PenguinDust (Level 13)

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   I've only seen one show this season - it had boobs
 I've only seen one show this season - it had boobs
Looking back at my last blog, I decided to play this one more by ear.  I’m not exactly sure how long it will be or what I’ll cover and since I have a problem following through with the plans made in these opening paragraphs, all I can promise is that some anime will be discussed.  On a side note, I want to thank several other forum members for their recent reviews of the new Winter 2011 season ( EquitasInvictus, metalsnakezero, InfiniteGeass).  As I say time and time again, I tend to wait until a show has run to completion before tuning it up.  I’m just impatient and the prospect of having to wait an entire week to see what happens next is madness.  I do enjoy seeing what others are thinking, though so the write-ups have been fun to read.  Kudos!
 

Mobile Fighter G Gundam

   Gundam - FIGHT!
 Gundam - FIGHT!
As I mentioned in my last posting, I took a look at Mobile Fighter G Gundam this past week. Since I started jotting down my impressions of whatever anime I happen to be watching, I’ve written about Gundam Seed Destiny and Mobile Suit Gundam (’79).   Before that, I checked out both Gundam Seed and Gundam Wing.  Back when the Cartoon Network was still proactively airing anime, I also saw Gundam 0080.  I am a fan of the franchise and all the fundamental clichés essential to every Gundam story.  Arrogant guy with a mask? Check.  Earth versus its space colonies? Check.  Belligerent children piloting humanoid death machines? Check.  Pretentious hand-wringing over the nature of battle and war? Check.  Awkward romantic melodrama?  Check.  It’s these requisite elements that shape Gundam and differentiate it from other similar giant robot series.  However, Mobile Fighter G Gundam feels the least like a Gundam than any other Gundam I’ve seen so far.  Even though all the rudimentary symbols are present to some degree, it’s incompatible with the distinctive tone of all other things Gundam.  That isn’t to say it isn’t one outrageous E-ticket of a ride, though.

At its core, G Gundam is a tournament anime.  In the far future, Earth has been ravaged by war and the excesses of human greed.  It is a wretched wasteland sparsely populated by outcasts unable to secure a better existence among the space based colonies.  In spite of being forced from its barely habitable homeland, humanity remains a violent species even among the stars.  As an alternative to intercolonial conflict, the free floating neo-nations of Earth initiate a competition to be held every four years.  They call it The Gundam Fight and the victorious nation secures the right to rule over all others for the interim.  The battleground is Earth itself.  

   Fabulous Gundams
 Fabulous Gundams
The protagonist of the series is Domon Kasshu, the Japanese representative to the fight.  He pilots the Shining Gundam, one of the very few traditionally iconic robots in the series.  Herein lays one of the more distinguishing facets of G Gundam that separates it from the rest of the franchise.  Its mech design is noticeably irreverent.  Given that each nation sends a Gundam to the battle, for some reason the construction of each war machine also reflects their cultural identity.  Some of these frames have more in common parade floats than weapons of war.  The Gundam from Mexico has a sombrero and cactus for hands!  The Norwegian Gundam is a Viking longship with integrated Viking.  The Spanish Gundam is a bull’s head complete with nose ring.  And, the Danish Gundam is a fish, or more precisely, it looks like a guy wearing a fish costume.  I half expected him to hand out flyers advertising the Southern Winds seafood shack.  The one that doesn’t seem to quite fit is the Swedish Gundam who wears a sailor girl school uniform, but then again, it is piloted by cute girl, Allenby Beardsley.  The insanity doesn’t stop there though.  The colonies themselves are very whimsically envisioned with Neo-Mexico (again) being shaped like a gigantic sombrero, Neo-America as an orbiting five-point star with detachable Statue of Liberty super-gun, and Neo-France dangling a flamboyant striped bow beneath it.  By comparison, the Japanese colony appears absolutely mundane as a duplicate of its earthbound counterpart.  This series is ridiculously farcical in every manner possible.

   Sailor Mercury moonlights as a Gundam pilot
 Sailor Mercury moonlights as a Gundam pilot
The battles between robots don’t follow the familiar ranged gunplay seen in other Mobile Suit shows.  Whereas quick aerial engagements containing dozens of free flying missiles and over sized cannons that can decimate multiple enemy units in a single shot might be the norm in conventional Gundam encounters, that is not the case here.  The action in G Gundam is up close and with their fists. They exhibit all the gritty carnage of a street brawl.  Similar to Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z and various other tournament fighters, there is a substantial amount of “kung-fu magic” on display, as well.  Martial arts training and secret techniques have greater emphasis than technological advancements.  Domon’s special move is the “shining finger” attack which also explains his appeal to the opposite sex.  Utilizing his ever growing skill sets, he seeks to defeat the evil Devil Gundam.  A monstrous turtle-like Gundam that can self repair, replicate drones, and enslave humans with a bio-mechanical virus.  It’s commanded by his traitorous brother Kyoji who Domon blames for the death of their mother and the imprisonment of their father.

