Toy Boat, Toy Boat, Tossed to the Seas

October 23, 2014

“I don’t know what you all have as a power source, but if it’s not too much trouble, would all of you like to join me for a meal?”

Gunzou Chihaya, Arpeggio of Blue Steel

Arpeggio of Blue Steel - The Oriental Fleet

I first stumbled upon Arpeggio of Blue Steel as a manga, fresh off the translated releases of The Plot to Assassinate Ghiren. With the memories of Ark Performance’s excellent mechanical art, designs, and their expressive characters, I dived straight into Arpeggio of Blue Steel without any hesitation, and it was an exciting read. Of course, given my positive experience with the manga, the anime, Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova, was a must-watch for me.

In Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova, set in the near future, humanity is at war with the Fleet of Fog, mysterious warships resembling World War II designs that have dominated the coasts of the continents since their sudden appearance. These enemy warships are far from following the capabilities of their visual counterparts relegated to the history of past wars, however; with advanced energy and shell armaments, rows of vertical launch systems for a wide array of missiles and torpedoes, and the impenetrable Klein Field, a barrier that surrounds most Fog ships, these WWII-esque ships are hardly harmless against the modern navies of the world; in a handful of years, most of humanity have taken massive losses to their naval fleets, and have been cut off by the Fog, who not only set upon any attempt to sail upon the seas, but actively shut down any attempts at establishing contact, largely by shooting down low-orbit satellites and even SSTOs sent up by launch facilities.

However, there is one unknown factor in all this; Gunzou Chihaya, former student and current dropout of the Japanese National Marine Academy, and the rogue Fog submarine carrier I-401, nicknamed Iona. After these two met two years ago, they have been prowling the waters of the Japanese region ever since; gathering crew members and taking on secret tasks, some of them involving the Japanese government, Gunzou and Iona have made a name for themselves as the only force in recent history to not only take the fight to the Fog, but win, as well.

Now that the Japanese military has designed a new torpedo type to counter the Fog, Gunzou and his crew have been tasked to deliver it to the United States of America, the only nation left that has the industrial capability to mass-produce them. This journey will test the skills of Gunzou and his crew; in-between them are the seas, and the prowling Fog warships, each a sentient weapon with an eye on the Fog anomaly that is I-401.

The first most glaring visual cue to the viewer would be the heavy use of 3DCG in this. In a surprise move (and some would say for the worse, going by memory of trending opinions), even the characters are clearly done in CG, with the heavy styling used to give CG anime characters their typical 2D art style. It’s not as easily noticeable, but neither is the CG very concealed, and in certain actions and scenes, it really shows itself. On the plus side, characters are no longer under threat from the drop in art quality whenever relegated to the sidelines in a particular scene; however, the facial expression seems stiff, and sometimes unreal. It’s a passing thing, but you’ll never be able to fully shake off the observation that “hey, this show is using CG for its characters”, and unfortunately, given the show’s return to exaggerated expressions for humorous situations, this tends to be one of its more outstanding visual aspects.

This, however, only applies to the CG for the characters. CG for the ships and other mechanical designs are otherwise what you’d expect from today’s anime, and while I’m sure there are a few who are devoted to hand-drawn, the battle CG in Ars Nova is otherwise well within the standards of expectation.

My main issue with Ars Nova, however, lies in its status as an adaptation of another work, rather than an original story.

While humanity in the world of AoBS (I’ll use AoBS to refer to the manga, and Ars Nova, the anime, from this point on) have already revolutionized naval warfare once with the widespread adoption of the supercaptivating torpedo, in Ars Nova, none of this is mentioned, and we’re given the presentation that it’s modern humanity that is getting its works kicked in by the Fog. There’s a noticeable loss in the story settings in Ars Nova; for example, the new torpedo design undergoing rigorous testing in both adaptions is mentioned, but in AoBS Gunzou makes it a point that the Japanese administration’s test target was a torpedo boat; still a ship of the Fog, but the key difference is that it’s not a ship of the line, and lacks the Klein Field of larger warships, the main impediment in getting any kind of weapon to make contact with the Fog. In Ars Nova, the vibration torpedo is merely used as a reason for the journey to the USA, and then barely factors into the plot itself.

Certain characters are also notably different; in Ars Nova, Gunzou and Iona share a different, closer kind of relationship than the more clear-cut comradely link that is present in AoBS; at least, at the same point in the story for both series. Ryūjirō Kamikage, a side character in Ars Nova that was, at best, professionally neutral against Gunzou, despite their working relationship, is also a significant change compared to his AoBS portrayal, who never directly voices any displeasure against the crew of the I-401.

There are a few more changes, mostly in regards to some aspects, but while Ars Nova manages to keep most of the other aspects of the show intact, there is also a wide array of missing characters. For one, Mitsumine, the current Prime Minister of Japan in the settings, and whom even Kamikage and his rival politician, Ryoukan Kita, are subordinate to, never makes an appearance, cutting out much of the dialogue present in AoBS that built the political worldscape of the series proper. Daisaku Komaki, Japanese naval capatain of the newly-built Hakugei 3, is another character that I consider a far greater loss; humanity’s side of the conflict is represented by him and his crew, a different POV from that of the main characters. Without them, the anime series becomes a normal story where a group of people find a weapon that allows them to fight back against a menace; the rest of humanity’s efforts don’t factor in, something that, despite the overwhelming power of the Fog in AoBS, is a key theme in the story; that Gunzou, while a lone fighter, isn’t the only one on the field with his life on the line. There are other characters that have either been changed, or are missing as well, both humans and Fog, that takes away the intricacy of the original manga version, but any more and things will get too spoiler-filled, so I’ll leave this aspect here.

It’s really a shame, because Ark Performance is a group more focused on the world settings, and with The Plot to Assassinate Ghiren under their belt as one of their more well-known works, AoBS is proof that they’re capable of weaving a highly-charged setting, with characters representing the different mindsets of any possible situations that the main characters could have taken or sided with.

Don’t take this the wrong way; I’m not calling Ars Nova bad, not by any sense of the word. But Ars Nova is an adaptation of AoBS in the way that, say, the Pokemon games and anime series are two different things; using the same settings, but vastly different execution and portrayal of events. In my personal opinion, the tweaks made to Ars Nova, both in visual terms and in the execution of the story, makes it “less heavy” than its manga contemporary; more suited for anime viewers in general, than those looking to immerse themselves into a new world setting, and I’m not even talking about the scattered fanservice in both versions. That’s all I can say about it. Hopefully a second season, if it comes to pass, will rectify some of this, but by that point in time, there’ll be even more changes present.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s for better or worse. But if you ask me, while I think that Ars Nova is pretty decent as a introduction series, AoBS fans looking for a loyal adaptation of the manga might want to keep it in mind that some of the things that they liked about it might not be present in Ars Nova.


Time Ranger~

August 25, 2014

“My name isn’t Kouichi! It’s Tokito!”

