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Errinundra's Beautiful Fighting Girl #133: Taiman Blues: Ladies' Chapter - Mayumi


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louis6578



Joined: 31 Jul 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 1:07 am Reply with quote
I feel like Captain Tylor is the Lupin the Third, Vash the Stampede archetype done to perfection. Just mix a little of Char Aznable in there.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 2:05 am Reply with quote
^

Vash the Stampede....

I hadn't ever made the connection but, by golly, you're right! I prefer the style of humour in ICT to that in Trigun.

@ Alan45,

Were you ever in the armed forces? I could imagine ICT being unappealing to someone who had.
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Alan45
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:00 am Reply with quote
@errinundra

Yes, I was in the military, most of my generation was. I was in the Navy. I even worked with some of your troops.

Actually that has nothing to do with my problem with ICT. Having had experience with some of the absurdities of the Navy is what made the show fun to begin with. However, the bit with his being her "dog" had nothing to do with the military and dropped to the level of being less than human. I found it too degrading to continue.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 7:21 am Reply with quote
And now for something comparatively similar. Actually, this series gives expression to the underlying questions in recent reviews.

Zipang

Reason for watching: I first watched this back in 2009. I suppose it was the premise that intrigued me. It has never been released in Australia as far I as know. I remember how slow it was to torrent the series - I managed to download the first episode, which whetted my appetite, then there being no seeds for months.

Synopsis: The modern Japanese warship, Mirai (= "future"), sails into the Pacific Ocean to take part in joint naval exercise with the US near Midway Island. After a strange electrical storm the ship and crew find themselves transported in time to the eve of the Battle of Midway. The Mirai's presence in the Pacific War quickly becomes known to the warring nations, who try either to use or to combat the ship as best they can. As the crew of the Mirai are drawn deeper into the conflict they must decide how they will apply the principles of the 21st century Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force to their perilous situation.


IJN Yamato, yet again. Until the arrival the JDS Mirai, supposedly the most powerful warship in the world.
The great ship is treated sentimentally and nostalgically throughout the series.


Comments: It continues to defy my understanding how this 26 episode series ever got made. My best guess is that, in the boom years of anime in the pre-Global Financial Crisis Garden of Eden, a production committee thought it might appeal to a demographic not previously catered to - an adult male audience with a military or historical bent. Zipang has little to recommend itself to the prevailing midnight to dawn otaku. All the characters are adults, there's only one female character of any note - the plain looking Mirai medico - while their designs, despite the perhaps unintentional goofiness, are more realistic than anime fans would expect. Despite some nicely animated naval battle scenes the series is more interested in exploring the dilemmas faced by the individuals caught up in the bizarre conjunction of 2000s technology with 1940s history and, by extension, examines the different competing visions of what Japan ought to be following the crisis it created for itself in World War 2. It seems it never was all that popular - the difficulty in torrenting it bears that out - but it remains an intriguing anime worth exploring if you want something odd (only by anime standards). A more recent attempt at reaching out to an older male demographic with historical interests - Hyouge Mono - similarly sank with little trace and, apparently, took Studio Bee Train with it. There's a lesson there.


JDS guided-missile destroyer Mirai. The smoke is from a fire caused by battle.

The name "Zipang" is derived from the Chinese (in particular the Shanghai dialect) pronunciation of the characters 日本. It is cognate with Japan, which came to Europe via Portuguese traders as Jipang. Until recently it hasn't been used by the Japanese themselves who, of course, pronounce 日本 as Nippon or Nihon. Nor does it have the significance that some archaic names for Japan have, such as Yamato (大和) or Fuso (扶桑) and so isn't burdened by commonly accepted meanings. It thus has the benefit of being open to interpretation and therefore suits the purposes of the themes explored by the series - what defines Japan? what is the future (mirai) for Japan? who decides this? My own reading of the title is "Alternative Japans".

Also central to the thesis of Zipang is Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which (as translated) reads:

Quote:
ARTICLE 9. (1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.


The constitution was forced upon Japan after World War 2 but, thanks to creative interpretation, the Japanese Self-Defence Force is viewed as an extension of its police force. It is a well-equiped fighting force. Revising Article 9 is subject to ongoing debate in Japan. Wikipedia identifies four differing views.

Quote:
* The current pacifists believe in maintaining Article 9 and claim the SDF is unconstitutional, and would like to detach Japan from international wars.

* The mercantilists have divided opinions about Article 9 although the interpretation is broadened to include the SDF, and believe that the SDF’s role should be retained to activities related to the United Nations and for non-combat purposes. They advocate minimal defense spending, and emphasize economic growth.

* The normalists “call for incremental armament for national defense and accept using military force to maintain international peace and security”. They support the revision of Article 9 to include a clause explaining the existence and function of the SDF.

* The nationalists assert that Japan should remilitarize and build nuclear capabilities in order to regain pride and independence. They also advocate revision of Article 9 to promote armament.


