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


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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
Posts: 6536
Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2016 3:56 am Reply with quote
I met Mrs Whistler on Saturday afternoon. She's having a three month holiday in Melbourne, away from her regular commitments in Paris. Not only that but last night I managed to finish volume 16 of Spice and Wolf. My life is so rich. (But still no Yoitz.)

Let's go back now to 23 September 2012 when I had the pleasure of watching the 3rd instalment in that year's Madman Reel Anime Festival. Blah, blah, blah the usual udates. The new images are from the Madman dvd.

Wolf Children

Reasons for watching: Because I could and because Mamoru Hosoda is a sure fire director.

Synopsis: Hana is a student at a Tokyo university where she meets and falls in love with another student. After he reveals himself to be a wolfman and the last surviving descendent of the Japanese Wolf she invites him to live in her flat where she bears him two children - a daughter Yuki (born on a snowy day) and son Ame (born on a rainy day). Soon after the birth of Ame, the wolfman dies and Hana struggles to raise the wolf cubs / human children without alarming the neighbours, the landlord or the child welfare agency. She figures that the only place to raise two wolf children is to move to a remote mountain village where they can live with minimal interference. In their new home they must come to terms with what the future holds for them.


Sure, they're cute and hilarious, but would you really want children like this?

Comments: What do you do if you're a young mother and your wolf child has swallowed something that might be poisonous? Do you take the wolf child to a hospital? Or to a veterinary clinic? Hana faces this very dilemma early in the movie. It may not be apparent from the movie title or the promotional artwork but Wolf Children is a very, very funny movie. Well, most of it is. The film can be divided into three parts: the courting of Hana and the wolfman; Hana the single mum raising two wolfcub children, first in Tokyo, then on a mountainside; and Yuki and Ame choosing whether they want to follow their human or their lupine nature.

The opening courtship and concluding crisis are somewhat more serious in tone but it was the middle section of the movie that won over the audience in the theatre. If Spice and Wolf could be described as fantasy meets economics, then Wolf Children is fantasy meets child rearing with even funnier results. By the end of the film Yuki would be twelve and Ame about a year younger so the section covers about ten years of their lives. The thing to understand is that these children can change form at will. Actually, that's not quite right. It's not until they get older that they have substantial control over their shapechanging. As younger children they constantly flip from one form to the other, particularly when they are excited - not an uncommon thing at their age. And they have a very strong doggy nature combined with the intelligence and resourcefulness of children. Needless to say they shred the furniture, the drapes and any other chewable thing close at hand. Yuki is the over excitable, sociable, communicative puppy, while Ame is timid, quiet and slightly uncanny; Yuki thrives on sensation and activity while Ame is drawn to the natural world; Yuki could be a member of a pack; Ame is the lone wolf. Yuki is quite the mischief-maker - when some elderly visitors arrive she transforms out of sight much to the chagrin of her mother and elicits the response, "Ooh, look. They have matching outfits!" Have you ever seen dogs go troppo and run around is circles? Well, watching a five year wolf girl do it is hilarious.


The family that plays together... The film has gloriously happy moments.

Not only were the childen funny but they were also extremely kawaii. The audience was university age and upward (the Nova is a couple of blocks from the University of Melbourne). It was also quite vocal in its response to the humour and displays of cuteness. Hearing adult men with loud baritone voices going "dawwww" actually made my skin crawl. Wolf children may be cute, but YOU'RE NOT.

Compared with even From Up On Poppy Hill or Children Who Chase Lost Voices the artwork and animation stands out. I would expect nothing less from Mamoru Hosoda and Madhouse. You see it from the opening image where Hana is lying in a meadow of flowers. Each flower is drawn and moves separately. The fine detail is always sensational: from a bicycle rack at university so real it could almost be live film; to forest scenes detailed down to the grass blades. There's a sequence where Yuki and Ame go racing through snow laden woods then tumbling and flying down a hillside (followed by Hana) that is the most breathtaking piece of Japanese animation I've seen since Paprika about five years ago. The odd thing is that the backgrounds are so realistically detailed that the two dimensional, relatively simple character designs initially look out of place. They almost seem like ghosts in the landscape. I got used to it but it was jarring at first.


The animation detail stands out.

The movie has an environmental theme, though it isn't overstated. Like Miyazaki's films it seems to be suggesting that a kind of reconciling of the wild and the civilised is necessary. In Australia the issue is always couched in terms of loss - loss of habitat or loss of economic opportunity. Hosoda, like Miyazaki, stakes no such claims. They simply bring the issue to our attention.

This is Mamoru Hosoda's third major cinema release. While it has no one to match the marvellous Makoto Konno from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and lacks the complex social interactions of the Jinnouchi clan in Summer Wars, Wolf Children is technically superior to both and much funnier. Like Summer Wars the end seems as if it's being forced on to a thoroughly engaging slice of life tale that doesn't need drama or a message to improve it. Like being a guest at the birthday celebration in Summer Wars, the best part of Wolf Children is just being there with them as they grow up.

Rating: very good.


Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 6680
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2016 3:49 pm Reply with quote
It is quite strange that many of the reviews you are posting pertain to films I’ve seen this year, Errinundra. I must admit this sort of serendipity is rare.

Concerning Wolf Children, I have written before about its minor shortcomings, but my goodness, do I ever love it.

Quote:
There's a sequence where Yuki and Ame go racing through snow laden woods then tumbling and flying down a hillside (followed by Hana) that is the most breathtaking piece of Japanese animation I've seen since Paprika about five years ago.

What was so starkly captivating about that scene was how restricted the colour palette was: brilliant blue against perfect white, with little else in the background. A lesser director would have filled the frame with a greater array of hues, though Hosoda clearly wanted to visually distinguish this sequence so that we see it as somewhat of a climax. This is all the more understandable considering the character revelation that followed it.

Quote:
It was also quite vocal in its response to the humour and displays of cuteness. Hearing adult men with loud baritone voices going "dawwww" actually made my skin crawl. Wolf children may be cute, but YOU'RE NOT.

It is said that there was barely a dry eye in the theatre when it received its European première in Glasgow, and with respect to this scene in particular, I can fully appreciate why:



Although I could speak at length about how greatly I was touched by Wolf Children, there is little of critical pertinence that I have to add on this occasion. If my sensitivities at all align with the judgements of an informed and discerning audience, then I contend that this film deserves any and all praise with which it is bestowed.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2016 9:26 am Reply with quote
I appreciate your ruminations, Zin5ki.

It's a late autumn Saturday afternoon. Steady rain is keeping me indoors, encouraging me to complete this review.

ERASED

Warning: Although I won't be revealing the identity of the child abductor / murderer, I will be discussing other developments in the series.

Reason for watching: The universally good reception it has received along with strong recommendations from a friend's daughter and a co-worker (the same guy who got me watching BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad - maybe he likes anime with capitalised names). And, it's available on Crunchyroll.

Synopsis: At 29 years of age struggling manga artist and part-time pizza deliverer Satoru Fujinima is unable to forget the trauma of the abduction and murder of one of his classmates on the eve of his eleventh birthday, followed shortly afterwards by one of his best friends then a girl from a neighbouring school. He also has a superpower that he calls "revival" that enables him to re-live recent past events and change their outcomes. When his mother is murdered he finds himself reliving his childhood from two weeks before the first abuction. Deducing that his mother's death is connected to the childhood crimes he sets out to protect the children from the paedophile stalking them. In his attempts to do so he discovers things he never knew about his mother and his school friends and, in particular, the solitary school girl, Kayo, who is to become the first victim. He will also learn how closely connected he is to the serial killer.


Adult Satoru (background) and the three memorable female characters in his life.
L-R (from the OP): Airi, Kayo and his mother, Sachiko.


