This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls.
The dust has settled. A week has advanced. I even delayed the timing of this post a few hours just to be sure. And nobody has yet licensed or subtitled Konna Watashi-tachi ga Nariyuki de Heroine ni Natta Kekka www.
That means I am still stuck with….
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes three through seven]
This series has an awful, terrible distribution model.
Episodes seem to be chucked out of a careening van, given the volume over a mere seven days. This does, admittedly, begin to create something of a psychological effect when one realizes they have five episodes of a show like this to watch. Despite them only being four minutes apiece, even a little less if you cut the credits, it feels like a lot more intensive an endeavor as a series of mechanical motions than if one settles in for a single twenty minute episode. Which, for a series like this which was already a sour experience for me, is not a good thing.
Even if one tries to tie the first five episodes together as a single package, as some have argued for (even series director Hiroshi Negishi himself), that still seems out of alignment with the actual flow of these segments or what they are focusing on.
Episode three veers off to an unrelated alternative timeline. Outside of a time travel nod the series may explore later (maybe for the tourism vehicle this is supposed to be?), this serves little but to showcase old standby resident series mad scientist Washu for a bit before having Tenchi go through the same intro he had with Momo again. But this time in a more feudal setting and she is even younger. Episode four and six swing back to the school setting, which Tenchi getting away from his capture for a student run torture cell and/or BDSM chamber, and a massive underground student council run excavation project.
Episode five is a recap episode, of all things.
I honest to goodness can not think of another short series off the top of my head that felt a need to deploy such a measure, let alone so early in its run. And I like to think I have seen at least a reasonable amount of anime to be rather surprised by this.
Episode seven is Tenchi returning home from a day of student teaching. Which is, in many ways, even more depressing than any of the previous six episodes.
You see, this is the episode where we get to see the most members of the original core cast again in one spot. Washu had a little nod earlier, but here the production also rolls out (in order) Sasami, Ayeka, and Ryoko.
And it seems downright insulting, from a certain perspective.
Scratch that. It is insulting.
One has to sit through numerous panty shots and cleavage heaves of all manner of new and barely named characters this production wants to push just to get to any additional members of the core characters that anyone who does remember this franchise in this day and age recalls it for. Characters whose introductions are now seen as secondary even against having a recap episode for a series which had only aired four episodes of a few minutes each, or strapping Tenchi into ball gag situations with his aforementioned students.
Some would say the franchise as a whole has long since lost any edge its early 1990’s progenitors had. I would point out that Ryoko does not even have spiky hair anymore.
The two may as well mean one and the same.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode two]
While last episode laid out the groundwork, here we pour the foundation.
That Fumina, Sekai, and Yuuma are going to form up a Bunpla battle team and make a run for the Championship is all but a given. It is that sort of show, and indeed last episode we already had the narration at the end about Team Try Fighters meeting for the first time and all that. So what needs to come into play are the mechanisms by which they do all join together. As Fumina has already recruited Sekai, that amounts to just needing to wrangle Yuuma into all of this as a battler rather than just a builder, and there we go.
In this case then, we have more of the backstory relating to Fumina and Yuuma having once made plans as kids that they would play Gunpla battle together and one day try and compete for the Championship. Then, some years later, Yuuma was utterly dismantled in a fight against an opponent whose phyical appearance we never really get a good look at (and, for this kind of show, I am sure we will see in due time episodes from now for an inevitable rematch). Such was he level of defeat that he quit Gunpla Battle entirely, to focus solely on the model building aspects instead. It is a serviceable background to have. That the show makes work of it in good time in addition to then also moving ahead enough to where the large school Plastic Model Club he is a member of is having a trial of absorption for the now two member Gunpla Battle Club is to its benefit as well. Yuuma does not need the deepest of reasons to have quit competitive Gunpla Battle; getting smacked around hard enough in a match as a kid is the sort of thing where one can see a person going “I am never playing this again!” pretty easily.
It also provides a bit of a natural cameo for his sister China during his flashback to originally not wanting to play the game anymore. She was with us last season, but her age would be scaled up a few years due to the overall time skip. Something particularly nice about that scene is that the show never makes the express moment to point out who she is, so the narrative flow never breaks. If one already knows she is his sister they are just fine. But if not, then context alone still provides she is a supportive family member of some kind to him and the sequence continues to function because of how it is put together.
Having shown her a bit here, their more specific familial relationship can come out in a more appropriate situational fashion later, such as our new leads later meeting China by coming over to the Kousaka house or some-such.
Aside from the expected absorption battle which the Plastic Model Club needs to lose so our series can continue to function as a robot battle production, I did also appreciate something else quite a bit this episode sought out to do.
Namely, as Sekai’s older sister Mirai is set up as someone Yuuma thinks is quite stunning (though she likely has no idea he exists and would have minimal interest), it dodges some of the potential love triangle questions one could have regarding the core team. Fumina and Sekai already had their “falling on top of each other in pursuit of the same object” moment last episode, and were Yuuma thrown in as some sort of childhood crush vector for Fumina on the team as well, this entire enterprise could quickly delve into a real relationship mess. A highlight of the original Build Fighters were its relationships and crushes were very cute and endearing, but they were means for good character moments and never distracted from the overall show.
A big love triangle between teammates would risk dragging this series into more genuine drama swamp territory, while its strengths tend to be more in an overall sense of levity, joy, and forward momentum. It seems to recognize that as well, which is a good move for a second season already introducing as game changing a mechanic as three on three battles.
