Nobody's mind should be blown mind by this fact; but there is a whole ocean of difference between anime and the kind of programming you'll find on American television. While we here at Anime Vice have been sitting solidly in one particular section of the world's greater pop culture sphere, we're ever curious about getting views on our favorite shows 'from the outside looking in.'
Thus, we've reached out to rising star Andrew Burrows-Trotman, an up-and-coming TV writer, for some expert perspective on two of the biggest titles this year. Just what would a man versed in network primetime and cable premium content think of this nutso Japanation stuff, anyway? Well, read on...
ANDREW BURROWS-TROTMAN: I enjoyed both series for different reasons.
AV: OK. Play it diplomatic, for now. Let’s take a couple steps back and come back to that later. Interviewees give better introductions than interviewers, so… just who are you?
ABT: Well, my name is Andrew Burrows-Trotman. I am a proud Canadian boy that hates cold weather.
I was born in Scarborough Ontario and raised in a single parent immigrant home by my strict, over-protective Guyanese mother who kept me indoors to protect me from the rough neighborhood I grew up in. I spent most of my time watching TV and reading books for lack of anything better to do (my mother refused to buy me video games).
I was obsessed with 80's television and, to this day, I can tell you the time, day and network for almost any show that aired for more than a season during that great decade of TV.
AV: Yikes. 'Otaku expertise' of a different stripe! Were your friends as into this stuff as you?
ABT: I can safely say I was the only kid in my projects that dreamed of running a TV network.
Still, I actually began writing mainly to make friends in school. By conveniently including select classmates in my creative writing assignments, I made many friends!
AV: Now, about your work in TV... what do you?
ABT: I write for both film and television, actually, but if I had to choose between them it would definitely be TV. I love to write in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction and currently have two of my own original TV pilots in development at different production companies.
AV: And what are these pilots about?
ABT: Both pilots are drastically different. One is a period piece set in 19’th century New Orleans that follows the lives of an ensemble of characters living and working in the legal red-light district known at the time as "Storyville".
My other pilot, entitled "The Creation," is a dark genre script about a modern day, Cronenberg-esque Frankenstein set in the world of regenerative medicine and top secret military experimentation.
And I am currently writing yet another original, set in the world of ancient Israel, that follows the lives of various women in the fabled harem of King Solomon.
AV: So were these shows actually your first encounter with anime? Please tell us they weren't.
ABT: Nah. My first experience with anime I understood as anime started with classics like AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL. However, my formative experiences with anime were shows that were 'anime' by a looser definition.
Like everyone else I loved the 80's TRANSFORMERS show. I can't stress to you how profoundly this show impacted me. Transformers was never on a Canadian network like other American cartoons and not being able to afford those classic brown box converters, I had to twist and bend my black and white TV antennas to get a 'snowy' Buffalo feed, but I still watched every episode even though I could barely make out the images!
My absolute favorite anime, though... was G-FORCE!
AV: Interesting. So it was G-FORCE and not BATTLE OF THE PLANETS…?
ABT: Right. We got the original show in Canada, not the 'remake.' I had never seen anything quite like it! I mean, what American cartoon in the 80's would dare have a bad guy wear lip stick and still be as badass as Zoltar!
I also was a huge fan of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, which I only realized years later was co-produced with a Japanese studio (which probably explains why it was so much better than the rest of the Saturday morning line-up).
AV: So not a total neophyte then. Very good. Now, back to the present - - what’s your take on TITAN?
ABT: I thought it was eerie and disturbing - - and superior to GARGANTIA in terms of visual delivery - - but after a while, I tired of the story arc. It is a gut-wrenching series that makes you empathize with Eren Jaeger. I mean, who wouldn't feel for a young man having to watch his mother eaten by a giant human?
Still, after setting up the story, I grew restless with the gory Titan killings. Where is the series headed? How far can we go, just watching Eren's bottomless hatred for the Titans expressed in brilliantly-violent battles?
AV: What did you think of the big twist, though?
ABT: Eren's mysterious powers to become a Titan were an interesting mid-series revelation, but it did nothing to move the story forward emotionally. I found myself growing more and more curious about these strange Titans and tiring of the human struggle to fend them off. I wanted to know the origins and back story of these monsters.
More to the point - - I wanted to know what I was to take away from this fascinating and frustrating story about humanity?
AV: And what about GARGANTIA, then?
ABT: I feel that TITAN failed to deliver on its great promise and, in the end, GARGANTIA is the superior show.
GARGANTIA had a complete arc for our protagonist and great chemistry between Ledo and Chamber. Amy's pet squirrel is a little bizarre, but I became emotionally involved in Ledo's journey and wanted to see it through. GARGANTIA had more to say about the interconnected nature of life than TITAN did. Ledo learns valuable lessons about taking a good vs evil stance and just how dangerous it is to be willing to die for a 'cause.'
Also, I hope I am not spoiling anything for any readers but...
AV: That was sad, indeed. Now, we're most curious about how these shows compare to what's in your world. Do they pull off, or get away, with things that would never work on American TV?
ABT: It would depend on whether the shows were being developed as live-action projects, and if they were for cable or broadcast television.
AV: Put this way - - are there certain things that wouldn't pass a network show's writing room?
ABT: GARGANTIA’s tone is ready-made for broadcast TV, and there would be very few adjustments needed (other than losing squirrels as pets).
For TITAN, it would definitely be the graphic nature of the Titans attacks. That would have to be lost so children (and adults) can sleep at night! The attacks can be staged more implicitly, since everyone knows the Titans are popping the humans in their mouths like Pillsbury pastries! I also sense an undercurrent of nihilism that wouldn't sit well with studio execs, so I would write in some more moments of levity between the soldiers and beef up Eren Jaeger's love life to make it more palatable.
AV: It is a bleak show, no doubt about it. So where can people find you online if they want to see what's next for ABT? Are you on the Twitter or anything?
ABT: I am one of those stubborn curmudgeons, trying to stem the tide of progress, who has come to the horrible realization that I must get with the times and get a Twitter account going. Seeing as I have lots of new projects to promote, I will probably do it soon, but the just the thought of hashtags and re-tweets is already making me nauseous. Ugggh!
AV: Thanks for talking to us today, ABT!
ABT: Thank you for having me! Pet squirrels and rampant decapitations aside, it was fun 'marathoning' both of these compelling (and seriously unusual) shows. I really want to watch more new anime, now, so if any of you have some suggestions, please hit me with 'em! I'm game for anything.