Politically, the nationalists are ascendant in Japan. These and other views are explored in Zipang.

The "normalist" point of view is presented by the crew of the Mirai. They idealistically believe that their role is to defend peace and order, to avoid or even prevent conflict, to preserve life. They view the Tojo government as abhorrent and the post-World War 2 order as natural. They seek to minimise their impact on World War 2 but, when this becomes untenable, they seek to reduce the casualties on both sides. When it becomes clear that the Americans treat them implacably as enemies, they find themselves, eventually, forced to make arrangements with the Imperial Japanese Navy.


L-R: senior officers on boad the JDS Mirai - Kadomatsu, Kikuchi and Oguri.

The point of view characters are three graduates from the same class of the Japanese Military Academy: Executive Officer Yosuke Kadomatsu, a straightforward principled character; Gunnery Officer Masayuki Kikuchi who is cooly efficient and, like Kadomatsu, initially determined not to take any lives; and Navigation Officer Kouhei Oguri, a genial type who tends to be more emotional in his decision making. They are under Captain Saburo Umezu who has earned the nickname Hiruandon (= "not standing out") and who remains a rock throughout the ship's travails. "Regular" 21st century men in a world that can't comprehend them, they are well fleshed out and, Kadomatsu and Kikuchi in particular, develop over the 26 episodes. Kadamatsu will come to the view that any action is warranted if it saves lives, while Kikuchi will come to place the safety of the Mirai above all else, leading to his spectacular sinking of the USS Wasp with a Tomahawk missile. The dilemmas these men face is the dramatic core of the series. It's gripping stuff. What do you do when you are Japanese, you suddenly find yourself in a war where you know your country is in the wrong, where you know that after the Hiroshima your country will prosper, but you know millions will die beforehand, and you know you can change history? Fascinating, no? Central to the dilemma is that the JDS ideals are entirely inadequate when confronted with unavoidable conflict. To this extent Zipang is advocating a somewhat nationalist position.


Nationalist Kusaka: the most interesting character of the series.

This nationalist viewpoint is presented most fully via the most interesting, most charismatic character of the series, Takumi Kusaka, an intelligence office of the Imperial Japanese Navy. When Kadomatsu saves him from his sinking aeroplane he is given free run of the Mirai, where he learns of the fate of the Japanese Empire from the ship's library. Undaunted, he determines that Japan's future should be as a proud, independent, prosperous world superpower. He decides that the outcome of the war, if allowed to run its course as we know it, must be changed, whatever the effort or cost involved. He sees the Togo Government as mistaken in its methods but not its intent. His charisma comes from his intelligence, his single-minded vision and his grasp of history and understanding of other people. He is a formidable and appealing antagonist. He is a rational, not an emotive nationalist. He wants want he thinks is best for Japan and understands that the Japanese strategic stance is catastrophic. His insertion into the story is the first irreversible corruption of the Mirai crew's vow not to interfere in the war. His and the Mirai crew's loyalties are for very different Japans. Both are visionary in the context of 1942.


Top row: Isoroku Yamamoto and Masanobu Tsuji
Bottom row: Kanji Ishiwara and Mitsumasa Yonai


Zipang presents the viewer with four more visions of Japan, through four real life characters. All are nationalist but all have a different, individual slant. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who is treated most reverently throughout, cares first and foremost for his navy. Historically he advocated against a war with America but loyally commanded the fleet when the decision was made to attack Pearl Harbour. In Zipang he quickly understands the usefulness of the Mirai, accepts its provenance and seeks to bring it under his control. He aims to use it to enable Japan to negotiate an end to the war. Masanobu Tsuji was a brilliant army strategist who advocated war against the USSR and the USA. He was also responsible for atrocities throughout World War 2. He represents aggressive militarism and is presented unfavourably in the series, although he has a Road to Damascus moment when is all is lost at Guadalcanal. Kanji Ishiwara was a sidelined general who opposed Tojo's war strategy. He believed that Japan could only compete with America militarily if could be its equal economically, hence, like Yamamoto, saw Japan's involvement in World War 2 as doomed. When Kusaka tells him that large reserves of oil can be found in Manchuria and hints at the possibility of atomic bombs his vision of a powerful Japan is reignited. Genial Mitsumasa Yonai was a former commander of the Combined Fleet, Naval Minister and Prime Minister. He was pro-Great Britain and America. When he learns of the future outcome of the war he expresses the view that defeat was necessary for Japan to change its ways. All four are nationalists, all four have a different vision of what that means.


Dauntless bombers meet their demise against the JDS Mirai.

This internal debate is all very well but it isn't pushed. I'm highlighting it because it is just one aspect, along with the aforementioned dilemmas that the crew face, that makes Zipang the interesting series that it is. It may seem dry but it is directed with dramatic flair by Kazuhiro Furuhashi, best known for the Rurouni Kenshin TV and OVA series. He handles the battle scenes adroitly, pick of which are the battles between the JDS Mirai and the USS Wasp. The American dive bombers and torpedo bombers have been rendered almost lovingly, it seems, and the astonishment of both the Americans and Japanese witnessing the event is matched by the anguish of the ship's crew as they find themselves forced to kill to survive.

