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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - What's Next to Love?

by Allen Divers,
At some point in time, every fan wants more from a series after it ends. Often, the powers that be see this want and will try to cash in on it. So it's back to the storyboards as a sequel, follow-up, OVA special, or even a movie is somehow squeezed out of the property. Occasionally a series has more life left to be shared, so a sequel isn't that difficult to create. Big O definitely left many fans wanting more, and despite a poor run in Japan, the popularity gained from its North American run has lead to the creation of a second series which promises to bring episode thirteen's cliff-hanger to a quick conclusion.

When it comes to a series' future, one may never underestimate the power of the production team. After Dragon Ball's original creator, Akira Toriyama, had decided to close the story once and for all, the team at Toei ignored his wishes. Wanting the story to continue, they produced Dragon Ball GT with very minimal interaction from Akira Toriyama.

Other creative teams have prevented the continuation of their series. With a successful push to get more episodes of Big O, Cartoon Network has turned its eyes on Cowboy Bebop. But so far, they've been unsuccessful in convincing the staff of Cowboy Bebop to create more episodes of the series.

So if you can't get a team to continue an old story, what next? Let them run off and create new tales. After all, if you can't continue an older series, perhaps the creative minds behind the original hit can create a whole new legend.

The series I'm looking at this week fall into this last category. XEBEC and GONZO are considered two animation production companies to watch. Both work with some of the best people in the anime industry to produce some of the most popular series in existence. Many of their series are considered hot properties, with fans eagerly awaiting their acquisition for North American consumption. Thanks to the huge success of previous series, both can rest assured that any new series will have an audience waiting eagerly to snatch it up.

Stellvia of the Universe (Uchū no Stellvia)

XEBEC's new series, Stellvia, earned a lot of early buzz as a possible sequel to the popular Nadesico series. While much of the creative staff behind Nadesico is behind the scenes for Stellvia, unfortunately it is not a sequel. On the plus side, it is a strong space adventurer with a solid story. In 2167 the Earth was devastated when one of its nearest neighbors went super nova. Now, in 2356 mankind has rebuilt their civilization and has set in the motion the Great Mission to protect the planet from the second wave of destruction. Earth has constructed a set of stations that will create a shield to protect the planet. Each of the stations will also serve as bases for the teams of pilots that will supplement the shield. With beautiful and detailed graphics, mixing traditional animation and CGI, Stellvia follows the trials and tribulations of a new class of students that wish to take part in the Great Mission.

The lead protagonist is a young girl named Katasa Shima. An excellent programmer, she proves to be a bit weak in piloting skills. While the backdrop is the Great Mission, it simply serves as the setting for the real story about one girl improving herself. As is typical in these coming of age stories, she struggles to improve herself thanks to the help of her friends and instructors. The story is filled with lots of humor and emotion, with a few space flight sequences to keep the mecha fans happy. Following many of the standard stereotypes, Katase's classmates run the gambit of personalities and their various quirks. The dialogue and episodic stories remain light in nature, and the overall tone is a true learning experience.

Stellvia of the Universe is another strong series from the house of XEBEC. For those looking for a solid space adventure with an interesting premise, this one has it in the story of the Great Mission. For those who like a lot of classroom type humor, this one has that as well.

Last Exile

GONZO is back with another strong and visually different series. This time around, it's an alternate world where battles are fought by mighty airships and delivers are handled Pony Express style by pilots of small aircraft called Vanships. GONZO goes all out creating a visually stunning masterpiece with an intriguing story to capture the viewer's attention. The world of Last Exile seems trapped in the style of Europe during the industrial revolution. Battles are conducted by giant flying air ships ruled over by a system of honor and procedures. A caste of Arbitrators called the Guild exists that define when and how combat will take place.

Much of the appeal of this show lies in the visuals and mecha designs. The airships are all large, reminiscent of turn of the century battleships. Each is rendered beautifully in CGI. Character designs and costuming take on the ideals of European culture, with many noble type uniforms and even down to peasants' style clothing. The overall affect creates an interesting dichotomy as there are elements of advanced technology, but the characters feel like something out of Horatio Hornblower.

To go along with this strong visual look and spectacular setting is a good story. While a bit cliché in some forms, the story fits well within the defined setting. Klaus and Lavi are two young pilots of a Vanship left to them by Klaus' father. Following in his father's footsteps, Klaus with Lavi work as couriers. The early episodes of this series help establish their characters and do a good job of foreshadowing where the story is going. With the setting established, Klaus and Lavi encounter the Silvana, a rouge ship that seems to work outside of the system established by the Guild. By episode 8 of this series, the story is still unfolding and it has me eagerly awaiting future episodes.

While both these series rely on the strength of the names of their production studios, both move quickly from being just another work creating a strong following in their own right. Both have strong settings that will help draw in fans looking for particular adventures. The stories they tell with help keep the viewers entranced after the hook of the visuals fades. You can expect both of these series to be very visible at conventions over the next few months with announcements of their acquisitions coming before the end of this year.

So who's going to get them? XEBEC has strong ties to both Bandai and ADV. ADV found quite a bit of success with Nadesico, while Bandai through Production I.G found a lot of success with XEBEC's Love Hina series. ADV and Bandai have both sought series with similar themes to Stellvia before, so they definitely seem like the top contenders for that title. Initially, it seemed that most GONZO titles would be the exclusive domain of Pioneer. This has changed with ADV picking up a few of GONZO's big titles from last year. I expect both ADV and Pioneer to be in the running for Last Exile, with the style and storyline of this series fitting better with Pioneer's stable of titles.

You don't always need to rely on a fan favorite series to move forward and create a dynasty. Many studios have proven that using the same creative staff can continue to produce a string of hits. As a fan, you often find yourself wanting more of a particular series. While you may not get more of that particular title, the people behind those stories are out there producing new stuff. Knowing this can help you find a new series that you can love just as much!

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