Anime Expo Lite: GIBIATE Special Previewby Kim Morrissy,
The upcoming Gibiate anime is a celebration of Japan's history and traditional aesthetics. The keyword is the "wa" from the current Japanese era name "Reiwa," which signifies Japan.
True to that mission statement, Anime Expo Lite's special preview show for Gibiate opened with a performance by the opening theme song artists the Yoshida Brothers, who are famous for their shamisen skills. The song combines modern rock music with traditional Japanese instruments, and also their rendition featured no vocal parts, making it very distinctive among anime theme songs.
Following the performance, the show played an interview with character designer Yoshitaka Amano, who is best known for his work on the Final Fantasy series. He said that it was refreshing for him to make art with a Japanese theme, since he has mostly done art with a European theme. Also interestingly, he shared his thoughts on concepts like samurai and bushido, remarking that he feels that aspects of them may be misunderstood outside Japan, but that's why it's important for Japanese artists to create works based on their own perceptions and send them out to the world, so that other people from different cultures can understand where they're coming from.
To Amano, "samurai" is almost more of a concept than a physically existing thing, because there are no samurai alive today. However, the spirit of them still exists, albeit unseen. Through representations within media and culture, we can learn to grasp them. Amano said that he hopes that the spirit of samurai can come across through Gibiate.
Next, the voice actors Tetsuya Kakihara (who plays Sensui Kanzaki), Hiroki Touchi (Kenroku Sanada), Yukiyo Fujii (Kathleen Funada), Michio Hazama (Yukinojyo Onikura), Shūichi Ikeda (Dr. Yoshinaga), and Hiroki Nanami (Hatonami Ayame) each gave a video message. The cast reiterated Gibiate's core messaging: it's a project of global ambitions that aims to convey the appeal of Japan and its top artists to both a domestic and an international audience. Kakihara also mentioned that Gibiate's theme is “strength to live,” which he feels is an especially powerful message at this point in time.
To be honest, it did not fully click for me what the story of Gibiate is actually about until the final minutes of the program, when preview footage from the anime was played. The story opens with a video message dated from the year 2030. The heroine explains that humankind is currently struggling from the effects of a worldwide pandemic called "Gibiate" (title drop!) which causes humans to turn into weird CG frog-bug monsters. The whole "monster virus" thing plays out like a hokey B-movie, but thanks to the uncanny timing of the release, one can't help but think of the real-world parallels in the year 2020. No wonder the voice actors are looking at it with hindsight and saying things like, "We hope this anime gives you hope and conveys the message of finding the strength to live!"
The most interesting part of Gibiate is the question of how the historical Japanese part of the story is going to fit into all of this. After the video message from the future concludes, the anime shifts gears to Japan's Warring States Period, and we get a glimpse of our samurai protagonist Sensui. As far as samurai characters go, he seems to be about standard so far: he shows a stoic disposition and is devoted enough to his lord that he'll even take a political fall for him and be exiled in his stead. The preview abruptly ends with Sensui getting caught up in turmoil at sea with no indication yet of how exactly this will connect to the monster virus happening in the future, but it's safe enough to assume that Sensui will end up confronting the Gibiate at some point.
That's where the preview show ends, with more questions than answers. But Sensui looks cool; the appeal of samurai comes across loud and clear. Plus, that opening theme is definitely kickass. If you want to find some catharsis watching samurai take on a pandemic with their pointy swords, this show might be up your alley.
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