Tokito Aizawa, Giniro no Olynsiss


This show, a short 12-episode affair sometime after the airing of Gundam SEED, has a (in my opinion) wrongfully bad reputation amongst mecha fans for being a terrible show overall. Don’t be mistaken; I’m not defending the show. But after going back to rewatch it along with a friend, just to show him how subpar it was, things are in a somewhat clearer perspective.

In the world of Giniro no Olynsiss, in the year A.D. 3567, the Earth, now a largely post-apocalyptic-style wilderness with small towns and cities all around, is covered by a gigantic Olynsiss barrier, an energy manifestation that not only blocks out all that it is in-between of, but also causes a few rare space-time incidents, largely by means of tossing people forward or back in the time-stream. However, down on Earth life goes on, and our protagonist, Tokito Aizawa, along with the group of Hunters he travels with, take on jobs that largely involve fighting the mechanical constructs roaming much of the planet’s surface; it’s heavily implied that the causes of fighting are two-way, as the Gardeners have no compunctions chasing human targets once they spot them. These constructs, called Gardeners, are taken down, then sold for scrap, by those in the Hunter business, as these parts can either be used to construct/upgrade Crawlers, the combat vehicles used by Hunters and guards to engage these Gardeners, or in some other purposes that are not elaborated upon.

However, Tokito’s life changes when he encounters a mysterious girl called Tia. Not only is she unbelievably strong physically, but she seems to have a connection to the Gardeners, and when she names Tokito the inheritor of a gigantic, fully-bidepal robot, an Olynsiss Machine, that she calls Silber, all while mis-identifying him as a “Kouichi”, Tokito is drawn into a greater conflict that far surpasses his everyday life of fighting mere Gardeners.

First off, this is a small-scale series. Most small-scale anime productions tend to remain small-scale if they weren’t adapted from big-name material beforehand/had their animation projects handled by big-name people in a big-name company. Giniro no Olynsiss, being a one-volume light novel adapted into a 12-episode anime, had neither opportunities to call to its name, and the art/animation quality really shows this. In general, GnO’s art hovers somewhere around the level of “Hmm… okay.” to “This is totes Gundam 0079, am I really in the 2000s?”

The plot, despite the mysterious girl angle, is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t intensify in its curveballs until the last four or five episodes. Because time travel is involved, things might get fairly confusing, but actually, it’s just standard time travel fair (the more popular, scientifically-inaccurate version of it, but I’m not a quantum scientist anyways) hidden by the surprisingly thick layer of drama they have on the plot. It’s neither surprising drama or even GOOD drama, even to the drama-blind like me, but it’s not bad drama either, not by any measure of the word. It’s just… standard, once the initial kick settles. Things are not what they seem, but neither are the revelations some kind of divine hammer of enlightenment, and some viewers might even be turned off by some of the plot twists/revelations (too twisty/not twisty enough/small, little impact on overall plot), depending on personal POV.

My greatest gripe is pretty much the settings/animation/design in this. Giniro no Olynsiss actually has the settings to become a “big world” setting; machines roaming the Earth (although the anime never goes that far despite the implications), people fighting them and building actual mecha out of those scraps, traveling and meeting towns and people, trading parts, bandit groups, and so on and so forth. It has a setting that wouldn’t be out of place on a tabletop/RPG, or even on a Zoids series. It’s a pity that like the design of the enemies (Gardeners LOL), that seems to have taken the back seat; and not just the back seat, in my personal opinion, but the boot of the car.

The Gardeners have a simplistic, almost lazy design. Those viewers who are more detail-oriented might find themselves suppressing a chortle upon first viewing, because that’s how out-of-place it looks. The Crawlers are slightly better, and the titular Olynsiss Machine(s) have the most detail of them all. Which brings me to my final point: the animation.

It’s nowhere near SEED Destiny levels, and I mean that in a negative way. The choreography is largely bland, action scenes are no better than simple movements most of the time, and the Olynsiss Machines fight like slugs for the better part of the series. The only plus is that they’re so powerful, canonically speaking, that blowing shit up by waving their hands at them is actually a rather realistic, if boring depiction of combat between an Olynsiss Machine and anything that isn’t an Olynsiss Machine. For everything else though, the action angles and rather lackluster presentation does take the anime down a few more notches.

All in all, it’s just… bland. Giniro no Olynsiss is a one-off story adapted from a one-off book, so there really wasn’t much to be done about it. The world was never the focus; neither the mecha, the people living in it, nor the implied larger conflict between humanity in the solar system in general. It was always about Tokito x Tia, and whatever sub-plots the show had, apart from the secondary romance plotline (one plus two can never equal three~ ho!) were either resolved quickly, hardly appeared, or else were reserved for other characters, and thus never got much spotlight. Giniro no Olynsiss is a small series, something to watch when you’re bored or with nothing better to do, but unless the QUALITY makes you rage so much it sticks in your mind, you’re unlikely to even remember watching it once past a week.

It does have some rather nice T & A, though…


Crayon Combo Pack IN SPACE!

April 1, 2014

“Could you guys stop hitting me with those three-combo verbal jabs…?”

Hitachi Izuru, Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince - Front Five

It’s been a while since I’ve sprung back to modern mecha. Most of the time I engage in my mech hobbies nowadays are seeking out and/or hunting down rare designs and artbooks.

Anyways, on to MJP. In Majestic Prince, humanity is under attack by an alien force which they call the Wulgaru. Normal weapons prove ineffective against them and every time the Wulgaru pop up, humanity gets its ass kicked in. They’re conquering their way across known human space, and are, figuratively, on the doorstep of the inner solar system. Enter the main characters; which the show promptly sets down their identity as a five-person group of fairly epic fail, and which also happen to be the pilots of the only machines, the AHSMBs (Advanced High Standard Multipurpose Battle Device), powerful mecha that use the pilot’s DNA to enhance their performance, that can keep the Wulgaru at bay.

The fail five are comprised of Hitachi Izuru, Red-5; the team commander, complete good guy, and a not-very-charismatic leader; Asagi Toshikazu, Blue-1; the straight man to everyone’s antics with a surprising temper and self-searching personality, Irie Tamaki, Rose-3; total airhead, complete idiot, and aggressive boy-hunter; Suruga Ataru, Gold-4; a friendly team tech expert liable to overwhelm casual conversation with his single-tracked mechanic style of talking, literally; and finally, Kugimiya Kei, Purple-2; the straight woman as Asagi is the straight man, and liable to her own slip-ups when it comes to making confectioneries. They each pilot a AHSMB suited to their style; Izuru takes a multi-role unit and almost always enters battle with a gun, while Asagi’s AHSMB is more samurai-like in its battle style; the two are similar enough that they overlap often in the show, however. Suruga, Tamaki, and Kei are split more finely than them; Suruga takes a sniping/repair support AHSMB, Tamaki’s machine is specced for high-speed, head-first assaults, and Kei’s unit is a battlefield command/control unit geared for information processing and team coordination. Together with the carrier ship Godinion, the five and their commanders and comrades take to space beyond the Earth sphere of influence to battle the Wulgaru, master their machines, and hopefully, stop being total fail. It’s not that they’ve got poor skill at piloting giant robots; each of them have a distinct advantage in a specific area, but the problem is that their teamwork is so bad, it’s legendary.