Composer Toshihiko Sahashi provides a dramatically effective score, although major themes get recycled frequently. It isn't a match for his later effort with Simoun. As mentioned earlier the character designs are clumsy - the noses are altogether too distracting, though nowhere near as mcuh as those in The Vision of Escaflowne. Otherwise the artwork and animation is quite good for its time. The frequent use of CGI for the ships is apparent but the fidelity to their real world counterparts compensates. The biggest fault is unsurprising: adapted from an ongoing manga it ends with the plot and themes unresolved. As far as the plot goes that is annoying - Kusaka's hinting at atomic warfare is intriguing to say the least. First time around I was disappointed that the crew of the Mirai didn't find a way back to their own time. Having no such expectations in this latest viewing allowed me to fully engage with Zipang's thematic explorations. The series does go full circle in one sense - the Mirai starts and ends at Yokosuka Naval Base, though in different eras. Nevertheless it is treated as a homecoming. (Here's an irony: Yokosuka is now a US Naval Base.)

Rating: good. Zipang is based upon a preposterous idea, but no more so than other series such as Death Note or Full Metal Alchemist or Mushi-shi, but, once you accept the premise what follows is some of the best story-telling around, accompaned by consistently fine animation for its time. This is a rare beast: anime aimed squarely for adult males that isn't hentai. That is also one of its major drawbacks: not fitting within a fashionable genre it is unlikely to appeal to western anime fans. Further, although it takes a consistently condemnatory tone towards Japan's actions in WW2, some people might still draw the mistaken impression that it is merely patriotic recidivism. Zipang is, rather, an historical "what-if" scenario that thoughtfully explores what it is to belong to a country caught up in war.


Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:07 am; edited 1 time in total
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Key
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:32 am Reply with quote
I reviewed several of the original singles for this one as they came out back in 2006-07 and generally rated the series pretty highly, primarily due to the thoughtfulness it showed. Almost no "what if" story that I have ever seen thoroughly thinks through all of its potential implications like this one does, including especially the impacts of radically differing ideologies and how they might be affected by knowledge of the future.

And you're absolutely right about how this isn't targeted at the conventional anime crowd. I'm still amazed that it got released fully; it was one of the last of Geneon's titles to fully complete its release before that company went under (its last volume came out only three weeks before the company stopped shipping), and I wouldn't doubt that poor sales on this series contributed to their demise. Hence a boxed set was never released for it. Still, it's one that I highly recommend for enthusiasts of military history or WW2-era history - but don't watch it dubbed. It's one of those Singapore-produced dubs, and while not as disastrously bad as some others, it's still not good in general.

EDIT: And for those who do appreciate the kind of thoughtfulness and adult-oriented maturity seen in Zipang, I very highly recommend Flag, which was in my Top 5 for the 2000s.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:29 pm Reply with quote
Thanks, Key. Now I have to track down a copy of Flag.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 3:42 pm Reply with quote
Gabriella Ekens's nomination of Shougo Makishima in the recent feature article, Your Most Memorable Anime Villain, is the inspiration for resurrecting this review from 12 October 2013. The only changes are to the size of the images and the addition of the bookending comments.

I do have a reservation now about one thing I wrote back then - it now seems to me the criticism about the throat slitting scene was unwarranted.

****

Pyscho-Pass

Reason for Watching: It has adult characters, an intriguing premise, is well ranked among ANN viewers and Bamboo Dong gave it a good wrap in the Stream. I watched it via Madman's Screening Room.

Synopsis: In a future Japan, where everyone is under near total surveillance, people's emotional and psychological states are monitored so they may remain happy and free of criminal tendencies. Any deviation from the norm will result in therapy, or loss of status, arrest or even elimination. The process is controlled by the Sibyl system, a secret computing process that determines everybody's path in life, from cradle to grave. Occasionally, an individual fools the system by having no emotional response to their own actions or to the emotional state of others. In other words, psychopaths get a free psycho-pass. (In Japanese "θ" - voiceless th - and "s" are phonemically equivalent, so it's a pun, ha-ha.) Freshly graduated from university, Akane Tsunemori is selected by Sibyl to join the Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division Unit One just as it finds itself stymied by one such character who is out to bring the system down. Teamed up with Nobuchika Ginoza who, for all his intelligence, finds himself lacking the imagination to solve the mysteries, and supported by enforcers - people who have failed their psycho-pass and do the police dirty work - led by the highly intuitive Shinya Kogami, Akane must delve deep within herself to tap capabilities she didn't know she possessed.

