This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls.
Rounding the corner, as we enter the last month of both this season in particular and the year as a whole.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes forty through forty four]
An episode within this batch (forty four, specifically, if you count the recap episodes as I have been) has the following line in its introduction:
“It’s very rude for you to have gathered us all here, only to keep us waiting for so long.”
Which goes a long way towards almost being a metatextual commentary on this entire endeavor. The whole series bringing back everyone we used to know, voices and all, and what amounts to brief flashes of the occasional known character from years ago in favor of so much animation blown on an avalanche of unfamiliar faces. The near complete lack of what I would consider to be anything close to tourism promotion for either Takahashi as a city in particular or Okayama Prefecture on the whole, so as to instead roll out fanservice shots and the situations to bring more of them about. Now, as the series begins to attempt to bring some sort of narrative conclusion to all of this (and indeed, as with last week, there is more plot in this batch), its engine room finds itself without enough power to see us through. Not that there was hope of recovery to begin with, but we are indeed quite stuck.
To put it bluntly: this is easily the worst the show has looked up to this point.
Apparently all of the not-very-good-to-begin-with fanservice animation from the rest of the series blew the budget away. As our bonafide fight sequences of Ryoko and Aeka versus counterparts from the Student Council play out, we have what should be some neat little highlights straining at the seams. The key animation frames are shoddy to the point of looking unfinished, the linework is lacking, the in-betweening either nonexistent or barely making up transition and movement at all. While they never needed to be blockbuster action demonstrations, Ryoko taking up her beam sword or Aeka using her Juraian abilities against named characters in what is supposed to be a struggle to defend Tenchi should never be this boring a storyboard to execute on and missing so much visual definition.
We end up in this weird mode where the composite of the characters, their weapons, and the backgrounds, are all very much not blending together and stand starkly opposed against one another.
To more closely go down the lapse in animation attention of this batch though, one could claim I should perhaps instead compare fanservice shots to, well, other fanservice sequences rather than action forays. Which is fair, and I have ammo to work with there.
If one has seen the original Tenchi Muyo! OVA series, of which this is a fork from, they likely remember that for any of the dresses Ryoko has in her character wardrobe she sometimes goes without much in the way of clothes at all. She is a more sexually assertive woman than the others in the cast, and it fits for the way she is written. So, especially given that there already was a bath episode for the new Student Council cast in this series, that this series would turn back around and give one to the established characters like Ryoko is at least fair. I can not fault it for that, given the mode so much of the show has wanted to be in anyway.
Here is a NSFW-ish screen of Ryoko and Tenchi from episode forty three, as she is presented post-bath but with appropriate towel.
If you look, consider Tenchi’s arm, or the frontal long locks of Ryoko’s hair. Examine the oddities of the linework, the shading. This episode, as with the whole batch, looks closer to something someone makes when they do not have enough time to go back for readjustment or the money to spend on perhaps even the bare minimum. Everything with the animation and its constituent parts looks harsh, flat, jagged, often lacking in depth perception, and not out of sake for a given art direction or vision.
I have said it before and I will say it again: even if the series wanted on a top level to be nothing more than fanservice bait, it would at least need to look nicer than this, right? There would have to be some kind of animation standard, one would think, if the cheesecake shots are being planned as the biggest gun in a series given arsenal. This series never looked particularly swell even on its best days, and this is still quite a downturn.
In moving towards hypothesizing where this goes out from here plotwise, since all the episodes follow a linear chain of events now: Washu, as suspected, is the main perpetrator messing with the timeline.
That is Galaxy Police intelligence anyway, and baring some rug pull moment in its last days should be the storyline it wants to go with. The domination fascinated Ukan, Tenchi’s superior for his student teacher term, is also revealed to be Galaxy Police herself. Which is about as uninspiring and flat reveal as it is plot convenient to wrap this all up with so few episodes to go.
The treasure under the school involves the Jurain spaceship Beni and Momo are connected to historically. It is now buried again, after the cavern collapsed from the Student Council attack.
So what do we do? How do we end this in the coming days?
Momo’s connection to the royal family I still feel is being held close as a Big Reveal, as I do not see the series ending without it establishing where she fits. Is she a distant grandmother type figure from elsewhere in the timeline, some much later daughter of Jurai generations from now, or if she is herself supposed to be Tenchi’s direct kid. That last option keeps standing out to me, as it fits both what would arguably be the worst and creepiest narrative choice for it to run with.
