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Tag Archives: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Oh my, what’s this?! An update?! Yes, beloved internets, an update! I am entering the last few weeks of my final year of college, graduating in May. As such, I’ve finally gotten to a point where I can dedicate some time to anime! Just recently the new season started and, to tell the truth, I didn’t see any names that got me super psyched. I wasn’t feeling the hype. There was no buzz, no zing, no fire. I tried a pair of them, however, and intend to keep watching both, as both were very entertaining shows. I should probably write an article about “The Search for the Next Naruto: The Hype-Famine of 2012” but I’ll do that some other day. 

Nazo no Kanojo X

Ever want an anime about saliva? Okay, okay, there is more to it than that, and there is plenty of time to get into that later. The first thing that struck me was the art. Straight out of the gate, we are hit with an artistic and metaphor-laced dream done in an old film-reel style that even burns through when Main Character-kun wakes up. There is something about the textures in this show. Try to find the best quality you can, because they are doing subtle things on the screen. Rough things look rough, smooth things look smooth, it helps to make up for the generic sort of art style the mangaka used in the original work. Anyways, we get a little time with boring normal boy Tsubaki Akira, get to see that he has a sister that acts like his mom, funny friend, yada yada yada, OH HEY!  A MYSTERIOUS TRANSFER STUDENT!

She has a little UFO hanging from her bag and only speaks  four syllables for her self-introduction. Oh yeah, we’ve got us a weird one here. Still, considering how obviously socially awkward she is, she’s obviously a main character. We have a special area of the classroom specifically for main characters to sit. As always, it is the back left quarter, usually near a window. Now… who to call on to help her get settled in…

That generic youth in the seat next to her should do fine.

Now one thing that really struck me about the following scenes was how believable and realistic their classmates were. They behaved exactly as you’d expect them to, which makes the main character’s strangeness that much more… strange. She seems to be the only person in the room with any real character, and the art really reinforces that. That being said, since they are all so very believable, I found myself agreeing that she looked like a total freak by comparison.

So, the plot moves forward. We see that she sleeps whenever given the chance… main character forgets something in the classroom and he has to return after everyone else has left. There, he finds Girl-chan sleeping, and upon waking her up realizes how cute she is. The art style almost ruined the moment for me, but then I remembered that everyone has brown/black hair and tiny dot eyes, so I guess her blue hair and green eye combo overwhelmed him. Either way, she leaves and he notices that she drooled a little puddle on her desk.

Remember that thing I was saying earlier about saliva? Here it is. Man dips his finger in it and tastes it. Just… first impulse. And you know what? I buy that. I was once a pubescent boy; I can see where he is coming from. That being said, over the next few days he begins to suffer WITHDRAWAL symptoms. He doesn’t make the mental link to the saliva, though. Who would?

Oh.

So she hooks him up with some saliva and he’s suddenly better. He now needs his fix every so often or his body will go all screwy. Lovely, a physical metaphor for the rampant desires of young love. Or a unique plot device. Either way, I’ve not seen the like, and it is as good a premise for a strange girl/normal guy anime as any I’ve heard. The rest of the episode gives Girl-chan a few cute or admirable traits for us to hang onto… but it also drops a few subtle things of general not-rightness. For instance, there is one point where she does a spin and gives us a random panty flash… I’m used to that sort of behavior from anime, but I knew that I’d just seen something not-right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so I clicked back a few seconds in the video and played it again.

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, MAIN CHARACTER-KUN! Wait! He can’t! He needs her fluids! … I hope they stay together and happy forever… for his sake. Okay, drool anime, you win. I give. I’ll watch. All-in-all a wonderful first impression, I’ll patiently wait to see how the story develops.

Medaka Box

Okay. First thing, bothering me right off the bat, have to address it, can’t ignore it… WHAT IS WITH GIRL-CHAN’S OUTFIT?! Our female lead, the school president, has a massive set of breasts, and a (apparently) custom school uniform DESIGNED to show them off! Literally the sixth camera shot we get is a full-on, no excuses breast shot… but the really odd thing is it doesn’t seem like that sort of anime. In fact, I’m still trying to figure out EXACTLY what sort of anime it is supposed to be!
 Subtle, Gainax.

OH, DID I MENTION THIS IS BY GAINAX?! The Evangelion people? This is what they are doing now. But first things first, let’s focus here. I want you to stare at the above picture long enough to notice that she has arms. On her left arm, you will see a red armband, a blue armband, and three green armbands. Her entire left sleeve is armbands, more or less, and that is because, at this point, she IS the student council. Apparently only the president actually gets elected, and she won with a 98% voting rate. That is because she isn’t a normal person, she is some sort of paragon. She always does everything right and never seems to make any bad decisions. Man… that is hard to relate to! We need someone less out-there and much more common. Perhaps a half-Japanese kid with naturally occurring hair that looks like a bad yankee dye-job, like we had in Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai?

