by Erin Finnegan,
GaoGaiGar season 2
Corpse Princess part 2
Occult Academy ep. 1-13
As I write this, I'm still at MangaNext and Halloween is tomorrow. That makes tonight Devil's Night! People outside of Michigan are less aware of the infamous arsons committed in Detroit on Devil's Night. It's my understanding the city has it under control now much more so than in the '80's and 90's when I was growing up.
Corpse Princess is totally appropriate show to review on Devil's Night. Unfortunately, watching part two is almost like having a hangover.
The dialog is so repetitive in this show that it loses all meaning, like when you say a word over and over again and it becomes just a weird sound. The characters repeat the reasons why they fight (or who they're fighting for) so often than they might as well just say their own names over and over again, like Pikachu. And that would be an improvement on the script.
The first DVD of this two disc set is particularly bad. A lot of characters are drawn off-model; in one episode it got so bad I had trouble recognizing some of the supporting characters. Usually when a whole episode is poorly drawn it means the show was farmed out to a cheaper studio, or the "D" team of animators in order to save money and/or in-house staff for the more important episodes. During some of the dramatic, very well animated moments, Corpse Princess characters start to look like characters from other shows. I'm not sure if it's an homage or a coincidence or a mistake. In more than one scene, Makina starts to look like Nono from Gunbuster 2. At one point, another character is a dead ringer for Asuka from Evangelion.
With two entire episodes related to possessed killer cars, and dozens of car accidents throughout, Corpse Princess reminded me of the “Killer Cars” skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus (skip to 0:45). Either that, or Jean-Luc Godard's fiery vision of the car-crashed capitalist future in Weekend (one the more pretentious movies ever made).
In this set, the Kogon Sect of Contracted Monks face off against the Seven Stars, a group of super powerful living dead bad guys. One of the Seven Stars is a mysterious fellow with a balloon head. Its voice is much scarier in Japanese than it is in the dub (it's a male voice in Japanese, female in English). Balloon-head is an awful lot like a villain from Boogiepop Phantom. In fact, Boogiepop Phantom is much moodier and creepier than this show. (We talked about Boogiepop on the ANNCast last week.)
The ending sets up an amazing zombie apocalypse scenario, in "a scene so spectacular you could never in your life see it in a low budget show like this one" (1:45). That is to say, a battle against hundreds of shikabane takes place off screen.
There is at least one decent twist, but it's so poorly executed that it ruins the entire show. The explanation of what's happening is so repetitive and nonsensical you may as well watch this on mute, or better yet, in a language you don't speak. Although that might not help, since they say the word “shikabane” so often, you'd just learn how to say shikabane in whatever language you watch it in.
This show is dying for a Phantom Edit. Come to think of it, in the Otaku database book Azuma specifically talks about Gainax's relationship with fan works, starting from Evangelion. According to the book, episode 26 of Evangelion was based on a well-known doujinshi. It's entirely possible that Gainax expects fans to re-work Corpse Princess into something better.
Or not. I can't tell if Gainax being lazy, cheap, or experimental. In film, if your intent isn't clear the work is generally considered a failure.[TOP]
To balance out that monstrosity (har) I had to watch something awesome.
Season One, which I reviewed across two columns, was more of a kid's show, but season two gets serious. Well, somewhat serious. The addition of Mic Sounders and his Mic Sounders Brigade with their rainbow-colored transformation sequences, guitar and CD weapons make the show a little hard to take seriously. But when even robots cry sparkly tears over their fallen comrades, you know shit just got real.
Remember when robots had humanoid faces like the Transformers? Wasn't that great? All of the robots in GGG have that kind of humanoid face and transform - although not quite like Transformers. They go through the kind of sentai-show-like upgrades in every episode that remind me of Sailor Scout transformation sequences. Everyone has to transform into ultra-whatever mode or combine with some other robot, and across the half-dozen robot characters this might get boring if it weren't such a lighthearted, nostalgic homage. As an adult this kind of repetition can be annoying, but as a kid I loved the repeated sequences the most.
