This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls
Gunpla runway fashion shows, and other drugs.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes forty-five through forty-nine]
I have come to understand in recent weeks that the recap episodes do not, in fact, count towards the complete projected length of this series. While that does mean I can effectively use this show to eventually bump my anime series list management tracker of choice up by two for the price of one when the time comes, that is still a rather foul bargain.
The entire block of episodes this time around involves the Student Council election that was addresses slightly before. As a result, outside of the odd flashback (or the recap itself), we never see any of the classic cast again aside from Tenchi himself. My usual issues with this remain, and are doubled down on now in that these characters were so sold as fanservice shot fodder for so long that when the series makes an aim for something more serious it does not have the muscles to lift the material up to where it thinks it has to go.
Some of these episodes are relatively stale, but in the grand scheme of this show rather harmless, in their own right. Forty-six dealing in challenger Yuki trying to bribe the student population with free (and counterfeit) meal tickets and being found out for it by the incumbent forces. It has some odd structural issues in its flow, in that when the found out Yuki replaces herself with a bomb the device is hurled out to… Tenchi and Beni, who had never been established as being in the scene prior. Let alone having taken up respective positions on a baseball diamond as pitcher and batter, like they were waiting and ready for just such an occasion. One can perhaps handwave some of that, given that Rui spilled the beans on the whole counterfeiting thing so perhaps one could see a mean by which the Student Council would bring Tenchi and Beni along. But it is still rather poor editing and delivery.
Forty-seven is similarly odd. The Student Council confiscates a whole lot of election materials rigged by the Science Club (pens that write ink that disappears, a mini stamp machine in ballot boxes to inflate votes, etc). The group also clearly confuses some sort of walking robot or other machine, designed to rigidly go about and spout Yuki’s name as some sort of repetition engine to drive votes. Touri hops around in what I assume to be her mimicking it, but we never come to see the device, which comes up again later in the same episode. Unless the supplier is someone other than Washu (who is the prime suspect of the Galaxy Police in this time distortion matter), and that same someone sent a machine that looks like themselves but while also using Washu’s crab logo aesthetic on all the other devices we have been privy to, there is not much a story or narrative reason for this. So it is, again, really odd from an editing and flow perspective once one notices we never get to see the machine folks are reacting to and acting like.
Larger issues loom elsewhere however.
The rest of the episodes make their way back around to a scene from the school festival, when Momo was shoved into Tenchi.
A photo of the situation was published in the school paper, and allegations of misconduct come out in force. Which itself gets into student-teacher relationship vectors that are far beyond what this show is outfitted for, even if it were to do something like drop it at that and just using a scandal smokescreen to do something like call the impacted parties to the office for some larger Galaxy Police initiative that might take them out of school for a while. Even if it wanted to use it to try and make some cheap overblown gag out of a misunderstanding from a crowded school festival hallway far and away after the fact, it would still be out of line and lackadaisical at best. But that is not where it goes.
The rest of these episode deal in Momo giving an impassioned defense for love and relationships others find unethical.
If you have seen these arguments before in other circumstances, the usual suspects come out. People being people first and foremost over the societal positions, what is so wrong with people loving each other, and so on. Even in the face that there are clear power differentials that would be in play, such as a student-teacher scenario. Consider then also that Momo is framed not just as a high school girl, but a rather infantile one at that who effectively acts like a small child most of the time, and with the further consideration that she may well be Tenchi’s daughter or similar relative. A very brief temporal flash even occurs from Tenchi’s point of view, when a toddler Momo is leading what can be assumed to be an adult Tenchi, after she mentions she feels like his hands have protected her elsewhere at other times. And we already know she is of the Jurai royal family in some capacity from some era, even with the time scrambling obscuring from when exactly. Momo, effectively, can be embodying both a student-teacher relationship area and an incestuous one all at the same time (even space royal blood aside).
This series has Yuki trying to challenge her on the ethical points of what she is saying, and the Science Club leader is framed as a raving bombastic lunatic while the more reserved Momo gets a full auditorium applause.
This framing does not sit well with me.
This alarms me.
The series already had numerous issues in my book for what it was up to, but here the philosophical core comes ever more into play. The most prominent of all the new characters, and clearly the most important and elevated of all, while she is simultaneously also among the most childishly naive and sexualized at the same time. Here being delivered in-universe as a praiseworthy defender of love with those who hold direct responsibilities and power over you.
It would make sense if I was watching, say, adults having a conversation about best BDSM practices. But I am not.
Momo is congratulating the viewer, she is assuring those who have such moe girl student power fantasies that everything they may be doing is fine.
