This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls.
The schedule for these posts is going to be altered, so as to better fit the season as well as my own needs.
Over the past year, these episode reflections of mine have come out on Wednesday’s or so regardless of what my actual viewing schedule was. Sometimes a show would air on the same day (like Free! – Eternal Summer last season, or Coppelion this time last year), but it usually would not be too much of an issue given the room I had for other series.
Things are a bit different this time around though. From where I live, Gundam Build Fighters Try and Sega Hard Girls both air on a Wednesday. In addition, one has the crazy episode release cycle of the new Tenchi Muyo! series, which usually also means I end up having to catch a few stray episodes of that to have a full batch. Gundam Reconguista in G comes out on Thursday, though this also means by consolidating my episode writings any post I make on it goes up just hours before a new one is already out, so I do not see them a too big of a draw.
I really do not fancy the idea of sitting down during my free time, having to drill through all three shows in a hurry, and rapidly spit out a reflection on each of them so as make some sort of imagined “due” date. I feel anything resembling a standard would be primed to diminish quite rapidly as the season wears on. Plus, I would have very little margin for error (if a social or professional engagement comes up on Wednesday, I would be screwed this season given the pileup).
So I will move the automation of these posts going forwards to Thursday / Friday, depending on personal circumstances, merely so as to give myself more wiggle room time for most of what I am watching. I do not get paid for this after all, and I do not want to risk pulling any allnighters for some random episodics post. The usual early weekend placement of the Mothballs posts I will just push back perhaps 12 – 24 hours to Saturday – Sunday; I get much more headroom with those after all, so they are not all that affected. The longer essays will still come out whenever I feel like, as I usually now hope to have one together over the course of a given month.
I could just make these airing show posts a pile of quirky and delightful screenshots from the Sega high school show! But I like to at least pretend people come here on purpose to read what I wrote, so I am just looking out to ensure I have something reasonably nice to show visitors without the process of generating these posts interfering too much with my actual life outside of the blog!
I mean, unless someone wanted to hire me professionally for this sort of thing (as few of those market opportunities as there are notwithstanding) and make them more elaborate, detailed, attention to more types of craft per entry, or the like.
But even then, I feel my other material elsewhere on the site is often what I am prouder of!
Though I am glad you are here, just the same.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes eight through twelve]
(This is slightly behind the current broadcast as I adjust my posting schedule shift, and will be rectified next time)
In trying to break down how to talk about this series over the long term, as I seem to be stuck with this selection at this point, I keep spinning around in circles.
It does not play too well to episodic breakdown bits, as they are not self contained gag episodes like a Miss Monochrome. The general connective tissue is rather free flowing. They do not really work as a collected soup. It seems to be a running theme that about once a week I will have at least one episode taking place in an entirely different time period that is directly narratively connected to the other episodes which take place in the past, but with large gaps between them and as of this time little connection to the events of the present. There will also be at least one recap episode per week, should the present release course be maintained.
I suppose I can start with the recap, which by my count is episode ten, as their presence is what will continue to confuse me the most going forwards.
Due to the release schedule, and as episode five was itself also a recap, this encapsulates episodes six through nine. So, it covers some of what I went over last week, due to the cycle. What gets me though, more so this time that last when I was reeling at other matters, is these are not “full” condensed recaps. Which is to say: episode eight of this batch, which is the one that takes place in the past, does not appear in the episode ten recap at all. Likewise, episode seven from the previous week, where Tenchi went home and we were able to see some more of the familiar franchise faces? Present, but their bit is framed very weirdly from the rest of the episodes included. With the narrator of these being Momo, they are all done from her point of view. Not just from a speaking role, mind you, but her insight and commentary is all based around was was going on in her head at the time (like holding Tenchi’s hand when they escapes the underground mining caverns last week).
She flat out has no palpable information to provide regarding what went on during the going home at the end of the day episode. Some remarks about how it was a hectic day, so rest is important, but otherwise she goes off on a tangent regarding a time she ate a bunch of white peaches. On the one hand, this sorta works from the perspective that narratively she would not have seen these events. At the same time however, well, this is a recap episode for a handful of episodes which individually amount to four minutes or less.
