Shoji Kawamori's Last Hope has debuted its first half on Netflix, but is there any hope of deciphering its wacky sci fi plot? This week, Nick and Micchy wax rhapsodic on the Macross creator's most unusual ideas.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Good news, Micchy! After over a year of TWIA, we're finally getting a chance to play my favorite Anime game: Kawamori MadLibs!
Oh hey, I'm the three other people. I suppose this is as good a time as ever to mention that both you and I are unapologetic Shoji Kawamori fans.
For real, while I certainly wouldn't say everything the dude's made is good (he bats pretty evenly for me), I would absolutely say he's one of my favorite anime creators to follow. He's a unique voice, as idiosyncratic as he is prolific, so even when he makes something bad, it's usually bad for interesting reasons.
Obligatory Arjuna Reference:
I'll never forget the time I interviewed him and he started talking about Arjuna almost unprompted. The dude's a weird one, but hey, it wouldn't be a Shoji Kawamori joint if there weren't at least a few ideas from outta left field.
For every Arjuna, he's also got a Shanghai Dragon Thumb Cigar Man, so you win some, you lose some.
And today we're covering his latest original creation: LAST HOPE, the story of a bumbling yet brilliant scientist and his team of people pulled from totally different anime genres to fight robot animals powered by alternate dimensions that also are possibly incarnations of the Greek God of Chaos.
So y'know, relatively subdued for Kawamori.
tfw you math so hard you transcend the limits
Last Hope is interesting in that it tries so hard to be serious while also indulging Kawamori's weirder sensibilities, like Kung Fu Drone Robot.
Oh we'll get
to that kung fu drone robot. Regardless of how anybody feels about this show, you can't deny the genius of having a giant robot do the Naruto Run.
I'll be honest, I was sold from the moment Leon's naked ass tripped over a block five mins into the first episode.
It treads a delicate line with all the grace of a drunken freshman, but I can't say I wasn't charmed by the weird tonal whiplash of Last Hope. Like on its face, it's about a scientist who caused the apocalypse trying to atone for his sins by protecting the last bastions of humanity and working to use his knowledge for the good of mankind.
In reality, it's about a power struggle between an extremely booby princess and this guy:
Don't forget that said guy is named Mr. Hotpot.
That's Hot Pot Kim, aka Mr. Gold, aka Who The Hell Named These Characters? (An absolute genius, I maintain.) But yeah, Last Hope starts off pretty dry, stuffed with technobabble and wonky-ass robot fights that cater to pretty much five people on this earth. Motorcycle robots the size of tanks are just entirely my shit.
ALL HAIL HEELY BOT
So yeah, most people probably won't grock to anything about Last Hope. This first half that we've gotten on Netflix is mainly place-setting and character introductions for whatever weird inter-dimensional nonsense is going on in the background. But the episode arcs introducing the cast are honestly my favorite parts of the show, where the series embraces its absurd ideas with no shame and just goes Full Anime.
They may not be the most complex of characters, but god damn do I have a weak spot for shenanigans like Leon Doin' Science In The Kitchen.
This shit does not belong in a super-serious show about [gesticulates wildly] THE PERILS OF TECHNOLOGY, but it's there, and Last Hope is better off with the added seasoning.
Folks can complain about the tone all they want but when Queenie's robot started kung-fu fighting a giant bird that was also a jet plane being controlled by Jean-Claude Van Damme wearing a VR headset, I yelled so loud I scared my cat. And I refuse to apologize.
All the best stuff in this show is the bonkers-ass conceptual stuff - like "what if wiggly hair ornament cell phone?"
Unfortunately, Last Hope's not great at basic storytelling? These characters have just enough personality and complexity to keep the story running, no more and no less. And hell if I can tell you what the show's supposed to be about yet, but that's what I've come to expect from Kawamori: lots of weird and potentially interesting ideas, but hit-and-miss when it comes to delivering a coherent narrative.
There's a lot
of talk about Pandora's Box and how the scientific whatever that caused all this was chaos and hope at once, and that also gets wrapped up into Schrodinger's Cat and the end result is a weird analogy car crash that makes sense if you look at it sideways but still...what???
That said, I do enjoy these characters when they're allowed to bounce off each other and just hang out during down time. I especially like Gren, who's just a Macross protagonist trapped in the wrong show.
My personal fav is Doug, the alcoholic sniper who brings his cat to battle with him because he's secretly related to Milia Jenius or something.
He also gets to fight the best enemy in the show.
Oh sure, Doug has some tragic backstory about his upbringing as a heartless killer and eventual romance with one of his targets, but I'm actually here for the biomechanical chameleon who spawns that rifle out of its own body.
Apart from the goofy stuff though, there is one genuinely compelling beating heart to Last Hope, I feel.
Is it Leon's pseudo-romance with every
guy in the show?
(He has so many boyfriends, it's ridiculous.)
That's a close second, but I actually meant his adoptive sibling relationship with Chloe.
Their shtick is initially pretty familiar—found family, absent-minded genius who's cared for by his more responsible little sister, etc. But then we find out that not only is she the younger sister of Leon's first BF, but that Leon probably killed said brother after he turned evil, adding just enough of a twist to get me invested in these two.
Plus, Chloe's voiced by Nao Toyama so I'm contractually obligated to like her.
It's not her fault that her brother turned out to be a megalomaniacal asshole set on causing catastrophe for the sake of SCIENCE. He tries to seduce Leon into joining him in his grand quest for scientific progress, since so few other people can match him intellectually or whatever.
What are you talking about? This is just two science bros intellectually stimulating each other.
Just a bro gently stroking another bro, for science.
Also, of course he's voiced by Kaworu.
Okay, there's something to be said about making the most strongly gay-coded character in the show evil, or how broadly the show already feels like "SCIENCE BAD, PEOPLE GOOD".
But on the other hand, consider that we get Alternate Dimension Goth Kaworu.
See I don't get a "science bad" vibe so much as the series being critical of how science is used. Advancement for its own sake, devoid of human interest or emotion, turns the world to hell, while Leon's Hyperdrive robots literally require a human psyche to function, and they're the only thing that can save humanity.
Hm, I see what you mean. It's certainly more nuanced than Arjuna's cloud-yelling, in any case.
And while it's mostly been background stuff, there is some discussion with the Princess who manages Neo Xianglong about acting in the best interests of others and using power responsibly.
And that's what I dig about Kawamori projects usually. Even when they're weird or incoherent or blatantly incompetent, there's also usually some cogent perspective about something in there to discuss, even if it's mostly conjecture right now.
Yeah, now I'm frustrated that we only get to see half of the show! It's all been setup with only the barest hints of what's actually going on. Like, who is this Fiona character, and why is her butt so shiny?
And what is "dark chaos plus polar bear equals schrodinger's panda" even supposed to mean? Is that an analogy or is Kawamori just throwing ideas in a blender again?
Yeah, as-is I can't really recommend Last Hope to many people. It's weird and silly and fairly entertaining, but so much of its appeal rides on watching the show like you're doing a jigsaw puzzle of an expressionist painting.
Though like most Satelight shows, I can at least recommend the background design. Neo Xianglong has some gorgeous futurism.
So yeah, I'll give Last Hope a wait-and-see for now. But I've learned to trust in Kawamori to deliver interesting stories, and I'm sure this will all make sense by the end!