As it turns out, I am deeply glad that the classic cast did not show up for these episodes. The only possible way such a speech could have come off as more tone deaf and bending over backwards for such a minimal core of hyper niche viewers would be if it were delivered by Sasami “Actually 700 Years Old” Jurai Masaki herself.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode ten]
The prior season had a beach vacation romp after the initial tournament win for our protagonists, and so indeed here we are again.
Previously it was a mechanism by which to introduce a pretty standard “loan sharks threaten a down on its luck inn and its owners,” complete with a massive hammer of a Gunpla Battle model of their own, and add a new member to the friendly elements of the cast via Mao. Obviously the same events can (or at least should) not be recycled, so we ramp things into a different direction. Instead of vicious financial predators, we have a runway fashion show based entirely around which talent agency will get to roll out a future face for the looming higher level championship. Or perhaps those two things are not so different after all.
Regardless, something it does do succinctly is tie Sekai’s sister Mirai into the Gunpla Battle scene. We have been able to see her before at her professional photoshoots, and Gunpla modeling / idol culture is something the series touched on in its own way in the last series. Mihoshi (or at least an image of her) who championship that aspect before is even rolled out as a reminder to characters, and as new information for us, that she has gone on to become a Hollywood star over the past seven years. So, fair enough, it stands to reason that with the ever increasing popularity of the sport within the universe of the show that these opportunities would be not only present but highly desirable for agencies and aspiring models / idols / etc alike.
It does also mean the series gets to pull the visual song and dance number of getting to claim it needs to have a whole bunch of girls in swimsuits posing with Gunpla models on the runway. Which, short of my general fascination with shows like Project Runway (and given how little of this episode is actually “about” the styles, I do not have much to work with on this front), we all know what the series is trying to do there.
What we do get though, as the aspiring winners need to not only pose with Gunpla but need to play as well, is a video game kart racing-esque sequence.
Which we also had in the first Gundam Build Fighters, to be sure. But, never with a Bearguy. Let alone a Bearguy with a Petit Bearguy.
So, this does admittedly get into the area I have mentioned before about the young women in this series getting to use serious models or not. It would be wrong of me to not acknowledge what I have mentioned before, after all. That said, I do feel that if a Bearguy were to be reintroduced for this series, Mirai would be among the best possible of choices. She has never built a Gunpla model before, let alone gone so far as to fight with them, but the Bearguy kit does work with what a lot of her modeling items have been (plush accessories, pajama like wear, etc). So it makes enough sense for this kind of Gunpla modeling and racing competition that she would see an appeal in something that fits her usual aesthetic. It would be equally if not ever more valid were she to go in the complete opossite direction of course, such as perhaps seeing the angular suits from Turn A Gundam as an opportunity to express something she normally would not.
But, I feel I can understand what the series was aiming for well enough, and I do not think it was being more aggressively ill minded when giving her the Bearguy and Petit Bearguy.
Which does bring things to the key battle of note during the race between her and Taku, the popular leader of the in-universe rock group SGOCK Third Generation. Who does himself get a Turn A model of his own to use. And I phrase it as such given that is seems very likely the machine was built for him by another, as opposed to the collaborative process Mirai and Yuuma had with Bearguy.
Now, a Bearguy by its very nature does give a more whimsical edge to any given fight, as being an adorable bear machine fighting against a more threatening robot is wont to do.But the KUMA-F Beargguy F allowing for the family experience does provide new angles I found more enjoyable than “just” getting to see a Bearguy again. We have the visuals of a parental robot with a child on their back. Dodging enemy fire, racing along, traveling underwater, and indeed heroically sacrificing itself for the good of its young like this were a classic Disney animation or the like. It may be on the nose in more than one way for some I suppose, but I feel the series was aiming for the more over the top humor in seeing a Bearguy surge to protect the sub cub unit. And that unit, still driven by Mirai as she switches control over to it, getting to kick a Turn A in its very firmly exposed cockpit between the legs.
As far as “filler” episodes go, insofar that it does not advance the primary Try Fighters team and their aspirations, it has some nice highlights. Anything involving Bearguy is generally a solid affair in this series, so it upholds the tradition. We get to see a bit more of what happened to previous characters (such as Mihoshi), and next week it looks like Nils is back as well. As we get ever closer to the mid-series point, I feel we will be on a really solid footing for the second half of the show.
Naturally the biggest reveals I am sure will be Sei and Reiji, so that is likely not for some time still. But, I do also feel they may have their own ties or experiences with Sekai’s Gunpla synergy issue raised last week, so that would be the single biggest stumbling block I would see it slamming into at this stage.