What slays me the most is it is here, where Momo really has no clue where to take the narration, this is where they plug Okayama prefecture. In this case, that it apparently has tasty peaches which are number one in the country, in the opinion of Touri as relayed to use by Momo. So, not even maybe a regional contest, festival, whatnot they may have been received well in. Not even perhaps some words said to be from an established character of the franchise, really. This is about as flimsy as a connection to the regional area or tourism aspect of the series inception as one can get without full on forgetting to plug at all.
I had to look up who Touri even was. The series has dumped so many new characters out and speeds along such where names and adequate attention can be difficult to make the mental sticky note. As it turns out, she is the deep green haired student with the computer notation habit for everything she observes. It is not quite the same as if, say, Washu or someone had remarked that there are some good peaches out there.
The one other major sticking point that hits me with this set, going back to the episode eight adventures in the past for whatever location transmitters Tenchi is seeking there.
Namely, his coming upon and meeting with Ryoko in the past. And she has no idea who he is but finds the idea that someone knows her name (and thus assumingly her space pirate reputation) intriguing. For all the shuffling of chronology and timelines in the larger series, this itself I have very little problem with. Really, it is within the more relevant things the series could choose to do in the past. Ryoko landing on Earth in distant days of yore is a certain chain of events in the original OVA series for instance (though the circumstances of her mental state were wildly different). If that was to be remixed here in its own way, well, I am fine with that on the whole. Whatever media empire this franchise has managed to carve out over the years is more of a loose collection of ideas and flexible central characters than anything else.
None of the other episodes this week deal with this potentially interesting little nugget any further though. The other four afterward are either back to slapdash student council events in the present, or the recap episode. Which, since the recap does not mention the episode which took place in the past, had someone genuinely missed out on watching some episodes that entire event would go by without so much as a nod. The recaps effectively fail as summaries.
Finally, it has been quite a while since I have been as disappointed to see a robot as I was here.
From the moment it rolls in at the end of episode eight, one with much of any experience with the franchise knows it is a mobile armor belonging to officers of the Galaxy Police. And out pops Mihoshi, looking for Ryoko as she is. As Mihoshi was always portrayed as the ditziest or most airheaded of the group in even her earliest appearances back in the 1990’s Tenchi Muyo entries, I am already dreading what sort of exaggeration her characterization or camera angles will go through here in this series of freewheeling panty shots and ball gags.
Whenever it happens to remember getting back around to that secondary timeline, of course.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode three]
Now that the Try Fighters are together as a team, baring some formalities which needed to be taken care of this week regarding Yuuma’s transition from the Plamo club to the Gunpla Battle one, we begin to enter what one would assume to be the more episofic phase before the eventual regional qualifiers on up.
This does also mean the episode has slowed down a fair bit. Needing to deal in matters of practice simulations, Sekai not being very good with his Gunpla when he can not punch things, Mr Ral really wanting to deploy his custom Gouf for sparing and helping to coach the kids but not being allowed to have the match for comedic timing reasons, and so on. But this does not mean I felt the episode was bad.
I mean, this episode had a robot fight that was stated to be taking place in a forest field, and yet when one of the mecha was punched hard enough they burst what was actually a wall in space colony field. So that alone would be interesting, as far as ways the battlefield and game dynamics may shift this season. And even that is way less pressing in my mind than some other aspects on hand this week.
Saint Odessa Girls’ School, as the location of an arranged interschool practice match, is a really interesting place to me. For one thing, a really ornate shoujo style academy setting, complete with all the trimmings of roses and sparkles to match, is something I feel Gundam could always get a lot more mileage out of in general. It opens up avenues to a lot of really great design choices, and it is noteworthy that Mamoru Nagano of the very traditionally shoujo leaning visuals of The Five Star Stories contributed to the mecha designs of Zeta Gundam way back when. Even better than that, they act as being a prime location to naturally increase the number of prominent young women characters within the fictional universe we are dealing in here.
As the episode is entitled then, “Her Name is Gyanko.”
Real name Sazaki Kaoruko, she is the younger sister to Susumu from the first series.