Comments: Paedophiles are the villains of our time. In many countries, Australia included, commissions and courts are shining light on decades of abuse by men in positions of trust and authority. Magnifying the trauma are the cover-ups from powerful people who put their own and their organisation's reputations ahead of the suffering of the victims. When the paedophile is also a serial killer then our worst nightmares are realised. He, and its almost always a man, will trigger so many latent fears: the trampling of innocence; the horror and pain of personal violation; of evil lurking unidentified amongst us; the cunning of the psychopath mind devoid of empathy; of male sexuality gone very wrong. Of course, all this can also be the foundation for some great entertainment and so it has been from Fritz Lang's M to, now, ERASED.

ERASED has the good sense to leave the villain unidentified for much of its running time. It also has the good sense to not graphically present the crimes against the children or their aftermath. Instead it places the threads of the children's lives at the centre of the story. The killer remains in the periphery of our vision, and is all the more sinister for it. While he lingers there the anime spends its time, entirely successfully, exploring the goodness, for want of a better word, of Satoru, his mother and his friends. This isn't a saccharine or sentimental treatment, even if the "revival" premise is hard to swallow. (Mind you, the story couldn't happen without it.) As in Monster, ERASED manages to make its case for the existence of good and evil through the actions of the characters. The contrasts between the two opposites make for compelling viewing. Admittedly, the killer of ERASED is mundane when compared with the goose bump inducing Johan while Satoru lacks Tenma's nobility but, somehow, the characters of the newer anime are more down to earth and more credible.

Satoru is a flawed person. The adult version is traumatised, closed and tentative. When "revival" gives him a second chance, the assertiveness necessary to carry out his plans has him grow convincingly as a character. He constantly surprises his mother, his friends and himself. One of the best sequences is immediately after being "revived" when he is reunited with the mother he knew in his childhood, just hours after he found the bloody corpse of her older version. The "revived" child fully remembers his adult life so his shock and grief are unsurprising, yet they are portrayed subtly. Never has a mother been more appreciated by her ten year old son. It works because Satoru's character is so well constructed the script doesn't need to resort to sentimentality to get that message across. Satoru must also learn some important lessons about cooperative endeavour. When, at first, he tries to save Kayo on his own, he fails. When he enlists the support of his school mates and his mother, he succeeds. On his first confrontation with the killer, albeit unplanned, he is alone and almost dies. At the second confrontation he has friends to support him, which they do literally. The outcome is very different.


Kayo: learning to connect and learning to smile.

The best thing, though, about the series is Satoru's relationship with the three main female characters: the diffident, spiky Kayo; his preternaturally perceptive mother mother Sachiko (yokai!) and his ebullient, trusting pizza shop co-worker Airi. They are great characters in their own right but the anime becomes an absolute treat when they interact with Satoru or, to a lesser extent when Kayo and Sachiko become involved with his four closest school friends.

Satoru reasons that the way to save Kayo is to make sure she isn't alone at the time of her abduction. To that end he befriends a girl who has never had a friend in her life. Her mother beats her regularly - the more observant people at his school notice the bruises - so she spends her after school hours alone by the local river or in a nearby playground, marking her as easy prey for the killer. Kayo is a smart cookie nonetheless: she knows that Satoru's motives for befriending her are dishonest; but she also senses the good intentions behind them. In any case, she so craves affection that she can hardly turn him down. What follows is a charming, affecting friendship, despite them being perhaps just too alike to fit together smoothly - he is serious, albeit optimistic, while she is downright dour. (When, at the end, it is revealed which of his four friends she ends up marrying, it makes sense - the kindly guy, but with the light touch.) Watching her, inch by inch, come out of her shell is one of the delights of the first two-thirds of the series. Her journey from misery to happiness, from fear to confidence, is just one of ERASED's instances of hope triumphing over despair. She is voiced by Aoi Yuki, the seiyuu behind one of my favourite anime characters, Victorique de Blois from Gosick. Oddly, hearing Victorique's tsundere tones from time to time wasn't a distraction as they seemed appropriate.

Airi, the bubbly pizza delivering young woman of Satoru's adult life, is the embodiment of trust, and it isn't just an innate quality of her personality. From bitter experience she knows that distrust leads to unhappiness, so faith in other people has become a mantra for her. Intuitively grasping Satoru's better nature she has taken a shine to him. Not only does she aid him when he is in desperate straits but her belief and her airy (yuk! yuk!) personality inspire him. From the moment they met I was rooting for them. The final scene gets me quite emotional, so, yeah, this old fart still does his shipping from time to time. For sure, that scene does have miraculous overtones, but the overall credibility of the show allows plenty of room for indulgence.


Sachiko: one awesomely cool mum. Her acumen repeatedly astounds the kids.

Best of the female characters, however, is Satoru's mother, Sachiko. She is one awesome woman: smart; optimistic; totally supportive of her son - knowing when to leave well alone, when to stand up for him and when to intervene; on the ball and with an uncanny ability to get what the children are on about - often to their consternation (yokai!). Being fundamentally good herself, she is fully aware of the essential goodness in her son, so that, even when he behaves most eccentrically, she knows he has worthwhile reasons. This faith in him is an inspiration for Satoru to persevere with his ambitious, lofty goals, even when things go wrong. She is another reason why, despite the underlying menace, this is a joyful anime.

Earlier I mentioned how the killer remains largely in the background and how the horrific crimes aren't dwelled upon. Another strategy to distract the viewer from the psychopathy is to bring to the fore a different, lesser but nontheless horrible, form of violence - domestic violence. Kayo is regularly beaten by her mother - the effects on her body are there to see. While troubling, it seems that I'm able to mentally process domestic violence more easily than psychopathy. So, while Kayo's treatment is gut-wrenching, at the back of the viewer's mind is the spectre of something much worse. It's an impressive way of creating horror without displaying it. Parallel with the domestic violence is the absence of father figures in the series. Satoru's father left the scene when he was almost too young to remember him; Airi's parents - she lives with relatives - separated over a matter of trust; Kayo's father has been replaced by her mother's defacto who is only ever seen in an alcoholic daze. One could read into this the message that men's social estrangement leads to personal violence.

Yet, for all its grim subject matter, ERASED is lot of fun. One ploy is to have Satoru's adult and child minds reacting to things simultaneously and even, sometimes, at odds with each other. When the 11 year old reacts self-conciously to Kayo, the 29 year old within is both bemused and disconcerted. The older Satoru takes on the role of observer so comprehensively that he forgets he's attached to a mouth and blurts out alarmingly candid things at times, leading to the show's signature catchphrase, "I (just) said that out loud." Even on my second viewing I laughed out loud every time. Both Sachiko and Airi lift any scene they're in, while, as I said earlier, the transformation of Kayo is a joy to behold. You can add to that list Satoru's four school mates with their cheery, dependable support, ably lead by another perceptive character, Kenya. Above all, though, the show exudes hope: if you believe in people you can depend upon them; if you can depend upon them wonderful things can be achieved.


The group that foils a serial killer.

ERASED isn't primarily a whodunnit. Satoru is less motivated by the desire to identify the perpetrator than saving the victims. Of course, he and we want to know who it is. From the moment we get the first solid intimations of who it may be, the plot becomes event driven rather than character driven, something that was probably inevitable given the structure of the tale. From this point ERASED descends from its extraordinary heights to being merely good. I felt cheated by the resolution because, for the first time, Satoru was keeping vital information from the viewer - until then he had been completely candid. The best, most convincing stings have the viewer knowing precisely what the protagonist knows and being confounded and enlightened along with them. The epilogue more than makes up for that minor stumble.

