Rambling and other animals. But mostly rambling.

Episodic Posts

The Vers Revolution as not seen from Earth; Backdrop | Aldnoah.Zero 01

vlcsnap-2014-07-08-13h58m56s11Aldnoah.Zero leaves two major setup-points dangling in its premiere. The first is the question of what Aldnoah really is, and for now I’m not going to touch this, and assume very simply, that it is an energy source of some kind, plus-minus lots of other, useful knowledge. The second, however, is the origin story of the Vers Empire – that of how the Vers Empire was birthed, and its highly radical belief-system formed, and that’s what the whole post is going to be about. I’m not going to pretend this is anything other than speculation, though, nor that my analysis is in any way exhaustive or perfect.
Yeah, this is going to take more than one post.

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Sidonia 01. And a bit of Skyrim.

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Now if you’ve played Skyrim, odds are you’ve seen one of its books. The Mystery of Talara. The Firmament. The Black Arrow. Maybe one of the billion volumes of The Wolf Queen or A Brief History of the Empire. Depending on how low you’ve fallen, you may even have opened one of them and *gasp* read through it till the end. If you’re really crazy, you might have bought up the house in Markarth just for the extra bookshelves and then proceeded to fill it up with exactly one copy of every book you have in perfect order. If you were at one point, completely lost to it, you may have found that book full of racist jokes about Argonians, which, I’ll be honest, is a total hoot.

Ok, now back on topic. If you read the Brief History of the Empire without having played all of the preceding Elder Scrolls games, you’d find yourself exactly where I found myself when I tried to sift through the whole thing. Its impossible. Utterly impossible, since each book is the product of a different era, and is rife with references to other literature published in the First Era, some few hundred years before Skyrim takes place. The texts, it might strike you, are entirely separate experiences when you read them in the Skyrim than if you had read them in the Era they were published and addressed. Much of the story you receive in Skyrim is unrelated to, or even in direct narrative opposition to what you read in the in-game lore, mostly because the lore was about the Altmer 200 years ago, and the game take place in the now. The lore in Skyrim is bottomless, and consequently rather impenetrable.

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What we’re getting in Sidonia is a sense of the scale of the lengths of time involved here -up to hundreds of years- and a colossal, hulking mass of implied in-world points and even contradictions. We have a faction rebelling against the ‘undead rulers who wage a false war to prolong their lives‘, and a visible rationing of power, resources and maintenance from the military rulers up top. We know that the residents of Sidonia have gone through an incredible amount of optimisation to perfect their status as space-beings, what with asexual reproduction, photosynthesis, new genders, and the lot, yet entire sections of the Sidonia seem to go to waste for simple military equipment disposal. This Hiroki, father of Tanikaze, who seems to hold a wealth of valuable knowledge, is dead, undocumented, in a corner of the underground parts of Sidonia. Tanikaze is not even documented, yet the captain greets him with unusual familiarity and warmth. Tanikaze is not a special pilot at all, but is handed Tsugumori, which by the way, is the most badass-looking mecha I have seen in a good long while.

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This may all sound like poor writing in how there isn’t a clear answer for any of these in sight, but I hold it to be the best shit ever, and easily the best way to introduce you to a new, alien world. Recall that events in Sidonia happen over very long periods of time, and you get a sense of the scale, yet smallness, of the history of Sidonia, as well as an appreciation of how impossible it will be to disentangle the current state of Sidonia and explain why everything is the way it is. Hell, even in reality, explaining why anything is the way it is is a bitch of a job. Linking Sidonia to the point of contact with the Gauna, and the seed-ship construction effort is an even more colossal task. It isn’t one that the anime has to do, but it, once again, gives you a sense of how big this story is, both in terms of history, and in terms of the things that will no doubt be gambled on later on in the show. The whole package is rather impenetrable, and that makes it enigmatic, alluring and bottomless.

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Like, these guys have had 4 Gauna defense wars already. If I hadn’t rewatched this episode a hundred times, I would never have noticed this at all. Part of this has to do with how Tsutomu Nihei takes full advantage of his manga being a manga when he wrote it, which means that the information density on the manga is very high too. That, translated into anime form, will probably mean more breakneck background foreshadowing.