Susumu himself, while floated a bit as an Annoying Rival Our Leads Are Clearing Better Than, was one of what I considered to be the weaker characters in that series. He never gets a whole lot of screen time outside of his bit archetype role, so he never has much of an opportunity to advance beyond being just a mosquito that our leads swat away sometimes before the series pretty much sidelines him. None of his scenes stand out to me anywhere near highlights of the show, looking back on it these months down the road.
The handling of his sister then looks to change some of this. For one thing, that we see her not just during the practice match proper, but also have an entire post episode scene involving her meeting up with our cast again on their way to school. It alone would suggest that we would be seeing a whole lot more of her to come, and in situations outside of Gunpla battle. Furthermore though, there is the matter that she so prominently has a crush on Sekai and everyone but him knows it, so this will also be something the series will be dealing going ahead. This further dodges any pre-release and early going fears of Team Try Fighters itself being a love triangle, in conjunction with Yuuma clearly having a thing for Sekai’s older sister (which I will assume will go nowhere). A lot of these bits in these early episodes seem to be clearly delineating this vectors early on, which I can appreciate. It both establishes its characters feelings early on (and these are middle schoolers, so random infatuations are easy to justify), and dealing with them more prominently upfront ideally leads to even better payoffs as the eventual tournament shows up and rounds advance.
Another thing with Gyanko though, and it has indeed been a significant part of conversations I have seen about this series: she is not only presented as a rival to the team in general, or a potential love interest for one. But she is also physically larger as a person compared to how Gundam often handles such characters. She is tall enough to the point where she needs to bend down to bring a lunch she prepared for Seaki to even his head level, in addition to having a more plus sized figure in general. Compared to a lot of the ways Gundam has portrayed young women and love interests over the years, from a raw design standpoint, Gyanko is quite different and rather refreshing in that respect. Her presence makes the series so much more inclusive in her own ways, in addition to the facets of having Fumina being the de facto leader of her team.
There is still so much the franchise can to do to go farther, of course.
But Operation Odessa in the original Mobile Suit Gundam was a major turning point during the war. One can hope the representative of an all girls school named as a franchise reference to that event can do something similar regarding character designs and treatments we can hope for in the years to come.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode four]
(This is slightly behind the current broadcast as I adjust my posting schedule shift, and will be rectified next time)
This is very well the most direct and straightforward to follow episode of G-Reco so far, I feel.
Which, as we are also a little over a solid one-sixth of the series now, poking and prodding at what Tomino is doing well or wrong becomes quite a bit easier.
For all the general credit this series receives for being more of a stylistic throwback to his older mecha work of the 1970’s and 80’s, those show tended to be larger than a twenty six television episode framing. Not that Tomino has never worked in a smaller format. Heck, Overman King Gainer and The Wings of Rean are amongst his most recent series work prior to this, and they are twenty six and six episodes, respectively. But, as this fourth episode slowed down drastically (by this series standards), some larger elements are crystallizing a bit clearer in my eyes and what I walk away with. In particular, I get the feeling this has all the content of a larger high thirties to low fifties episode show, but has been crunched down into a smaller box for time.
Of note, regarding all the classic robot shows Tomino wrote and directed in those days of multiple decades past, while 1977’s Zambot 3 was twenty three episodes, all of his other robot shows had much heftier episode counts. For a writer who very much can tend to veer into various eccentricities at the cost of tighter narrative structure, he gets milage out of that extra space to strech out. Though again, remember Mobile Suit Gundam only really took off after it was edited down to three movies.
So G-Reco does very much feel like one of those older robot shows, to be sure. But it also carries with it how that feeling would go had they been squashed down and sped up. It is the sort of thing when one has a general idea at the start that things may be rushed and chaotic early on, but once the show lets up a bit on the raw speed the actual pace one has been running at gets recontrecualized.
It is never a good sign when even Toshio Okada, former Studio Gainax president and the “Otaking” himself is making web videos talking about how he has difficulty grasping what Tomino is trying to do here and for what audience.
On the top level, the plot of this episode is a simple enough matter.
