It has been a long time since I watched any Captain Harlock media, but the recent announcement of Super Robot Wars T, featuring Harlock SSX: My Youth in Arcadia, drove me to give the series another go. I love its aesthetic, and it is iconic enough to be notably parodied in various things (perhaps most broadly by the latter half of Goldran featuring Walter disguised as a bad parody of Harlock piloting a giant robot shark), but I did not recall particularly gelling with the original series, dated as it is, when I first watched it.
Preview page from MEKA (Magnetic Press, 2014), available on Comixology.
Explorations of collateral damage are not new material for giant robot stories; the most striking examples that come immediately to mind are good sections of Invincible Superman Zambot 3, the first fight in Mobile Suit Gundam that sees Amuro accidentally destroy a section of colony, and Gundam F91’s brutal, scrappy opening battle in a city as people flee the action. But there are other examples – SDF Macross with its Zentradi invasion of the island and even the continued effects of transforming the ship on the people within, or even Space Battleship Yamato’s very first use of the Wave Motion Gun. It is difficult to decouple super robots from superweapon stories and giant monster fighting from indiscriminate warfare.
A lot of recommendations of Gankutsuou play up, and at the same time try to excuse, its oddities; it is a strange-looking adaptation of Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo that starts partway in and focuses on a side-character and is in the future, as if these are things that need excusing or offering as some kind of caveat. There is a preoccupation on the fact it is a slightly non-standard adaptation of a classic novel which I think does the series as a disservice, because whether or not one cares particularly for Dumas Gankutsuou is a very solid piece of television. And, indeed, once one gets past the aesthetics, it is not a particularly non-standard adaptation at all and one that abridges ably to tell a focused, thrilling story.
I have not seen many Kamen Rider series, least of all Showa-era ones; as a result, any frame of reference I have for discussing the franchise is limited to select individual series rather than the franchise as any kind of whole. Nevertheless, I am currently watching Kuuga, and it is proving highly enjoyable television and quite watchable without any foreknowledge or wider sense of what one can or should expect. Taken outside of its franchise, it is a series that does superhero origins and self-discovery very well, and creates a world that realistically adapts to the sudden arrival of supervillains. It manages to be dark and atmospheric without necessarily being graphically violent or exploitative, in part owing to the understated creature designs and simple, easily-read hero suit.
There is a formula to most Ultraman series episodes that initially seems repetitive and counter to the often weird and interesting setups; no matter what happens, there will be some kind of fight against a giant creature, because ultimately that is the franchise’s core motif. Indeed, the episodic monster-fighting nature of several entries may possibly seem different to viewers (like me) introduced to the franchise by the very interestingly continuity-driven Ultraman GEED. GEED had a shorter running time, and while it frequently had the giant fights to cap off episodes compounded with a veritable stable of heroes and forms, it told a fairly strong plot which itself tied into (in a fashion that used neat metatextual trickery) a wider cinematic universe.
After efforts to write stories about the gaps between action, about day-to-day life, it was refreshing to write something simple and heroic. And so, a simple action scene.
In writing a continuation of Night / Morning I decided to change the perspective and tense slightly; I wanted to keep my idea of trying to write something about the senses, about how it feels to feel alive, and indeed the discomfort of the setting, but to expand it slightly in scope. It has moved from one person in one room, in a way; it is now about someone trying to turn their current situation over in their mind.
Not knowing a significant amount about Astro Boy outside of having seen Atom the Beginning, I perhaps entered the stage show Pluto with a very different perspective; one of a true outsider to the source material, aware of it by reputation and not so much from personal familiarity. This open-mindedness will inform this review; I am aware of the debt so much science-fiction anime owes to Astro Boy, but only from this secondary perspective.
This is, effectively, a rewrite of a story I wrote on this blog a long time ago, Thanks. I thought Thanks was a decent enough piece of writing, but I wanted to try and make it more descriptive, more of an attempt to paint an immediate scene rather than anything else. To try and communicate a wide range of feelings and sensations, to paint a picture with more senses.
And to decouple “realism” in military science-fiction from pessimism and cynicism and darkness and just paint it as bathetic routine and minor irritations, with a bit of humanity.
I’d like to extend some thanks to @schneiderheim on Twitter for helping proofread this.
Everything continues to build towards the big race, yet the most interesting thing I found when writing this was how it let me throw down in words, in safe, science-fiction form, snapshots of my own introspection.
While this is, throughout, a work of colourful fantasy, I think it is from these chapters onwards where I let a little more of my own doubts and memories cloud the characters.