This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls.
It is getting dark out a whole lot earlier in the day now, and on some days that is weirdly fitting depending on what program I am watching.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes thirteen through eighteen]
This bundle of episodes was a whole board of emotions for me.
Given, a collection of negative ones, mind you. But, a lot of reminders of things that I do honestly want to like on some level.
I just… can not.
Of the often maligned Tenchi in Tokyo part of the franchise for instance, one of the only episodes of that show I can say I enjoyed was the one where Ryoko and Tenchi have a date. It is a nice enough episode that shoves a lot of the extraneous material from that season to the side to focus instead on two core characters. So, as far as Tenchi Muyo! Love should be considered, an episode where Ryoko makes dinner for Tenchi should be a pretty easy ball to pitch for either more serious (however unlikely) or comedic effect. This show is directed by Hiroshi Negishi, who for whatever shocking failings this series possess he has directed better material in this franchise. He should have something of a well to draw from here, particularly for episodes about characters he has worked with before.
And here, the episode in question (fourteen) just stumbled along with a plodding pace and sense of disinterest. Ryoko can not cook, which is an established part of her character elsewhere to be sure. But, in previous instances where this has occurred, she has merely made generically bad food folks have bad reactions to. And there is comedy in that which can be derived. But she was not wrestling with tentacle beasts or the like, the series were never so overbearing in how Alien And Wrong her food selections were. People feared Ryoko’s cooking because she was terrible with flavors clashing, not because her food may pose an active fight to the death. It is comes across tonally as an exceedingly low effort attempt to make the situation funny without having to actively write comedic timing for the scenario.
Which, for a an episode which is built around a single joke (Ryoko is known to be bad at cooking, so nobody wants to eat her dinner), screams all the more of the lackadaisical handling of this entire show.
The recap episode has thirty seconds of outright dead air from Momo’s narration commentary, in an episode that is three minutes in length if you cut out the credits. Not to make these write-ups a constant refrain on these sequences, but, the recaps serve seemingly no purpose outside of eating up a fifth of the total running time of the series. We have episodes at school, Tenchi’s home, and the past, and even with breaks every five episodes for selective summation they are a rather confusing assortment of clips and commentary if someone was actually relying on them to be filled in from. Momo, again, is not so much talking about what went on in these episodes so much as she is talking about what she was feeling at the time (assuming she was in or near the scene in question, which which case she says nothing). Which are not one and the same, leaving one all the more lost if they missed episodes.
This is relatively basic creative writing material we are talking about here.
And this series botches even that.
Elsewhere, we have the making of a school festival arc. Which is a painful prospect to consider, as I tend to look forward to festival settings and I do not trust this production anywhere near enough for the kinds of events it may have going forwards.
For now though, I can say I had precisely one laugh from this series, which be marked within episode seventeen. As our older cast members are running something of a for profit cafe at the school event, Ryoko gets be high step gamboling around as a cartoony black suited suited bouncer enforcer type. So the sight of that is indication at least one animator was having something of a fun day at at work.
As something of a secondary positive, the show does seem to have a responsible handling on Sasami’s character. Given that teenage height Sasami is by and large a novelty, given how much physically younger she was before in the franchise, it is nice to see that aspect of the show has not been warped into some sort of unrecognizable pandering mush.
This does mean I am effectively complementing the show on relatively basic matters of not horrifying or depressing me with its execution. But, small drops of victories here I feel should be appreciated given the general desert it is lost within.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode four]
There is no ground in outer space, which is the kind of important lesson about spatial geometry one can appreciate in a series about fighting toy robots in simulated battle environments.
More seriously though, this was the most workmanlike episode of the series thus far. This is fair enough, as we have established multiple core characters over the previous three episodes. So things slowing down a bit and talking through training, which robots on the Try Fighters team specialize in what as Fumina attempts to find a new Gundam model to fill the gap between Sekai and Yuuma (as the style of the former is entirely close range combat, and the later a sniper), and the like all make sense. Given, we as viewers already know from things like the promotional materials that she will be putting her Powered GM Cardigan aside in favor of a custom SD Gundam named the Winning Gundam.
But, the question is how, and the journey of its creation and design become the goal to see play out here.
Fumina and Sekai get a nice little date day visiting the real life sized RX-78 Gundam and some surrounding Gundam displays for inspiration and such, which I hope is not an indication that this is actually being floated a more romantic relationship vector.
Sekai’s sister seems to think so at any rate, and is out and about following them around, but one can chalk that up to humor and antics of her not understanding a situation. At least, that is what I hope. Again, something of a concern of mine for this series would be if the leads needed to carry something of a love triangle amongst themselves (and as Yuuma is a childhood friend of Fumina, there is that direction the series could call on all well if desired).
