This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls.
Has this batch rendered me as cool, blue, or with an attitude?
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes twenty nine through thirty three]
I feel commenting on this series as a weekly endeavor is something that always risks becoming more about general framing and the handling of fanservice concepts. Which, as the series clearly wants to be a fanservice show, I do not consider unwarranted.
Once one gets past the initial distaste for what it does to barely make use a fictional universe which has had much stronger and creatively driven endeavors, there is the matter of needing to comment on what is before them and what the production in question wants to be. And Love wants to be a fanservice show, regardless of however much it was greenlit and promoted as a tourism marketing piece. Fair enough, and it is something anyone watching (let alone writing) about the show would have had to come to terms with long ago. But, as has been mentioned before as well, there is still something of an art and artistry to trying to do fanservice works. Direction, tone, all that still matters if we wish to consider the series effective or not at the job it wants to take on (however ill advised its objective may be)
So, even when the series cuts to a full frame panty shot while playing a long low trombone noise, I have questions.
I feel what the show wants in a moment like that is the sense of embarrassment. In practice though, given connotations in other productions across the vast span of animation and general motion picture history, it comes across to me more like the character is farting in the viewers face.
And to be frank, the series does enough work dehumanizing the girls that even mentioning it was Rui feels like more work than the show puts in for sequences like this. Even that aside though, baring very hyper specific fetish groups, the correlation and association one makes from the visuals and the sound effects in a scene are equite questionable. They should probably not make one recall certain butt based bodily functions and consider if they are being thrown in the viewers face. I do not think that is what Hiroshi Negishi and his team were going for, but it is the effect that comes across.
The fanservice misadventures continue across the episodes, as the series has transitioned in Tenchi working the maintenance and upkeep of the girls dormitory. Folks walking around with minimal clothing, Tenchi getting caught in the bathroom as girls walk in to clean themselves off, and so on down the line. It is the sort of thing which, even when it does make even passing situational sense, still does not sit all that right from the perspective that this is Tenchi as a teacher and the constant sexual juxtapositions of the students. Who are themselves created specifically for this series, so it is not like they are even legacy figures the show is trying to shoehorn in however it can. When the bath episode invariably turns to the tired old “Girls talking about breasts and forcefully massaging each other” routine, it seems as exhausted as the production itself has been with trotting out these generic archetypal roles.
Straining for every harem cliche in the book due to lacking any guiding spark to this creative process.
The one episode which does stand out from this set would be the last one, thirty three.
Returning to the events of the past, which we have not brought up in several weeks, it can largely focus on Momo and Beni. Specifically, Momo as a baby girl and Beni being assigned as her slightly older caretaker. The implication, given the visual trappings and vocabulary used, are that Momo is a daughter of the royal family of Jurai. Given how this whole timeline mishmash could work, and with the name of the Jurain ruler trusting their daughter kept nonestablished, there are two ways this could go down. The broadest scope would be that Momo is at minimum related in some capacity (past, present, or future) to Tenchi, Aeka, Sasami, and so on. Such would be the way of royal bloodlines. On a more specific level, it could well be angling to mean Momo is herself Tenchi’s daughter, so all these misadventures in the feudal past and student teaching present have been for allowing him to save her in some capacity (Beni and Momo crashing on Earth, captured by a dark void force, etc).
This would be the angle I am expecting the show to go with. The Tenchi timelines are sprawled out all over anyway, and Tenchi the Movie 2: The Daughter of Darkness is the only one of the three theatrical films Negishi did not direct. So, he may well want to put his own spin on that plot idea.
As a result though, such events then in turn mean every Momo shot takes on a radically different read. Rather than just being another generic fanservice high school character in a cast of many, being some oddball timeline daughter of the leading man alters a lot. Every angle where they shove her butt into Tenchi’s face, every frame she has her chest slammed into him.
I do not know at this stage if they are well and truly going with the “Momo is Tenchi’s daugher” thread. I do not think they can pull it off, even if it is true. But, that has yet to stop the series in any of its other capacities so far.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode seven]
Team Angelfish, despite being teased in previous competition shots, meet the slapstick fate we always expected of them. Bring a team of all aquatic Gunpla to the tournament, and once one of those randomly generated fields turns out to lack a liquid water supply they just end up all washed up.