Much like Petit Bearguy overlooking the road for the finish line, perhaps.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode twelve]
The series slips ever back into old habits.
Which, while at times a term of endearment elsewhere, is definitely not the case for me here.
We are just shy of what is a scheduled twenty six episode run. We still have Raraiya running around screaming whenever she is put in the flight suit or otherwise feels G-Self is under threat from the mechanics. Noredo still almost exclusively exists in the show to restrain her during her outbursts. While the characters are certainly frustrated with her in various ways, I am not sure Tomino is trying to have that same effect for viewers at home, given how whimsically and fantastically she and resident fish Chuchumy are often framed.
I previously have gone over matters concerning elements of Tomino’s philosophy regarding water, extended duration space travel, and calming qualities, sure.But until the show itself gets to dealing with that in more concrete fashions, and Raraiya gets to be more of a character in her own right through whatever mechanisms are required, she is stuck being little more than a chaotic randomizer. And I want to like her a lot, is what makes it all the worse. Outside of general design allusions to Loran Cehack from Turn A Gundam, I do like the potential sense of wonder or hope she could embody and address and an outlook within the show.
For as rushed and the sense of multiple lines being blended over each other that permeates so much of the show thus far, in this character area it consistently brings up G-Reco has yet to go fuller distance with. And that is getting well past the stage of being a shame to a more active disappointment.
Be all that as it may, there are larger fish to fry, as it were.
This episode is very much like what should be two weekly romps worth of material. We have the attempt by the Amerian forces to get into position and take Sankt Porto and ample space combat. There is an incredibly crunched series of exchanges about Bellri being willing to fight the Capitol Army still, the Capitol Guard and the Amerian forces they have been assisting being on very different perspectives of how far this push is actually going to go towards taking the holy site. Arguments by political, military, and religious leaders over if the Amerian’s were out of line. Loaded lines by folks like Klim claiming that since Amerian forces were able to take the facility by force that in turn means they have the ability to manage it and the distribution of the Photon Batteries.
And it is all so cramped.
I would be far more incensed if Bellri, Kerbes, and so on did not react with the sense that the Capitol Guard had effectively been played for fools, sure.
But even then, they were very much part of a military unit from a foreign government making moves towards one of the most critical sites to the entire energy and industrial processes of the Earth. One can handwave a bit in the way of naivete as a result of not fighting an active war like Ameria had been doing for years, but even so. It is stunning the level of surprise they show for the mission to take Sankt Porto and the results it had. Something which could have leveraged this effect, of course, would be if the show were to slow down and more time was given to the political underpinnings. And it would not even need a whole lot. The Studio Wit had some of this, where just some slightly longer takes, the way someone acts after a door closes or someone otherwise leaves or is moving from a location, that sort of thing. Tiny, small, incremental things. They add further weight and impact when a larger reveal comes later, but they end up on the cutting room floor here (assuming they existed at all in some larger series blueprint).
Tomino’s more experiential directing approach works for things like dunking a viewer into a lot of sights and sounds in a jiffy. Early on in a series, they can even be preferable to many other approaches. But when trying to chain together one political argument after another. In another place, in another time, even something as straightforward as Kilm’s aggressive philosophical line about military might making right would be a whole exchange. More lines to hammer his viewpoint home ever more thunderously even, to really get some wordsmithing going or selling his character further, I am not even talking about some kind of debate.
The series blows through the potential conceptual wonder of Bellri and his friends coming to enter and travel within Sankt Porto for the first time. We then further just snap into what should be a extremely significant political demand by Ameria take take control of this same establishment which is quite literally among the most sacred places in the known human universe. To then smash right into the Spacenoids from their moon facilities actually making themselves a more forward military presence, deploying forces of their own and opening fire to the point of already destroying an Amerian ship.
And all of that is slammed one after another into the last two minutes of the episode.
The series is vicious and unapologetic in fighting for raw plot beats over nearly another else that makes for a cohesive television media experience. And perhaps for others, that works. Meanwhile, I am just seeing one missed opportunity for engagement with its world and universe, time and again in quick succession.
The line Bellri throws out in the episode preview is “If you don’t watch, you’ll never understand anything!”
Well, I do watch. And I spend hundreds of words a week trying to wrap my head around my feelings. Looking up data others have dug up from random interviews and other materials that are important to this world. And I want to like it.
But merely understanding something is itself not enough cause for that. It needs to also sell me a world, moods, people. And while I may know facts about them, I might know what they visually look like, little has crossed the threshold to really connecting with me as something greater than a sum of its parts.