Being produced within the Aniplex umbrella you know the visual quality will top-notch, as it indeed is. One minor gripe is that the lips of the adult women are drawn in a way that gives them a pout that doesn't fit with the overall tone. The snowbound Hokkaido scenes provide an appropriate chill for the underlying sinister threat, while somehow allowing the warmth of the character interactions to come through. A short way into it I realised the incidental music could only be one person. Yep, Yuki Kajiura now sounds just like Yuki Kajiura. No longer do I hear a magnificent soundtrack, check it out and realise she's responsible. With a few exceptions just about every tune she does now has a predecessor in Noir. That said, the music suits the anime well.

Riff: This has been a long article, but that indicates that I was thoroughly engaged by ERASED. I want to extrapolate on one of the themes of the series, the parallel between the superhero and the psychopath. Both characters take the supremacy of the individual to extremes. Both have an overweening sense of their own power and righteousness. The former believes they know best what is good for people; the latter doesn't care. Either way, the essential things are that they both expect to have untrammelled personal freedom to do as they choose and both have an arrogant disregard for the law. Taking the law into your own hands and breaking the law are two sides of the same coin. The law is, after all, the imposition of collective will over personal liberty. Needless to say, psychopaths are a disaster for communities. For his part Satoru is proud of his "revival" ability, even it does nothing to allay the malaise he suffers. When he tries to save Kayo single-handedly he fails utterly. The superhero is impotent. It is only through cooperative, collective action that he succeeds. Similarly, Satoru can only bring the psychopath to justice with the help of his friends. There is something profoundly Japanese in the belief that progress is achieved through communal action, which is quite the contrast to Anglophone political paradigms where progress is sought through individual improvement. ERASED embellishes this notion with its repeated message to have the belief to depend on others.

Rating: Excellent. Despite its depictions of domestic violence and the underlying threat posed by a serial killer, ERASED, is imbued with optimism. Its principal characters learn to trust each other and, in the process avert a catastophe. It slips a little when mechanics of the serial killer plot takes over from the wonderful character plots that preceded it, but, even then, remains a highly recommended series, applying a light yet convincing touch to some serious themes.


Grown-up Airi in the series coda. ERASED ends on a high note. How else could it?
Also, why do so many recent anime girls suffer from eye infections? My eyes get itchy just looking at them.


****
It has just gone midnight.


Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:15 am; edited 8 times in total
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nobahn
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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2016 5:56 pm Reply with quote
OK, Errinundra, you have written some things that I feel compelled to respond to in some shape or form (cracks knuckles to prepare for typing a Webster-like rebuttal*)
  1. Quote:
    Satoru must also learn some important lessons about cooperative endeavour. When, at first, he tries to save Kayo on his own, he fails. When he enlists the support of his school mates and his mother, he succeeds. On his first confrontation with the killer, albeit unplanned, he is alone and almost dies. At the second confrontation he has friends to support him, which they do literally. The outcome is very different.
    [...]
    The superhero is impotent. It is only through cooperative, collective action that he succeeds. Similarly, Satoru can only bring the psychopath to justice with the help of his friends. There is something profoundly Japanese in the belief that progress is achieved through communal action, which is quite the contrast to Anglophone political paradigms where progress is sought through individual improvement. ERASED embellishes this notion with its repeated message to have the belief to depend on others.
    This is the main thing that that caused me to sit back and say, "Hum!" I think that that you have a point, but I also think that you have not properly expounded upon it – something which I now propose to do in my own humble way.

    I would first direct you to two books by the noted World War II historian Gordon W. Prange: At Dawn We Slept, and Miracle at Midway. One of the very many themes that runs through these two books is just how deficient in natural resources Japan is. These shortcomings are most strikingly revealed in the field of agriculture; here arable land is so scarce that that hills are terraced and rice paddies are planted between airport runways. What this means – among other things – is that that cooperation to a very high degree is required to get anything of much account done in the Japanese archipelago. I am informed that that this is also the case in the U.S. state of Hawaii.

    Compare and contrast this with the U.S. state of Texas (or any other state that is bequeathed with large natural resources). Because Texas:
    • Has so much arable land;
    • For many decades had access to a stupendous aquifer;
    • And, of course, has so much in the way of proven oil reserves
    there is a culture there that promotes the ethos of strong, rugged individualism to the practical exclusion of communality.

    My point here is that that it is only natural that Japanese popular culture is going reflect this communality ethos.
  2. Quote:
    As in Monster, ERASED manages to make its case for the existence of good and evil through the actions of the characters.
    Right now I am reading a book on the history of urban planning in Detroit** and the writer has written about this city housing agency – I am paraphrasing here – that that it had a great capacity for both good and evil.
  3. Quote:
    She is voiced by Aoi Yuki, the seiyuu behind one of my favourite anime characters, Victorique de Blois.
    Does this mean that that you will be visiting this thread anytime soon?


*That's a joke, actually! Laughing
**What an oxymoron!
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2016 5:34 am Reply with quote
When i read your first line, nobahn, I thought, "I'm in for it now," especially when you view it in light of what I'll add below.

nobahn wrote:
...I think that that you have a point, but I also think that you have not properly expounded upon it...


You're right, and you get straight to my major dissatisfaction with the piece. My original intention was to right a normal length review (for me), then spend time riffing on a political theme. I got to that point but the following factors were weighing on my mind: 1) it was already a long review; 2) it was after midnight; 3) any further political ranting along those lines would be diverting the post from its original purpose - ERASED; and 4) I would have been writing about the shortcomings of the American and Australian political situation, which could also be viewed as soapboxing and trolling (hence my dismay at your first line).

My political view is that, since the neo-liberal triumphs from the 1970s, our nations have become wealthier but with much less equality. Of the three principles that the French identified as underpinning democracy - liberty, equality and fraternity - the first has become the catchcry of our times, while the others have become unfashionable. "Liberty" has become a holy word that is hard to argue against without sounding like a Fascist or a Marxist. It is an appealling rallying cry for the powerful in society because unconstrained liberty allows them to maintain and enhance their positions. Whenever equality is raised for people in disadvantaged situations, one quickly hears the magic words, "freedom" and "liberty" from those asked to cede privileges.

Coming back to anime, I'm a writer by inclination (as if you couldn't tell already) so it's the structure, the characters, the relationships, the themes and the stories that I scrutinise most closely and enjoy most when done well (cue Koi Kaze). The technical side is of less interest to me, though there are numerous anime I enjoy for their visual excellence. One of the most common plots in popular conflict-driven anime (and most other story-telling media) is the stuggle of the protagonist/hero against an oppressive social paradigm. It's common because it's appealling and dramatic. The hero is the epitome of the individual asserting their right to liberty. As an alternative I've been wondering for some time how one could write a story that could hit a popular nerve while espousing the principles of equality and fraternity and somehow cast the libertarian individual as the villain. ERASED answers that question. Psychopaths and superheroes are the ultimate libertarians. In this instance the psychopath is defeated by fraternal action, while the superhero is ineffectual working alone.

These musings are, of course, my baggage being loaded onto an anime that may never have been intended to carry those sorts of ideas. Hence my use of the terms "riff" and "riffing". I never intended to write more on Japanese culture or politics as I understand them even less than American politics.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:13 pm Reply with quote
Winter has arrived, so the morning walk to work - especially crossing the Yarra River - is getting chilly. I've been wearing a woollen beanie the last few days. I'll start wearing gloves next week.

Back to housekeeping from 29 December 2012 - the height of summer. It seems appropriate to do this now given that a complete edition of the TV series and movie sequels has been recently released in the US. As usual, I've upgraded the images and normalised the formatting.