That aside, we do have far more reasonable model building topics to get to this week outside of the opening bit. Namely, straight assembly.
In model construction terms, this means a kit snapped together with no further flourishes. No fancy paint jobs, custom modifications, etc. As the series has specifically pointed out, both this season and especially last, model quality and the further worked applied to it yields immense advantages when they are processed for Gunpla Battle. Enhanced beam damage nullification or reflection due to paint and finish, stronger joints via different materials and custom fitting, and so on down the line. All the tools in the world are useless if one has no idea how to put them to use of course, but craftsmanship and an overall tone making your Gunpla a personalized item has been a key point.
So then for mixing things up, our key designated Under 18 tournament opponent this episode (and likely future rival to Sekai should they bring him back) Shimon uses straight assembly units.
The reasoning I feel is fine enough.
He has a little brother who really likes Gunpla and putting them together, but he can not fight with them himself as the poor kid is in the hospital with… something. It is not particularly specified, and given that this show is skewed to younger demographics by design I do not find much of an issue with it. A kid in the hospital long enough for his boxing prodigy older brother to quit his specialty sport and take up Gunpla Battle with kits the child would have assembled over long medical stays, and ones imagination probably does not need things to get too specific. For a series as generally blue skies and optimistically oriented as Build Fighters often is, this is about as much of a nod to potential grimness as a seriously ill child episode it would be capable of. The episode also does not end on a downer in that department, and indeed has eyes towards the future and the kits the kid will continue to build, which is welcome.
Back on the battlefield side of things though, the straight assembly nature of Shimon’s equipment (so, in this case a regular Destiny Gundam) does cast some things in interesting lights. For one, Shimon is very skilled as a pilot, and puts up one hell of a fight. This is in some ways fitting for his boxing history and any related gamestate reading skills being transplanted over, but also him compensating in the best ways he possibly can with the tools as his disposal. He would have needed to spend considerable time seriously practicing with “suboptimally” made units, as rather than using a straight assembly kit as a stepping stone to something more they are all he has access to at the time. He is being supplied units made by a young child, after all. But, in turn he can be driven to parlay that into squeezing maximum drops of output from every potential source.
Sekai by comparison has the World Championship tier Build Burning Gundam, but is so new to Gunpla Battle that he had trouble navigating in outer space fields not too long ago in the episode count. While a quick learner, there is so much to Gunpla Battle he has yet to learn or encounter, and practically starting off with such a high class build of a unit has itself likely papered over various core deficiencies in his core play of the game. Shimon is able to give Sekai almost every bit as good as he gets outside of the most razor thin of percentages that could have pushed the victory his way, which given the build quality differences between the two of them is an incredible feat.
Masami Ōbari has mentioned before that they would like to work on a Gundam wrestling event one day, and while this episode was not quite that (and Ōbari did not work on it) it came alarmingly close to seeing that dream become reality. With Yuuma and Fumina both suffering from Field Out statuses due to suicide drives by their counterparts from Shimon’s team, we have just him and Sekai slamming their machines each other. Arms bars, lots of grappling, and multiple significant limbs damaged or outright destroyed as they tried to pull each other apart. Again, this is one of the great selling points of this series, as mecha fights this visceral in their one on one unit damage would ordinarily be season or close of a story arc tier finales in the more war campaign oriented programs. Here, this is just an Under 18 championship game. And Shimon would be a very legitimate contender on a larger stage were his brother to up his building game, as he states he will.
It does also, unequivocally, render the Build Burning Gundam in significant need of repairs. This opens doors for opportunities like perhaps Yuuma and Sekai bonding a bit more as the other leads a fix-it attempt, or even Sekai having to work more on his own model building rather than using a legacy unit made by someone else that literally fell into his hands. It has felt somewhat odd that his teammates have worked on their own kits and put their own spins on the base models, while Sekai has not needed to make much of a commitment on that front.