Comments: To start appreciating this series I had to overcome some of the hurdles it placed in front of me. First off it was the opening scene introducing the viewer to the chief rivals to be, Shinya Kogami and Shougo Makishima. Two poncey looking, testosterone overloaded, bulls locking horns. Things didn't bode well. When the sullen Unit One leader Ginoza made his entrance I suspected I would have to turn a blind eye to a bunch of tiresome male characters. I remembered I had a similar response to Batou and others when I first encountered Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (of which Psycho-Pass is surely the love-child) but quickly overcame my distaste thanks to its intriguing story. Things, however, were made much, much worse by the design of the point of view character, Akane Tsunemori, particularly her weird, triangular head and oversize Yoda eyes. It seemed her uber-moe features were preparing the viewer for her breaking or even her violation.


Arch-villain Makishima and Unit One Enforcer Kogami. Happily their encounters aren't frequent.

Happily, Psycho-Pass does a GitS:SAC and transcends the limitations of its male characters and its character designs, thanks to its fascinating technological vision, the equally fascinating contrast between what the villain - Makishima - is and the truth behind the Sibyl system and thanks, most of all, to the development of Akane from wet behind the ears newbie to highly principled leader. As Sibyl itself observes, Akane is the ideal citizen and its future hope despite her total antipathy to the goals and methods of the Sibyl system. While I grudgingly came to admit that Kogami wasn't as bad as I wanted, I grew to admire Akane's intelligence and doggedness. When Ginoza inevitably fails his psycho-pass, that Sibyl would choose a near clone of Akane as his replacement was one of several amusing touches in the final episode. I would also like to mention that, as an older male viewer myself, I greatly appreciated the presence of such an engaging older character as the enforcer Tomomi Masaoka, who always had some pearl of wisdom to impart to the others. That said, the eventual revelation of his close relationship to one of the other characters came across as contrived while, with the news there will be a second season, his departure and the description of Ginoza's replacement as a "minor" is ominous indeed.

Structurally, Psycho-Pass is uneven. In the first half Unit One investigates a series of cruel and bloody murders with only a few hints that the culprits are being manipulated. If the plot seems to lack direction to this point it is compensated by the avatar technology on dislay and the exploration of the implications of the psycho-pass system. And, while the cruelty seems excessive at times, it wimped out when it mattered: in the portrayal of the climactic throat slitting scene in episode eleven. This is a cartoon, after all. It should have been unbearable to watch. It wasn't. The show takes off when, in order to recruit them as allies, Sibyl reveals, first to Makishima then to Akane, its true nature. The contest between the three ideals (if Makishima's motivations could be considered as such) is portrayed well even if that between Sibyl and Akane is left in an uneasy balance. Psychopath villain Makishima is ultimately disappointing. In a show about ideas he eventually becomes more or less marginalised. The race against time to stop him in the last two episodes seemed tacked on, especially when it took my attention away from the much more interesting fight against Sibyl. If Makishima disappoints as a character it isn't the fault of his seiyu, Takahiro Sakurai, who is superb. His cold, purring voice is both persuasive and chilling. Another great effort from the man who gave us Fakir from Princess Tutu and Yaichi from House of Five Leaves. He's getting better with age.

Earlier I railed against the opening fight scene between Kogami and Makishima. Later in the series it re-appears in its proper sequence with its context now understood. The conclusion to the scene is also revealed. When it seems Makishima is about to kill Kogami, Akane arrives and brains Makishima with a blunt object. In the last episode it is again Akane who brings Makishima undone. Several times during the series Kogami threatens to take over from Akane as the point of view character. That Gen Urobuchi allows the seemingly uber-moe girl to prevail and grow to become an adult leader is emblematic of how Psycho-Pass ends up being better than it might have been. She has a dreadful design, all the same.


Yayoi, Akane & Ginoza. Despite the unearthly face Akane eventually won me over.

There's some amusing vignettes in the last episode coda. I've already mentioned Ginoza being replaced by an Akane doppelganger. I also got a laugh out of what the two female sex bombs of the police team - Shion Karanomori and Yayoi Kunizuka - get up to. I guess it's yet another example of one of the main themes of the series, from the avatar technology to the mastermind behind the murders, to the Sibyl deceiving masks, to Sibyl itself: things aren't what they seem.

Rating: very good. It's appropriate to compare this with GitS:SAC. While Makishima isn't nearly as intriguing as the Laughing Man, the execution of Psycho-Pass is superior to the very uneven first season of GitS:SAC. It falls short of the nicely structured and constructed second season, though. I'm looking forward to its own promised second season. I hope it improves in the way its predecessor did.

****

I never did watch the second season. Jacob Hope Chapman put the kibosh on it with his lacerating weekly reviews.


Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jose Cruz



Joined: 20 Nov 2012
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2016 9:57 pm Reply with quote
Akane the Catgirl wrote:
Interesting piece! I've only seen Gurren Lagann once, and while I enjoyed the act of watching it, I can't say it's one of my favorites. I think what lots of anime fans forget was that the show was not made for Gainax's usual audience; it aired Sundays at 8:30 AM (the same timeslot that the Pretty Cure anime shares). It's meant for very young children, and as a kid's show, it is perfectly servicable. By the way, my favorite characters were Viral and- surprisingly- Rossiu.