Eden of the East franchise

Reason for watching: The Best First Episode tournament re-sparked my interest in the original series. Coincidentally, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation streamed the series on its iview service at the same time as the tournament and, although the screen resolution - intended only for iphones - was dreadful, I found myself hooked by the premise and entertained by the redoubtable lead, Akira Takizawa. (See below for the original report.) And then, just this month (December 2012, that is) Madman Entertainment released a complete collection, containing the TV series and all three movies, including the compilation movie. Using money I got for Christmas I trotted into JB Hi Fi on Boxing Day (Australia's equivalent to America's Thanksgiving sales) and picked it up for just over $42. Nice.

Eden of the East TV series

Synopsis: A shadowy figure, Mr Outside, has used his untold wealth to create twelve Noblesse Oblige mobile phones that each contain ¥10 billion of credit and a link to a concierge named Juiz who seems to have almost unlimited power to near instantaneously carry out any order from the phones' users (named Seleção). Mr Outside has chosen the eleven Seleção (monitored by a twelfth known as the Supporter) to save Japan from its current malaise, giving them great latitude with their plans. There are rules, though, and only one person can win. Those that use up their money, break the rules or fall by the wayside face annihilation. Through the eyes of a young woman - Saki Morimi - we follow the progress of one of the Seleção - Akira Takizawa - who begins the tale outside America's White House, naked and suffering from amnesia. With the help of a group of university nerds and their software Eden of the East, a shut-in nicknamed Underpants and 20,000 naked NEETs, Takizawa tries to unravel who he is, what Noblesse Oblige means, why Japan has been subject to unexplained missile attacks, and to forestall the crazy plans of his fellow Seleção.

Comments: The first thing that must be said about Eden of the East is that it has a sensational premise. It could be argued that the Noblesse Oblige phone and its ever obliging Juiz are the true driving force behind the plot and its appeal. What would you do with ¥10 billion and the threat of extinction hanging over you? It's a fascinating concept that is explored over the eleven episodes of the series. With such a charismatic mobile phone and concierge, however, writer and director Kenji Kamiyama faced the problem of creating characters who could match that appeal. Only with Takizawa does he manage to achieve this. Takizawa is a novel character - while there is always an air of unreality about him, his basic decency and optimism shine through. His ability to think laterally (and usually humorously) gets him out of one scrape after another, all the while keeping one step ahead of his rivals. All the same, the goofy unreality of his character design, the fantastical situation, along with his unpredictable behaviour do create a distance between character and viewer. Even though I never felt that I got inside his head, he has become one of my favourite male anime characters, although not in the same league as Kraft Lawrence (Spice and Wolf) or Ginko (Mushi-Shi).


Akira Takizawa and the Noblesse Oblige mobile phone's Juiz are the standout personalities in the franchise.

The point of view character - Saki Morimi - is, however, one of the series' weaknesses, something that is, perhaps unintentionally, reflected in her frumpy character design (I am no fan of Chica Umina). She has no meaningful role in the plot and seems merely to serve a josei romantic role in an otherwise seinen story. Remember, the series was originally broadcast in the noitaminA slot, which avowedly aims to attract a josei audience. There's nothing wrong with having romance in an anime - I've seen some rippers lately - but Saki is a feeble character. It's so disappointing when you consider some of the amazing women Kenji Kamiyama has given us elsewhere. Just think of Balsa from Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.

Of the others, while all the characters involved in the Eden of the East project (I'm talking about the software project, not the series) are likeable, none are interesting. By contrast, the Seleção are unlikeable (with one possible exception, the Johnny Hunter, although my knowledge from the movies may be intruding here) but they are much less cartoonish.

Once the introduction of Takizawa and Saki is out of the way the plot of the series is largely structured around Takizawa's episodic encounters with other Seleção. Through these encounters he learns about himself and the game devised by Mr Outside. Therein (after the character of Saki) lies the other weakness of the series. While the other Seleção are mildly interesting, they seem venal and inconsequential when compared with the majesty of the Noblesse Oblige concept and the awesome concierge, Juiz. The overall weak characterisation, Takizawa aside, diminishes the power the series could have. In short, the execution isn't up to the conception.

Nevertheless it's a fascinating failure. Its grand ideas, plot twists and the memorable Akira Takizawa more than make up for its shortcomings. Since my previous viewing (see below) I've upgraded its rating. I did say I may rank it higher if I had the chance to watch it at a higher resolution and, as a thriller, it definitely benefits from being marathoned.

Rating: very good

Air Communication compilation movie

Comments: I actually watched this last but it kind of fits mentioning it here. The movie is a compilation of the TV series with a hindsight commentary from the in-show Eden of the East software development characters, including Underpants. Some mysteries are explained while major plot points are highlighted. The film is sub only, which did give me a new persective in that I have only watched the series and other films via their American dubs. One surprise for me was that, prior to meeting Takizawa, Saki had been in love with her brother-in-law, Ryosuke Morimi. In the scene with Takizawa by the sea after her disastrous job interview, her confession of her love for Ryosuke is blunted in the dub but made very stark in the sub. Until I saw the compilation I missed it altogether. Knowing that now makes Takizawa's kiss all the more an impressive response.

Anyway, the compilaton movie is a step backward. It doesn't even benefit from its brevity. Too many inconsequential scenes have been left in (but, then again, the series is loaded with them) and the editorial commentary from the characters is mundane at best.

Rating: decent so-so

King of Eden

Synopsis: The TV series ends with Takizawa making an ambitious request to Juiz. This movie explores some implications of the request: Takizawa has been rendered amnesiac in America again while rumours, perhaps true, are spreading that he is the love-child of former Prime Minister Iijuma. Takizawa's most formidable rival Seleção, number 1, has tracked down the whereabouts of the Juiz servers, forcing Mr Outside to relocate them onto a convoy of constantly moving trucks - one truck for each of the Noblesse Oblige concierge servers. Number 1 begins to target the trucks with missiles in order to remove his rivals from the game. Meanwhile Takizawa and Saki make discoveries about Takizawa's past, despite close attention from the other Seleção. Aid comes to them from an unexpected quarter.

Comments: Of the original material releases in the franchise, this, at just over an hour, is the most disposable. It provides little plot development and explains almost nothing of the mysteries behind the game devised by Mr Outside. You could skip this entirely, go straight to Paradise Lost and not miss anything really important. That said, it's not totally without merit or interest. In a series that is largely devoid of strong female characters, this film does give us insight into its best two: Kuroha, the murderous Johnny hunter, and Juiz, the AI behind the Noblesse Oblige phones. Kuroha Diana Shiratori is something of a revelation in this movie. Can a psychopath be redeemed? King of Eden suggests she can. Mightily impressed by Takizawa in their encounter in episode seven of the series, Kuroha had seemingly moved out of the spotlight. In actuality she had given up her crusade to rid the world of sexual predators and secretly watches over Takizawa. Her final sacrifice on his behalf is one of the highlights of the entire franchise. If Takizawa is the protagonist and Saki the point of view character, then in this movie Kuroha is the unexpected heroine.


Kuroha, Seleção #11, who has a penchant for emasculation, has her redeeming moment in King of Eden.

The various AI Juizes communicating with the surviving Seleção, are another surprise. Their interactions with their charges become more amusing as their personalities develop. It becomes apparent that the concierges aren't neutral towards the Seleção they are assisting. In one extreme case, the Juiz for Seleção number six utterly loathes him - with good reason as we discover. (Why is it that most of the Seleção are creeps?) I wonder if this is an innovation in the American dub? I must watch the franchise with the subbed version. It's a welcome development

Other than these developments along with some back story on Takizawa (which becomes more meaningful in the next movie) there isn't a lot else interesting going on in King of Eden. Putting Takizawa back in America (and losing his memories to boot) seem like a ploy inserted just to give the movie some initial momentum of its own and to create an emotional crisis for Saki. Both are remedied easily and in no way progress the important elements of the plot. If I were cynical I'd say the movie's primary function was to milk the popularity of the series.