Based off a manga of the same name, MJP starts off on a serious, if fairly standard style, that of a superior force attacking the protagonist human side; however, that start is interspersed with plenty of caricature-style, facial expression-based humorous scenes and verbal jokes that you would expect to be at home more in something like Toriko or Gintama. Those of you who were expecting some 24-hour serious-faced drama might find be a bit off-put at the way in which the main characters, with the exception of those in the know, seemingly do not seem to give a rat’s ass that there’s an alien race beating humanity’s collective face in.

The early start of the show does give attention to an unusual aspect; the sudden fandom that accompanies the protagonist squad once they’ve made their appearance, the military’s attempt at cashing in on their popularity to assure the masses that all is well against the aliens, a show of showering them with sponsors, and perhaps the only possible conclusion to this arc, the backlash that follows when they mess up while on the camera roll. It does take the pilots down a rung or two, but for all that it seems, they aren’t affected much, and manage to quickly bounce back to a new level of competence than they were at before.

Much of the show is spent on the interaction amongst the fail five and their particular personality quirks; the side characters are plenty stable by comparison, and don’t seem to have much in the way of development. The show occasionally shows attention to detail, but at times skips through certain segments  when you would expect some development – for better or worse, that’s up to your own personal opinion. Most of the characters stay relatively static to their inherent personalities; there is interaction and it’s definitely there, but if you’re expecting some radical changes to be made to the characters then it’s not going to happen. Other than that, other points of interest in the plot are the tensions between the various Earth nations, as well as the origins of the fail five as special-program pilots, and not just in a passive sense; however, they’re not touched on for much, and the attention, when not given to the characters, is handed over to another larger aspect of the story that I’ll leave unsaid for now; it is quite spoilerish.

Design-wise, and at a glance, MJP seems to share the same aesthetic style as its airtime “brother”, Valvrave, although the two are quite unlike. The theme of “similar machines specced for different roles” is present, as well. Having not watched Valvrave, yet, I’ll stop the comparisons here.

For the Wulgaru, the design of their war machines are definitely of an alien aesthetic, despite their physical countenance. It’s a stark contrast to the initial human ships and architecture present, which are unmistakably boxy and human in nature. Later designs reflect that, but in varying means; the human ships quite clearly take on more realistic starship designs of symmetrical order, although their functions are still the typical “water ship = star ship” style of design; one bridge, up top, anti-aircraft guns, etc. The exception to this is the Godinion, which is more in the manner of a very stylized flagship. A tad different from the usual aspects are the detachable, dedicated maintenance ships that follow the AHSMB units off to battle, and are usually stuck to the Godinion whenever they’re not going off. Overall, despite the presence of colourful weapons like the AHSMBs, the majority of the Earth forces, for most of the series, use weapons both conventional in design, form, and in function. It isn’t until the spread of AHSMB technology that things start to get hints of being rainb0w-flavoured.

As for the AHSMBs, Red-5 has a nice touch where the unit’s main melee armaments isn’t a long sword like Blue-1’s, but a chainsaw-edged blade. An unusual weapon for a typical protagonist in this day and age of anime, to be sure. The other AHSMB units aren’t lacking either; Gold-4 has a movable head to complement its right arm, which is a powerful gun in its entirety, and does address the issue of “giant robot handheld rifles – scopes or no scopes?” in a unique manner, while designs like Purple-2 and Rose-3 are not as common as the bipedal template.

Still, given that the AHSMBs are 3D-animated rather than the traditional 2D style, and given that combat action in MJP is fast and furious-paced, things can get confusing on the screen. The Wulgaru’s simple and sleek designs manage to avoid this to some degree, but the AHSMBs, unfortunately, fall into the category of being little more than coloured blurs when in heavy action. The battle choreography is otherwise without complaint; whatever style you might find unfitting with the animation, it’s actually pretty reasonable to chalk it up to “because it’s the aliens doing it”… … because the aliens are the ones doing it most of the time.

Given that MJP is an adaptation, however, like all adaptations, it has to keep some things hidden. The story ends on a high and victorious note, but more remains to be revealed to the audience on just what the Wulgaru are, and what kind of machinations are going on behind the united front presented by the Earth forces. The latter, thankfully, is kept to the barest minimum, and isn’t actively used to derail efforts by the main characters to get things done; not yet, at any rate.

That’s all I have to say for MJP. I went in blind, not even knowing that it was an adaptation, and I was surprised at quite a few occasions at the way the show handled the story. Interactions between the cast are not draggy as one might think; in fact, I find that sometimes it happened too fast. The generally goofy mood of MJP outside of its major story arcs might also throw off viewers to a certain extent when things start to get serious, but this reflects the lives of soldiers to a T; always relaxing today if they get a chance, not knowing if they’ll survive tomorrow. I’ve generally got no complaints design nor animation-wise; MJP’s fairly solid in that regard, and I’m not expecting movie-grade animation from it. If you haven’t checked out the manga yet, perhaps the anime might convince your mind?


Sparkle Crystal Tower!

January 25, 2014

“They have the right to know before they die… and the obligation, too.”

Tsutsugami Gai, Guilty Crown

Guilty Crown - Those Peaceful Days Gone Past

Guilty Crown is one of those shows I decided to watch on a whim. I mean, “Guilty Crown”, sounds cool, right?

In the world of Guilty Crown, an incident known as “Lost Christmas” that happened on December 24, 2029, throws the nation of Japan into a frenzy; during the incident, a biological hazard known as the Apocalypse Virus plunges Japan into a state of chaos, with people crystallizing left and right and being blown into sparkly dust. With the outbreak overwhelming Japan, the nation seeks help from the United Nations, and an organization called GHQ is sent in to restore order; they take control of Japan, virtually becoming the new government in order to enact their quarantined zones and vaccine programs, not to mention on-the-spot execution of people who refuse their programs, on grounds of keeping the infection from spreading. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with dissatisfied or sidelined members of the populace, and a group known as Funeral Parlor frequently opposes them, as are the various armed groups in the quarantine zones.

Ouma Shu, a normal, everyday person, is caught up in the chaos of the Apocalypse Virus when he comes across a girl called Inori Yuzuriha. To him and the world, Inori is a singer of the internet pop group EGOIST; to GHQ, however, she’s actually one of Funeral Parlor’s top members. Thrown head-first into the chaos of the conflict between the authoritarian GHQ and the separatist Funeral Parlor, led by the enigmatic and charismatic Tsutsugami Gai, Shu has to come to terms with his own human weaknesses and his ignorance of how the world works, as a coincidence gifts him with a power dearly sought by both sides; the Void Genome, the “Power of the King”, which allows him to draw out mysterious objects known as “Voids” from within people. Properly used, such Voids can range from being physics-bending utility tools, to miracle-makers, and dangerous weapons.

