Turambar (Level 10)

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The Universal Century timeline began, in our experience as the audience, with the One Year War, depicted in the original Gundam series.  In a battle between the Earth Federation and Principality of Zeon, the faction that the show designated to us as the enemy was Zeon, and were presented like their super robot enemy contemporaries: comical and cartoonish in nature.  All future shows placed in the middle of this war seemed to work as apologies for this initial depiction.  War in the Pocket, Stardust Memories (it's still pre-Gundam Z), 08th MS Team, and Gundam IGLOO all served to humanize the soldiers of Zeon in one way or another.  The lore's predestination of a Zeonic defeat paints these soldiers doomed by their commanders and by fate and victims of past Federation abuses fighting the good fight while crying "Seig Zeon" with a sense of national pride.
This depiction is what made the battle cry of the final remnants of Zeon forces on the earth's surface so painful.  These were soldiers that were members of the initial invasion forces who was left behind and forgotten and never accepted the peace that was signed oh so far away.  They missed out on Operation Stardust.  They missed out on both Neo Zeon uprisings under the lead of Haman Karn in Gundam ZZ and Char Aznable in Char's Counter Attack.  This attack on Torrington was their last chance for not glory, but vindication and vengence.
  The attack was never going to succeed.  Their ancient mobile suits were never going to stand up against London Bell's crack troops.  Their numbers were never going to hold out against a Federation counter attack.  But it did do what they wanted: get one last punch in.  The chants of Seig Zeon in this case was no longer a chant of national pride.  It was merely a tired symbolic title to serve as cover for a personal vendetta.  Loni's last desperate chant of Seig Zeon was but a ghost compared to the chant that Ghiren inspired so many years ago at the dawn of this long lived conflict, and I can't help but pity them despite being a Feddie at heart.
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So I heard "Best Of" lists were popular this time of the year.  Here's my relatively brief one.  Partly because I don't remember every show I watch over the year, and partly because I don't have time to watch them all at all.  Then again, if a moment wasn't compelling enough to make me watch/remember it, it probably wouldn't make the list anyways.
 
Compared to much of the anime that I consume regularly, Usagi Drop is a very sedated show in both action and drama.  Yet there is a constant level of emotional appeal that makes every episode so enjoyable.  It rests in how honest the characters are, especially Daikichi.  He does not lie to himself about the situation he has set himself in, what he gives up in life by taking in a six year old.  He recognizes the difficulties of child rearing, and learns from figures in his life the potential struggles it causes. 
But neither does he, as the only character whose inner monologue we hear, turn the story into one about his struggles only.  There is a supreme optimism and understanding on his part.  Understanding just what Rin must be going through, and indeed what her mother must have went through to reach her decision, and optimism towards how he can give her a better future.  It is largely enabled by an almost perfect relationship he has with Rin, but you never fault the show for this idealization as Daikichi's own great efforts at making this family structure work garners sympathy and respect.
Usagi Drop, much like Honey and Clover previously, holds a very special spot in my heart because of how it takes advantage of my life experience.  No, I don't have a child, adopted or otherwise.  But I do have people for whom I have sacrificed for.  I also have parents that have sacrificed much for me.  This show is sweet nostalgia for moments in both my childhood and faux-adulthood that I had long forgotten.
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Fate/Zero made many improvements upon the original Fate/Stay-Night.  The most talked about is of course the visuals.  It would not be an exaggeration to call Fate/Zero one of the best shows of the season visually.  But better yet is its treatment of its source materials.  By that I do not mean how it fits into the Fate franchise.  Rather I mean the characters it summons, characters full of potential stories themselves just waiting to be utilized.
 
The Grail War revolves around a battle between seven magicians and seven summoned warriors of significant importance in history.  While the nature of its plot had Fate/Stay-Night playing cloak and daggers with the identity of these heroic spirits, it also unfortunately limited just how deep we explored their characters.  By contrast, the majority of Fate/Zero has centered on this, exploring all but two of the heroic spirits summoned to great degrees.  (I will be spoiling the identity of the heroic spirits summoned below in my analysis below. I will however be skipping Saber and Archer since Fate/Stay-Night actually did a good job of fleshing them out as characters compared to the other heroic spirits.)

Lets start with the heroic spirit that the show treats in the most comical way: Caster.  In this case, its not his character or his personality that I paid the most attention to.  Rather it's his face.  Caster's true identity is Gilles de Rais, a leader of French army in the 1400s as well as a companion of Joan of Arc.  In his later life (of a short 36 years), he was involved in the occult and was convicted of sodomizing and murdering large numbers of children.  He was also however one of the suggested inspirations for a French folktale called "Bluebeard" in which a character by the name of Bluebeard was also a serial killer.  One of the illustrated artwork of the story had Bluebeard depicted with a pair of very bugged out eyes.  The resemblance between that image and the Caster of the show is certainly no coincidence, and brought me much entertainment.

Next we have Lancer, or Diarmuid of the Love spot, a figure that appears Irish mythology.  In life, he was blessed (cursed) by a woman he slept with with a love spot on his forehead that would cause any woman who looked at the spot to fall in love with him.  The one that ultimately did was one by the name of Grainne, the fiance of one Fionn Mac Cumhaill, a major lord within Irish mythology.  The two would run away with each other, but would eventually return after Fionn pardons them.  However, Fionn's grudge never subsided and when Diarmuid was badly injured by a giant bore on one of their hunts, he would refuse to help heal him, letting him die.  This helps explain why his greatest within the anime is to, with a second chance, serve a new lord loyally, and how tragic it is that history is repeating itself despite his best intentions as Sola-Ui falls for him to the point where she is willing to cut off El-Melloi's arm.  (Fun fact: Diarmuid had two swords given to him by his foster father by the name of Great Fury and Little Fury, which is probably where the anime derives his dual wielding spear style.) 