Don't get me wrong - in this season of GGG a lot of very serious business is happening, so much so that the robot transformations start to seem absurd. In season one the GGG team was just battling one Zonderian at a time (sometimes in an unfair six-on-one battle), but by the end of season 2 our brave heroes are fighting inside of a planet-sized monster demon for the fate of not just Tokyo - not just Earth - but all animal life everywhere in the galaxy. It's a lot like Gurren Lagann in that regard; the foes get bigger and bigger and the last half of both shows take place in space.
The best part of GGG is when it starts to turn the genre on its head. Suddenly even the ultra weapons don't work against the bad guys. One character actually dies. Tokyo gets evacuated. The scenes of the GGG space station evacuation reminded me of something out of Gundam. I got kind of emotional during these two scenes.
The final arc of the show follows a Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey quest, which is to say the heroes face death, alone, after their friends have fallen in battle (I mean the concept of death, not the literal Grim Reaper). The final two episodes are a lot like the ending of the book version of Return of the King, where the Hobbits return home to the Shire. Just when you think it's all over, the GGG crew has to face one final conflict on Earth.
The DVD cover is misleading. I took this to a friend's house to watch and someone thought it might be porn. Now that I've seen the ending, I have to say that the cover art is a spoiler!
It's a shame this isn't dubbed. I loved the season one dub.
I found GGG to be a squarely consistent show, at least within its seasons. Unlike some other shows I watched this week, which I have to invent new terms for just to describe how they went wrong…[TOP]
If I was going to watch this again I would skip the following episodes: 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10. Episode eight is about chupacabra and it's quite good. Episode four is a fun battle against giant moths.
To refresh your memory, or in case you haven't seen it, Waldstein Academy is the school Haruhi Suzumiya wishes she could attend. The students exclusively study the occult. Into this setting is thrust Bunmei, a washed-up spoon-bending psychic turned time traveler, who must save the earth from an alien attack. Bunmei involves Maya, the daughter of the school's late principal, in his search for Nostradamus's Key in order to prevent the alien apocalypse in 2012.
Unfortunately, Bunmei lost his psychic powers long ago and is more or less a bumbling idiot. He wastes most of his time in 1999 ogling a dimwitted, large-breasted waitress named Mikaze. For a series where the entire fate of mankind is in jeopardy, way too much time is spent lingering on Bunmei as he eats awkward dinners in front of Mikaze. She feels like dead weight in the show until episode 11, so much so that I sighed and rolled my eyes every time she appeared on screen.
The show totally fails to develop the two most interesting sidekick characters; JK, the pudgy goth-y dowser with two-toned hair, definitely deserved his own episode! Instead the show lingers on Ami and Kozue and their friendships with Maya. Neither of those girls are as interesting as Smile, the mechanic with the giant wrench. I want to know how Smile ended up working at the academy, dammit!
Episodes nine and ten are the worst. Why are our heroes wasting time on a little girl's ghost when the end of the world is at stake?! The ghost child, who is obsessed with Christmas, seems like a reference to Rental Magica, which had a whole cheesy Christmas episode involving ghost orphans. Are ghost children on Christmas an anime trope now? I thought it was a parody of some sort in Rental Magica, and I may have missed the joke in Occult Academy.
The last three episodes are a good time. They're well-written, nicely animated, and action packed. Some of the saliva strings in episode 11 are borderline pornographic, which is too bad, because I could almost recommend this show to my mom. (We used to watch The X-Files together, after all.)
The time-travel plot wraps up in a super-satisfying way. It's not quite as over-the-top as GGG's ending, but both of them put Corpse Princess's ending to shame.[TOP]
Now, if you'll excuse me I have one more panel to give and probably some free candy to eat.
This week's shelves are from Andy Lin, who's been collecting DVDs and PS2 games since 2005.
Want to show off your stuff? Send your jpgs to shelflife at animenewsnetwork dot com. Thanks!
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