On the surface, Guilty Crown starts out slow and somewhat concentrated on Shu; there’s a great deal of talking for the first five or six episodes, ending in action scenes that bring the status quo of the show back in line with that of Episode 1. The show has a dark undertone to it; people who don’t comply with the GHQ are less than the lowest citizen, and have virtually no rights; GHQ-sanctioned killings are carried out in the name of suppressing violent elements who threaten to spread the infection of the Apocalypse Virus.

It sounds like a right dark plotline there, but things tend to go along at a nice, cozy pace until about halfway through, where the show abruptly sets fire to everything and shit starts going down. Mood shifts are a key part of Guilty Crown; the quarantine zones are separated from the city areas by barricades, not physical distances, and because of the Lost Christmas outbreak, almost everyone has a sad story hidden under their histories. Of course, as the plot comes to a head, the fires just get bigger.

The characters are not anything groundbreaking, nor are they mindlessly cliché; Shu behaves exactly like you would expect from a spineless protagonist who has yet to grow his hero-issued balls of steel, and Inori, being mostly silent; well, not much seems to get out from her mind, and on occasion, that’s a bit of a minus. Most of the character interaction you see will come from Gai and gang; their initial characterizations are also based off storytelling clichés, however, so it might be grating at the start until Shu gets past the introductions. The enemies remain mostly recurring villains, and what characterization they get is more individual-focused than with any of the other cast members, with a few exceptions. Other introduced characters also tend to suffer from a lack of characterization, but thankfully, their present personalities are their selling points, so it manages to even out.

While Shu’s schoolmates and companions might be sidelined, they come into focus in the second part of the story. For the most part, most of them behave realistically enough given their situations; they’re not bending over too much to Shu, and neither do they fall into the trap of being super-faggots for no reason other than that the main character has yet to fulfill the ANGST quota, and they genuinely care for him, and berate him when he goes overboard (you’ll know it when you get to it). The show gives plenty of opportunities to test their friendships, and manages to deal with the fallout in a fair manner; well, for the most part. Neither does the story magically gift a happy ending to the hard workers; my only complaint is that they seemed to have run out of time to set up any semblance of endings for the other side characters, instead giving them hasty ending scenes that only give a guess as to their ultimate fates. It can be both a good thing and a bad thing, and I think it depends on how you see their importance to the story.

There are a few occasions you wonder if they’d dropped the plot ball off a cliff, but in retrospect, I think the only reason Episode 7 got me so hard was because the enemy’s ineptitude was so forced. They got me good again in Episode 16/17, but that was for an entirely different reason, and one that I admit was a pretty damned good scene, cliché or no, thanks to the aforementioned realistic behavior in keeping the main character in line. Most characters’ motivations aren’t as lofty as endgame Shu’s; they’re sometimes selfish, but that’s what makes their roles.

I’ve got no complaints with the animation and effects, since the whole thing looks like it would easily give Sword Art Online a run for its money. The CG mecha, which is why I’m even typing out this keyboard-smasher, are also featured consistently in the background; Endlaves, variable-form robots about 10 meters tall or less, make up the bulk of the GHQ’s heavy firepower, while smaller machines known as Insects accompany footsoldiers into battle. What makes them special is their remote-manned aspect; the Insects are barely taller than two meters, and are (presumably) remote-controlled, and the Endlaves are the same, except that that they’re shown with live controllers, complete with neural feedback when the Endlaves are destroyed; it’s implied that the pilots do take damage if they’re not disconnected in time, although there hasn’t been a specific example, mook or named character. There are also small helper/utility robots, but the one that’s always present seems to have its own characterization.

The Endlave designs weren’t too flashy, outside of Funeral Parlor’s own custom model ace-in-the-hole, but it’s not really until the end where they seem to have taken one drink too many, and ended up with something completely out of place that looks like it belonged more in Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspectors, and the focus of the plot on the usage of Voids and the Void Genome has most of the mecha taking a backseat, for better or worse. The rest of the technology is your typical “5 days into the future” thing; modern hardware with a few lines or a few angles less/more, and touch-controlled holographic screens that can be physically pushed back by the person working them, the works. Of course, one might question the presence of a death satellite, but if they already have robots, then they have my blessings to go ahead with throwing a death satellite into the plot as well.

The award-winning design, though? The cellphones. Seriously fuk yo iPhones and S4s and Blackberries, I want a wafer 4 cm wide, 15 cm long, and less than 1 cm thin, that has a holographic screen when swung out, and can play music, make calls, and do everything that an App-ple can, and more. Seriously, it’s cool shit.

All in all, Guilty Crown is a pretty good story. It’s standard with its “hero fights wars and finds love”, but the show isn’t ashamed of the death count to make a point, nor does it off characters because the end of the show is coming soon. It also has its own OVA and visual novel dealing with the events of Lost Christmas, so if you want, you can out the VN to try to get any lingering questions answered (the OVA’s just an appetizer). The focus on Japan and the Japanese people in general might make you roll your eyes at “lol nationalism”, but if you don’t mind the Japanese viewpoint of things, why not give Guilty Crown a try?


Itty Bitty Robots Smashy

January 24, 2014

“Super Plasma Burst… you were the one who taught me that skill, Lex.”

Yamano Ban, Danball Senki

Danball Senki - Miniature War

I remember Medabots back when I was airing on a local network many, many quads of seasons ago. I was about… fourteen, then? About the age where Gundam SEED was also in vogue in my country. With SEED on primetime weekend slot, and Medabots ready every day at five-thirty, small wonder I turned out a machine freak.

Of course, when I heard of Danball Senki, I immediately knew I had to check it out. In the time since the English-dubbed Medabots, first series, finished its run, I never chanced upon something as big as it again; of course, Medabots did continue on with a few sequels, if I recall, and did decently enough, but eventually, it, too, fell to the wayside of nostalgia and old-timers. So you can imagine all the cool imagery when I first heard of Danball Senki. It’s robots, dammit. Big or small, I love ’em all!

‘Course, real-life events and my habit of watching shows based on first impressions sort of put a dent in that plan, as well as an introduction to start watching Hell Girl (I enjoyed it on its own merits, but that’s another tale for another day), and also putting time aside to pick up Japanese to enjoy more of Muv-Luv; in the end, I only really started on Danball Senki in the last two months.

