things considered this is a story about Kaworu and Shinji.

Kaworu’s kindness in the face of so much strife is the hope of this movie.  He’s a genuine young man and becomes seemingly the only person Shinji can truly call a friend.  Once a schemer in the TV series, he becomes an unwavering pillar of wisdom in a world gone mad.  He goes from mysterious shadow to the voice of reason and motivation—even when Shinji loses himself in despair and then loses himself again in delusion.  His importance cannot be undersold and is probably the most likeable character in 3.0.

And then there’s Shinji.  At times ready and willing, at others lost and ashamed, his rollercoaster ride of emotions is palpable.  To some degree, Shinji has always allowed himself to be a tool of the authority figures around him, but his inability to find his will is understandable.  Lacking a full view of the big picture, he’s unable to form sound decisions so what would you expect?  Additionally, his source of support in Kaworu is also compromised when both become misled by the powers that be.  It’s not that Shinji is weak—far from it.  Perhaps he’s merely too trusting and too confident that his own good feelings and positive attitude will lead to the best result.

And that’s a valuable lesson.  It’s reminiscent of the old phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It’s not that Shinji is unlikable—more inevitably pitiable.  Trapped by his circumstances, it’s a rail path that’s doomed to end in a crash.  When he does his best for the sake of everyone but ends up hitting rock bottom, you feel for him and want to encourage him to get back on his feet and keep trying.  But ultimately, it’s about accepting the consequences of your actions and moving forward instead of dwelling on the past.  Focus on the “will be” instead of the “had been.”  After all, as the subtitle suggests, you cannot redo.

Busou Shinki Ep. 1

Initial impression – could’ve been worse, but not very interesting (4/10)

Autumn 2012 (13 episodes) (English title – Armored War Goddess) (more info)

Mixing elements of mecha musume, fighting robots and maids, at first glance Busou Shinki appears to be appealing to a highly niche audience.  But I think that all these elements have enough overlap that it’s still greater than the sum of its parts.  That being said, it doesn’t suddenly make this series good.  Yeah, it has a unique style and given the subject matter it could have been something lousy and perverted like DearS or Heaven’s Lost Property.  That the story doesn’t go there and the main character is a nice, stand-up guy is reassuring to say the least.  But from here I can only see the story becoming more and more ridiculous.  Using your tiny, moe fighting robots as loving companions to do your chores doesn’t fit with my sensibilities.  While I appreciate the originality, I think it’s all too simple to grow into anything particularly worthwhile.

Robotics;Notes Ep. 1

Initial impression – really just…eh

Autumn 2012 to winter 2013 (22 episodes) (more info)

The first episode of Robotics;Notes reeks of Tari Tari.  Does this sound familiar?  Unpopular club is in a pinch because of a stuffy vice principle and a charismatic student who wants to accomplish something big has to rally support to save the day—which includes finding new members, proving the club’s value at a small venue before being allowed to attempt the bigger challenge later and acquiring funding for their big project, which is already on a tight schedule.  Yeah, this is already feeling too close to the disappointing Tari Tari with the focus of mecha substituted for music.

The only character that even approaches likeability so far is female protagonist Akiho Senomiya with her go-getter attitude, overflowing optimism and willingness to literally get dirty.  Her male support in the form of Kaito Yashio is a die-hard gamer with so little interest in what’s going on I find it hard to believe he’d even join this club in the first place.  As much as this anime has been hyped and advertised over the past year or so, I was hoping for something much better.  It’s not bad at least, but if Robotics;Notes can’t differentiate itself in some way really soon, I’m not going to have any regrets about dropping it early.

Rinne no Lagrange 2 Ep. 1

Initial impression – the same great enthusiasm

Summer 2012 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Lagrange of Endless Rebirth) (English title – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne) (more info)

Picking up after a few months of down time in the story, in the absence of her friends, Madoka has been down and is facing the decision of what she wants to do after graduation.  Lan is working with La Garte to push the limits of Vox Limpha and Muginami’s whereabouts are still unknown.

At first glance I thought this series would just be more of the same—a reflection of the first season, but after thinking about it a little more I’m inclined to think that there are enough new elements to tell a very different kind of story.  Most importantly a lot of the set pieces don’t need to be introduced and everyone’s role is slightly altered, even if most of the major players still have roughly the same motives.

