This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls.
The weather in my area has been doing that thing where it is light T-shirt temperatures on day, and below freezing the next.
Which probably about sums up the tonal shift I feel I sometimes end up doing myself between some of these summary write-ups.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episode nineteen through twenty three]
The school festival antic continue, which I am at least somewhat ok with.
It is a situation which provides for a natural crossing point between the old cast and new girls, which on a mechanics level is pretty key if it ever wishes to cut back on the amount of compartmentalization in this show (dedicated episode settings in Tenchi’s house, school, the past, and recaps). Incidentally, none of the episodes this week deal in any matters relating to the side / sub plot involving the past. I did not bring the one from last week up, given some other matters I wanted to touch base on, but here now there are no further developments on that front. I could understand it from the point of view of wanting to deal more with the school festival episodes, but that does inherently raise the issue of why we had the subplot going at all if it too would likely be better served by a multi-episode run. Naturally, I am saying this now with just over twenty five episodes of the series remaining, but any and all foreshadowing being done in the past relating to Momo and such is likely at risk to be forgotten or hard to dredge up from the memory banks depending on how long it may be sidelined.
As for what does in fact happen within this set: outside of the regulation recap, every episode here deals with the school festival. So, here perhaps is where we may be getting to a point where viewing collections of episodes as a single unit begins to feel somewhat cohesive when I look at what to write about. It took the series almost half its run to do so, but, if the situation at the moment is I am not at a total loss on what I have to focus on at the expense of all else I can consider that at least something of an improvement.
The biggest feature of these episodes, as it takes up three of the five, is the setup, execution, and aftermath of the school beauty pageant. So, an excuse to trot out the girls, make overt remarks on their bodies, and so on.
Which, for a show which pretty much introduced the closest thing it has to a central female lead via crotch shots and slow motion panty displays, does seem kind of superfluous. It never needed to justify its displays before, of course. It is something which has been gnawing at me over time, in that if one just wanted to watch a fanservice show, that are just flat out better budgeted options for one to consider than this series.
There is a market for fanservice shows of varying types, it keeps a lot of companies running in between more ambitious work, and there are ones out there with rather high production values to boot.
Why then, for a series which claims on some level to be financed for local tourism purposes, does this show try time and again to compete in an arena it is just not armed to handle?
It does not look particularly great, and one would think that would be a primary aim for either producers of fanservice shows or the consumer. As most of the fanservice does not even feature established characters of the Tenchi Muyo! franchise, it does not even fill some sort of niche area on that side of things. The generic archetype fresh faces get all that time, so one signing up just to ogle ladies would be doing so for some of the most hacked filler style folks imaginable. And would not be getting particularly lavish animation of them for their trouble.
Tenchi, by virtue of romantic comedy “Put him in a dress and shove him out on stage” antics allowing him to win the competition, so the show does not need to pick a girl to win the day, I am perfectly fine with. For what it is worth, when I was in university the single largest student body campus event each year consisted of a male cross dressing show.
What we did not have much of though, I have to say, in the way of students drawing the contestants and making their own self insert hentai doujinshi out of the affair. And presenting them to their newfound muse with heartfelt requests like “May I call you onee-sama?”
So that is apparently quite a boat I missed out on, if we are to take this series as indeed a tourism feature for the economic welfare of a prefectural community!
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode five]
The elephant in the room: Katsuhisa Hōki is now playing Mr. Ral, the role having needed to be recast.
He is of similar vintage to Masashi Hirose’s presence within the acting community (just about a year older than the the man Hōki is replacing, in fact), though he did take up voice acting more specifically at a later point in his career. And while animation allows for the physical form of a character to remain the same regardless of who is voicing them, that audio component does alter a lot. Our new Ral then has a more gravelly and somewhat greater tone of seriousness, and does to wit sound a little less kooky than Hōki’s take on the character. That being the case, there is the sense something is… missing, in his performance. The somewhat absentminded mentor role of the Build Fighters version of Ral benefited a lot from the ability to switch from melodramatic overselling of a situation to butt jokes, and it was a flavor Hirose has a keen ability to deliver on. Our new Ral voice feels more dramatic than overdramatic, and in turn sound wanting for it, and I could not imagine the current handling of the role delivering on itchy butt jokes.
This being said, this was an emergency recasting, so Hōki ‘s preparation time can be considered to be far less than he would have otherwise been allowed had be had the role from the start of the season. By the same note, I do feel that despite my present reservations I would rather him play the role his own way, than attempt to mimic the delivery of someone else. It will allow him to, as time goes on I would hope, refine his own feel for how the character should sound and lead to better results down the road as we get further away from the Hirose episodes.