Danball Senki is a story where the invention of a new wonder-material, the Fortified Cardboard, has allowed a different industry to take flight; that of battling robotic toys, known as LBXes. While the Fortified Cardboard “revolutionized the delivery industry”, whatever they meant by that, the material was also making great headway as the primary composition of a Battle Cube, a self-assembling containment-type table arena that allows the LBXes to fling weaponry around like mobile suits at A Baoa Qu without shooting out some kid’s eye in the process. The LBXes might be palm-sized, but the firepower they tote around is enough to injure the unwary.

The story features mainly three children in the city of Tokio in the year of 2050; the main character, 10-year old Yamano Ban, Kawamura Ami, and Aoshima Kazuya; like any other kid of that era, their love of LBX battling is what drives them on.Unfortunately for Ban, however, while he’s not only inherited his late father’s hair, but also his love for LBXes, his mother forbids him from owning an LBX. That’s not going to stop him from visiting the local hobby store, of course, not when the shopkeeper is kind enough to loan him an LBX for his joy time, but it’s a constant dent in his happiness.

I mean, at least Ikki could own a Medabot, if he saved up for it. Poor Ban couldn’t have a toy fifty times smaller than Metabee even if he had 7 years worth of savings.

However, when a mystery woman hands a mysterious suitcase to Ban before running off, and within it is a LBX core frame, Ban’s life dramatically changes. Like, LBXes turn up to wreck his house on the same night! But for the moment, Ban’s happy that he’s got an LBX, and nothing’s going to stop him from enjoying it to the fullest.

Danball Senki is pretty much your standard merchandising show, with a few genuinely surprising moments in there to keep thing spiced. It’s the counterpart to the Danball Senki PSP game, which was made by Level 5; the people who did Professor Layton, Inazuma Eleven, and perhaps more infamously, Gundam Age. To be fair, Age had some cool robots too, but I digress; if you’re only looking for shows that surprise you, then you might want to consider giving Danball Senki a miss no matter who holds you at gunpoint to watch it. Apart for a few moments, the story is stock-standard fare; not amazingly good, but not disgustingly bad either.

Where Medabots played its own characters for laughs, Danball Senki is more plot-focused, with few comedic moments in-between the characters, and virtually none of the face-stretching, fart-blowing tsukkomi you might expect from the first Medabots series. This had a unfortunate effect of somewhat tripping up Medabots when they started bringing in more serious backstory fare like the Week of Fire, but Danball Senki establishes early on that it’s got its settings grounded in its own world. The overall feel of the Danball Senki world is one of the near future; not flying cars yet, but close. The robots are also tied more closely into the plot itself; while Medabot’s hanky-panky style allows it to dodge all the logistic questions, Danball Senki takes its LBXes quite seriously, with story plots tied in with assassination attempts, bombings, and firepower you wouldn’t bear to unleash even on the Rubberrobo Gang. That’s not to say that Japan is a hellhole in Danball Senki, but when they say that the robot can snipe someone from a few building blocks away, you better believe it.

There is a fair number of machinations going on in the story, with a few twists and turns that I can say honestly did catch me off-guard; a lull of a day or two in-between episodes due to time constrains and personal schedule issues didn’t help me in keeping in all the details of the past episode, for that matter. Ban himself is a pretty strong fighter, and his rivals are properly portrayed, at least in the moments that matter, that they’re not pushovers, either. It’s not much, but it helps in its own way. Of course, these kind of stories have a guideline of cliches to follow, being intended to sell toys for pre-/grade-schoolers, so don’t expect too much out of it. I am honestly surprised that they had that much of a backstory to give; I’m almost willing to close an eye on the various times they missed out on a loophole, like how Fortified Cardboard isn’t more widespread despite being able to stop missiles, bullets, and beams (Seriously? If they can drop a Fortified Cardboard box from a few hundred meters up in the air and the plasma TV inside isn’t even scuffled in the least, I think that’ll make a pretty good material for law-enforcement personnel, delivery industry or no!)

In terms of design, the LBXes use the same concepts you’d have seen in Medabots before. The difference is that while Medabots relies heavily on animal concepts or people concepts, Danball Senki uses a more vague approach for their robots; their names help make the design, but don’t represent it. You have the protagonist design, Achilles, obviously inspired by the hero of the same name, or LBX Warrior, meant to represent the generic Greek hoplite, but at the same time you have Kunoichi, which doesn’t really look specifically like a kunoichi, as much it looks like a generic speedy thing; this is further exemplified by designs like Amazoness, which uses the same frame as Kunoichi, or Hunter, which is obviously a wolf; but what kind of wolf walks on two legs, toting a sniper rifle and wearing an eyepatch, or LBX Egypt, which looks more like a Madness Clown design from Soul Eater? The LBXes rarely have inbuilt weapons, instead bearing a wide variety of weapons apart from their own default loadout, but as is the norm for a children’s show, main characters, recurring cast, or rivals of the arc plot get special attacks.

The animation is generally okay, since the characters don’t do much moving; the robots are the ones in the thick of it, and while it’s done in CG, they look and move positively good, too. As something you’ll expect from Level 5’s character designs, the most complicated-looking people you can see animated is the one with the most wrinkles.

Still, with a plot that doesn’t screw up too badly apart from playing its cliches too hard, and a whole slew of robots that, in all honesty, are perfectly designed for their plot roles, Danball Senki isn’t half bad. It had a solid everything; not too well done, but it’ll make some someone’s childhood full of cool robots without all the NU GANDAM WA DATTE JA NAI or CONGRATULATIONS.GIF.AVI.SWF, that’s for sure.


In the latest issue of Men’s Men…

April 12, 2013

“Is that all you have to say? Mechanical organisms or whatever you are… we won’t accept being killed just because of your visions and meddling!”

Aoi Hidaka, Dancouga Nova

Yes, I ain’t dead yet, I just had nothing to say. Well I did buy Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works, Lost Arcadia and all six Cross Operations, but that’s not my point. It was nice taking a nice break from mecha, but then again, can’t keep away from the love of my life for long. Anyways…

In the year of 2014, small-scale wars take place all over the globe. Four people…

Ah, whatever, man. Dancouga Nova is a short series based off the original Dancouga TV series, directed by Masami Obari, the man generally accepted as the Michael Bay of Japanese mecha anime. Four people, Aoi Hidaka, Kurara Tachibana, Sakuya Kamon and Johnny Burnette are plucked from their daily lives to serve as pilots for Dancouga Nova, a gigantic combining robot that goes around intervening in small-scale conflicts around the world. They don’t end the conflicts entirely; their mission is all about maintaining a status quo, so that not one side will become pressured enough to make stupid, strategic-nuclear-warhead level decisions or go around terror-bombing civilian areas.

While the versus-human premise of Dancouga Nova is a new direction for most shows of its type, which are more likely to use a non-human enemy as the opposing face, that backdrop quickly becomes nothing more than background noise for the Dancouga Team. The show focuses more on the fights itself, as well as the issue of how four people pulled from comfortable, everyday lives to become soldiers integrate with the team. To their credit, the four pilots take it with remarkable calmness, and their reactions aren’t “OHWOWSUPERROBOT” as it is closer to “Hmm, looks nice, I’ll give it a grace period”.

