In past articles on science-fiction I have talked about how the politics of the future inherently lend themselves to more socialist viewpoints; ideas of co-operation, of plentiful resources and of reduced need for work and more time for leisure. This can lead to a return to a rural or antique idyll – a leisure-focused society free from concerns such as poverty and want, and indeed a move away from concepts of money and the value of objects. Yet beneath this surface the issues raised – of the economics of a post-scarcity world – warrant deeper consideration.
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Episode 30 of Eureka Seven seems to be, after so much seriousness and trauma, a return to the endearing oddness and youthful exuberance of the now long-distant first arc. It begins – as, in fact, several such early episodes did – with Renton and other members of the Gekko’s crew on some unspecified mission, completing it in a charmingly amateurish way as they struggle with a large bag of some sort. Indeed, this quite now uncommon style of episode is highlighted as unusual by Renton himself, who talks about how life has returned to normal in a way that he has not seen for some time.
Based on initial impressions from the first episode, the 2013 animated series Majestic Prince is unashamedly, and in most entertaining fashion, a cartoon. Its characters warp and stretch and deform for comic effect, it is populated by caricatures and it plays with screen space in a comic-book esque way. This, in many ways, contributes to its strength as an entry in the “real robot” genre; it is a parody by virtue of its unquestioning adherence to the traditions of its genre set within a visually absurd framework. If anything, its closest analogue would be an OVA like ARIEL or Shooting Star Gakusaver, both of which are interested in highlighting the absurdities of their genre.
In the first of my series of articles about how GAINAX approach the traditional cliches and tropes of super-robot and space opera animé, I talked about Gunbuster‘s use of heroic sacrifices – and quite specific evocations of Space Battleship Yamato – to juxtapose a personal story and a traditional genre one. As Gunbuster progresses it takes the genre archetypes larger in scale with each battle; first Noriko’s desperate first fight in which Smith dies, then her first launch in the Gunbuster itself, culminating in a final battle where the super-prototype and the unified fleet come together to fight a last stand defending a yet greater superweapon. The escalation of the odds each time reflects Noriko’s development and her personal journey to excel.
The sniper level in Call of Duty Modern Warfare was considered one of the game’s highest points; its combination of stealth with setpieces – despite being a highly curated experience – was a tense kind of mission in a game that was rapidly redefining what a cinematic FPS could do in its use of curated setpieces. Sniper 2 is a game formed entirely of these moments – mixtures of tense marksmanship and frantic action in the aftermath. It is a game which, rather than offering vast selections of experiences in a kind of action buffet, focuses on making one single one – sniping – as seemingly realistic and simulationary as possible. Finding the midpoint between simulation and accessibility in a game like this is crucial, and Sniper 2 succeeds only in part.
The central plot conceit of much of Turn-A Gundam is that two central characters – the victim of war Kihel Heim and the leader of the invading Moonrace Dianna Soriel – switch places, taking advantage of their similarity of appearance to experience life from another perspective. The lonely queen of the moon initially sees this as a joke stemming from an emerging friendship with a confidante of the leader of earth forces, but as the events of the war develop – and Moonrace and Earth Militia forces both escalate the conflict ignorant of attempts at peace – the switch becomes a much more significant thing as Kihel, a civilian, ends up having to do more than look like her counterpart but also fulfil Dianna’s role as a military leader.
Science-fiction animé featuring first contact with alien races, when the focus is on war, often takes a quite particular stance which at first sight seems nationalistic and imperialist. A war for the survival of a species necessitates strong leadership and heroism in the face of impossible odds, and no sacrifice is too great to further the overall cause. This is particularly clear in stories such as Space Battleship Yamato or any super-robot animé, where the rank-and-file soldiers – and even world governments – are happy to throw lives away to buy time for the protagonists to in some way meet their destiny and save the world. Yamato begins in this way, with mankind’s last stand against the Gamilans, and then extrapolates this (more so in 2199, the remake series) into a kind of post-apocalyptic resistance scenario after this is not enough to win.
The first half of episode 5 of Rahxephon was heavily focused on establishing Ayato’s position within TERRA – the outsider, saying the wrong thing to some people and ignored by most. It built on episode 4′s cryptic introductory scenes and made clear through implication and passing interactions not only what the other characters think of Ayato but how their own behaviours might be fronts for if not secrets but insecureties. The only characters who really emerge as sympathetic are the doctor and his sister Quan; both may have secrets but they act in a way which does not exclude or apparently set out to deceive Ayato.
Episode 4 of Rahxephon ended with the first fight between Ayato and a Dolem in the series after the revelation about Tokyo Jupiter and TERRA; it was a perfunctory and abruptly-ended affair which reinforced both how immensely powerful the Rahxephon is, and how uncontrollable it is. Thus it is fitting that episode 5 should begin with the other characters – those who spent the previous episode debating what should be done – trying to make sense of the mysteries. Continue reading
A number of OVAs of the 1980s aimed to be part of long-running series, or to have continuations; examples include Dangaioh, Relic Armour Legaciam and so on. Similarly there were OVAs like ARIEL, which played with the idea of taking an episode or arc out of a non-existent series and presenting it as a standalone adventure (in ARIEL‘s case this is a conscious stylistic choice; the light novel series it is based on is structured like a series of episode summaries for a TV show, and it is very self-aware in its use of the cliches of mecha anime). As a result, the half-hour Cool Cool Bye sits in a strange place between being an unfinished or undeveloped experiment and an intentionally contextless single episode.