So, I do look forward to what my opinion on Hōki’s involvement will be by the end of the season, however out of place he may sound to me at the moment.
Fumina’s story that when she was a kid she saw a woman playing gunpla battle so well that she was inspired to pick up the sport herself surprised me, in that I had expected the lady she had seen to be Aila from the first season.
With the events of the previous series occurring seven years ago in-universe, and our current protagonists being middle school age at present, this would peg Fumina to have been around the right age to have such a memory when Aila was involved in the later stages of the last tournament we saw. And yet it apparently was not Aila, nor was it a misremembering by Fumina, as an older version of the same lady from Fumina’s flashback was seen later in the episode watching over the Under 18 championship matches.
It is a curious move. While I appreciate the series taking steps to ensure new viewers are not overburdened with connections to the previous season, I feel this is an opportunity where the series could have deployed Aila without naming her. The sequence would work just as well, and viewers from the first season would have the additional benefit of seeing that generational connection. It would be similar to when China was shown a bit in Yuuma’s flashback several episodes ago, where who she is becomes a bit of a nice added bonus but does not otherwise detract from the scene if someone had not seen the first season. Of course, we also have no idea what Aila is up to at this point, so this may have been a total impossibility to involve her here depending on what her circumstances are and how she may or may not be shown later on.
In the grand scheme of things, I am pleased the series is trying to be its own thing first and hedging on the side of avoiding characters from the first season, though there is the back of the head mulling that their grand arrival is also something of an (exciting) inevitability.
In other news, Sekai gets a Gyanko / Odessa cheering section, so that is tempering me at least a bit on my Team Try Fighters romantic triangle concerns.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode seven]
In finally revealing this episode one of the aspects of the universe given away in advance materials, I can finally talk about what the Kuntala are or were more forwardly.
The show itself has been doding this for a while, leaving only so much for a viewer to infer that the Kuntala is somehow perceived as an inferior class of people by others. Though to us, there is very little seemingly giving enough information to tell at a glance a Kuntala apart from someone who is not. So we have known so much that it can not be a matter of skin tone and racial divides. A next logical move would be it refering to things like a socioeconomic class, though the parameters of what that would constitute here in a universe of giant robots and cheerleaders would be vague at best..
But it would be closer to what the truth is: after the downfall of the Universal Century timeline, in its most dire times, humanity had turned to cannibalistic tendencies. The Kuntala consisted of essentially a large group of anyone who were effectively forced into factory farming and livestock cattle conditions to raise further humans for other humans to eat. There is a whole lot of other science and justifications involved in that of course, given the general combination of the advanced UC era then turning into a depraved dark age of horrific proportions, but that is a long history explanation made exceptionally short. Tomino had his universe not only go through a massive downfall offscreen and years ago, but a lot of what would have been downright hellish material even for him in his “Kill ‘Em All” Tomino days. The Reguild Century is of course long after society has long since adequately recovered from its worst times, but the discrimination aspect in-universe remains a holdover.
As it goes, a lot of information concerning the world of this series has come out via things like random interviews, promotional materials, and the like. As a result, since some people will seek these peices of information out and others will not, it has made it difficult to when and to what extent I should mention various things like the Kuntala background knowledge.
If you are interested in something of a summary of these various extraneous materials though, and have not done so already, you should by all means check out the collected notes put together on the matter over at Mecha Reporter.
Notably, our Captain Mask for this series is a Kuntala himself, and leads a military unit which also consists of further Kuntala.
The masked pilot role for a Gundam series often goes to one of quite a privileged position, be they an ace fighter, political leader, military commander, and of corse often a combination of all three going all the way back to Char Aznable in the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Here though, our character who takes up the mask mantle (Luin), is someone who much of society looks down on and consider in various to be a kind of subhuman. While the mask itself is handwaved in relatively expected fashion (it contains sensors and other hardware to help his piloting), it does also allow Luin to be a kind of character for those fighting beside or under him. Captain Mask as an idea can be an inspirational rallying point, speaking as it allows him to in grander fashion with less concern for his specific personal identity. Captain Mask in not Luin, in that Captain Mask transcends the more restrictive position Luin may feel himself to be in branded as a Kuntala.