Of course, never forget that this is a Obari show, and if you remember Gravion, you should know how Dancouga ends. There has to be an overwhelming power, and if you thought Dancouga Nova was all about fighting misguided fools, you’ll be in for a slight surprise. As is normal for a show based off an 80’s classic and directed by the world’s greatest ascended fanboy turned dynamic posing director, references are everywhere, jokes at the expense of the characters are present, and Obari even manages to rub fanboys in all manners of ways by placing cameos in the show to link what seems to be two different shows of two different eras together. There’s a reason why the phrase “Final Obari Special” has been in existence since Super Robot Wars Z2-1 and Z2-2 came out, and it’s not just because Dancouga Nova and Gravion happen to have the same director.

The plot pacing, however, has a bit of a problem with its speed. It isn’t as apparent until the final episode, where the fight is just two sides slinging powers at each other followed by incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo and polished off with one side slinging a greater power than the other. Given how little background material Dancouga Nova needed to get off the ground and into the character interaction, however, there isn’t a need to extend the episode counts at all; 12’s a good number for the show.

All in all, it’s not a bad watch, although compared to others of its time and others today Dancouga Nova might fall flat for a while. Then again, it is one of the few mecha shows in existence with a team without angst (only buttmad and rage, depending on which episode), and having competent female leads probably is a fresh breath of air setting it apart from series of the same genre.


Yamato Damashii, Muh Freedom, & Something-Something Nash Ura

January 13, 2013

“When was it… that the living stopped counting the dead?”

Second Lieutenant Yui Takamura, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse



Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is the Muv-Luv series’ first foray into animation. There’s been minor things like Akane Maniax, an OVA sequel to Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, that the characters from Muv-Luv have made an appearance in (and the lesser-known Ayu-Mayu Gekijou, that’s another tale for another day), but Total Eclipse is the first series set within a Muv-Luv universe.

Total Eclipse (let me shorten it to TE for ease) is set in the world of Alternative, one of the three universes featured in the Muv-Luv series proper. To sum it all up, Muv-Luv takes place across three and/or more worlds, and Alternative is one of the major ones. To know more, you can go to the Muv-Luv Wiki.

TE is a sidestory in the world of Alternative where humanity has been ravaged by a 30-year war with aliens known as BETA, across the Eurasian, Middle-East and Asian continents. Faced with the prospect of total annihilation due to a variety of reasons, mankind has been combating the BETA with giant bipedal robots known as Tactical Surface Fighters, or TSFs for short. However, the BETA’s numbers are such that even the invention of the TSF, which allowed humanity to equal their footing against the BETA, were unable to gain any leverage or advantage against them for the next 30 years. Therefore, humanity has been constantly improving their warfighting potential and their technology in the hopes of one day reclaiming everything that they have lost.

2nd Lieutenant Yuuya Bridges, a TSF pilot of the US Army, has been assigned by his superiors to Yukon Base, located in Alaska. This base borders the portion of Alaska leased to the Soviet Union (yes, Soviets, not Russians), and as such both the Soviets, the Americans and the United Nations use the base as a gathering point for Project Prominence, a plan enacted by the United Nations to encourage multinational cooperation in the development of new TSFs. Yuuya himself has been assigned to the XFJ Project, a plan organized by the Empire of Japan (yes, not Japan, but the EoJ) to improve their own third-generation TSF, the Type-94 Shiranui. Yuuya, a half-American, half-Japanese with his latter side being a subject of extreme touchiness, is thus placed in a situation where he has to confront both his heritage and his past, and learn about the world beyond the shores of the USA. Alongside him are two Soviet pilots, Cryska Barchenowa and Inia Sestina, Yui Takamura, the XFJ Project head, and his teamates; Valerio Giacosa, Tarisa Manandal, Stella Bremer and his long-time friend, Vincent Lowell.

Now, before I continue in earnest, let me warn you that I’m a massive Muv-Luv fan. I’ll try and rid myself of bias while talking about TE Anime, keyword try, so just keep that little thing in mind. Also since I’m biased like that I’ll do a picture talk on how my love-hate relationship is with TE.

Now, given that TE is the first work set in a Muv-Luv world that involves the BETA, it’s pretty much its chance for the entire franchise to make it big. So with the first two episodes, they start by showing what exactly is the BETA; an unstoppable menance that doesn’t give two fucks about how strong or spirited you are, using one of the characters’ past, Takamura Yui, to showcase us what happened when the BETA got serious about crossing the Sea of Japan from Korea.


We’ll never let you into Kyotooooo! – Anonymous pilot

To speak from a newcomer’s viewpoint, that would have been a great introduction. This is literally “tossed into the fire”; within the first two episodes half of Kyoto is gone and Yui just got twenty achievements related to being a sole survivor. Given that, there were some moments where even without being a Muv-Luv fan, I would have furrowed an eyebrow, that being the scenes involving the nameless soldiers that died after being charged by the BETA without a care. I understand that it’s cool and all, but damn if it didn’t put a bad impression on humanity behaving like a bunch of idiots; and this after Yui tells one of her friends to remember their training of shooting Destroyer-class BETA in the back. I supposed said friend dying to laser fire courtesy of the BETA does set a preceedence that flight is N-O, not allowed, NOPE.gif.jpg.avi.

Speaking with fan knowledge mode on, well, at least have them fire the 120mm cannons on their guns, those are useful when double/triple/quad/quicktapping the trigger. Using 36mm is either animation laziness or just plain notafuckwasgiven.gif on the studio’s part.

Overall while it does give a bit of depth to Yui’s character as compared to her previous mentions in Hobby Japan’s TSFiA or the TE light novels, the lack of the EoJ’s entire force: F-15Js, Type-94s, some fanservice in the form of a certain handful of blue, red and grey Zuikakus and more of the US Navy Jolly Rogers and other such stuff does mark down the episodes as “higher than moderate” rather than “fucking awesome”. Quality is pretty okay, but flat and unshaded Fort-class is not good by any measure, as was omitting one of the rare chances to see Yui in a cockpit system exoskeleton, or at least the Feedback Interface.


… Meowday? – Uncredited

After those two episodes, TE goes straight into their main storyline. This is one gripe I hear often about the series; this sudden switch. Granted, web summaries do tell of “This thing takes place in a hick base testing hick country machines”, but the ferocity of the first two episodes might wipe that from many a first-timer’s mind. Basically, there wasn’t enough explanation given; rather than having Ibrahim, the XFJ Project’s flight leader explain the XFJ project, it would have been better to show an older Yui drop one or two lines to her uncle, the IJA/MDF colonel Iwaya Eji, about how the Type-94 is going to turn into a rustbucket soon and the F-4Js are so shitty the machines are exploding by themselves, so they need something like the XFJ Plan.  There’s that one scene with an F-4J that fails to escape in time because it wasn’t fast enough, that would have made a good flashback scene and perhaps allowed the viewers to understand more rather than “lmao suddenly project testing”.