Perfect.

It turns out that Girl-chan is actually childhood friends with Main Character-kun. While she is some sort of flawless superhuman, he is something much more impressive. Behold! We knew it must exist somewhere, and here it is! The legendary! The whispered! MALE TSUNDERE! Oh my, oh me. He makes the anime, and his common sense makes her perfection tolerable. Now, I was watching with a sub group that can’t tell a pack of cigarettes from a pokemon card, so forgive me if I didn’t properly understand some of the dialog,  but we get to watch Girl-chan do some pretty nonsensically impressive things fairly quick in the series. From what I can tell from the action in this episode and the snippets from the opening, this anime will have battle anime undercurrents… I guess it was either those or the giant robots, Gainax needed one. It looks fairly interesting, though. So far there hasn’t been anything that is 100% unique, but it is the presentation that really gets me. It is delivered in a fairly fresh manner, and I love her little quirk of popping up behind people. The scene in which we first see her legendary level of looking down upon someone else is also pretty darn fresh. If nothing else, Gurren Lagann fans should probably watch it to see Kamina-sama back before he got his tattoos. His is the kendo sword that will pierce the heavens.

Pulling a Naruto: A literary technique in which an author kills a beloved
character only to later bring them back to life either literally (resurrection) or
figuratively (the character never died, but the audience was lead to believing they did.)

There is one thing that pisses me off to no end. There are sometimes where an author sets a character up to die. You can feel it happen. The scene is right, the time is ripe, the character falls unconscious, the audience cries… and then later we see that they are actually alive and well through some sort of contrived plot device. I know you’ve seen it before. It happens all over the place. I usually take it as a sign that the author lacks courage. Killing off a character is, after all, a big decision. If done improperly, you will alienate their fans, and, of course, you can’t have any new developments on their character apart from postmortem revelations and ghost dream sequences.

However, when done properly, it will define the anime for years to come. Gurren Lagann was an anime that used the death of a beloved character to make the leap from good to great. It was something that made the war believable. Not only did someone die, he was the best of us. Characters and audience alike grieved… and then wondered “how can we go on from here?” Even so, they went on. Gungrave made an entire series about killing off everyone with a name except for 3 (one of which only appeared in a single episode… and she probably died of a heart attack years ago) and I LOVE Gungrave for that. When you make a series featuring a dangerous world or a series that focuses on the meaning of human lives… you need death! Even though Dragonball had a resurrection mechanic WRITTEN INTO THE PREMISE, the threat and impact of death still felt real. We didn’t feel cheated out of a death scene as an audience, nor did we grow to hate the author for resurrecting the character.

I call it “Pulling a Naruto” because I view Kishimoto to be a capital offender in this regard. I’m going to throw a few faces at you. See if you can spot the similarities.

Have you spotted it? These are the characters that died early on in the series back when the author had nerve. Truth be told, there are others I could add, but these are enough to prove a point. All of these characters died to underline the fact that it was a dangerous world full of ninjas. Hayate doesn’t have the type of plot significance of the other 3, but I still remembered his death. He died because he knew too much, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he just wasn’t strong enough. That was the type of thing I used to really love Naruto for.

Now, have a look at these fine folks.

These are the characters that died later in the series. All of them had meaningful death sequences full of suffering, regret, pain, loss… you know, all those human emotions generally associated with death. Each one of them had some sort of terrible beauty in their death. I downloaded a LINKIN PARK AMV for Choji’s death for crying out loud! That should say something about the level of emotion present. Neji’s death had some sort of symbolic freedom associated with it; he was finally face to face with the fate he’d been dreading and he didn’t fear it anymore. Garaa died wondering what sort of man he could have been if he’d just been stronger. Kakashi and Hinata sent the fans into weeping grief fits! (The ones that didn’t have a lingering doubt growing in their heads, that is. There were plenty of folk who, even then.)

The problem is that none of them STAYED dead. They all got bullshitted back into existence at the cost of NOTHING. Choji was dying because his family’s secret final technique was burning his vital organs for power. He was found by a team of medical ninja, who saved him. Wait. Hold it. You can STOP the red pill’s organ burning?! Why doesn’t Choji’s family carry around the Black Pill of Stop Dying Now Please?! I mean, if I had a weapon that would burn my vital organs for power and there was some sort of countermeasure… I’D BRING THE FREAKING COUNTERMEASURE! Each one of these resurrections held a false ring to them… ESPECIALLY Hinata. The thing that made Hinata’s death hurt the fans is the very thing that makes her revival hard to swallow. She just confessed her love for Naruto! This is some episode 1 buildup here! Now, hundreds of episodes later, she confesses and dies… oh, how sad! She loved him all this time and only now does he know. Ooops, shes back to life… and he still knows she loves him… are they going to talk about that? Is that going to alter the plot any? No? Shes just going to hide off-screen? Kinda like she was still dead? Oh. Okay.