   Chibodee - Sai Saici - George - Argo
 Chibodee - Sai Saici - George - Argo
Joining him on his journey is Rain Mikamura who services the Shining Gundam as the team’s field mechanic and Domon as the series love interest.  Her father was the chief engineer behind the Japanese Gundam’s construction and he was a friend of Domon and Kyoji’s father who built the Ultimate Gundam, the original name of the Devil Gundam.  Since she knew the Kasshu family all her life, she was asked to accompany Domon on his mission.  As the series continues, the two are aided by four other Gundam Fight competitors; Chibodee Crocket of Neo-America, George de Sand of Neo-France, Sai Saici of Neo-China, and Argo Gulskii of Neo-Russia.  Not to sound too nationalistic, but Chibodee was my personal favorite of the quartet because he traveled with a harem of what can best be described as “gundam queens”.  Actually, all the featured Gundam pilots have potential romance candidates. Nastasha Zabigov, the whip toting commander of the Neo-Russia team is especially hot.  As Sailor Moon-like sappy as it sounds, the final affirmation of Mobile Fighter G Gundam is essentially “Love Conquers All”.  That simple truism isn’t a bad thing either since there are a lot of other conflicting messages promoted over the course of the story.  

   "Love Space Magic Power!!"
 "Love Space Magic Power!!"
This isn’t my favorite Gundam series, but I did thoroughly enjoy its campy and indulgent approach to the genre.  To fully appreciate it, I believe you need to discard any preconceptions you might have about the Gundam franchise and even giant robot shows in general.  Much of it discards logic and reason for hyper-testosterone fueled action and manliness.  “Martial artists express their emotions with their fists!”  Space magic, a mastery of mystic kung-fu and the invincible purity of true love replace all the complicated politics and unique technologies of other Gundam shows.  But, it’s also about as much fun as you can have with a giant robot show this side of Gurren Lagann.  I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to the Gundam franchise, but for the initiated, I’d say it’s well worth the time spent.  
 

Green Green

   Green Green's cast
 Green Green's cast
This show is inadequate.  Stronger terms such as tedious, valueless and vulgar might also apply, although I am hesitant to thoroughly denounce it.  I mean, it’s awful but not entirely so.  I was able to unearth a few enjoyable moments from it, but I had to accept its litany of failings in order to do so.  Most of the time, I sat watching waiting for something entertaining to happen.  Rarely were my ambitions for it realized.  What’s more, I had to embrace its most distasteful aspects and celebrate its iniquitousness.  Now, time and time again, I advocate the more immodest particulars of anime.  Gratuitous fan service, exploitative figure design, and exaggerated bounce are my staples; however there were elements in this series that left even me uncomfortable.  I believe it’s the reckless and contemptuous attitude the show supports that soured me.  Instead of laughing, I often found myself cringing at the more outrageous escapades performed by its secondary cast members.  Given their behaviors and static thinking, any one or all three male support characters are likely to have a teenage girl tied up in their basement at some point in their future.  There is a fine line between burlesque and criminality.  I became so embittered and alienated by the trio that the moments I liked were ones where they were being abused and defiled.  It seems to have been conscious decision by the producers, albeit a bungled one because they failed to shape them as empathetic losers.  Instead they’re intensely repugnant and potentially dangerous.  Once I accepted that and ceased hoping for any redeeming characteristics, I was able to enjoy the series.  If there was an underdeveloped sadistic trace buried within my personality, Green Green forced it to the surface and fattened it on their humiliations.

  (clockwise) Tenjin - Ichiban-Boshi - Bacchi-Gu - Yuusuke (far left)
(clockwise) Tenjin - Ichiban-Boshi - Bacchi-Gu - Yuusuke (far left)
The story is barely worth mentioning especially since it would have been better had the main plot been entirely removed.  In the woodlands of Japan’s countryside, an all-boys academy is set to merge with an all-girls school the following year.  In preparation for the change, a test group of female students are invited to live at the boy’s campus during the summer for one month.  Yuusuke Takasaki, the protagonist, is a student at Kanenone Gakuen and the least egregious of the male cast members.  He is friends with a trio of reprobates, Bacchi-Gū, Ichiban-Boshi and Tenjin.  Like any teenager, these three are obsessed with girls and sex, but they have absolutely no constraint when it comes to them.  They are fearless in their campaigns to see the arriving females naked and to sleep with them.  The three break into the girl’s dormitory at night, molest them in their sleep, spy into their bath house, and forcibly strip them of their clothes.  Admittedly, the latter was the accidental result of an ill conceived scheme, but they consciously chose to continue even when it was obvious their actions had crossed the line.  And, yet they aren’t bad guys.  They’re just pathetic, lonely, awkward teenage boys who repeatedly choose the wrong path toward winning the girls affections.  I applaud the producers’ boldness in crafting characters unlike the run-of-the-mill blushing introverts seen too often in this genre; however if they’d displayed just a little compassion for the women, I would have felt some sympathy for their plight.  Of course, they are just secondary characters and not the featured hero which is why I wish the producers had eliminated the main storyline and focused on finding the humor in their indelicate desires.  Yuusuke is at best, boring and at his worst, exacerbating.  