As a big fan of Gurren Lagann I would dare to say it's the best kids anime I ever watched. It reminded me a lot of shows like Dragonball but it managed to transcend those in many ways. Still I felt like I was 11 years old again when I was watching it, that was a glorious feeling.

Quote:
Like you, I also care little about the mecha genre. I'm going to pull the "it's not them, it's me" card on this. The only other mecha anime I've seen besides Gurren Lagann are Evangelion and Code Geass. I haven't even seen a single episode of a Gundam or Macross series, and probably will not for the next five to ten years due to negative experiences with the darker side of the fandom. Needless to say, it left a really bad taste in my mouth.


I think you should watch RahXephon. It's kinda like a Serial Experiments Lain version of mecha, who are, like in EVA, not actually mechanical vehicles but more like "gods". The show is strictly not about the battles (it's even less about mecha than EVA).

A problem I had with series like RahXephon is that it raised the bar too much and I got unrealistic expectations from watching other stuff now. Smile
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Redbeard 101
Oscar the Grouch
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 8:13 pm Reply with quote
errinundra wrote:

Earlier I railed against the opening fight scene between Kogami and Makishima. Later in the series it re-appears in its proper sequence with its context now understood. The conclusion to the scene is also revealed. When it seems Makishima is about to kill Kogami, Akane arrives and brains Makishima with a blunt object. In the last episode it is again Akane who brings Makishima undone. Several times during the series Kogami threatens to take over from Akane as the point of view character. That Gen Urobuchi allows the seemingly uber-moe girl to prevail and grow to become an adult leader is emblematic of how Psycho-Pass ends up being better than it might have been.

I agree entirely on the topic of Akane. Having her stay a strong lead and become a strong leader and sure of herself kept the show from becoming too cliche' for me. Kogami was a great character but having him be the sole factor that undoes Makishima would have left the series a bit hollow. It would have made the back and forth between him and Akane also seem pointless to a degree. So having her be the true lead by the end helped Psycho Pass stay a strong series.

Quote:
She has a dreadful design, all the same.


Yayoi, Akane & Ginoza. Despite the unearthly face Akane eventually won me over.

She did seem like she should be doing Hot Topic tv ads lol.


Quote:
I never did watch the second season. Jacob Hope Chapman put the kibosh on it with his lacerating weekly reviews.

I have not yet myself so let me know how bad it is when you're done lol.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2016 1:15 am Reply with quote
I'm back to the grind of war, with a film I saw at the 2009 Melbourne Intenational Film Festival and re-watched on DVD a number of times since.

The Sky Crawlers

Reason for Watching: As always with cinema viewings of anime - because I could. By this stage of my anime odyssey I had already seen Ghost in the Shell, so the Mamoru Oshii connection would have also appealed.

The event: My cinema experience of The Sky Crawlers was somewhat peculiar. Prior to the screening I had read commentary that it had a fandom-critical subtext along with a post-final-credits epilogue. In due course the credits rolled around and most of the large audience (400?) began filing out. Some of us who were remaining called out that the film hadn't finished, so those people who had left their seats but were still in the auditorium stopped where they were. A few others who had left came back in. Of course, the standing patrons were now blocking the view of the seated patrons, who called for them to sit down, a request that was ignored for the most part. Ever since that night, the audience behaviour has seemed to me to be emblematic of what the film was about. In a weird sort of way it enhanced the experience. People are more sophisticated now, it seems. On Thursday I was at the first night Melbourne screening of Deadpool (I never before realised that bloody carnage could be so funny): everybody stayed for the epilogues.

Synopsis: In a world of never-ending war, cloned youths - kildren - fight the same aerial battles over and over. The kildren don't age but nor do they have long-term memories. Their existence is eternally in the moment, their only pleasure is flying, and the only time they feel alive is in their dogfights. One of the kildren, Yuichi Kannami, arrives at an airbase as replacement for a fighter pilot who died outside of battle. His commanding officer, Suito Kusanagi, is another of the kildren. She is also the mother of a child fathered by the dead pilot (and, yes, she's technically a child herself). When Kannami learns what transpired and begins to get an inkling of the truth behind the war, he decides to kill the father of the kildren - the "teacher" - in aerial combat.


The flim comes alive in the dogfights. I loved the cloudscapes.