The other following episodes aren’t much to say about. For new-timers the show is going at a moderate pace to introduce the characters, particularly Yuuya’s general dislike, sometimes full-blown hatred of anything Japanese, Yui being hyaku-pāsento TSUUUUUN, Cryska and Inia setting the mood for Soviets in general and the rest of the XFJ Plan’s Argos Flight members having a movie to watch about those two. The sterner-eyed will realize that the character animation has been going on a gradual but steady drop, and things aren’t helping with the trickling action and addition of (while admittedly fun) random items as pictured directly above. When they finally reach the obligatory swimsuit arc, most will finally flip their tables and go “what the fuck?!”

As a fan, I’d just like to extend a pat to the back for those who felt betrayed, because truth be told TE dug its own grave with those first two episodes, which originally weren’t in TE, but had to follow the source material afterwards. TE, being character-driven in such things, naturally has to extend the swimsuit episode to two; understandably a choke-hold to those who were entralled by the action and couldn’t give two fucks about the tits (I know, I was one of them). The only consolation is the character development during said swimsuit arc (surprising, I know, compared to other such story arcs in anime), but while I thought it was okay it’s really up to personal preference to see whether it was good for what it did or a total waste of time and effort.

By this time, the lack of sneaky rescue troops (which appeared in the TE manga) is already setting off a silent alert in some of the fans’ heads.


Show these lower life forms the might of Zhar! – Lt. Colonel Fikatsia Latrova

Things don’t really pick up until the XFJ Plan proceeds to the Soviet territory of Kamchatka, and this is where TE begins to regain some of its lost shine when the fight returns to giant robots versus giant aliens; for the fans, this is the first animated appearance of the Su-series of Soviet TSFs, which are established in the general fluff as some of the more brutal TSFs in close-quarters combat; unfortunately, as is to be expected, the only bloody brutalizing comes from one of the main characters’ TSFs, which, while still a Soviet one, doesn’t do much for the reputation of the entire TSF series for reasons better understood by watching yourself than having me spell it out for you who is reading this.

Oh, the pain of budget and adaptation.

Anyways, added in is some of the politicking that made Muv-Luv Alternative so well-liked by a percentage of those who played the VNs, and while it is part of the original TE plot this is essentially what the fans have been waiting to see. For the first timers, I can only imagine their reaction at seeing the Soviets go at other Soviets; maybe a bit of surprise at the sudden mood change (akin to recieving news about an emergency test two hours after school’s out for the day and you’re halfway to your friend’s house, perhaps), celebrating the return of gun action, or maybe just plain confused as to why the nations of the world aren’t united. It might be naive to think so, but TE on its part could have done a better job at explaining the setting; things like this, while a probable reality even in the face of an alien invasion, don’t translate themselves well to reality. Then again, given how truncuated the anime is in comparison to the light novels, any more additions will turn TE into a 39-episode thing. Not that I mind, since we’ll see a proper tournament arc (more to come on that), but there’ll be a lot more talking than fighting.

Yuuya and crew, particularly Yuuya, gets to come face-to-face with the BETA for real for the first time. Simulations and practice rounds are one thing, but compared to Valerio, Stella and Tarisa, what goes on in Kamchatka is something they’ve seen before and grown used to, since all three are from frontline nations. It does take a while, but Yuuya eventually learns not to be so dismissive of others or to be quick to anger; the Soviet battalion commander, Latrova, is a fan favorite for a reason, one of them being that she’s a calm and knowledgable contrast to Yuuya’s volcanic impulses. I can confidently say that while not everyone might like Latrova’s battalion members, not many people actually dislike her, and when crunch time comes Yuuya takes her lessons to heart; a good thing that he makes references to later in the series.

For the fanbase though, I suspect it has more to do with her rather decently-sized Soviet mountains.


Dem seduction moves by Miku.cn. – 4chan Anonymous

Next to come is the tournament arc customary of a great many old-school animes. Probably a few newer ones too, but I don’t watch those so I can’t really judge.

After the semi-disaster and semi-victory that is the Soviet arc, the XFJ Plan returns to Yukon, where the Blue Flag exercises, a multinational military exercise pitting flights of four TSFs each against each other is announced  in order for all involved to share battle tactics and technology. We get a smattering of what TE should be like, but from a newcomer’s perspective it wasn’t much; they only showcased three battles (two of which were  jobber fight and the last one a sure-win because of lolplot) out of at least five or more. Trust me, this hurt the fans more than it hurt the newcomers; we lost the chance to see China vs Africa (J-10X vs Mirage 2000 Modified), Soviets vs Middle-East (Su-37UB vs F-14Ex), United Nations vs COSEAN (Argos Flight vs Garuda Flight) and USA vs East Germany (F-22A EMD Phase vs MiG-29OVT), to name a few; the Japanese wiki for Muv-Luv has listed win-loss-draw ratios for each team, so at the very least, there should be more backstory material released to show the match lineup.

Given the sparse fights, the show quickly turns to more character interactions, this time with a cast expanded from the Yui/Cryska/Inia trio to includ Chinese pilot Cui Yifei, former Yuuya’s flame Sharon Heim and new rivalry in the form of Leon Kuze (basically Yuuya 1.0 without the anti-Japanese part). Not much happens other than some horsing around between all of them, but Yuuya gets his backstory mentioned, which lends more credence to his early ice-man image/hostility in-series and with Leon, Cryska and Inia’s origins are dangled in front of us with promises of more information that’ll never be revealed in the series, and some mumbo-jumbo about world settings are given out as well by the barkeep that frequently shows up whenever any of the Yukon crew go to town for a drink. The arc ends on a good enough note with a hot springs trip, only to bring us to…


Heh… as if. – Major Christopher

… The finale, known to some as the terrorist arc. This stuff comes straight after the hot springs, and the genre shift just ups and smacks you across the face. For one thing, this finale takes the human-vs-human suggestions in the Soviet arc and just skyrockets with it; you’re going to rage, newcomer or no, if you can’t stand religious fanatics and one-track extremists. At the same time the various hints dropped throughout the series about racial inequality and the general shit conditions of the world’s frontlines finally make sense rather than just try and pull your heartstrings, since the terrorists are really doing it out of sheer hatred; there’s alot of it on the surface and even more that’s underlying, and the extra violence does its job well of showing them as a rag-tag bunch of either misguided fools or murder-obsessed opportunists.