To have Vox Aura reactivate right at the moment Madoka wills the machine back to life completely devalues having it inexplicably go offline at the end of the previous season.  It’s an excellent example of how the writing in this series is much more about feeling than substance.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but probably not everyone is going to appreciate this style that is very much about being in the moment rather than building up to something much bigger and grander by incremental steps.

Because of the nature of its storytelling, I don’t think Rinne no Lagrange 2 is going to attract any new fans who didn’t care for season one.  But those who liked the first half are going to enjoy reentering a world that’s starting to realize its potential.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse Ep. 1

Initial impression – a solid introduction

Summer 2012 to autumn 2012 (24 episodes) (more info)

Ok, so Muv-Luv is your standard story about a young pilot in training who is going to have to grow up fast in order to fight back against the alien invaders (at least that’s my impression about how these things usually develop).  Fine, it’s not the most original premise, but if this series wants to make a name for self, it’s going to have to stand up on its technical merit.  The pacing is pretty good so far and while the characters are still by no means established, I can feel a definite atmosphere of impending doom, futility and desperation which is pretty impressive with the amount of history that was woven into the exposition of the progress of this war.  You just know things are going to get much, much worse before they get better.

The tone feels a little off at times with this supposedly being a military training facility and the real potential for death during practice being juxtaposed alongside high school girls living fairly normal lives.  Considering this first episode was a buildup of history and emotion leading to what is presumably the real battle in the next episode I’m not comfortable really calling this anime either way just yet.  I’m quite eager to see how it handles its action sequences.  Thankfully, Muv-Luv is staying away from the big mecha pitfall of blathering on in technical jargon about why their giant robots are better than everyone else’s.

However, the super-revealing flight suits these girls wear with their buttocks on full display make the plug suits from Evangelion look like petticoats.  If it’s relying on fanservice to get male viewers lured in at this early stage, my optimism is waning.  From past experience I know a lot of people are going to cringe at the poorly integrated CGI mecha against a very flat, out-of-place background.  The primary group of girls still only feel main-ish and I’m wondering if the series is going to continue to keep this broad view of the war at large or if Yui is actually going to be the focus of the story.  Perhaps the next episode will be a better gauge of how Muv-Luv is going to turn out.

Rinne no Lagrange (ongoing)

Impression – excellent character growth with energetic creativity

Winter 2012 and summer 2012 (more info / part 2) (best English equivalent – Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)

Probably the most outstanding aspect of Rinne no Lagrange is how it tells a story reminiscent of psychological trips with mecha backdrops similar to Evangelion or RahXephon.  But very pleasingly it has managed to ditch the angsty boy pilot and replace him with a brave, cheerful young woman.

On the surface this does have a slight tendency to subvert the heavy atmosphere that naturally accompanies these types of anime, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  I’m all for taking tried and true methods of storytelling that have produced some great anime and putting just enough twists on the formula to create a familiar, but fresh experience.  And that’s what Rinne has accomplished at the halfway point in its two-part run.

Though it’s often silly and a little too lighthearted at times for its own good, the depth of the characters is really something to be appreciated.  I think I started out hating every character other than Madoka at first.  Her pushy cousin Youko, the halfhearted Lan, deceptive Muginami, annoyingly larger than life Vilajulio & Co. as well as the sickeningly bourgeoisie Astelia all rubbed me the wrong way to start off.  But as a testament to the force of Madoka’s personality, they all started to shift ever so slightly as the story progressed and to my surprise, looking back I can’t indicate a specific turning point when they started to grow on me.

This anime has some unique, interesting flaws to point out—most notably being how it ungracefully tiptoes around how it wants to deal with the almost-fanservice moments that it seems to want to indulge in, but always backs off before doing anything too risqué.  To its credit it has an elegant air about itself, but that kind of flirtatious attitude can only go so far before it starts to become a little too obvious.

All in all, Rinne has enough originality and depth in the cast to leave me looking forward to seeing where things pick up again this summer.  But this break between the two halves got me thinking.  Between Fate/Zero and Rinne no Lagrange and then Jormungand soon joining the team, there’s a theme developing where anime are doing two twelve episode seasons separated by a one season gap (about four months).  How do you feel about that?  Would you rather get it all done in one go or do you think there is a benefit to breaking up a two season series like this?

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