Comments: Director Mamoru Oshii has a penchant for allegorical, philosophical movies that rely on suggestion, rather than exposition to make their points. The Sky Crawlers is, along with Angel's Egg, perhaps his most extreme example of the type. It has a somnambulistic melancholy, simple plot progression, minimal dialogue and supine characters. With the exceptions of Kusanagi’s lively daughter and the obligatory basset hound, all the characters have tired eyes, expressionless faces and speak cursorily and in monotones. (OK, the hound has sleepy eyes but it is more active than the kildren.) The prevailing mood is marked by stillness, emptiness and stagnation. The likely outcome for the viewer is tedium; the likely response detachment. You might nevertheless find it beguiling or intriguing thanks to the slowly acted out waking nightmare the kildren experience, the sad music with its creepy symphonium arrangement from long-time Oshii collaborator Kenji Kawai, or the sumptuously beautiful scenery - especially the aerial panoramas. Most of all, however, the viewer is compensated by the film's visceral dogfights: the ballet-like choreography of the aeroplane manoeuvres; the roar of their engines; the rush of the wind; the panicked breathing of the pilots; the clanging of bullet on fuselage; and the awful contrast when, instead, it's bullet on flesh. Oshii's dynamic combat direction and mastery of detail are, on their own, worth the admission price.

Don't be fooled, though. The dogfights are the eye candy to catch the viewer's attention. The substance of the tale, what there is, is to be found in the kildren, their origin and their masters. When a kildren dies an identical replacement arrives on the base shortly afterwards. Kannami not only replaces Jinroh as his base's ace pilot he also replaces him as Kusanagi's lover, with nearly the same catastrophic results. The kildren may be aces but their most feared opponent is the "teacher", the only adult pilot. He is apparently the creator of the kildren, familiar with their flying techniques and invincible in combat. We also learn that he switched sides. Whether his motive was money, principle, opportunity or resentment doesn't matter: the contesting airforces are privately owned. At no point is a just cause case for the war ever made. Neither side claims a moral advantage. The war's apparent purpose is to amuse the non-combatant populace. As Kusanagi point's out, peace has no meaning without war. The Sky Crawlers applies George Orwell's 1984 inversion of Carl von Clausewitz's aphorism that "war is the continuation of politics by other means". Instead, it is an endless, unchanging form of amusement and control.


Yuichi Kannami. The flat character designs contrast with the exquisite detail of everything else.
If the characters of the film represent the fandom, are we that dull?


Given that the film is directed by Mamoru Oshii one response is to interpret the film as allegory. As mentioned above he could be lambasting the anime industry and its fandom. As the man himself says, anime is a "copy of a copy of a copy that is no longer a form of 'expression'". There isn't much direct suggestion within the film that we should view it in that way. The most overt examples I can think of are the naming of two of the characters Jinroh and Kusanagi - both prominent names used by Oshii previously. As a postmodernist and relativist I think it's a valid way of seeing the film. If so, you could interpret the pilots as anime consumers who briefly become part of the fandom - according to Jonathon Clements, author of the Anime Encyclopedia, the average is eighteen months - then move on. This means that over time the demographic remains essentialy the same - and, the consumers having no sense of the art form's history, the product fed to them also remains derivative. Under this scenario the war of the film is the anime product, the "teacher" might represent the creators and the companies running the war are the anime studios. The weird thing is, this cynical view would suggest Oshii is biting the hand that feeds him. Like Zipang, but for different reasons, I'm surprised he even managed to make the film.

A more straightforward interpretation is that Oshii, an old left wing warrior (as I am also), is simply continuing his hobbyhorse arguments against war as a tool of the military-industrial complex, to use an expression popularised by America's President Dwight Eisenhower. Kusanagi's "author tract" (to quote Raftina from elsewhere) is a re-stating of the discussion between Goto and Arakawa in Oshii's Patlabor 2: the Movie. You could even see his argument more simply as a criticism of the innate conservatism of modern Japanese society in general. Or, for that matter, western society. Sometimes I imagine he still pines for the glory protest days of the 60s and 70s. That the film can inspire these sorts of considerations is to its credit.


Suito Kusanagi: the only character with whom I sympathised. Her circumstances are creepy.

Rating: The low end of Good. In yet another of his allegories Director Mamoru Oshii is not only taking a swipe at Japanese conservatism but he also is jabbing his finger straight at us, the anime audience: do we really want more of the same or do we want to be challenged? The problem, of course, with this sort of challenge is that he is limiting his dialogue to a narrow audience. Nevertheless, there's lots of aerial eye candy, a creepy, somnambulistic atmosphere and just enough combat thrills to entertain, even if it isn't immediately obvious what's going on.


Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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vanfanel



Joined: 26 Dec 2008
Posts: 1247
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2016 8:19 am Reply with quote
I don't believe the film is aimed at otaku in particular, but at a sort of malaise that exists among some young people, of which NEET, otaku, freeter, hikikomori, etc are all sometimes held to be symptoms.

If you want to make it to the top in Japanese society, it's best to start working toward it as early as elementary school. That's so you can get into a good junior high, so you can work hard to get into a good high school, so you can work even harder hard to get into a good university. If you're aiming to work for a particular company, there may be only one university in the country they recruit from. If you fail their exam, you become a ronin, spend the next year studying at a school for test prep (予備校), and then try again next year. And sometimes, again.