For the fans, well, I won’t speak for them, but this is where my love-hate comes from. For one thing, the entire process of the arc is completely different; the MiG-29OVT (I admit I was looking forward to seeing it in action) is relegated to a backstage role; for a mechfag like me you could say I would call an Exterminatus out of sheer rage if I could. Instead, the main pilot antagonist, Christopher, gets a spanking new Su-47 complete with mysterious pod (which I can confirmed is filled with squick, so that’s that). It does cheapen the Su-47, considering that most fans’ first introduction to it was having it easily outmaneuver the Su-37UB, which previously held the title of the most brutal TSF in TE. We can’t get the same if he’s fighting Yuuya, so the Su-47 doesn’t move as envisioned. Fan expectations, and all that.

Then there’s the terrible fight cheorography when the main terrorists took on the remainder of the base crew that didn’t get themselves caught or killed; namely, the main cast. It’s just tons of shooting at each other and other such inane stuff, although to be fair that’s probably how it the original novelization had gone and how the light novels would have went had they been written up to that point; the terrorists specialized in cornering people with superior numbers, not one-on-one battle tactics, considering that their opponents are a sword expert, a US pilot trained in human-to-human warfare, a Gurka knife expert, and are joined by two bloodthirsty Soviet battle espers, a war-hardened veteren and a mad Chinese butcher pilot of the UFC. Pretty much my biggest gripe was that Yifei didn’t manage to show off her kung-fu skills in an F-15 (mind you, that was an actual thing in the written material) before becoming an almost-victim of a suicide run.

Then of course, the entire thing with Cryska and Inia going berserk is completely changed. Granted, given that Muv-Luv is prone to occasional retcons that tend to shake the fluff up abit (at this point all we’re missing are a few hundred pricey pewter miniatures and a few more years of retcons to begin calling Yoshimune Kouki our Spiritual Despair Lord) the fans shouldn’t have expected much more at this point. I would have taken anything so long as they had given us the MiG-29OVT, but noooooo, you gotta go to Euro Front for that.

That’s all for TE in general. About a couple of good points I can think off is how the show made sure to reference earlier events; Yui learns from her first battle and flashbacks to it a couple of times (it lends especially great impact to her reaction in the final arc), and it helps explain her no-nonsense attitude at what she percieves is all Yuuya’s fault (he does share the blame, but she’s not exactly an amicable superior either). Yuuya, for his part, has his past with his parents and Leon fleshed out well enough, and his lessons with Latrova are carried on into future episodes. It may seem small, but things like this are the rails helping TE to stay on track, since it switches tones so often to throw the first-timers off that it gets quite jarring. The other characters that aren’t directly involved in the Yuuya/Yui/Cryska and Inia quad don’t get much; Tarisa’s story is another tale for itself, VG doesn’t get anything beyond a womanizing reputation and a relation to another character in another story, and characters like Stella, Ibrahim, Sandek and Yifei won’t get much to go on unless the fluff gets an update.

Despite this being the first actual animation for TSFs in general (not counting all the one-two minute promotional materials released over the years) the quality goes up and down; the 3D models are generally fine, but the animation varies depending on the intensity of the fight. I’m not asking for Unicorn-style high-speed hand-to-hand combat every episode, but when they’re supposed to gun for each other at high speeds, they should at least look like they’re doing so, and a bit more effort put into dodging motion rather than have all bullets mysteriously miss would be welcome too.

Honestly speaking, TE would have been better as a light novel or the VN that they’re finally releasing next year; it throws a lot of the world setting at you without going into the basics, which they expected people to have went through in the initial Muv-Luv Alternative visual novel. Had they gone for full adaptation we would have had a lot more technicalities thrown around that wouldn’t have made sense unless the viewer was a fan of the original VN too.

It may sound odd for me to say this, but the best story for an adaptation of the Alternative world would have been something like Faraway Dawn; an unofficial hex-map turn-based strategy game made by a fan that pits the Empire of Japan’s forces against the BETA in 2001 after a recent attempt at invading the Japanese mainland. Given the defend-and-retaliate premise of Faraway Dawn and the way the story is set, there are solid opportunities for action, plenty of space and more than enough characters to use for development, flashbacks, talks and space gods forbid, even shipping. They might even create new characters for the inter-squadron dynamic (the original only showed squadron leaders); more moe people to feed to the blood gods, egad?

But the key points are Faraway Dawn’s good usage of established tactics within the Muv-Luv universe and adaptation potential of being bug-war o’ clock for a full 12/13 episodes, not to mention it might, for once, shut up the tankfags (despite what the Kamchatka arc shows, they’re not that useless; far from it). Below is an example of what you get in Faraway Dawn:

seen too much shit to give half a penny fuck

I was at 9/6 in Dalian for its entirety, the rearguard at Gwanju, Kyushuu, and the retreat to Maidzuru, spent two weeks in Kyoto during its defence, was a cornerstone during the Kanto Seige, took the front at Yokohama and camped at Niigata for the BETA! Twice! And I’m still a shitty Lieutenant! AND STILL STUCK IN A GODAMNED F-4J GEKI-FUCKING-SHIT-!

Imperial Army Lieutenant Horie

What a cute name. Well, no, he doesn’t actually say any of that at all, but it would have been either a massive hilarious lie and he was actually on reserve all this time, or else he’s one stone-cold baller to have survived all those major engagements.

So wrapping up thoughts of TE, well, I can’t say I can give a honest thought about it. It’s pretty okay, solid in its own right I guess; if you’re new to Muv-Luv TE would prove to be a good starting point, if only to get you aquainted with what to expect from the rest of the franchise; otherwise, it’s not particularly on the high end of “must watch before the year ends”. The character designs aren’t bad, honestly speaking, and as long as the show is not slapping you with its occasional flashes of QUALITY the people might even prove endearing to you so long as you’re not a spasm-prone oldfag to eveything harem.

I mean, seriously, with such jokes like people accusing TE of ripping off Infinite Stratos. Harem cliches are so stone-set nowadays compared to back then, that I can throw a stone and hit a series with a main traditionalist girl, twintails, royal duchess, stone-cold-dere and a hyperactive ball. TE does, however, deviate slightly from this by using the last three as viewership trollbait as opposed to serious love interests.

The action might not match up sometimes, but when it gets good it does a pretty good job of portraying the events well; not counting the good TSF fights, the fans will not forget Flying Tank-class for a long time, and once they fixed the Laser-class we got a pretty cool lightshow at Kamchatka. Of course, if you’re spoiled on SAO-levels of fights then you can tone down the expectations a little for this; not everything gets a big budget adaptation after all. Mechs are pretty nicely done, and after seeing the quality discreparency of the characters and the rare occasion where the mechs were hand-drawn, going CG might have been a blessing after all. Man, it’s like the only guy worth dynamic mech anime action nowadays is Obari.

We shall see if that’ so in 2013.

For a more comprehensive on TE anime, you can also refer to the Type-94 blog, which not only explores the anime in general comparision to the written works, but also the backstage real-life goals and expectations that have shaped the anime. Finding excuses for a show is not something I’ll ever do, but some things like directing and in a certain case, poor scripting (coughgsdcough) are really elements that shouldn’t be blamed on the show itself.