Not that they can not have crushes or desire relationships of course (they are middle schoolers, they both want all kinds of things and at the same time have no idea what they want). But, a series like this which is so much of a celebration of Gundam, is best served I feel by having a large variety of characters to meet and interact with along the way. It gives a natural point for all kinds of interesting folks for our leads to develop cute crushes on. If it were to be directed more internally amongst the three of them as the series advances, there is the consideration it in turn makes the world feel smaller and more restricted as a result. Plus, after just having introduced Gyanko last episode, it would be really nice if the Hotblooded Hero Guy of the group ended up with the larger girl who clearly thinks Sekai is a pretty cool guy.
This is also the very last episode Masashi Hirose will be voicing Mr. Ral due to ongoing health complications, as previously mentioned.
He brought a lot of energy and fun to the role he had played in one form or another since the origional Mobile Suit Gundam series, and here one last time he gets to talk about having an itchy butt when the kid characters talk about potentially awkward things around him.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episodes five and six]
There were not actually two episodes this week, unlike at the start of the season when the first two came out back to back.
Rather, due to my schedule change for these episodics, things have ended up where I will need to sqeeze two together, so forgive me if things may seem a bit on the cramped side.
Something which has slowly been dawning on me over the course of the show has been a consistent naming of machines with terms like Hecate, Grimoire, Arcane, and so on. There is also the consideration of there being a above the board technological taboo which hinders or outright prevents various developments within this universe, so as to seemingly prevent a decline back to the ways of the Universal Century timeline. How much of this naming scheme then is a show of respect to the destructive power of the equipment the military forces are using, with a further acknowledgement they may indeed be capable of a rather hellish deeds, is an interesting flavor consideration.
There is the natural branding justification in that it makes things just “Sound Cool” as it were (Gundam’s having been named things like Deathscythe elsewhere in the franchise, after all) for selling model kits to the imaginations of potential merchandise buyers.
But this is besides the point.
Working somewhat off of this though, Bellri has no idea how much fighting power the Capital Army may have at its full disposal.
While it has been established somewhat rushed in dialogue, the understanding is that while the Capital Guard of which Bellri is from was a simple enough bare minimum self defense force that did not engage in invasions or international interventions and the like, the Capital Army has been more of a power grab and behind the scenes force being established by the political power players. With then Bellri’s self instigated capture and hostage situation in turn played into the hands of allowing for rapid expansion and showcasing of, what with him being the son of the Operations Director (who herself has also been out of the military expansion loop).
This, I feel, all follows logically enough when laid out like this as a series of words and sentences I am writing here. It makes sense Bellri would and would not know certain things, and the justifications for the Captial Army getting to expand and deploy as it has does work within standard fictional parameters of brinksmanship and surges for political or military gain. Though I also fully understand that there are very real feelings held by both myself and others that the show has sort of rushed the groundwork for this. It sort of flows within Yoshiyuki Tomino’s tendency to throw the viewer into more of an experiential version of geopolitical events, so things can at times seem very much to come out of nowhere for characters or viewers.
But, I feel less like a well laid jack in the box has been sprung by the people in power more through omission of their activity than through them more robustly executing on the puzzle peices they may have been laying. One tended to know far more about what higher ups from the Earth Federation or the Principality of Zeon were up to in the original series, so when they made more magnificent bastard style moves it was more effective than things have been here. To say nothing, of course, of Turn A Gundam, which G-Reco by its timeline association is going to end up compared to a lot time and again by the Gundam fandom shark tank.
And it is, again, not an unwarranted heat this series has been accumulating over time. Episode five, for instance, has a sequences where Bellri has to make a very difficult emergency docking through an intense firefight to the G-Self with his core fighter. He has a legitimate worry and concern that he is going to crash. But, the barest of second later, he has docked just fine and we are on our way for him to pilot the robot into the fray. So, as a result there is no time for a more genuine tension to even begin to build up, or to sell the battlefield needle threading that would be required make such a landing. He has to do it, and it happens, and we move on. So the entire sequence for an event like that comes off more than a little flat.
While we as viewers can be pretty sure Bellri is not going to die at this stage of the program, some consideration towards tension to his actions in situations like this would be more than welcome.
Events just sort of happening do work in select circumstances.
Aida has a small scene with the helmswoman of the Megafauna, and there no dialogue between them specifically, but there is the resting of a head on another shoulder and if one follows the logical continuity of the helmswomans arm off screen she is very clearly holding Aida’s butt. Characters elsewhere in the scene are talking about other things entirely, and the visual of the moment can just be its own thing in the frame. It is the sort of sight that would speak of there being a history of some kind between the two of them, whatever its nature may be, as they behave around each other in a fashion which indicates a lot of comfort. So that works. It is not elaborated on, and I do not think it fair so say they are in a romantic relationship given the nature of how Aida was destroyed as she was (and still is) by Cahill’s death, but it is something of an intrigue and a palpable moment in its own right. It is how one could perceive two people who have been apart for some time but have a close relationship of some fashion together would act, so in a situation like this Tomino’s directorial style does work at speed and without establishing who the other person even is.