   The Deadliest Catch was never quite like this!
 The Deadliest Catch was never quite like this!

When the bus load of girls arrives at the isolated academy, one girl pops from the vehicle’s exit into the arms of Yuusuke.  Midori Chitose, a bubbly young schoolgirl professes her love for him even though the two have never met.  She contends that the two are soul mates and now that they’ve been reunited, they’ll be together forever.  The sincerity of her conviction unnerves him prompting him to avoid her.  Following an act of chivalry, a second girl, Futaba Kutsuki takes notice of him. She doesn’t approve of the co-ed test run and intensely dislikes his three depraved friends.  Initially, she believes that he’s as sinful as the trio, but after he rescues her from the dark of the forest, she finds herself falling for him.  The love triangle continues along a predictable, fated end.  I’d even go as far as to say I found the conclusion uniquely demoralizing.  On one hand, I admire the departure, but at the same time it left me feeling like the whole ordeal was hollow.   

   The women of Green Green
 The women of Green Green
Green Green runs for twelve episodes proper with an adjoining thirteenth considerably stronger in content than the previous dozen.  It is a peculiar addition because it contains several graphically sexual encounters whereas the earlier shows are limited to moderate nudity.  The intercourse sequences are handled delicately and don’t feel as tawdry as the average hentai, but there is a fellatio scene that should have been discarded since it doesn’t add anything to the story.  There’s a mosaic censor over the act anyway.  The surprising thing about it is if you plan to see Green Green, I really believe the explicit thirteenth episode needs to be seen as well.  As odd as it sounds, it makes the main story better and does more to make you care about the young lovers than any of the shallow passions fabricated over the original twelve.  

In the end, I can’t recommend this harem series to even fans like myself.  The minor nuggets of potential are ignored in favor of a mediocre boring plot line.  To make Green Green worth watching, it would have had to be a different show.  In preparing for this post, I found that like similar past disappointments I've discussed, the source material for this show is an erotic PC virtual novel.  My previous complaints concerning shows inspired from Japanese ero-games are appeased in the final unattached thirteenth OVA, but it’s too little, too late.  I reassert my past position that celibate versions of these stories should not be made.  Fortunately, after a partial viewing of Yosuga no Sora I am pleased to see that better results can be achieved with careful sensitivity.  More on that show in the future.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

I’m not going to go into too much detail regarding this series as it’s been a well discussed topic in the Anime Vice forums since it began airing in October 2010.  For those still in the dark, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is an anime whose artistic style is strongly influenced by Western cartoons specifically the works of Genndy Tartakovsky ( Samurai Jack), Rob Renzetti ( My Life as a Teenage Robot) and Craig McCracken ( The Powerpuff Girls).  The show takes the familiar safety of that mainstream design and twists it into a very deviant parody suitable for adults only.  The humor is course, callow, obscene, and foul.  If you can imagine a bodily function or intimate act, it’s corrupted, exploited and spewed out like a rainbow of clown semen.  It’s also one of the funniest shows I’ve seen on TV in a long time; second only to FX’s Archer.  

   Good thing come to those who wait
 Good thing come to those who wait
The basics are as punishment for their unacceptable behavior above; Heaven expels two troublesome angels to Earth to deal with an influx of aggressive ghosts appearing in Daten City (USA?).  The blond, Panty is a rude, vain, cocky, sex addict.  The gothic Lolita brunette, Stocking is selfish, bitter, petulant and callous with a sweet tooth.  The two work under the direction of afro-empowered preacher-man, Garterbelt and are accompanied occasionally on missions by would-be ghostbuster, Briefs and a hyper frenetic, zipper clad, dog-like critter called Chuck.  Each episode is divided into two or three separate stories usually concluding with the offending ghost literally being blown up into small chunks.  

   Panty and Stocking - feature film possibilities?
 Panty and Stocking - feature film possibilities?
When I first read the previews for this show last summer, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  My initial impression was that Japanese anime studios following the lead of Japanese game studios were reshaping their product to appeal to a Western audience.  The setting and character design as well as the isolated and insular story structure seemed ripped from American TV.  Most the anime I’d seen featured long story arcs and episodes that flowed consecutively from one to the next.  Panty & Stocking seemed more at home on The Cartoon Network than Japanese television.  Then I saw it and realized how myopic I’d been.  It was audacious, experimental, and modernistic. The narrative collected all the individual anecdotes into a larger saga climaxing with intense action and emotion.  Maybe a little too much sentiment in the final two episodes as the series worked best when it was being irreverent and profane; however that concern was abated before the end.  In conclusion, I loved it and eagerly await the previewed second season.  I know it won’t appeal to everyone.  Anime purists will look at the art and scoff, the humor is straight from the gutter, and the scandalous demeanor of its heroines could easily estrange some; however for the adventurous, I solidly recommend Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.  It’s some funny shit.    
 
And, so here we are again at the end of another long-winded blog of mine “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  Ah well, I am curious to know if you think they’re getting too long or if I should just not worry about it and write as much or little as I want.  Anyway, here’s another video I found on YouTube.
              
         

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