Further to an online conversation about the virtues of Barakamon, an interesting point was drawn to my attention about a similarly-themed (in certain ways) comedy animé airing at a similar time; Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. Nozaki is about a girl who ends up forming an eccentric friendship with the artist of her favourite comic, a young man employed writing girls’ romance stories despite his crippling lack of knowledge of the subject (and, as the series suggests, talent outside of certain very limited spheres). It is a comedy about art and artists – as, ultimately, Barakamon is. The humour comes from the clashing of artistic temperaments and thought processes with a less whimsical outside world – in many ways it is even a fish-out-of-water comedy, as Nozaki is ill-suited to the world of girls’ fiction, and Chiyo is unsuited to the artistic, high-stress world of comics-writing.
Gundam: Reconguista in G, or G-Reco, is the first “typical” Gundam series on TV since the very unpopular Gundam AGE (discounting the sidestory OVA Gundam Unicorn). “Typical” here means a full-length televised program, with a science-fiction plot (for although Gundam Build Fighters is now in its second series, it is nowhere near comparable to other franchise entries being a “games” animé taking card-game animé cliches and applying them to miniatures gaming). Yet, three episodes in, G-Reco is interesting in a way few Gundam series really are; it would have been easy for it to rest on its laurels with franchise recognition, to go through the motions in uninspired ways – as parts of AGE did. AGE too often dressed interesting concepts in uninspired, predictable execution that robbed dramatic turns of any emotional impact and made much of it feel empty. It was unable to, arguably, properly stand as its own series and simply repeated – via its three-arc structure – expected developments in increasingly ineffective ways.
Fish-out-of-water comedies – the city man in the countryside, the country yokel in the big city and any number of other examples – all focus on someone who has been brought up strongly within one society ending up trying to fit into a very different one. They generally gently mock the displaced person by showing how they do not fit in, and often resent the need to fit in, and simultaneously poke fun at the new society they are disrupting. All generally ends with one party or the other changing their ways to pick up the best of the disruptive influence; the stuck-up city folk will learn some homespun country wisdom, or the stressed-out professional will learn to relax. A good example in recent animé was Rowdy Sumo-Wrestler Matsutaro; its protagonist was a single-minded idiot with a heart of gold who gradually learned to put his violent and blinkered thinking to good use in mentoring an inept trainee sumo-wrestler. He took the consequences of his actions (a pleasant change from some series with violent anti-heroes where their escaping justice is just another quirky facet of their character)
With the final preparations complete – in the form of an episode of down-time – Eureka Seven is finally ready to begin its ultimate confrontations. Renton is going beyond the Great Wall to find out some kind of truth, Stoner and Holland are preparing their expose of the Coralians and Eureka, and Dewey is planning his own operations to bring an end to the Coralian “threat.” The shift in focus is established with a new opening theme tune, probably the best of the series’ four themes. The theme tunes and credits sequences have throughout the series tonally reflected what is happening – the third, the punk-esque To the Centre of the Sun, played through the series’ impetuousness and kicking out – and now Sakura, the fourth theme, comes with its very heroic and spiritual sound for the show’s climax – established as something that must be religious.
The side story OVAs to the main Universal Century timeline of Gundam are, perhaps by virtue of a shorter running time, more focused in their approach to using the setting; each tells a single story seated within the world created that tries to be different in some way to other stories in the same world. The 08th MS Team makes aesthetic efforts at a kind of military-SF realism by attention to mechanical detail and at the same time is basically a love story about soldiers from opposing factions. War in the Pocket is even more personal and anti-action in its close focus on Al and Bernie, a soldier and the civilian who helps him try and carry out his mission against all odds – and its child’s viewpoint is specifically used to play with expectations of what this kind of story entails.
Episode 19 of Rahxephon is the end of an arc – the moment where Ayato’s impulsive heroism is finally put to the test as he must come to terms with what “saving” someone actually means – and whether, in this world, it is even possible.
Note: Episode 19 is a particularly unique episode, and probably one of the best-written episodes in mecha animé purely because of how it sits within the wider plot of the series – as a result, the remainder of this article will be placed after this tag so readers may choose not to read it and see the episode without being spoiled.
Aldnoah Zero shows its inspirations from across a number of science-fiction animé, but perhaps most clearly Turn-A Gundam in its invading empire from space bringing advanced technology against a more primitive Earth. While Turn-A took this to an extreme, with technology more advanced than many of the pure science-fiction Gundam series set against early 20th century weapons, Aldnoah has a “standard” military sci-fi setting, with its own war robots and advanced versions of existing weapons, set against a high-powered invading force with more fantastical equipment. Having greater technological parity in this way puts the focus more easily on conflict from the start; although very quickly in Turn-A the Earthrace finding and learning to use advanced weapons becomes the defining plot point, it makes it very clear from the start that without this, the Earthrace cannot even destroy a single Moonrace machine.
There are, really, two approaches to discussing the comparatively unpopular Episode 39 of Eureka Seven. One can either focus on what actually happens and talk about it as a sports animé, or one can discuss what it “means” within the framework of the series. It is ultimately a very silly episode, filled with visual jokes and cartoonish visuals, and its characters even admit themselves it is entirely superficial to the plot – yet it at the same time is so blatant and explicit in its exposition of the series’ themes it can be seen as clever in its stupidity. The plot is entirely incidental, and pure super-robot fluff; Holland, on orders from Norb, decides the Gekko’s crew must play a game of football before continuing with their mission. It is reminiscent of the strange training regimes of Gen Fudo in the later series Genesis of Aquarion, a series which is only really memorable for those episodes (which variously entail cross-dressing, characters parodying each others’ mannerisms, running foot-races and, in one case, playing football) and has the same heavy-handed way of delivering a “message” (in Aquarion‘s case it is usually punctuated with a suitably-themed special move for the main robot.)
This article also includes discussion of the plot of the serial Nearer My God To Thee (Abnett, Harrison, Parkhouse), printed in 2000AD issues 1883-8.
If episode 17 of Rahxephon was about Ayato’s failure – his entirely understandable and thus all the more tragic moment of conviction based on faulty facts – episode 18 is his final descent and attempts to recover. It is densely packed with the answers he seeks – answers which even undermine the audience’s privileged position compared to the characters by giving a direct insight into the enemy’s plans – but offers little redemption or closure. Its final line is “where can I go?” as he escapes the Mu and flees, but without ever reconciling with any of those he has alienated in the process. It could even be seen as prophetic of future misfortune – he is rushing onward in the Rahxephon to do what he thinks is right, motivated only by a desire to do something.
Take my hand,
I’m a stranger in Paradise
All lost in a wonderland
A stranger in paradise
If I stand starry eyed,
That’s a danger in Paradise
Mortals who stand beside
An angels like us
Tony Bennett – Stranger in Paradise
Episode 17 of Rahxephon is a fruitless, frustrating buildup to a moment of horrible catharsis divided into two parts that lay plain between them the mysteries of the series. These are mysteries that the viewer knows, or has worked out by inference, but which not all of the characters know to the same extent – and the ways in which they learn these things, in the worst ways at the worst times, set up a grim future for Ayato. The revelations in the episode are not really revelations to the viewer but instead to Ayato, and mark the point where he finally gets what he wants.