On a further directorial creative note, as we see more and more of the space elevator and such so too do we also see more and more polygon graphics and rendering.
The absolute strongest trump card that keeps me tuning in every week, outside of a general commitment to Gundam and to write about the shows I select for a season, is just how old anime everything attempts to mimic in its visual appearance. The linework, color choices, the really superb laser and particle effects, difficult battle damage drawing, and all the rest. So much of the series attempts as best it can to capture the cel and paint era that has long since passed Tomino by. 3D CGI space equipment then sort of feels all the more jarring, as if it were something which should not exist within this show.
Could a certain thematic point be made of that, right down to the energy and battery plot which is (hopefully) sure to come back around? Perhaps in a very different show, but we still have hand drawn robots on hand. The development and expansion of these forces is said to be covered by some variety of the technological taboo, but look nowhere near the same as the space equipment is rendered. 3D certainly allows for some budget saving moves for a series of elevator and rotation parts once the initial models are made versus the labor of hand drawn animation. But if a show is already hand drawing lavish robot battles and being helmed by Tomino himself as a potential career endnote sendoff, financing seems like at least a little less of a pressing issue.
I suppose I am glad all the 3D is at least so far specifically dedicated to select elements of the show, so it is consistent at least rather than for instance having the robot fights go in and out of polygon modeling. But it is a curious inclusion, given how dead set this series seems to want to be trying to recapture the visual magic of a different production era.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode four]
The balancing act with this series, if it does indeed wish to maintain a train of two parter episode arcs, is trying to weigh how much to talk about a given game or not in the “first” part.
Which is to say, now that the girls are fully immersed within the world of Space Channel 5, but I spent so much time last week considering the benefits of this game being selected as a stage to build an episode around from a screenwriting perspective, what do I go into at length now? I do not inherently mind the two parter nature of what the series has been romping around with, though it does leave me at consistent risk for using up a lot of potential writing ammo prematurely. Everything I said last week applies here for the simple ruleset and dance mechanics of Space Channel 5 giving it visual strength and opportunity timing gags without losing the audience still more than applies in its execution here.
This being said, I am keenly interested in how this series is being put together on a mechanical level.
A majority of the episode takes place in what is the literal first stage of the Space Channel 5 video game, both in layout design and seemingly also in graphical fidelity. I own a copy of Space Channel 5 for my own Dreamcast, and this is very much the correct level of texture quality and aliasing in the character polygons. The visuals even retain a 4:3 ratio for the action, pillarboxing the widescreen sides of a modern television episode and having them filled with opaque stretches of what is going on within that center of the screen. Take this in contrast to the Virtua Fighter episode, which seemed to have recreated and cleaned up things like character models while retaining the classic chunkier art style (also, no pillarboxing tricks). Even the Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary remake does not have folks like Akira and Jeffery looking as nice as they did there.
My initial inclination then is that the majority of the Space Channel 5 footage is from a direct feed recording of the game, with the Sega Hard Girls characters superimposed and inserted within them. Even with that though, there are certainly some filming angles which would not be present within the game itself and its handling of the camera, which would generally require then the animation team to either pull things like background assets from the game source or to recreate them with the use of visual aids.
Making an episode of Sega Hard Girls must be, well, hard.
If one considers the primary audience for this sort of television program (so, older Sega fans like me), it is the exact sort of scenario whereby the production team can assume they will be judged every step of the way. What games are selected. How are they presented. How can they be shown and played around with for television gags while retaining their visual quirks. This, without the series being a glorified youtube Let’s Play or the like, and so on down the line. It is not an enviable position, given the glut of entertainment media out there and a shorter ten minute an episode series like this being very easy for one to set aside or forget about were one given the opportunity.
But, I feel Sōta Sugawara and his team are doing well overall. I feel the first “half” to this two episode arc is the stronger of the two, given the character situations and comedy it provided. But as an exploration into the second major game adventure within the series, and another rather straightforward type of game at that, I feel it sets viewers up well for more complex and crazier antics to come down the road.
This episode did drag out the Virtua Fighter and Golden Axe gags again, which I do hope does not become too much of a crutch going forwards. Sure, seeing Jeffry McWild in a dancing game is kind of amusing in its own right, but I also just saw him last week in his own game as well. There is a lot of potential game history this series is equipped to deal with, so ideally we do not get a cycle of the same series hogging jokes and being trotted out time and again every week.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.