Rating: decent

Paradise Lost

Synopsis: Takizawa returns from America with the question of his father's identity and his role in the missile attacks the centre of attention for the Japanese. Seleção #1, Daiju Mononobe, is determined to win Mr Outside's game whatever the cost but finds himself thwarted at every turn. Takizawa responds by pulling a surprise gambit involving every Japanese owner of a mobile phone. This prompts Mr Outside to finally intervene, which inadvertently enables the leader of the Eden of the East software team, Kazuomi Hirasawa, to track him down.


Meet Juiz, Juiz, Juiz and Juiz. Actually, they're Mr Outside's granddaughters.
They act as his assistants and were his model for the Juiz AIs.


Comments: Longer, more complex, and finally giving the viewer some long sought after answers, Paradise Lost is more satisfying than its predecessor without ever matching the impact of the original series. This should come as no surprise, given that the most memorable thing about the franchise is its premise. This film is compelling because Takizawa's past is made clearer, many of the mysteries of the Noblesse Oblige game are revealed, and the game itself comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion if never managing to fulfill its initial promise. The characters - outside of Takizawa never one of the franchise's strong points anyway - take a back seat to the final playing out of the plot, which continues to be too often contrived for the sake of effect, such as in Takizawa's possible blood relationship with former Prime Minister Iijuma.

As with Kenji Kamiyama's earlier Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, there is a strong political thread running though Eden of the East. The evidence from those earlier series and this more recent one indicates that Kenji Kamiyama has a very humane view of the world. At times, though, I sense a conservative thread in his message. The counterculture ideals of the 60s are given short shrift in both of these franchises. His worldview seems to be that power will always be limited to a few who have an obligation to work for the benefit of the rest, who, for their part, must knuckle down for the good of the whole. Yes, the very precepts of Noblesse Oblige. It's ironic that the director of the first Ghost in the Shell movie was 1960s radical Mamoru Oshii. Unlike Oshii, Kamiyama is no wannabe revolutionary. Then again, we don't live in revolutionary times in the west, at least not in a political sense. If Oshii is prone to venting his frustration at Japanese creativity (or lack thereof), Kamiyama is at least getting on with the job.


Yay! It takes Saki until the final scene to do something interesting.
Most of the time it's hard to believe she's 22.


Anyway, like any plot heavy anime, especially where the story is driven by its premise, I suspect that Eden of the East won't have strong re-watch value. Nevertheless I have enjoyed thoroughly immersing myself in its world over the last three days.

Rating for Paradise Lost: good
Overall franchise rating: good

****

Here's what I wrote on 28 June 2012 - you'll need to scroll down - when I originally watched the TV series. I've upgraded the one image.

Eden of the East TV series

Comments: Like Kaiba (the reference makes sense in the context of the original post) I watched this partly because of the best first episode tournament. The main reason, though, was that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been streaming it on its iview service. The resolution of the stream is very poor, which may be partly responsible for why I enjoyed it less than I had expected and less than I feel I should have when considering it in hindsight. That said, while I believe the series has a sensational premise I think its execution is prosaic. It relies heavily on an air of mystery and a straightforward race against time to give it momentum. Too often, it is the premise, rather than the characters, that drives the plot. I also suspect that, being a thriller, I may have enjoyed it more had I marathoned it, rather than watching two episodes per week as it became available on line.

The protagonist - the amnesiac Akira Takizawa - has a charismatic personality, although it takes a couple of episodes to grasp his worthy intentions and a little longer to appreciate his strength of character. The point of view character - cutesy Saki Morimi - has little bearing on the story, other than to speak glowingly of the protagonist and express her faith in his trustworthiness when everyone else doubts him. She could be written out of the story without any significant change to the central premise and plot. Her role seems little more than ornamental but it fails even on that count because of her drab character design. Hers is not the only unappealing design. Director Kenji Kamiyama collaborated with Honey and Clover mangaka Chika Umino and the result is the unwelcome face faults and sentimental designs of the very first noitaminA series. You may think I'm being harsh on Eden of the East compared with Kaiba but Kenji Kamiyama has set a high standard with his realistic visual style. Chika Umino's character designs sit uncomfortably in Kenji Kamiyama's world.


I expect better than this from a Kenji Kamiyama production.

In the tradition of Kamiyama’s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex productions, the plot thrives on unexpected developments and astounding reveals. Kamiyama isn’t afraid to think big – the future of Japan is at stake here – but the villains aren’t your typical fare and the heroes – including 20,000 naked NEETS – even less so. The big bad, Mr Outside, even has the grace to refrain from making an appearance – he may even be dead – a sure way to make him seem especially sinister. The series ends with the immediate threat defused but leaves plenty of mysteries to be dealt with in the subsequent movies.

Rating: good. I may rank it higher if I get around to watching it with a decent resolution.


Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:24 am; edited 3 times in total
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Night fox



Joined: 01 Oct 2014
Posts: 561
Location: Sweden
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 9:24 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
Akira Takizawa and the Noblesse Oblige mobile phone's Juiz are the the standout personalities in the franchise.


So, what you're saying is that you prefer women who do as they're told, once given a large amount of money? Razz Razz Laughing
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Jose Cruz



Joined: 20 Nov 2012
Posts: 1779
Location: South America
PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 10:19 am Reply with quote
I was disappointed with Eden of the East. I though it was good but I was expecting much more, I watched it in 2013 and by now I remember very little of it, only that it's was a pretty "ok" show.
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:40 pm Reply with quote
Speaking of well-resourced women, it's the Queen's Birthday long weekend in Oz. I don't approve but, hey, I'm not turning down a day off with pay just because of my republican principles. I'm steadily making my way through Kimba the White Lion so, instead of posting a housekeeping review, I thought I'd write about another omnibus animation film.

My appreciation of anthology films is growing over time. For sure, many of the short pieces are insignificant, of ephemeral interest, or just plain bad. That's what you get with fringe material. The good thing, however, is they explore ideas, styles and themes that TV anime usually skirt. As a bonus, every now and then a collection offers up something special, as indeed this one does.

Deep Imagination


Front cover of the Japanese edition.

Reason for watching: I came to this through its most well known segment, Comedy. In the ANN ratings almost a quarter of people who've seen Comedy rate it as a masterpiece, an assessment with which I happily concur. With such an auspicious introduction I had to check out the others. I'm unaware of an English language version ever being released and the Japanese version is out of print. This review is based on fansubs.

Provenance: Deep Imagination's history begins with the feature film production company, Grasshoppa Co Ltd, who released four movie magazines on DVD over the course of 2001 and 2002. Named Grasshoppa! after the company, each volume contained a series of short films, among which was an animation segment under the rubric, Sweat Punch. In 2006 the four anime short films from the DVDs (Comedy, End of the World, Higan and Professor Dan Petory's Blues) were collected along with the newly produced Junk Town into an anthology movie. Given the convoluted history you might be forgiven for the thinking there wouldn't be an obvious connecting theme running through the omnibus. I shall explore such themes, but shall mention now that there another common thread: the animation production company in all five was Studio 4ºC, whose most recent efforts include the film Harmony and the Berserk film trilogy. There is also a link to all the Katshuhiro Otomo / Koji Morimoto anthology films I've reviewed or mentioned elsewhere in this thread: although he didn't direct any of the films in Deep Imagination, Koji Morimoto was the co-founder of, you guessed it, Studio 4ºC. His influence can be felt in each of the segments, especially in the frequent resort to surrealism and, with one notable exception, the absurd humour often associated with surrealism. Each segment is around ten minutes long.