He will have some time to sort his Gunpla situation out at any rate, as next week looks to be another Gyanko episode and putting a spotlight on her tournament position. I like Gyanko as a character, I am glad she is in this show, and it is nice she is getting another more central billing this soon. It keeps her from becoming a bit character on the sidelines, which is important if the series may want to push the Gyanko-Sekai angle seriously. And I think it would be valuable if it did just that.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode nine]
I have said this before, but I will say it again because it applies here: this has been the most straightforward and easy to follow episode of the series thus far. Considering where the show began, that it a very good thing. Being able to say the series has been easier to follow does show marked improvement in pacing, the volume of information provided, and so on.
It does also bring the concern that I am complimenting a production for just starting to perhaps get a real foothold almost halfway through its run. It is a legitimate worry, as I do feel this series has lacked acceptable delivery in a lot of areas where almost any other fresh seasonal program would have been blown to ribbons by the internet far faster. Tomino’s presence, for however it has complicated matters, does give this program rope to play (and potentially hang itself) with. A brand new robot show directed in a similar way from a creative force without the history of them being the creator of the original Gundam, well… they may well not have received even this much of a hesitant Wait and See approach G-Reco has been able to effectively coast on for its run thus far.
The episode at hand though, as mentioned, is more direct than previous counterparts. The Amerian run Megafauna, still with Bellri, his mom, and everyone else aboard, needs to make it past the trigger happy Capital Army so they can have a diplomatic meeting with the Pope. So, low flying past waterfalls, staying close to ground cover, with side events for buying supplies of food from farmers and needing to fend off some elements of the Capital Army anyway before eventually making it to their destination.
As Bellri’s mom did call ahead via a rural landline to set up escort services from the Capital Guard, some viewers I have seen mention that it seems strange the Capital Army would still open fire upon meeting the Megafauna.
That disconnect between the Army and the Guard however I feel is something the series has been trying to sell, but has understandably come across in practice as somewhat confusing. The Capital Guard is still a separate entity from the new Army component, and as a result while they would be sympathetic to the requests and commands of Bellri’s mom the Army would not be as generous. Despite her being the Operations Director, and thus instrumental in the process of organizing the transport and shipping of the critical Photon Batteries, there are other factors in play. There is the general power plays going on, with a country which previously had no military now expanding rapidly, for one thing. Further, our Captain Mask led squad being intentionally composed entirely of a discriminated social group, and thus political leadership engineering a situation where that section of the armed forces could see blowing out a capital ship tier unit as beneficial for gaining praise.
I see what the show wants to be doing, and what would be the intended meaning of its scenes, though it often does not come right out and say it. And I do not mean that as a compliment for it having greater hidden depth as one could apply in other situations. How Tomino is executing on his narrative is still somewhat cluttered and needs to be run through a filter, but we can at least increasingly see clearer water coming out of the pipes as it were.
The series still has issues defining its own terms, for instance how one very much needs to hammer out from strained context that “SU-Cordism” refers to the Space Umbilical Cord terminology of the elevator and the associated set of social, political, and religious beliefs which have sprung up around it. As the religious aspects are mostly mentioned for stray lines about the technological taboos here and there (which are themselves pretty vague, for how far a society with giant robots and a space elevator is allowed to progress any further), and Space Umbilical Cord as a term almost never shows up in delineated dialogue, chasing down all the pieces and wrapping them up together with special terms which are themselves also hazy in being explained to the viewer is a taller order than it should be. It can be parsed out, for sure, but this is the sort of thing which has been losing people along the way. And it is legitimate criticism, so even when I say the show has been improving and evening out in flow, that does come with the caveat that that it still has various quirks which go back to the thoughts from weeks ago of the dialogue having a quality as if they are speeding through twice as much material in half the time.
While Bellri’s darker toned episode preview line from last week has no corresponding event payoff in this episode, we do get to see Cumpa give quite a line. The “These Earthnoids belong on the list of organisms that ought to go extinct” remark, for as to the point of almost being too direct for this program as it is, does fit together within the Spacenoid issues and potential narrative lines I raised previously. This would mean Cumpa is either from space himself (either as a subversive plant for their own ends, or assigned internally there due to the trade agreement), or if the series really wanted to strain itself he could be from Earth while being completely enchanted by the space colony descendants and what they would have access to that he looks down on even his own people. I am inclined to go more with the former than the later, as I do not feel Tomino would go down that route when he already has the Kuntala subplot elements to deal with.