Despite calling it already, I still can not even begin to wrap my head around where Washu is going with her plan. If she is trying to steal some technological elements of the Jurain ship for herself to examine. Perhaps she has some intended well meaning, if Momo is indeed Tenchi’s kid and maybe there is some sort of doomed future there in her teenage years he would never see otherwise. Or if Washu is just doing any and all of this for giggles and laughs. And anything in between.
I have a written a whole lot of words about this show over the weeks it has been airing. Arguing with it, with myself, with any mental association I may still have with the franchise from its better days.
I just want it to end. To be over. Finished.
Which is not something I write out of screaming malice, or to be a funny person on the internet.
I say that with a sense of sadly shading my head.
Because whatever Ai Tenchi Muyo! does next week, I am certain it will be but the final notes of a direly troubled and mishandled production. That out of every odd road the science fiction harem franchise as a whole has taken over twenty years, this may well be the least disagreeable one to travel down of all.
Which is a most terrible fate in general, and all the more so for a tourism series.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode nine]
Tournament Finale week.
So, to get us started, we jump in right where we left off last time. Gyanko losing, and the cast being crushed by the event in various ways. Most of Fumina’s actions or reactions around Gyanko thus far have been either ones of begrudging acknowledgment or active perturbation. Understandable, given the history and reputation there. But her heading out and seeing to talk to her effective “rival” more sympathetically moves us towards a nicer realm. There is a degree of nuance there, in that Fumina both feels compelled to approach and say something to potentially settle her down, while at the same time she also knows Gyanko would rather want to be talking to Sekai. This area of middle school crushes and all I feel the series is equipped to handle, and have mentioned as much previously. This is a much more welcome character mode to handle this with, since there are so many other things driving the conversation as well. It is not just a chat about A Boy, and that provides greater depth for them both individually and for their rivalship-friendship as the series advances.
Gyanko will be building again for future days, and given the amount of screen time she has had I can not imagine she is going far. Her coming out with the also defeated Shimon to help train / spar with Sekai off screen before the finale round notwithstanding, I do not think a character gets as much attention as she had had in a tournament fighting series only to conclude her role for the rest of the show.
So, I will look forward to whatever she makes next. The R-Gyagya had a very defensive minded design philosophy which could warrant further exploration in what is often a rather offense oriented show.
This by and large leaves us with the big fight of the Miyazato Institute versus Team Try Fighters for the finale of this arc.
Now, we are nowhere near the end of the show, and this is a tournament which is a direct qualifier to higher things. So, we can not lay all the best fights down on the table yet (or at least, one would hope as much). Solomon is itself a potentially interesting battlefield zone, given the sheer size of the military asteroid base and the ability to fight both indoors and in the general space around the facility. Going off of last season, I often enjoy the battles which make ample use of the multifaceted aspects of their respective combat zones. Part of this comes down to the general series ability to absolutely wreck things without needing to sell casualty counts or a larger war campaign (it is not like this Solomon is staffed by personnel or ), and some of it likewise just comes down to being all around compelling action choreography to zoom in and out of the geography.
That said, for a battlefield that is as keynote to the Universal Century timeline as Solomon (and thus I doubt the show will reuse down the line), I feel the episode made rather minimal use of the indoors aspect. We get about one solid scene with Fumina and Sekai going in and having a firefight exchange while Yuuma scouts around the outside of the base, and that is about it for the tunnel system. I imagine this comes down more to the fight taking up only about half an episode worth of time, and has a lot of other ground to cover, but still. I can hope and dream for more opportunities later, at least.
For the battle proper, we have two main threads to focus on and keep in mind going forwards outside of the visual spectacle of the action throwdown. Yuuma willingly making a sacrificial move with his Lightning Gundam in a suicidal attack is one A championship grade model builder on the pure design, artistic, and assembly front coming to terms with and allowing such destruction to befall their model for the greater benefit of their battle team is an important step in his development. His sniper position has allowed him to be in more removed proximity to most in-game events, but as a participant in this line of sport being willing to move in and knowingly bring devastating levels of damage to his hard built work is crucial
The second matter, and the one with far less information to work with at this time, is Sekai. His face takes damage from shrapnel after his Build Burning Gundam goes into what is essentially an overdrive mode of man-machine operating as one synergistic unity. While little more than some scratches and perhaps a teensy tiny amount of blood for visual flavor, this situation has… implications. If a Gunpla Battle participant can be at risk of physical harm, that changes a lot of dynamics with what they do. Seaki would have a broken and destroyed body had he been open to such damage in his grappling match with Shimon, for instance. Even if this may perhaps only impact Sekai (either if but just for the moment, or as a permanent state of the team), this shakes up a lot of what he and his teammates have to strategize around. Sekai may personally need to better adjust his wild dives and close range maneuvers, lest he wreck himself, and his team will have to accommodate that as a unit. Perhaps even further, should opposing teams figure out that under select circumstances the pilot himself could be taken out of commission, that is a lot of doors for dirty play and tournament sabotaging.