Our “hostages,” all but literally pushed off to be captured by the pirates as they were so as to be bait and data testing, have various dialogues with their captors. As Bellri and Raraiya can also pilot the G-Self without issue, as Aida can, this is something our nomadic force wants to test out and see. Then wouldn’t you know it, since Bellri counts as the son of a high ranking government official the nation can justify an armed police action to get them back. A perfect opportunity for the brand new Capital Army to be deployed, distinct as it is from the Capital Guard defense group. So, all according to plan from our higher ups, aside from how Bellri is not too keen on the existence of the Capital Army and its related military expansion for a religiously lead country that did not used to have one.
Easy enough, when one puts it like that.
Because we are not snapping all over the place as much, moving as we are here largely from events in one room / cockpit / battlefield to another in a more logical and linear progression, the chain of this is easier to follow. Yet by doing so, it does open up those issues when it can more seem at times like characters are talking past one another due to some sort of conversational compression, without a more chaotic cutting veneer to distract from it or provide better plausible deniability for disconnects. Which is doubly unfortunate given some of the matters being woven around the dialogue. The issue of photon batteries and energy production rears its head again, nebulous technological advancement taboos, Raraiya speaking two entirely normal full sentences for the first time in the series so far (“You have pretty eyes” to Klim and “No, Chuchumy’s happy like this. So happy.” to Noredo), some of the larger wars being fought between Ameria and Gondwan, and so on.
Two which stick out to me though, of which one is only directly noticed by the characters themselves at the time: “things” keep coming from space, and Aida and Belri each suffered visible chest pain during a point of messing around with the G-Self’s cockpit controls and a noise was made.
Now, chest pains in general are never good in life, to be sure. But, that being said, going back to the notion that Raraiya, Aida, and Belri could have some sort of multinational or similar link that will be important to the thematics of this series going ahead. They can all pilot the G-Self for some reason, despite very varied backgrounds and other folks from their respective sides failing at it. One does not introduce a potential plot element as clear for the taking without committing gross negligence to their own creation (which, given, some would say is well within Tomino’s wheelhouse to do). The characters themselves do not seem to pick up on the simultaneous reaction they just had though, which while it was not on the more catastrophic end of the chest pain spectrum is potentially questionable given their proximity.
Perhaps more directly crucial though is the notion that “things” keep showing up out of nowhere in space. Now, the specifics of these sare not gone into much, this information showing up more near the end of the episode. However, even Raraiya and the G-Self are of curious origin, so the idea that other machines, people, or so on of any manner of varieties without be within the possibility of information we already know. Raraiya combat or soldier intentions seem to be fairly minimal given her usual demeanor so far, though that may well not be the case if there are others in situations like hers were when they are found.
Given the bridge this series is to act as, coming out of the Universal Century and on toward another timeline as it is, the part such actors would play and where they would be coming would shape a huge part of how much the sins of this universe’s present are more or less the same ones as the era which preceded them. With all of the thematic matters the series has already floated though, I am not entirely sure which way I would want the series to learn. Attempting to give a message akin to history repeating itself regardless of the best intentions of others is a reliable narrative. One can also go the route where any radicalism that may have some out of an attempt to move beyond the end of the UC time may have made things worse in its own ways. We will have a better handle on the situation as more information develops of course, and I have read enough of the pre-release information to be very interested in how one particular spoiler later on in the series will be handled.
But there is a lot going on in this show, to the point where I feel there are so many potential theme threads for it go down that it may well be able to bury itself in total with half finished ideas. So Tomino’s detractors are not necessarily wrong here. But I remain hopeful. We still have fully animated character dance midcards as episode transitions for instance, rather than something more destructive, so it is a series that does want to be positive on some level.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode three]
It feels weird saying the “old” credits are back this week, given that the show has only been on the air for three episodes.
I happen to like the Sega franchises and references parade that this version of the credits are more than the idol dance sequence credits, though that is not to say that I dislike the latter either. The creative team related and stylistically similar gdgd Fairies just happens to have an idol dance ending of their own as well, and the Sega materials drive a lot of the visual flavor for this series as a distinctive factor. I imagine next week will be back to the idol dance, then returning to the super deformed credits, and so on, as the format of the show seems to maintain a setting where the episodes are effectively two parters. A first half at the academy, an eventual scene in the JoyJoy Room about where the next assignment for the girls are, and a follow-up the week after inside of a game world selected.