All scifi should be this good.

I am in despair.

 


Ping Pong 01, but not really, but Ping Pong 01

Lets get the formalities out of the way first. I like the episode, and Wenge is kickass.

So I’m thinking that if Aku no Hana is on one end of the visual spectrum of realism, and Nisekoi is on the other, Ping Pong the Animation is somewhere in the corner where we put all the bastard children of abstraction and realism. On one hand, this is very much still Masaki Yuasa madness, where reality is only as real as Yuasa says it is, nothing much has defined outlines, and anything that is happening is very much suspect of being visual metaphor, and on the other, it still feels very genuine. The sequences where Peco and Wenge play each other look absolutely nothing like actual table tennis, and Yuasa tries to remind us of that constantly; there is no attempt whatsoever to be realistic, so Yuasa must be going for abstraction. The sequences where Peco and Wenge play are, in essence, no difference from the show flashing text on the screen saying ‘Peco and Wenge played a game, Peco got skunked’, only doing it the Yuasa way looks cooler. Neither resembles sports, but both are meant to mean ‘a game is being played right now’. Signifier signified sign.

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Ryousuke Nakamura sure likes his rainbows. Also, something about mystery as a genre. | Mouryou no Hako 01

Well, yeah. Lets face it, he does. Nerawareta Gakuen, Hashire Melos, Mouryou no Hako, they’re all chock full of all the rainbows that you would ever want. Ryousuke Nakamura seems to use them everywhere, not just at the fringes of his shots. Often this is just obtrusive, like it was in Nerawareta Gakuen. While Shinkai Makoto used them in Kotonoha no Niwa around lamplights the same way lens flare is used, and a lot of shows like say, Nagi no Asukara, use them in places where you would actually see rainbows for the sake of *gasp* realism, Nakamura shoves those rainbows all over the screen, and instead of being sharp and defined, they are diffused, such that they seem to be the lens through which we see the episode unfold.

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You were always such an asshole, weren’t you, Char Aznable?

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This history has made us refugees.

-Char Aznable, U.C. 0093

I really don’t know where to start. Char’s Counterattack was an incredibly dense film, and odds are I won’t be able to write down all my thoughts on it in just the one post.

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In which I begin to like Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

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Maybe it’s how uncharacteristically bubbly the opening and ending themes are in contrast to the rest of the show, but something about the way Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam goes about telling it’s story feels deeply melancholic to me. “Look at us now“, it seems to be saying, “what have we made of our world; the past was so much better than this, so much more full of hope.

Ninteen sixty-nine: mankind set foot on the moon for the first time. Later, that piece of land became the location of the central city of the moon. It was said that whoever controlled Von Braun city controlled space.

-narration, to the destruction of Von Braun City, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam episode 24

The action in Zeta Gundam is, for the most part, about expedience and logistics -immediate, small scale concerns. For most of the space battleships we’ve seen so far, i.e. assault carriers, battles are long, protracted affairs in which both victory and defeat are not simple, broadcasted things. Battles are slow, steady fights of attrition, with casualties on both sides, and although it never gets all that much screentime, stuff blows up aplenty. Stuff blows up in spades, but the important thing is that after all the destruction and death, the dead leave behind veterans as witnesses of what has been done. It’s really not the other way around. There is always a survivor, and therefore always an aftermath to the warfare. At its best moments, Mobile Suit Gundam is about this aftermath.

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In which I kvetch about Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

I went into Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam incredibly hyped; all accounts of it promised me a good piece of military science-fiction: epic in scope, somehow socially relevant, full of intriguing ideas and storytelling decisions wrapped up in a detailed world where characters’ actions have consequence. They said I’d get a colossal and deftly-handled cast, with competent chracters who know what they want, and how to get it, engaged in a massive free-for-all with no holds barred, no cards left off the table, and gradoise presentation. Best of all, they promised me it wasn’t bullshit, and I could actually take this conflict seriously.

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