Which is a sad thought, when I consider how much Gundam as a franchise has played a part in my larger anime experience.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode ten]
Jet Set Radio, we have arrived.
In the far earlier days of this series, I had been trying to conceptualize for why I found selections such as Virtua Fighter and Space Channel 5 so solid for screenwriting purposes. Simple gameplay and design mechanics, with relatively straightforward visual perspectives, among others. These elements in turn allowing opportunities for the potential comedy scripts to be draped around a functional core. Getting across the meat of the gameplay that made these productions memorable, with simple visual cues and associated choreography, without feeling like the uninitiated viewer would be completely lost. It is a careful balance, since the series needs to also very much appeal to the older Sega fans as well, but on the whole I feel the series has tried to work through this well.
Jet Set Radio is a free roaming (within the confines of a given level), free skating, graffiti art splashing, run from the police and do cool tricks in the process sort of affair. Technologically, it is renowned for being the vanguard of the cel shading process in commercial video games, a graphical design and rendering process which styles 3D polygon models to have outlines and shading qualities mimicking hand drawn animation. For a game like Jet Set Radio, which is extremely colorful to boot, this gave it a further funky vibe to play around with, and added more of a cartoony wackiness to events over a more realistic edge.
So even with giving the game most of a full episode outside of Center’s initial explanation, this is still a very complex game on a mechanical level by the standards of what the series has often made use of before.
And I am not convinced it succeeds as well as episodes like the Virtua Fighter one.
In many respects, despite the rule breaking punky nature of the original game material, this episode is much more of a “normal” slice of life moe girls than the show has been previously.
Mega-Drive can not skate well, as might be expected. A substantial amount of time in a custom photo sticker booth making funny faces. Saturn and Dreamcast having a race against one another. Mega Drive learning to have fun with a situation she originally found uncomfortable, and getting dedicated cuts to specially remark to herself about the same. Our “all’s well that ends well” finale.
It is interesting to perhaps consider that the more open mechanics of Jet Set Radio may have even pushed the production team to double down on doing it via a more standard moe episode. Playing around in a photo booth does sort of jive with the custom graffiti creation mode of the original game (especially as it does in its own way come back around by the end). Meanwhile, jamming the characters into such a space and having a parade of references in there while they muck about with the device with the different photo graphics also means less time skating around and doing tricks as well (which are much harder to choreograph and make engaging for a long period of time).
The characters do not even interact with any of the individuals from the game either; we see Gum in passing as part of a gag, but she never moves. We do not even get a DJ Professor K cameo, which one would suspect to almost be a shoo in for a comedy series, as he both runs the pirate radio station of memorable music and provides ample comic relief in the actual game series.
These curious interactive omissions aside, something which further struck me as particularly odd is the episode does not go so far as to cel-shade the console girls post-transformation. They are as they always are. While even showing off footage from Jet Set Radio in Center’s introduction, and Gum having it for her fleeting seconds long scene, this round of gaming misadventures never really makes use of the unique graphical appearance Jet Set Radio would warrant. Which is especially odd, given that graphical appearances got to be a driving point in places like the Virtua Fighter episode, where our console girls were so radically different than the sharp angular models there. I feel there were clear missed opportunities here.
I could understand a series not wanting to repeat itself or its jokes too much, but visual punch and art direction is a lot of what has kept Jet Set Radio around as a name. It is very much part of why is has continually gotten re-releases and even a high definition port over the years, even if very few games exist in the actual series. There are very few games which manage to embody its aesthetic even today, let alone run with it as far as it did.
Mega Drive having a nice afternoon with her friends in the city, with their inlineskates and picture sessions, all is a pleasant enough time in its own right. Do not misunderstand me on that front. But it does also feel like the series intentionally shied away a lot from the freewheeling, aggressive-yet-cartoony, punky funky style of the game they were playing around in.
Some solid chances were missed here, and so it is hard for me to shake a very definite sense of disappointment. I never really felt the girls were “in” Jet Set Radio the same as I did in some of the other games they have visited, and that bled into how the comedy was executed on.
Next week looks to be a Phantasy Star Online 2 adventure, which brings us back to a modern and still active online game like Border Break and Chain Chronicle. As a game franchise Phantasy Star has a history across all three systems that make up the center of our show though (and unlike Sonic, does not have the weight of being a company flagship mascot).
So while that game in particular is one which can not be played on any of the staring consoles, I do hope they make a move to consider how each of them would reflect on the series based on the entrants they did receive.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.