I am not entirely sure if I like that, mind you. A lot of this is going to come down to just what path this series wants to go down with these concepts. I am willing to play along for now, but I am also skeptical regarding if this is really going to fit into the kind of experience I come to Gundam Build Fighters for.
In other news, while Allan Adams was rolled out last week with what was arguably the strongest heads up connection to the previous season, we get a follow-up hit which supassess it this week. Tatsuya Yuuki, Meijin Kawaguchi, whatever one wishes to call him, he was here on screen and with verbal observations of the tournament final. As we begin to move more towards a world stage, this fits, and considering the show is a little over a third of the way done already this is about as drawn out as the production team could have begun to make these reveals.
It is important, after all, to establish folks like Fumina, Yuuma, and Sekai as characters in their own right so that they can champion this series. Bringing back the old guard too soon risks destabilizing the ability for the new fast to take hold on the audience. But, one still awaited when and how the former fighters would come back into the fold of course. This is a Gundam series where nobody physically dies from getting their robot destroyed.
Unless Sekai’s synergistic connection with his machine is taken to a whole new level for a most dangerous game.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode eleven]
Slathering a battleship for a full body massage of reinforcing goo to prepare it for a looming battle is not often the sort of thing one sees their looming space war start off with, and yet here we are.
That being said, the level of development the Earthnoid nations have managed to pull themselves up to is almost quaint by Gundam standards. Ameria is launching their major space offensive to take the Capital Tower with what amounts to one command ship, five further battleships, and however one would classify the two additional warships they themselves admit were hastily put together. There are robots and weapons platforms on them all just the same of course, but these are for certain not the vast armadas of years ago. Before the fall of man.
Rising and falling make up an extremely critical plot point, which by way of the show returning to Tomino’s hands this week and away from Studio Wit’s mercenary job last time is both simultaneously making the hint incredibly obvious while also giving it almost smash cut timing. Bellri’s mother works through some associations concerning her son and the moon. With some of it said and others not, the rising Megafauna reminds her of Raraiya Monday, who is on board and descended to Earth in the G-Self. Raraiya can pilot the G-Self, while almost nobody on Earth can pilot the G-Self (since it flat out will refuse to respond). Bellri can pilot the G-Self. Bellri was mentioned off hand in a earlier by Noredo to have been adopted (Bellri’s mom either knows this, or something else is afoot). Do some mental gymnastics, and the conclusion of “Bellri is originally from space” is the conclusion all of this naturally lands at.
Now, this is all very crunched down in real time, but his mother does go through a “But I raised Bellri” mode to top all of this off. Now if that is a matter of weighing some nature versus nurture thing of his background, how she may now be considering her son’s place in an evolving multinational war, that is perhaps a bit too murky to go down at this time. But the idea that Bellri (and by extension, Aida, since she can also pilot the G-Self) is from space like Raraiya but grew up more on Earth seems locked down.
All he needs is a scene where it is revealed to him, and there we go.
This does potentially shoot down a prospect I had raised at the outset of the series.
That of a multinational group able to control the Gundam to the exclusion of all others. Of course, birthplace is not necessarily the same as national affiliation or sense of patriotic allegiance. I am sure Aida would very much see herself as an Amerian, for instance. While Bellri has serious concerns over the militarization of the Capital Tower and is fighting against its new army, I do not feel he hates his old nation. Of note, Bellri and Aida’s adoptive parents (working from the line of thought established previously), are each high ranking officials in the governments of their respective nations. Which itself is something that seems like a further layer and important to what this show may want to do, as such a design choice I do not feel is ever by complete accident.