Junk Town aka A Wake in Garakuta Town - directed by Nobutake Ito (character designer on Masaaki Yuasa's Kemonozume, Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy and Ping Pong)

Synopsis: A small robot, with terrier persistence and a cannibalistic appetite for other mechanical objects beyond its size, catches the attention of a young boy in this short farce by escalation. The victims get bigger and bigger while the voracious robot trails an ever longer collection of robot bits behind itself until it meets its nemesis in a mecha forklift.


The voracious arachnoid robot.

Comments: Being four to five years younger than the rest of the anthology's segments, Junk Town benefits from its improved technical merits, especially when you consider Studio 4ºC's penchant for 3D backgrounds. Despite its age - ten years - the computerised graphics stack up pretty well. While the animation and artwork of the busy market laneways is typical 4ºC precise and appealing, it mixes the sinister with the ridiculous without ever excelling at either. The cuteness of both the little, hungry robot and the astonished boy undermine any sense of threat while the quotidian setting likewise shackles the humour. That said, it's a diverting way to spend ten minutes of your time. Don't be put off by Nobutake Ito's later collaborations with Masaaki Yuasa (himself a graduate from Studio 4ºC). You can see the links with Yuasa's chaotic style but here everything is much more under control, other than the the appetite of the little robot.

Professor Dan Petory's Blues - directed by Hidekazu Ohara (Kogepan, Keikaku and Suzy's Zoo Daisuki! Witzy)

Synopsis: After a row with her boyfriend a woman turns on the TV where an inebriated Professor Petory uses a hand puppet to explain why flying sauces can't fly in a straight line. The string puppet Soybeans Sisters liven things up by singing a bluesy gospel commentary on the dissertation.


This sisters do their best to give the segment a lift.

Comments: Director Ohara uses disorienting jump cuts and stylistic changes à la Ryutaro Nakamura in his Colorful TV series to provide a sense of momentum that would be otherwise missing in a meandering explanation of the interplanetary peregrinations of UFOs, which doesn't make sense in any case. That's the point, of course. The whole thing is an exercise in absurdity. Ohara mixes 3D and 2D graphics seemingly randomly - Petory is 2D while his sock-puppet is 3D - and moves from photo-realistic to highly expressionistic images. My favourite element is the girlie chorus, the Soybeans Sisters, cavorting disjointedly in their 3D Motown parody. Like Junk Town, this segment is fun but, in the end, insignificant.

End of the World - directed by Osamu Kobayashi (Table and Fishman, BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad and Paradise Kiss)

Synopsis: Two young women meet at a Lolita No. 18 concert. When Kazumi invites Yuuko to her flat she discovers that Yuuko is an alien who brings forth a mechanical steed from her television for a cataclysmic, pandimensional battle.


Kazumi and Yuuko in a happy moment before segment goes off the rails.

Comments: Not only does End of the World utilise Studio 4ºC's trademark 3D backgrounds and props but it most obviously of the segments applies the surrealist trope of a portal from the mundane world leading to something ineffable. That and the synopsis may make it sound better than it really is. End of the World is, I think, the weakest segment in the anthology. The artwork is both primitive and ugly - intentionally I suppose - while the animation is basic. The battle on the othe side of the portal is (to steal from Thomas Hobbes) nasty, brutish and short - the last, thankfully. Lacking any thematic point - other than being another example of the absurd - the violence was repellent. In this instance the quotidian proved more rewarding than the world on the other side of the wall.

Comedy - directed by Kazuto Nakazawa (Yurururu ~Nichijou Hen~, Moondrive and Vassalord)

Synopsis: In pre-independence Ireland a young girl sets out to find the legendary Black Swordsman whom she hopes can save her village from the depredation of the English. Legend also has it that he will only assist if he is rewarded with a book of a certain unstated genre. Bloodily fulfilling his end of the bargain - and suitably rewarded - he whispers in her ear words that she will never forget.


What you saw at the castle on the windy night…
And what you saw at the bridge last night…
How I smiled…
Never utter a word to anyone.
If you dare speak…
I will find you wherever you are…
and I will kill you.
I will rip you apart…
crush your bones and eat your flesh.
I will drink your blood.
I will… devour you.


Comments: Ten minutes of distilled magnificence. Kazuto Nakazawa dispenses with the 3D graphics (for the most part - there is some in the battle sequence and, if elsewhere, then it has been used discreetly) to produce an exquisitely crafted short film in both its visual detail and in the pacing that briefly explodes into violence. It hits just about every positive anime button in my psyche: the Irish setting, the bloody retribution occasioned upon the English invaders (yes, I have Irish ancestry), the magical story oozing atmosphere, the Franz Schubert music (Ave Maria and Erlkönig), the ever present wit, and, above all, the characters of the scheming, serious child and the subtly comic yet violent elf king / black swordsman (watch out for the foot in the face moment - sounds horrible but it's kind of sweet). After many watches it continues to thrill me.

Nakazawa sets up a supernatural, gothic atmosphere then upends it with droll humour. Unlike the earlier segments Comedy is the richer for the play between these disparate elements. In the context of the anthology one can see how it too follows the surreal path from the mundane to the extraordinary as the village girl travels from her village through the Black Forest only to lose consciousness at the walls of the Demon Castle. On awakening she finds herself in a magical new world, with just enough of the absurd about it to leaven the shock without spoiling the magic, and also, it must be said, in keeping with the expectations set in the previous segments of the anthology.

If Presence (from Robot Carnival) is achingly beautiful, then Comedy achieves its beauty in a grander, more stirring manner. After all, it has a happy, if violent, resolution. Nakazawa appears to know his art history. In ten minutes he blends elements of surrealism, symbolism and gothic romanticism as if tracing the course of one thread in western art history. To this he blends Irish folk lore and revolutionary aspirations as well as Austrian music on the cusp of Classical and Romantic Eras. It's a heady mix; a drug I keep returning to.

Higan - directed by Yasushi Muraki

Synopsis: The leader of mecha powersuit squad is dying in hospital after his team battled with two tanks. Despite his tenuous link to life he vividly remembers every turn of the battle.


Death is solitude.

Comments: Higan dispenses with humour for the first time in the anthology. This is a grim, psychological depiction of a man on the verge of death. Studio 4ºC's own website translates "Higan" as "the other shore", Wikipedia as "beyond" and a web translator as "equinox" (perhaps suggesting the change from one season to another). Again, the anthology is looking at the transition from one reality to another: from life to death, this time without overlays of surrealism and absurdity. The images and the sounds create a powerful effect. We see the constantly changing emotions on his face as his fortunes rise and fall. The on-field battle becomes the obvious metaphor for his battle to stay alive.

It's not just that, though. The narrative is constructed, using the visceral and immediate depiction of the battle, along with the framing sequences on the operating tables, as if the viewer is getting a snapshot of a larger story. A good photograph can suggest prior and subsequent activity. Higan does this also even though it ends with death. The suggestion of activity after death comes across in two contradictory ways: the world continues on without the squadron leader; but also with him leaving the world behind. Higan gets its metaphysical message across surprisingly effectively even if this unbeliever remains sceptical of such things.

Ratings:
Junk Town - decent
Professor Dan Petory's Blues - not really good
End of the World - not really good
Comedy - masterpiece
Higan - good

Overall - decent

Resources:
Studio 4ºC
Grasshoppa!
Wikipedia



Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:33 am; edited 2 times in total
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 6680
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:46 pm Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
Speaking of well-resourced women, it's the Queen's Birthday long weekend in Oz. I don't approve but, hey, I'm not turning down a day off with pay just because of my republican principles.

Most strange! Today was but an ordinary working day for everyone in Its Majesty The Monarch's homeland. When the cat's away the mice will play, I suppose.