But that these Spacenoid and Earthnoid relations are cropping up more and more with the corresponding energy trade and militarization themes, we may well be on our way to finally getting into the grooves hinted at in the first episode that have taken us a long time to really see fruit from in between everything else which has cropped up. One can always hope.
Of note: the episode next week is outsourced to Studio Wit, which in turn brings with it the Attack on Titan team. I do not mean that as a general statement either. Episode Director switches to Tetsuro Araki, dual Animation Director roles filled by Yasuyuki Ebara on the character end and Takuma Ebisu overseeing the mecha, and so on. While Yoshiyuki Tomino would still have worked closely with them given how G-Reco is very much his vision of what this series should be (for all that entails), in situations like this individual flourishes and the like do still come through. It should be interesting to compare and contrast what happens with the show on a visual level, as even with Tomino providing the overall guide Araki alone is not even in his forties yet. So his way of processing Tomino’s demands, whatever they may have been to one detail level or another, is going to be quite different than if Tomino had done it himself has he has elsewhere in this show. Even if Araki and his team were to attempt to mimic Tomino as closely as possible, it would be hard to pull that off perfectly given differences in influence and production eras.
One can most hope that the week was sent out to make the episode “feel” different as though, to shake things up for a big in-universe event or situation. That is what I would want the situation to be (particularly given the airs of our characters being in a Last Best Chance For Peace sort of situation to avoid full blown war and/or Capital Army power grabs). Given how much G-Reco may well be a final Gundam television lap for Tomino after leaving it aside for so many years, and for however much of a vanity project it may be in that regard, I would imagine that if he wanted to direct every single episode of this show himself he would have been allowed to.
Bringing in an Episode Director and handing off so much to another studio is nowhere near groundbreaking events in weekly anime production of course. But for a guy like the Tomino of the present, it can perhaps mean a lot. The show has certainly confused many early viewers with its narrative pacing choices, and it would be nice to be able to say something really neat happened. That, perhaps, Tomino had a plan all along.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode seven]
As it was foretold, as we always knew this day would come: The Sonic the Hedgehog episode.
Well, at least a Sonic the Hedgehog episode. There may well be another before the series is over, for all I know right now. It would for sure be the most prime Sega franchise of all to pick should the show ever double back and bring up a property for another featured showing. It is a tricky headliner property with a lot of twists and turns over the years, and there is only so much which can be shown off in a single ten minute or so chunk of time while also spinning enough of a narrative platter for the girls to try and make jokes with.
And this episode sure knows it.
In bringing out the bad news first, as it were: this is probably the weakest episode of the show so far. Its timings, setups, jokes, and all the rest move at a very different pace than the rest of the show thus far. At the same time, the reasons for that can be sussed out rather cleanly, I feel. Sonic as a video game character is known for his incredible speed, and the corresponding action he could bring with that sort of power. Dr. Robotnik (I still to this day think of that name first far before Eggman, for better or worse) broke into Border Break last week, and with Sonic putting a stop to his forward advancements there the mechanical madman is now on the run. So, Sonic chases his greatest nemesis to shut his entire hacking project down. Which, in turn, involves a series of snippets from some of Sonic’s games as we warp from zone to zone, from the original and bonus stages on up to Sonic Adventure. Meanwhile, some Sonic games not on screen such as Sonic R get music tracks mixed in as well, to pack in as much of a blue hedgehog fueled trip down memory lane as possible.
As a raw plot, that has a solid structure on paper. I would even go so far to say that it works on screen from that perspective. But as viewers, we are sort of… not watching this show for the plot. Not as a top level driving force, anyway, outside of any light trappings such as the medal count which will allow our console hardware girls to graduate some day. And comedy shows can, of course, find great strength in switching to more plot focused or even dramatic escapades for a time (Urusei Yatsura comes to mind immediately, for instance).