Rider's true identity is Alexander the Great.  Iskandar is the Persian version of his name, one of the empires he conquered during his reign.  In life, he was an incredibly charismatic person by all historical accounts that managed to garner the unquestioning loyalty of his troops despite their diverse ethnic make up.  Rider's larger than life personality is what makes him one of my favorite characters in the show and it's a good image made of a man that was taught at birth by his mother that he was destined to conquer the Persians.  He was an impulsive man, but also a fan of reading and verbal debates, something shown in the latest episode.  He also really liked to drink, as also seen in the latest episode.
 
Lastly, we have two servants whom the story has yet to shed much light on: Berserker and Assassin.  However, for spoilers sake, I can tell you that Berserker's identity is Lancelot.  This fact should make for delicious, delicious drama for obvious reasons.  In life, Lancelot slept with King Arthur's wife and was one of the biggest reasons for the fracture of the Knights of the Round Table.  In the anime, Saber reveals one of her knights cursed her lack of human empathy, and left.  I wonder who that could be. 
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When I started my attempts at internet blogging about two years ago, one of my first entries was on Persona 3.  What drew me to that game was the nature of the enemy, and the futility of the conflict.  The ultimate evil in that game was Nyx.  It was a being of death manifested by and attracted to the negativity of mankind.  It knew no malice and did not seak power.  It was instead manipulated by mankind's unconcious negativity.  Our heroes fought against it, and even with the "Power of the Universe", the strength to perform miracles, all the main character could do was use his own life force to create a seal, blocking Nyx off from man kind's thoughts.
The conflict was against a being of man's own creation and unconscious manipulation, and fighting against it directly was futile, as refuting the will of all mankind with just your own was futile.  Far outside the JRPG norm, this is what made Persona 3's story appeal to me.  When Persona 4 came around, I loved it, and yet couldn't help but feel a twinge of disappointment because of how the balance of power played out in the conflict.  The heroes fought against the monsters, and each time came out victorious.  Personal acceptance of one's demons became less life threatening as the ability to fully subdue them over and over was always there.
And then came along the Persona 4 anime.  Within the last 3 episodes, we have seen three boss fights and none of them gave us an Investigation Team victorious on their powers.  Narukami fought Shadow Yosuke to a standstill at best.  Shadow Chie had Jiraiyah and Yosuke tied up with her bondage hair.  Shadow Yukiko's flames were more than even Pyro Jack's absorb flame affinity could handle.  Once is a fluke, but three is a trend.  The conflict puts emphasis on the futility of combating psychological beasts with brute strength.  Every time, it took a change in mind set on the part of the host to give our heroes a fighting chance.
While the criticisms of melodramatic nature of the self-acceptance is understandable, in this sense, it also makes sense.  One cannot win through fighting, and hold the shadow back is already a near impossible task.  The priority is acceptance, one that the heroes need to work towards through emotional appeals more than anything else.  The change in this emphasis is also backed up by an expansion on the back story and motivations of the characters that I have praised in previous writings.  The true source of Chie and Yukiko's friendship, the set in stone routine of Yukiko's life at the inn, what people really think about Yosuke behind his back, these moments help gives depth to this new priority.
 
Persona 3 showed the supreme power of the subconscious.  It is good to see the Persona 4 Animation following in those foot steps.
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 Flit: 14 year-old with far too deep of a voice
 Flit: 14 year-old with far too deep of a voice

 So Bolt Gundam with Gundam Maxter's paint job.  I am ok with that.
 So Bolt Gundam with Gundam Maxter's paint job.  I am ok with that.

Fact: Flit is the heir to Anaheim Electronics.  Fact: Flit is the true Gundam meister.
Fact: Flit is the heir to Anaheim Electronics.  Fact: Flit is the true Gundam meister.

Space BuCUEs are not dumb as one would expect.
Space BuCUEs are not dumb as one would expect.

A main character that wants an actual pilot to control the gundam instead of his inexperienced self?  Amazing.
A main character that wants an actual pilot to control the gundam instead of his inexperienced self?  Amazing.

Ok Grobek.  You're pretty alright.
Ok Grobek.  You're pretty alright.

The last Gundam capital ship that had a traditional look got us Seed Destiny.  Just sayin'.
The last Gundam capital ship that had a traditional look got us Seed Destiny.  Just sayin'.

Great pick up line, or greatest pick up line?
Great pick up line, or greatest pick up line?

Loli on your lap by episode 2.  Char would be proud.
Loli on your lap by episode 2.  Char would be proud.

 The UE are actually humans exiled from earth after the last war ended, and are now back to reclaim their home.  You heard it here first folks.
 The UE are actually humans exiled from earth after the last war ended, and are now back to reclaim their home.  You heard it here first folks.

 The Age Builder: It slices, it dices, it can mass produce the Big Zam.
 The Age Builder: It slices, it dices, it can mass produce the Big Zam.

You can see through time.
You can see through time.

Are those dog ears?  What the fuck is this, Loveless?
Are those dog ears?  What the fuck is this, Loveless?
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