Owing to your review, I am now quite curious about Deep Imagination. Though I remember reading about Comedy long ago, I never knew it was quite so acclaimed a piece amongst those who have seen it. Since Robot Carnival has finally been licensed in America, perhaps we shall have the pleasure of seeing this anthology legally within our lifetimes—even if they are not quite so lengthy as those of our e̶l̶e̶c̶t̶e̶d̶ head of state.
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Errinundra
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Joined: 14 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2016 4:53 am Reply with quote
Over the next week or so I'm going to be adding my four pieces on Legend of the Galactic Heroes. As always I'll be reformatting the post to suit this thread. The series isn't all that interesting visually so there will be fewer images than normal. The first post goes back to 8 June 2012. Like pretty well everybody else I watched this fansubbed. The news that Sentai Filmworks now has the licence is most welcome.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes season 1 (episodes 1-26)

Reason for watching: Its reputation and the the long dormant space opera nerd within me. When I was about 8 years old I used to write my own space operas where two rivals with gigantic space fleets would battle it out for control of the known universe. (Of course, in my fantasies, I was one of the rivals and, if I remember correctly, the other character was a boy from school I didn’t like.) The conflict ended in an Armageddon with the two rivals facing off in hand-to-hand combat in outer space: I think I chopped off my rival’s head. I remember drawing a picture of a helmet floating off on its own. Mind you, this was back in the sixties (yes, I’m that old), in the days of Star Trek’s first TV run and other shows such as Thunderbirds and Lost in Space. It is both LotGH’s charm and failure that it never really goes beyond those childish fantasies. It’s likeable because it appeals to the boy in me. It annoys because its view of human nature is so simplistic and naive.

Synopsis: The story is space opera standard fare. There are two rival superpowers – a decaying Galactic Empire and a disorderly Free Planets Alliance - that have been at war for over a century. Both are corrupt but for different reasons. In the Empire patronage and self-aggrandisement have undermined the effectiveness of the ruling nobility, while, in the supposedly democratic Alliance, political squabbling and self-interest hinders any worthwhile decision making. Alongside these two political systems is a shadowy and somewhat independent group called the Phezzan Dominion that seeks, for its own benefit, to prolong the war.

The first season follows the neatly parallel careers of the leading admiral on each side. Reinhard von Lohengramm is known within the Empire as “the Golden Lion” by his supporters and “the Brat” by his denigrators. The Alliance’s Yang Wen-li is known as “Miracle Yang”, whether genuinely or ironically it again depends on the speaker’s point of view. The reputation of the two men steadily rises as they navigate space battles, political problems and, eventually, separate civil wars. The season ends with each cemented as the pre-eminent military figure of their respective ideological grouping, and pondering their coming battles.

Comments: The structure of the series is simple. Generally episodes alternate between the two men. The plots may be large in scope but they are usually relatively straightforward, short, and mostly fit into one of two categories – external conflict or internal treachery. The external conflict may involve attacking a planet or fortress, or fighting a battle in space. The internal treachery usually involves one or more malcontents stirring up trouble for the heroes. The season climaxes with the two themes coalescing into two parallel civil wars on a galactic scale.

The heroes always come up with a brilliant plan to win the battles or overcome the dastardly villains. Lohengramm devises apparently elaborate schemes to foment revolution within the Free Planets Alliance, while Yang Wen-li’s unerring judge of character enables him to predict the battle plans of the most obscure enemy admiral.

The supporting characters are all paper thin: the women are idealistic, tragic victims; the soldiers are manly and predictable; the villains are self-servingly vile. On the one hand, there is a huge cast so, in fairness, not much time can be spent on each character. On the other hand, the vast array of characters does, admittedly, add to the epic scale. What is lost, however, is intimacy, a sense that we are privy to the inner thoughts of a person. When one of the most important characters is killed unexpectedly I presume it was supposed to be tragic, but, because he had never been portrayed as anything other than earnest and loyal, I failed to feel the grief it seemed I ought.

The one exceptional supporting character is Oberstein, Lohengramm’s Chief of Staff. He sort of performs the emotionless role that Spock or Data played in Star Trek but without the sense of novelty or the humour. Oberstein is cold, calculating and utterly creepy. Your enemy is going to nuke 2 million people? Should it be stopped? No. Better to film it for propaganda opportunities. That’s how Oberstein thinks. As far as I can tell, he is solidly loyal to Lohengramm, even if he does bring out the worst in him. He is a memorable character and one of the highlights of the first season.

What really makes LotGH worth watching is, needless to say, the two mains. Here I have to give credit to the character designers. Whereas most of the other character designs are functional without being notable (again Oberstein stands out, and Kircheis’s red hair is distinctive), the designs for Lohengramm and Wen-li capture their respective personalities nicely.



Lohengramm’s inner conflict between his better nature (outwardly personified by Kircheis) and his vaulting ambition (cue Oberstein again) is perfectly represented in his repressed mask of a face. The pretty boy looks and golden locks are countered by his narrow eyes, brusque manner and flowing cape. I must admit to liking Lohengramm. It would be easy to pigeonhole him as the villain of the piece but his weaknesses and his generous streak engender sympathy.

Wen-li has his own inner conflicts. He’s an avowed pacifist yet he’s the best strategist, tactician and judge of his opponents in the entire Alliance fleet. The laid-back way he drapes his body over the furniture never fools us for a moment. His genuine concern is always written clearly in his face. His, so far, inextinguishable optimism – or perhaps I should just call it a lack of cynicism – along with his kind, unassuming and irreverent personality make him a readily likeable character.

Both Lohengramm and Wen-li are, it seems to me, being set up for tragic ends. That’s fine. This is space opera, after all. Part of the pleasure of tragedy is its remorseless inevitability. For sure this franchise is more than happy to kill off important characters. Unfortunately, I think that sometimes LotGH lacks the wherewithal to carry out its vision effectively. The death I alluded to earlier was portrayed somewhat perfunctorily, even if the flashbacks shown immediately beforehand should have prepared me for it.

There is surprisingly little animation in this animated show. I imagine that one of the reasons that anime producers in the 70s, 80s and 90s had such a penchant for space ships and robots is that their movements, compared with a living creature's, are simple and, thereby, inexpensive to animate. The humans themselves have minimal movements and the few moments of action always came as something of a mild shock. I would love to see this sort of show being made with today’s CGI technology. Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing showed us how awesome massed flying battleships could be. A new LotGH style epic space opera, with its battle fleets numbering in the tens of thousands could, figuratively speaking, blow Last Exile away. Then again, the fleets would probably be crewed by high school girls. Skip that idea.

To complement the epic scale, the soundtrack is made up of mostly 19th century romantic orchestral music: I've recognised Bruckner, Mahler and Dvorak; there was also one occasion when Nielsen's 20th century Inextinguishable Symphony was used. Much of it I didn't know and, despite the woeful OP song, it's all stirring stuff.

Rating: decent. The pluses are the two main characters. Everything else is so-so. What I’ve heard about it tells me that the franchise gets better after the first season. It is good enough in any case that I want to continue.


Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Alan45
Village Elder



Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:12 am Reply with quote
Sentai announced last July that they had licensed some version of this. No word as yet on any planned release date. Viz has issued the first volume of the novel. I haven't been able to get into it yet.
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Errinundra
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Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:22 am Reply with quote
Alan45, I re-checked the ANN news items. You're right - it isn't clear if they're releasing the main series or one, or more, or all of the spin-offs. Also, Production IG are making a new series for release next year. Perhaps everything will be launched into the galaxy in a blaze of glory.

The next, brief, instalment was originally posted on 30 June 2012 - you'll need to scroll down below The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. The usual reformatting has been applied.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes season 2 (episodes 27-54)

Synopsis: Reinhard von Lohengramm has become leader of the Empire and now re-imagines civilisation according to his own vision. This ideal cannot include the Free Planets Alliance as they currently exist so he must conquer them and to do that he must to overcome his great rival, Yang Wen-li.