I work for a Japanese prep school, and can say with confidence that there are some highly motivated kids who thrive in this competitive environment...and that there are others whose families push them to succeed when maybe they'd rather not try so hard. Where I work, those are the two groups I mainly see, but naturally, there are many, many more who don't aim so high, get ordinary jobs instead, and are perfectly fine with that.

But there are also some who seem to just wither in the face of the challenges posed by adulthood in Japan, feeling there's no way to get ahead and nothing for them in society. These are the ones who spend as much time as possible avoiding adulthood, or at least delaying entry as long as possible. Many latch onto some hobby and devote themselves to it instead, because that's frankly easier.

Japan's talking heads on TV wring their hands about this problem often, talking about causes and possible solutions, but have as yet been at a loss as to how to effectively reach them.

The kildren in "Sky Crawlers" have some things in common with these young people. They live highly regimented lives, existing in a present where every day's the same. The past is as murky as the future; they're just drifting forward through the fog in a little bubble of now, doing what authority figures expect of them while indulging in meaningless amusements in their free time. Sometimes they die, but are quickly replaced. Their fates are dominated by Teacher...

Kusanagi and Jinroh, btw, are the names in the Hiroshi Mori novel the film adapts. That book came out in 2002--after "Ghost in the Shell" and "Jin-Roh." Maybe Mori's an Oshii fan? Each chapter in the book opens with a quotation from J.D. Salinger's "Nine Stories."

The movie is a quite faithful adaptation of the book, with a couple of asterisks. One is that Teacher, IIRC, wasn't in it. There are more books in the series, so he may be borrowed from those, but I don't know. (I've heard that it doesn't matter what order you read the books in...which sounds incredibly depressing in light of the story's nature...) The other thing--the big thing--though, is that at the end, Yuichi spoiler[shoots Kusanagi through the heart. He doesn't miss and then run up to hug her; instead he completes his side of the deal: an intergenerational suicide pact they'd concocted in order to provide one another with a way out of hopeless existence.]

This is why I think Oshii's film is head and shoulders better than the novel. The novel ends on a note of spoiler[utter despair] while the film spoiler[at least fights back and dares to hope. Even if the road we walk is the same every day, is it so horrible if we walk it together? Maybe if we just keep showing up and trying, there's the chance something new will come eventually.

And even if Teacher shoots you down in the end, if you've given encouragement to others, that may make a difference in someone's life, and spread in ways you can't imagine.]


Sky Crawlers is unique for me in Oshii's filmography, because it's his only movie that touched my heart more than it did my head. In the early part, where everyone's acting like dazed zombies, I'd never expect to be made to feel anything for these characters, but when you realize what that foggy daze is, and what it represents when Yuichi grabs hold of Kusanagi at the end, I found myself geniunely moved.
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 6680
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2016 2:55 pm Reply with quote
Hello errinundra.

Quote:
It has a somnambulistic melancholy, simple plot progression, minimal dialogue and supine characters.

What a stirring sentence! I see you were quite taken by the film's dreamlike, calculatedly humdrum state.
Did you not gain the impression that the Teacher, rather than being some form of malevolent puppeteer, was in fact worthy of being considered a principle protagonist? Consider the fact he provides the only means of escape, sadly in the form of death, to the most skilled of fighters. It could be questioned whether this character indeed wishes to perpetuate the suffering of his children, or whether he has instead begrudgingly adopted the role of a euthaniser in the hope of quelling it; someone to whom pilots can turn, in a perverse way, if all else fails them.
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2016 7:14 pm Reply with quote
Wow! Fantastic responses! You've both got me seeing the film in new ways.

@ vanfanel, by changing the emphasis, as you argue, from otaku to a broader critique of the plight of young people in Japanese society, the film comes across as much more sympathetic towards the young people in question. That's good.

@ Zin5ki, I hadn't thought the teacher acting as euthanaser but it makes sense.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2016 3:58 pm Reply with quote
This housekeeping review, initially posted 5 April 2011, was my first ever longish effort. It shows. I've added "reason for watching" (adapted from this post), "synopsis" and "rating" paragraphs, while leaving the original text as is in the "comments" section. I've downgraded the rating to good: I've now seen much more anime and, relatively, it doesn't deserve its original rating of very good. I've also added some images and removed spoiler tags as this thread comes with a general spoiler warning.

The Vision of Escaflowne

Reason for Watching: My nephew cleaned out all his old fansubs, so he kindly gave many of them to me. Among them are Ranma ½, Tenchi Muyo, Tenchi Universe, Tenchi in Tokyo, Martian Successor Nadesico, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Inuyasha, Rurouni Kenshin, The Vision of Escaflowne & Claymore. Also in the collection are Vampire Princess Miyu, Noir, Trigun and Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I've already seen. He also gave me part episodes of Maison Ikkoku and Devil May Cry. He's an old school anime fan who is of the opinion that it's in decline, although he does admit that nostalgia is a factor. The quality of some is atrocious, including Escaflowne, but that's 90s fansubbing for you.