So Space Channel 5, while we saw a bit this week, will be tackled more thoroughly next time. Much to the Mega Drive’s alarm, I am sure. It is a very interesting choice to me as Dreamcast game to cycle towards, after Sega Saturn’s (as far as home ports are concerned) Virtua Fighter. Games such as Crazy Taxi or Jet Set Radio would be just as natural selections for example (and JSR even shows up in the newer credits this week), as they have just as bright and colorful color choices as Space Channel 5. The later is even largely responsible for the popularization for a time of cel-shaded video game graphics, so it would even have a direct avenue to a slightly altered graphical style. The selection of Space Channel 5 though I feel tells a few things. For one, Ulala is a solidly fun female character from Sega’s roster of the era, and still makes appearance in titles like their multi-franchise racing and sports games. She has a very quotable retro-future verbal style, and her music rhythm game series leads itself to rather silly and exaggerated moments as she attempts to rescue hostages from aliens with the power of dance.
Crucially, and this is perhaps its bigger factor as a selection for a television show like this, are the core gameplay mechanics for Space Channel 5 are very simple to learn. The characters even go through the rhythm motions here! Up, down, etc on the directional pad end of things, and “Chu” for actually blasting an alien. That is all one needs to do to play. So as a game it is very easy to build a television episode setting around, since like Virtua Fighter the basic objective and the how/why is easy to get across due to the relatively few rules it needs to get across.
Also much like Virtua Fighter, Space Channel 5’s visual format (in this case a rhythm game where the parties are apart from one another) has a very defined staging and blocking element. It is the kind of thing which allows the simplicity of the moveset to create character situations for humor with ease, while the game itself also is not drowning out the experience for those with less of a personal background with it. The characters remain in focus, elastic as they are through the worlds they will travel to.
And that is good design, and paramount to this show doing well for others who are not giant Sega nerds like myself.
Now, Space Channel 5 takes up very little of this episode, in terms of total running time.
It is fun to see Dreamcast be absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of meeting Ulala (the similarities of their character design from a color perspective should not go unnoticed), but most of the episode is actually not about that at all. It is about the lobby scene, which I had mentioned as a potential hub in the first episode.
Now, this was prime gdgd Fairies material, right here. A simple topical discussion (“What happens after we graduate?”), very casual, and rapidly ramping up to levels that are both wholly over the top and yet quite sincere from the person speaking them. The humor is not hyper, so much as it is merely increasingly exaggerated. Sega Saturn growing up to become a weather reporter, marrying a foreign baseball player, having the rich and famous lifestyle before a crushing series of declining game performances and poor financial management resulting in her making crafts out of a small apartment to even attempt to provide for her family.
One could easily see pkpk, shrshr, and krkr having this kind of conversation over tea in the fairy forest, and who would have what kind of line deliveries in different areas of the script to either amp up to comment upon the developing fictional future. Yet it still feels like a natural extension of what Dreamcast, Saturn, and Mega Drive might talk about and behave like as individuals in their own right here in this show, given their prior characterizations (they even had a small conversation about potential dating partners in the first episode, which this sort of dovetails with). So as much as gdgd Fairies led to this series being developed as it has been, Sega Hard Girls does not feel wholly like a simple reskin with the character names scrubbed off. Stylistically similar in places, to be sure. But able to stand on its own as well, and have its own tweaks and quirks to the characters personalities to have its own voice as well.
As an aside, on a personal level I found Mega Drive’s joke / mixing up of maps between Japan and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the weather forecast sequence because she wants to study abroad in the latter to be quite identifiable. I wanted to study abroad a lot when I was in the later points of high school and looking towards college and university as well. While I never made it to Bosnia and Herzegovina specifically, I did still make it to parts of the former Yugoslavia like Serbia and Kosovo. In addition to many, many others, ranging from Rwanda to the Ukrainian parts of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster zone.
So to me, it is just neat to see a representation of a game console I spent a lot of time with as a kid talking about wanting to do the whole study abroad thing when they graduate.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.