There are a lot of series that do this, it isn’t just Naruto. Off the top of my head I can remember it happening once in Vandread, which was otherwise a very good anime. However, Vandread hung a lampshade on it with the fact that, when their revived character came back, everyone realized that no one had ever actually seen her die or gone looking for her dead body. It was a final-act turn-around and didn’t diminish the series too much because it didn’t change the impact her death had on everyone. Characters had changed because of her death, people had matured. When she came back, things weren’t the same as when she left. In my mind, that places it more in line with the Dragonball characters resurrection than it does the Naruto group’s.

Bleach did this exactly twice to my recollection. The first one was Aizen, but that was convoluted and long. You might not have even consciously noticed the second one, as it possesses, to my knowledge, the single fastest dead/alive turn around time for any anime character. There was an episode in which my favorite character spent the entire episode running 30 feet to punch a guy. As he ran, he flashed back to all the reasons that it would suck if he died at the end of the episode. Then, at the end of the episode, the samurai guy he was about to punch was suddenly behind him and said “Sorry.” My favorite character‘s lucky necklace fell to the ground, the entire chain intact. To be continued. Next episode, we see my favorite character fall down and hear the samurai say that he “Avoided any vital spots”. Let me draw you a quick diagram.

If a man has a chain necklace on, how the HELL do you cut him in such a way that it falls dramatically to the ground fully intact while avoiding any vital spots?! The only way that thing would have fallen like that was heavily implied to be DECAPITATION. We just went from chopping a guy’s head off to having him wrapped in injury-negating bandages in the VERY NEXT SPOKEN LINE. I know I’ve ranted about this one before, but that is only because it is a CLEAR indication of the author’s cowardice! Much like Dragonball, Bleach had an afterlife system built into the cannon! If Chad had died there, he would have gone to the afterli-… wait, THEY ARE IN THE AFTERLIFE! HEY! HIS GHOST WOULD APPEAR RIGHT FREAKING THERE! What is the point of avoiding his vitals?! You have an escape mechanism built into your world! Ichigo could have had character development, Chad could have to come to terms with his new life as a ghost when they return to the normal world… he might not even return. No, but that sounds too compelling. Lets just drop most of the side characters, add a furry puma-elf guy… and have orihime say Kurosaki-kun a lot. I’m sure THAT will be the best anime ever.

Often times, I judge an anime not on how awesome the story of the main character is, but on how much the anime makes me love the characters in the background. The vast majority of the time, I don’t fall in love with the main character. Sometimes, when I do, it turns out he wasn’t even the main character to begin with and was, in fact, my favorite character.

I LOVE YOU KAMINA!

Often times authors don’t go the extra mile in making you fall in love with the mechanic who fixes the main character’s mech… or the owner of the restaurant they are always eating at… and I can forgive that. There are lots of people in daily life you walk right by without even noticing. Even if every last one of them were some amazingly interesting individual, you generally won’t see it… but at LEAST authors should do it for antagonists!

We have two basic forces in a story, protagonists and antagonists. I don’t care how interesting or wonderful your main character is… the forces that work against them had better at least be memorable! At best, I want to CRY when the heroes win over the villain. Why should I be sad about that? Justice prevails and everyone goes home happy? I want to feel sad about the villain losing because he should be a well fleshed out character too!

Hajime no Ippo does a WONDERFUL job of this. I recently went through a rundown of the main character’s opponents and their goals and dreams that ruined a girl’s mascara. These weren’t just random boxers that he was defeating. The author took the time to build most of them up as human beings. He wasn’t just knocking them out, he was shattering their dreams and building a staircase to the top out of the shrapnel. There were even times the MAIN CHARACTER felt bad about having to beat people.

Let us take, for instance, Jason Ozuma

Statistics
Japanese Name ジェイソン・尾妻
Birth date September 11, 1970
Homeland United States
Weight Class Featherweight
Style In Fighter
Rank Retired

Jason was an Air Force guy stationed at Misawa Air Base. He had no one waiting for him back in America. No family. No friends. No one cared that he was in Japan, except for the boxing gym he had joined. The owner and his wife were very nice to Jason and he really cared about them. Alas, he was one of the only people who went to the boxing gym. The lack of members meant a lack of money, the gym made do with old and battered equipment. Jason really wanted to see the gym prosper… so he went pro. He won two bouts, both by KO, and things were looking up. That is when Jason heard about the Rookie King Tournament, a chance to show his skills and get some more patrons and prize money for his gym! The first round he won by KO.

The second round, he fought Ippo.

After the bout, Jason retired. His spine had been damaged, not that he ever told Ippo that. He didn’t want the kid to carry that weight. He left Japan and his surrogate family, unable to bear the pain being powerless to help them on top of having failed them. He went back to America… where no one was waiting to greet him.

Fun! So much better than “Ippo’s second round is against a big black guy! He has a mean right hook.”