Episode 25 of Rahxephon begins with Ayato having “become” the Rahxephon, its true form being a giant version of him with design elements of the machine itself attached. This is, one could argue, the “mid-season upgrade” of the machine, its point where its true power is unlocked for the final battle – and there is definitely a final battle at hand, with the Mu controlling earth, TERRA in ruins, Narai-Kanai destroyed and the moments of love-confession and resolution passed. Rahxephon has toyed with becoming a super-robot anime at times, but never committed; some combination of events has always subverted or prevented action catharsis. In a way this is the ultimate in the robot representing the pilot – Ayato has never been particularly comfortable in his identity or at home in this unusual world, and TERRA has never really understood what it is doing – and so the “message” being pressed home is that there cannot ever be proper catharsis. When he tries to be decisive, he misunderstands the situation. When he vacillates, people die.
This was a difficult story to begin writing, because I had so many ideas for it and it was so difficult to condense them into a piece of short fiction. Initially there were going to be a whole squadron of pilots and it was going to be a fun caper about some soldiers trying to throw a surprise party for their captain – elements of Full Metal Panic and Patlabor perhaps. The protagonist was going to be a slightly too serious bridge officer called Hitomi, and it was going to be a farce. The problem was I couldn’t write a caper story as funny as Butch Minds the Baby and I couldn’t hit a suitably easygoing tone without it seeming smug.
Then I decided I quite liked some of the supporting cast more, and there was going to be a Super Robot Wars-esque story about the pilots alone, with the brash, Excellen Browning-like character constantly annoying her wingman. That didn’t go anywhere either.
Then I hit on the characters I really liked from the original idea – a well-meaning but slightly intimidating ace pilot, and a very nervous copilot. I downplayed the initial plan for heartwarming cuteness and focused more on a genre parody drawing on Godannar, Gunbuster and similar super-robot stories. The narrative voice ended up more akin to The Stainless Steel Rat, and this was the result. Also included is a picture, drawn by a sadly anonymous artist, of the two main characters of the story – its style, very muscular and pin-up like, somewhat informed the tone.
Note: This article is also available at DPAD Magazine
This game embodies the psychedelic excess associated with video games in a way which few games – even the landmark destruction orgies of the Call of Duty series – match. It is a game where robot samurai ride robot horses to attack giant aliens, a schoolgirl and her pet talking moles (note: actually platypi) launch boulders at the enemy while quoting cartoon shows, and a red-and-gold robot can take an orbital laser shot full on and receive no lasting damage. Everything about it is larger-than-life, primary-coloured and loud, a very exuberant sensory overload which comes as quite a surprise set as it is in a fairly in-depth strategy RPG framework.
Previously I’ve written about how the turn-based structure of the Super Robot Wars games makes them a perfect depiction of the sort of throwdowns seen in comic books and superhero films – the heroes and villains take it in turns to give it their best shot with plenty of one-liners and shouted dialogues in between. Yet while many turn-based strategy games have short, simple animations for their attacks, the SRW series instead turns those animations into a reason to play and a major selling-point. With immense care taken in reproducing scenes from specific series in the franchise’s licensed entries (down to specifically not animating sprites if the series in question was renowned for cheaping out on its animation budget), when the developers are freed from trying to be accurate to the source material the results are imaginative parodies of the source genre. These five videos show some of the attention to detail put into some of the most surreal and extravagant finishing moves in SRPGs. Continue reading
Some time ago I entered into an ill-advised dare with other bloggers who write on anime; to watch a single episode of a series I knew nothing about, from the middle of its run, and write something about it. The series in question was Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, and I watched the eleventh episode of it with no contextual knowledge.