A character like Sonic though, well, that changes some vectors a bit.
I should state I do like how the Sega girls were miniaturized to a micro card size, where they would be capable of holding the quills on top of Sonic’s head. That has a neat, Falkor from The Neverending Story sort of quality to it on its own. The air of the fantastical is welcome, and it far and away beats either artificially slowing Sonic down or needing to rig something together for the girls to keep up with him by either foot or vehicle. If one is going to use Sonic, and a series like this essentially is expected to, showing him at a level of full display of his capabilities has a desirable streak to it.
Given his speed however, this does also introduce its own quirks into the comedy equation. Our shots of the Sega girls become largely restricted. We see either a very zoomed in view of their clinging to Sonic’s head (so, an angular blue environment and some more obvious modeling clipping than would be usual given the plainer surroundings), or a zoomed out view of gameplay footage from various games in Sonic’s history as the girls comment in little circular bubbles on the side. While there are some limited frivolous on can do in such parameters, such as having the side bubbles spin as Sonic does, it is a much colder experience than we are accustomed to in this show. Be it either in very zoomed in or out mode, we never get to see the girls interact with, in, or around one of Sonic’s game environments.
For the most part, it is more like the Sonic elements of the episode and the Sega girls components as sliding by and next to each other in space, but not quite operating within the same place. Combine that with the speed of the zone changes and the (understandable) need to have Sonic do a few tricks on his own, and the opportunities for comedy become far more difficult to hit their mark.
While in prior episodes it felt like the girls were interacting with the game material, here things seem somewhat more distant and removed from play.
I still had my own fun with the episode of course.
The arrival of music from Sonic R is the sort of thing which can always amuse me for instance, such is the (perhaps infamous) nature of it. And I enjoyed Sonic being mute, as it keeps the focus more on him as a character outside of any particular voice actor they could have pulled from his various game and television appearances. As a raw “I wonder what parts they will pull from what games for the Sonic montage” exercise, it is interesting to see what is picked.
This is, effectively, Sonic interacting around game consoles he has not visited in just about a decade and a half at minimum. And with that, there is a neat quality as they fangirl out and he gets to take center stage. I had hoped more for the girls getting to really interact with the parts of Sonic’s games though, as they have with other properties. Here it is more like there is a thin wall of glass separating them, like a kid pressing their face into a store display case for a Sonic game on a Sega console years ago.
We do get something of a mystery nugget for later in the show, in seeing a scrambled version of Center and what appears to be their human counterpart on the other side of his temporarily still garbled up video feed back to the the JoyJoy Room. Speculation on who they could be varies, as Sega has more than enough famous industry figures to pull from for this kind of love letter show.
At the moment, I am of the disposition they could be one of two potential people.
Hayao Nakayama, one of the cofounders of Sega Enterprises Ltd in 1984 and who restructured the company which existed prior to really get its video game niche into high gear, would be a keen selection. Alternatively, and perhaps most thoughtfully, would be Isao Okawa. He was the founder and Chairman of CSK Holdings Corporation, which held the majority of Sega’s stock from that 1984 restructuring and up until 2004. He loaned Sega tens of millions of dollars to finance and support the Dreamcast during their financially stressed times in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Upon his death in 2001 Sega was not only forgiven this debt by his estate, but the company received a windfall of almost seven hundred million dollars of both their own stock as well as CSK’s. Had this not occurred, an event which allowed the company far more of a degree of leeway in navigating its way out of years of losses, Sega as an entity may have met significantly crueler business world fates. It may well have been hacked up or, jokes from its transition from competition to including Sonic in Nintendo games aside, otherwise have ceased to exist in recognizable form today.
Certainly, the chances of us having a celebratory television show in 2014 for their game history catalog would have plummeted by a significant margin.
Next week breaks out the House of the Dead series, which is kind of a shame in a missed opportunity sense. I am glad to see it of course, as it will be interesting to see how the light gun shooter is adapted for a screenplay.
But it also could have made for something of a neatly topical Halloween episode some weeks ago too.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.