I wonder as always of how Raraiya fits into any and all of this, given how she is usually running around on an active battlezone like a cat playing with a ball. Working from the idea they were seemingly set up to be kids of government leaders in one way or another, I imagine this would mean Raraiya would constitute some sort of “control” group (perhaps even with Cumpa as her overseer, given his Earthnoid rant suggesting his background could lie elsewhere). Insofar as being from space and seemingly staying up there until her descent in the G-Self, as opposed to Earth based parenting. I suppose this still keeps the door open for the G-Self and the three person group capable of piloting it to have been designed for some sort of weapon based “Decision Maker” role.
Which, if the story does want to be about the aftermath of mankind’s greatest downfall and if its rerisen world would be condemning itself to destruction once again, that would itself be valid. One even has all the religious trappings to go along with that, both overtly like a pope and more symbolically like the Tower itself.
Can Tomino connect with any of it though?
We are getting ever closer to G-Reco’s halfway point, and I still read a lot of weekly confusion and theorycrafting about the series. And it is warranted, by all means. My experience watching and reflecting on the show is less like piecing together a fun puzzle, and more akin to sorting through soup for the choicest bits to bring up.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode nine]
The Chain Chronicle episode.
This is very interesting timing, although I do not know if it was meant intentionally. But it seems almost too coincidental otherwise. Chain Chronicle is not only a current mobile phone strategy roleplaying game of Sega’s within Japan, but its global release is December 8th, 2014. So between the time of this episode airing, and the following episode a week afterward (which looks set to be Jet Set Radio), viewers at home like you will be able to play the game yourself in many major territories. Should you possess the appropriately powerful cellphone, of course. It is a definite niche, in a similar manner that Border Break: Sega Network Robot Wars was one as a still active arcade property: it allows the show to be “topical” at select times, bringing up a game someone could conceivably go and play today. Even if they did not already own Sega hardware and associated classic games, an arcade scene or mobile game would be potentially accessible in their own ways.
I still feel it is a bit of a strange choice in certain respects, in that the demographic for this style of show is already going to mostly consist of viewers who were Sega fans from years past. Especially given some of the really swell company history zingers. Is episode nine too late to be bringing up a current generation mobile phone tie-in for people who may have already switched off from watching the show? Is it a move to see if this gets older Sega fans who may be more out of the current mobile gaming loop to try out the game themselves?
A video game bit comedy sitcom like Sega Hard Girls probably does need to recognize the rise of the modern mobile gaming scene though, or at least get some mileage out of it existing. Perhaps this was merely as simple as that, to have these older home console characters engage with what a portable smartphone can pull off today, and react with their own sense of wonder, confusion, or refusal to get with times.
Even if the Mega Drive considers roleplaying games to their specialty area.
Which I feel there was some fun with, regardless of any hypothetical marketing motives. “Failure to connect to server” frustration is quite a real thing with many a mobile phone game, as while they often do not require a constant data connection (which would be disastrous, not only for servers but data plans and batteries) they do need to check in a lot. Most of the positive aspects of mobile phone gaming involve it utilizing a device one may already have in their possession all through the day anyway.
So when that accessibility gets throttled due to server connectivity issues it is indeed a big difference over other game machines one could be using.
In the event the console characters themselves are ever added to the Chain Chronicle global release, I will leave my notes for what they were listed as in the television show here for any later comparison.
Dreamcast: Valkyrie / Warrior, Attack 1740, HP 1790
Mega Drive: Wise Woman / Priest, Attack 1560, HP 1400
Saturn: Magician / Mage, Attack 1580, HP 940
Otherwise, outside of general mobile phone gaming gags, tavern patron references via the likes of Bonanza Bros., Osomatsu-kun, I feel this was all pretty standard material for the show thus far. I can not say I was surprised by anything in particular (outside of what little characters would pop in, of course), but it did its job and I enjoyed it well enough. They fought the monsters, the monsters fought back, there were fancy mixed drinks, and bigger monsters.
The most last memory I suppose it may leave folks with is how it looked. This episode made full use of its mobile phone trappings to present itself within the style of its game, just like Space Channel 5 or Virtua Fighter. But with the added curveball of that meaning extremely limited 3D animations and a whole lot of still portrait images. This is probably a good episode of the show for the team to have produced on either a smaller budget or to better shift available resources as we get closer to the end. I would hope we are nearing what should quite the love letter avalanche in these last episodes, and it needs to be in a position to be able to produce them. So, while I am nowhere near privy to backroom information, Chain Chronicle was potentially quite helpful in that regard.
After all, while the battery of the phone in the episode can die off, I would really rather not have the show itself perform such a feat as a way of method acting.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.