Synopsis: High school athlete Hitomi Kanzaki is transported to the planet Gaea by Prince Van Fanel, where she discovers that she has psychic powers. She also finds herself embroiled in Van's conflict with the rival nation of Zaibach in which he seeks to resolve matters using a gigantic mecha known as Escaflowne.


The mysterious Escaflowne.

Comments: Just finished The Vision of Escaflowne and enjoyed it very much. I would rate it at the high end of very good and may rate it higher if it proves to have a high re-watch value good. I found it interesting that it targeted both shoujo and shounen audiences with its tangled personal relationships and its mecha battle scenes. I think the blend was highly successful, giving the series depth it may not otherwise have had.

I loved the epic plot and the world construction but neither would have amounted to much were it not for the way I came to care about the characters over the 26 episodes. Paradoxically, Hitomi was the only character that appealed on first blush - doing her block at Van after he slayed the dragon was a great introduction. All the others started off as standard anime types aimed at a teenage audience. Where Escaflowne really shines is how the characters eventually must act against type: they confront their illusions and their limitations.


Hitomi & Van: she has gumption; he means well.

On that last point, one of my gripes is how Hitomi, at the end, chooses to return to Japan. And this just after she and Van prove that the fate alteration machine is no match for their love. I'm not simply being sentimental here: Hitomi's choice in putting her culture ahead of her love is quite at odds with the message of Escaflowne.

That said, I also found very welcome how it transpires that no-one in the story is entirely villainous. Even Dornkirk / Newton is pursuing a worthy ideal - a world without conflict - even if his methods are misguided and he doesn't really see the implications of what he is doing. His own law that "Every action has an opposite and equal reaction" is alluded to several times but he just doesn't get it. His short-sightedness while constantly peering into an eye-piece is a great irony.


Dornkirk: doesn't he realise that every action has an equal and opposite reaction?

As with all the best plots, every character has their reasons and the other antagonists also have their motivations, including Volken, Naria and Eriya. One of the achievements of the anime is that the viewer comes to sympathise with the plight of these antagonists. Even the most annoying character, Dilandau, who appears the typical insane villain that spoils so much of anime, turns out to be something very different in the end. This particular plot twist seemed a bit contrived unlike the many others that surprised me without seeming quite so forced.

I also thought the music was outstanding, especially the orchestral / chamber music pieces which I presume were written by Hajime Mizoguchi. The songs and electronica were less convincing which is surprising as Yoko Kanno is normally spot on.

On the down side every character was spoiled by their ridiculous noses. I guess you can say it's a memorable design. The show was also unconvincing when either the shoujo or shounen elements began to dominate excessively, particularly the fraught romantic triangles that tended toward the silly at times.

Some of the minor characters could be irritating. In particular, Mr Mole and Merle took quite a bit of getting used to. Merle's unswerving loyalty to Van eventually won me over. As a rule I dislike characters who are inserted purely for comic relief.


Merle: Hitomi's rival for Van's attention.

Most importantly, though, the centre of the story is Hitomi: a very likeable character that justifiably earns the respect of her friends as well as the consternation of those seeking to bend fortune to suit themselves. Unfortunately she is also the show's greatest weakness as her decision to return to Japan reveals. There's something just a little too sickly nice about her, something of the traditional yamato nadeshiko about her where she is the object of desire of all the male characters. I would have liked a more assertive character who would have made the men the objects of her ambitions. That way she may have chosen to stay on Gaea.

An aside: I thought I recognised the road tunnel, the steps down to the bay, and the steps up to the shrine in the Japanese sections of the anime. Sure enough, a bit of research revealed that it's set in Kamakura, which is also the setting for Elfen Lied where these three locations have memorable roles.

On a completely different note, I'm four episodes into Claymore and I think it's even better than Escaflowne. Since being blown away by Noir I've been very disappointed with the Girls with Guns genre. This is the perfect antidote.*

Rating: Very Good Good. A blend of shoujo relationship tangles and shounen mecha battle scenes gives this series a surprising depth. The initially typical shoujo and shounen characters find themselves acting against type as they are propelled towards a final Armageddon. Even the villains earn our sympathy before the tale concludes. The protagonist, Hitomi, earns the respect of her friends, confounds her adversaries and charms the viewer in the process, even if her final decision is at odds with the general message that unwavernig belief can overcome the seeming inevitable. Exceptional incidental music more than compensates for the weird nose designs and a couple of irritating minor characters.

* Remember, this was written almost five years ago.


Last edited by Errinundra on Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:44 am; edited 7 times in total
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 9878
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2016 4:34 pm Reply with quote
@errinundra

Speaking of recognizing things, there is a scene late in the series where they are being invaded by the bad guys. They look at the sky and see enemy ships in an almost geometric pattern. It took a while but I finally realized why it seemed familiar. It reminded me of a photo of the US fleet off Okinawa during the invasion. All the ships lined up like the intersections on a Go board.
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