One of the things I like about Yang Wen-Li is how he often looks simultaneously relaxed and worried.

Comments: The second season pretty well carries on from the first season, except that it does everything somewhat better. There are a few stylistic improvements from the first season but the artwork and animation remain functional at best. The season has a more coherent plot, rather than being simply a set of incidents strung together as its predecessor seemed to be too often.

The plot may sound clichéd but it works surprisingly well, thanks to the appeal of the two men. Lohengramm makes a great villain. He is generous, loyal and, best of all, as he puts it, he isn't interested in vengeance. That last item is very refreshing in anime. He just wants to conquer the known universe and hopes, above all else, that he can defeat Wen-li in the process. Now, that might seem stale but he does it with style and grace. There's no giggling psychopathy here. Mind you, he's so dead set serious that pricking his pomposity mightn't be a bad thing.

The course of the war between the two superpowers is exciting, especially when seen through the eyes of the Alliance who, for the entire season, are at a significant disadvantage. While the strategies adopted by the two fleets were always plausible, the tactics within the battle were sometimes confusing. Perhaps that was a deliberate ploy to create a realistic feel for the battles. (Is "realistic" an appropriate word to use when talking about a space opera?) The series ends in an unconditional surrender for one side that seemed just a tad rushed. Having said that, I was expecting a neverending stalemate so the surprise was appreciated.

Along with its visual qualities and its often one-dimensional secondary characters, another downer with the series is its simplistic political ruminations: too often the choices presented were either / or. Having worked in politics for several years, I learned that it is the art of compromise, the art of the possible. This lack of nuance parallels Lohengramm's seriousness. The heavy meal needs more irony to spice it up. Nevertheless, the series is developing its own grandeur but whether that's due to the vast array of characters and the episode count, or because of the strength of its storytelling and the appeal of the two (who finally meet for the first time in the 54th episode), I haven't decided yet.

Rating: good


Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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Errinundra
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Location: Melbourne, Oz
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2016 5:11 am Reply with quote
The next instalment with the usual alterations. The original post is from 5 August 2012.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes season 3 (episodes 55-86)

Synopsis: Where the first season dealt with the growing rivalry between Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-li along with the dissolution of their respective political systems; and the second covered the Empire's invasion of the Free Planets Alliance and Reinhard's disappointment at his inability to defeat Yang in battle; the third explores Reinhard at the apogee of his career and his continued frustration at the elusiveness of his quarry, Yang, despite the latter's almost total marginalisation.

Comments: Having now rounded the bend of the third season the home straight is now before me. Overall, while LotGH is never less than enjoyable I can't admit to it being the masterpiece so many have recorded on this site. It's a dry, unemotive series that lacks the intellectual or artistic capabilities to match its conceptual ambitions. Or, to put it another way, the political and military discourse is never sophisticated enough to raise LotGH above the level of space opera. Having said that, it is rivetting often enough to be well worth the time and effort.

Paradoxes abound. Reinhard's success as a political leader grows and grows - despite the illegitimacy at its core - while his disatisfaction intensifies. Yang's influence on the affairs of the galaxy wane even though his political and strategic instincts are at their most acute. These oppositions are the most interesting things driving the first two thirds of the season. Another paradox is that the two main characters, while becoming richer in their metaphorical roles, have by now become less interesting on a personal level.

Reinhard's gnawing obsession with Yang not only interferes with his military judgements but his repressed fury makes him much less appealing, especially given that he is, even at his best, devoid of humour. Gone is his former soaring, optimistic hubris that made him such an exceptional villain. In the first two seasons he was less the villain and more an alternative point-of-view character. Indeed, I have long thought him to be the main character with Yang providing the alternative perspective.

Yang, for his part, spends much of the season retreating more and more into political irrelevance, seeking consolation in married life and fretting over the contradictions between military necessities and political niceties. What the two men share is impotence, remaining immobile while their subordinates ponder what they might do next. Perhaps the rivalry between the two men has finally reached a creative dead-end for the writers? That question will shortly become moot, in any case. Unfortunately, for the moment, their inactivity infects the series, despite the mildly interesting political ruminations that, in any case, tend to be on the naive side.


Frederica Greenhill - who will become the leader of the Iserlohn Free Republic - marries Yang Wen Li.

Happily, things turn around completely when Reinhard, with a sudden change of heart, announces he will personally lead a massive armada to hunt down and defeat Yang once and for all. The ensuing campaign provides some of the most thrilling battles so far, even if the outcome invariably turns on the Empire admirals' inability to curb their excitability or see some obvious critical tactical complication. Their obsession with Yang seems to have a continuing brain-numbing effect upon them. While Yang and his admirals are far more clear headed, the very existence of their enormous fleet, even if outnumbered, is never explained and, for me, remained beyond comprehension.

Wouldn't you know it, though? Reinhard has another out-of-the-blue change of heart when he orders a cessation of hostilities. Despite suffering a significant defeat on the battlefield his strategic advantage is still intact. Perhaps it is the beginnings of a mental instability that will be explored in the fourth season? I hope so.


Reinhard von Lohengramm is not only distracted by Yang Wen Li, but he's also lost his spark.

It doesn't really matter. This unwanted development is soon forgotten thanks to the spoiler[assassination of Yang by religious fanatics unconnected to Reinhard]. I have to admit it's a courageous move by the writers of the show. The nearest I can think to it in anime is the spoiler[death of L] in Death Note spoiler[in a similar distance into that series, although the perpetrator in that instance is the actual rival]. At a stroke the single best thing about the series has been removed. At this point the prognosis for the coming season did not appear promising. I have to admit, though, that subsequent developments among the rebels alleviated my fears to some extent. While Julian Minci never provided a convincing case to deserve his new role, he may provide the locus for future rebellions. Frederica Greenhill, in contrast, seems destined to play the role she has now been thrust into. I have no idea how season 4 will develop but that is a good thing.

One of things I mused upon while watching the first two seasons was how apt it would be were it to add the music of Dmitri Shostakovich to its, until then, mostly Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven soundtrack. To my immense satisfaction the third season not only introduces Shostakovich's music but absolutely revels in it, with excerpts from almost all his fifteen symphonies. His music invariably accompanies scenes involving Yang and his rebels, while Reinhard and the Empire continue continue to march to a Germanic rhythm. I love the way the war between rebel and empire is enriched by a contrast between Leningrad and Vienna.


Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler & Shostakovich. A long tradition of epic symphonies, perfect for LotGH.

Rating: good+


Last edited by Errinundra on Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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Alan45
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Joined: 25 Aug 2010
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Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2016 9:38 am Reply with quote
Errinundra wrote:
Quote:
the very existence of their enormous fleet, even if outnumbered, is never explained and, for me, remained beyond comprehension.


Concepts like logistics and industrial base to support war are not sexy and usually get short shrift. In addition they add complexities that make decisions a lot more difficult and less black and white. I'm reading the first book of the series and a lot of the tactics are simplistic. I think we either have to accept the hand wave on these or not follow the series.

Look at it this way. In WWII little Japan fielded a world class navy. For the first year after Pearl Harbor they kicked butt in all directions. If we had reacted like the Russians a generation earlier we would have sued for peace by the time of the debacle in the Java Sea if not earlier (and you would be speaking Japanese). Fortunately we made a long war of it. We got lucky at Midway but it was that meat grinder in the Solomons that crippled the Imperial Navy. Basically if a small country like WWII Japan could field that large a fleet the perhaps hundreds of worlds of the Alliance should be able to produce the thousands of starships the series speaks of. The author is vague enough that it is not clear that one side is necessarily larger of more advanced than the other. Just different forms of government.
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