Finally, on a more serious note I want to bring up:
This was the week Masashi Hirose had to step down from continuing to voice Mr. Ral due to hospitalization and health reasons. He has voiced Ral across all kinds of media since the original Mobile Suit Gundam several decades ago. Episodes three and four of Try have already been recorded with any of his Ral involvement, while Katsuhisa Houki will take over starting at episode five.
Hirose’s presence has been a lot of fun in this show given the passion he still brings to the character, and I am sure he still wants to be involved. But it is the far better decision for him to be looking out for his health and seeking recovery at this time. I wish him the very best.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode three]
We continue ever deeper into Yoshiyuki Tomino’s current headspace.
There are a lot of folks who abide by notions of a “three episode test” for a show, prior to deciing to drop one. While I do not ascribe by such hard and fast rules myself, if one did not happen to enjoy any of what was going on in the first episode of G-Reco, I can not imagine their opinions would have turned around for the better by now. Situations rattle off one after another. There are a still lot of characters, concepts, groups, and so on all being fired out of a cannon for all the subtlety of transition they can at times have. Interspersed with all of this, we do get Tomino going off into wacky animal faces mode for certain reaction shots, as mecha terrorize what is should be our Brazilian center of operations thus far. The audience can very much feel like they are being jerked around, and I can sympathize with those who have been expressing such frustrations. I am merely very used to Tomino’s shenanigans over the years, so my expectation has always been one where the show would start to pick up more concrete grounding around perhaps episodes five or six.
What this series could use, and what I expect it to move into when the time comes, is to better separate and compartmentalize its scattershot narrative elements. Right now the series is hurling out everything from love at first sight, the ethical use of tools, prejudice based on ancestral heritage, energy and fuel matters, religion as political power, robot fights, family relations, and so much else.
The show is cramped as it tries to handle all of this at once, and Tomino’s attempts to throw the viewer in with the same sense of confusion he feels the central characters may have.
Eventually, I feel it will smooth out as the show spreads folks out more and tries to tackle things with more measured and attention. There is no reason at this time for me to assume Tomino is not sticking to his usual game plan, for any better or worse implementation though it may be.
Raraiya Monday’s origin, limited present language, and general freaking out whenever in the presence of the Gundam she herself was discovered would be a natural lynchpin for a lot of the story. Almost to the point where I fear she is in danger of being little more than such a plot device unless she gets more robust scenes in general, and ideally both before and after any such reveal.
What I would consider to be more important in the shorter term is the chase to and any interactions with the pirate faction / Ameria special ops team Aida would be associated with. They would have the most ammount of information concerning the discovered mobile suit of the factions we are presently aware of, as they had the longest period for potential research and testing. Likewise, as an outsider group they would be in a fitting position to opine on the Capital Guard and related national arms we have been bouncing around inside of these three episodes. They would be the natural means by which dialogue, debate, or otherwise explanation about the state of the world as it is now and they see it as present could come more into center stage and begin to slow down a little.
As Raraiya, Aida, and Bellri can all pilot the G-Self just fine and without any lockout issue, and each can be assumed at this stage to come from vastly different national backgrounds, this too I feel will be crucial thematically going forwards. The Reguild century fits into this very weird place in the timeline, where the orders of the Universal Century collapsed years ago and the one after the Reguild yet to come. If it wanted to make a crack at some ideas regarding human unity or trying to put the past behind them or the like, I would understand that.
Particularly where even the best intended of ideas may be ones that do not tend to work out as expected.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode two]
We return to the wonderful world of Virtua Fighter.
Complete with jokes where, after Akira is hurling his basic punching moveset in the background to his “You were ten years too early!” line, the Dreamcast remarks that he looks a lot more angular in person. So he collapses while quietly remarking “I was ten years too early?” as Saturn and Dreamcast chat about their graphical situation (the Virtua Fighter arcade port was one of the Saturn’s first titles, and was even a pack-in game for the US launch).
It is simple enough humor, but it is both what I signed up for and it never dwells too long on a specific punchline, so it flows well as a series of interactions.
Having a fighting game for the first game exploration challenge does serve at least two very particular purposes.
For one, it gets across the general idea of how these in-game events will function, while using a very straightforward game genre to understand the basic mechanics of. In this case, each of the girls being given a single Virtua Fighter move, and they are told they need to work together to win. This will allow for easier transitions into more involved or hyper specific game mechanics in the future (Space Channel 5 is next week for instance, where I imagine each girl may have certain button presses and they need to be in sync). Any given viewer would at least understand the general flow of how a fighting game would go however, so it makes a swell starting point in addition to the historical aspects of Virtua Fighter’s place in video game history.
Secondly, well: you know that saying about a joke being funny at first, but the more one repeats it the less funny it becomes? Until it is repeated enough and in conjunction with the right timing (the “There is no possible way they would say/do that again right now”) it comes back around and is thus funny again? That is sort of the only possible joke ruleset one can do for a fighting game episode challenge and in this style of show. Which is to say: our cast needs to defeat not only the entire Virtua Fighter cast, but then also some various oddities, custom settings, and then just flat out needing to bring the smackdown to characters from entirely different games. For one hundred wins in all.
It is the kind of method where, as a second episode it may not be as strong or varied as the first, but it would likely bomb had it comes more towards the end of the series after more advanced cards had already been played. This does, in its own way, give the series room to move forwards and build up, which I can appreciate. Better to do this now than later, expecially as Virtua Fighter would be a key game they would almost have to bring up for this kind of fan letter of a show.
I must say, that the final boss of this challenge happens to be a rather particular leader of Sega’s own steam powered mecha contingent? Who destroys a lot of each of their health bars essentially on the raw power of their original game level Full Motion Video special moves?
That is rather nifty to see adapted as a gag in a genuine fully animated television series, itself done to look by and large like a video game.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.