Which, as his entire squad is a dedicated Kuntala unit, one can perhaps assume down the road they may well be used for situations they are seen as more expendable in or left without reinforcement. Which is something one would assume the character/s in such a squad may well know themselves on a certain level, which lends further credence to the idea a larger than life character like Captain Mask can provide focus and psychological assistance for many. There is a lot of weight on Luin’s shoulders to lead this unit for what is arguably at this time very little tangible benefit for anyone but those who may throw them all away.
I am excited at the narrative prospect he provides for the mask character within the Gundam series, as he is equipped to provide a vastly different take on them than we often receive.
Elsewhere this episode, we have the deployment of the inflatable Megafauna.
For all the confusing conceptualization relating to things like Minovsky Particles over the years, radar being screwed around with sufficiently by them so as to make giant robot and battleship balloons viable of a decoy mechanism has been something I have always appreciated. It is more than a bit whimsical by anything close to modern military technology, sure. But, the idea that things could become so technologically advanced so as to allow such simple strategic measures to come back around and be viable again due to how useless radar and other sensors become in technology saturated Gundam battles is an important lesson in its own right. Just because ones goes to university does not mean they can forget everything everything learned in high school for instance, and just because a battlefield may have fighting robots and flying battle cruisers does not mean distraction methods from ages ago become useless.
Plus giant inflatable balloons of space battleships, chubby fake cannons and mock armor plating on down, have a certain charm all their own just on a visual level to me.
Like an impossible parade float, or a swimming pool toy one could imagine wrangling only in their most lucid dreams.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode five]
The first standalone episode of the series so far, which is refreshing after two arcs of two episodes each.
For as many gdgd Fairies comparisons I may have made at the outset, and for however much that series may have been strengthened by its ability to retain a series of “stations” within its episodes and formula, breaking out of two parter marathons is a nice change of pace here. It also shows some different situational dynamics we have not been able to deal with as of yet, which is always welcome. All the more where there are only three (four, if one includes Center’s small transitional parts) recurring characters to drive the comedy.
The front of the episode deals with things like what Sega Saturn looks for in pets, and associated imagery like Mega Drive breaking out the cyclops mammoth from the Space Harrier title screen as an ideal choice (among others). Which, in its own roundabout way, reminded me of something which had somehow slipped my mind to bring up in earlier episode write-ups when the series had been talking a fair amount about Saturn’s love life (I chalk it up to the newness of the program and wanting to delve into game or screenwriting mechanics).
Namely, the Sega Saturn was essentially the console of choice of its era when it came to visual novels, dating sims, and other games of similar progression models and visual style. Even high profile franchise exclusives such as Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel were acquired, or in cases where a Playstation and Saturn version of a visual novel may have existed the latter was often the superior choice. For as nightmarish as its 3D was to work with for many developers, the system had powerful 2D capabilities that outstripped its competitors. Which, if ones game is based almost entirely around art rendered in such dimensions, made it any easy choice for such works.
In some respects, the Mega Drive and the Dreamcast providing ample fantasy choices and “What If…” life scenarios to the Saturn to trip her up to comedic effect could be taken as a nod to this legacy.
I do not feel that is overthinking things too much, given the circumstances and the game history research done throughout the program as a whole.
Our actual game this week is Puyo Puyo, though handled in a different fashion than previous escapades.
While originally an arcade game (like Virtua Fighter before its Saturn port), it would make the jump to the Mega Drive. This then fills out a complete set, as each console represented by the girls can lay claim to at least one featured game so far. Here though there is no large scale visitation to the game world as the exploration, but instead the little ladies trying to pitch different game concepts using Puyo Puyo images and branding.
Puyo Puyo is a historically important game in Sega’s arsenal, being one of the most successful of the various attempts by different companies to capture the puzzle magic and block destroying success of Tetris. But visiting the world of Puyo Puyo in the way this series has handled Virtua Fighter or Space Channel 5 would, well, not be as dynamic. Or interesting. Blobs of a few different colors fall on a two dimensional plane, match a chain of four blobs of the same color to pop them. Set things up right, and one can get a snappy cascade combo as one chain detonates, causes other blobs to fall, and cause yet more detonations for massive points (and to mess with your opponent’s board). It works well as an experience when one is playing the game themselves, but watching it as more passive television entertainment would be a tall order.
It was a good call then to switch things to more of a classroom presentation style here with various ideas being tossed around, which serves double duty given the flavor of this series as being one where the hardware girls are technically students trying to graduate. The additional bonus at the end, where the girls get to go inside the game world of their last Puyo Puyo creation, is a nice touch and about as much in-game Puyo Puyo as one could reasonably expect the production team to have included.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.