This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G, and Sega Hard Girls
Second to last full week of the year, and potential production team vacations loom on the horizon.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes fifty through fifty-four]
As a reminder for those who may not be entirely up to speed on how my numbering works: Tenchi Muyo! Love is indeed scheduled for a fifty episode run. However, with a weekly recap episode, I include its number in the count as well, given their frequency and their original narration.
If feels easier that way to be able to talk about them as much as I need to as the weeks flow in and out, though by this point the recaps are no better or worse than they have ever been. I have voiced my grievances with them several times before, and nothing on that front as changed. At least they are consistent then, I suppose.
Plot wise, things have taken quite a turn since Momo’s big Student Council speech about why she thinks it is beautiful for teachers and students to be together in circumstances which can be construed as an unethical relationship. The Galaxy Police have not only showed up in full force with a space station of thousands of personnel, under a liberal interpretation of the previously never mentioned Okayama Protocol which would allow for them to perform operations within the prefecture. It is probably in the very best interests of this show at this time to stick to using buildings and other background locations for unmentioned Okayama flavor, rather than bringing it up in such a hamfisted manner. I recognize that this is a series funded in part by tourism goals, but for the series to by and large make little dialogue use of the location and then throw bombs out there like this feels incredibly forced.
Speaking of which: The Galaxy Police does drop a literal bomb on the prefecture as a means of drawing out Washu.
In related news: I grew up in New Jersey, but very close to the city of Philadelphia. The police aerial bombing the MOVE building in 1985 as a means of trying to end an armed standoff, resulting in the destruction of over sixty houses in the ensuing fire. The consequences of this action still comes up to this day in various law enforcement news stories.
Now, I should also note that I do not think Tenchi Muyo! Love is promoting such tactics as a grand solution. The scale and degree of what the Galaxy Police are doing is seen as being a positive preemptive move against who knows what manner of Washu’s inventions, sure. And this is, ostensibly, also framed as a comedy series. By the end of this set of episodes, Washu is firing a black hole canon out of the satellite dish and Gouriki the robot grows to giant size to swing a baseball bat at said bomb.
I am willing to see this all as the show intending to go for a vast over the top event for effect.
The thing which sticks out to me with this however is I can not recall much president with any Galaxy Police action from the across the Tenchi Muyo! franchise that approaches this kind of aggression.
They have mecha, sure, and their spaceships have played roles in various fights as well. But this bombing run by the Galaxy Police against the Earth is extreme on a level where I have difficulty even buying into it as a set of actions they would conceivably pull. Even if this show is a comedy, and this being played for exaggerated effect, the overwhelming majority of other Tenchi Muyo! productions are comedies as well.
The other interpretation, if the series is intending to play this straight, is far more dire. The line of thought that because Washu has committed various atrocities over the years in between her scientific and other galactic advancements, it does not matter what law enforcement does. Or what agreements they break, insofar as that Okayama Protocol goes. Tenchi Muyo! is very much not a franchise where that sort of argument holds potential debate water. This is not exactly Psycho-Pass season one material.
That various visual production elements continue to slowly slip do not help sell this in either direction, silly or serious. Increasing numbers of voiceovers to relay a conversation even when all the same characters are themselves on screen, and it is just framed as a prior conversation. Point of view running shots that do not match up with the speeds characters are moving when we cut back to them. Things which as individual elements would not be a big deal, and do indeed have very legitimate uses. But as they tally up, it becomes harder to discount them as part of larger issue.
All things considered, something as simple as Ryoko’s teleportation ability being used as it was established in previous Tenchi Muyo! series is in fact deployed properly and I found myself pleased with seeing that.
Which is such a low point for a series to be at, that it can be praised for at times remembering how its own characters abilities function.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode eleven]
We get to see Nils all grown up now!
…And his name is now Nils Yajima, rather than Nils Nielsen. So he did indeed not only marry Caroline (who is off on company business), but took on her last name. Which is rather neat! For those who do not remember the end of series montage from the original Build Fighters, at the conclusion of that world tournament and ensuing events he and Caroline were able to recreate Plavsky Particles on the International Space Station (the first source having been lost). As they are what allow the entire Gunpla Battle system to function, this is quite the crucial undertaking.
So when Nils mentions that he knows how the Gunpla Battle system functions on a level to where he would not consider it fair for him to participate in competitive Gunpla Battle anymore, it is not merely a matter of him being a skilled engineer. Not even one who works on the system, but who essentially rebuilt the backbone process of the entire sport. It is also a natural process to both have him around but in a way where he would not impact plot events too much to overly steal thunder from the new cast, which seems to be the driving force for nearly every drip feed reintroduction so far.
Aside from Tatsuya Yuuki showing up yet again at the end of this episode, but this time within the battlefield piloting the PF-78-3 Perfect Gundam III. But that is obviously a matter for next week, as his mecha descends from the virtual heavens.
Going off of that however, this did feel very much like a very holding pattern oriented “Wait until next time” episode on the whole.
With the qualification tournament well concluded and the whimsical modeling Gunpla race of last week a solid little romp in its own right, our character do not have a whole heck of a lot to do when we get right down to it. A new tournament will not start for a time, so we are in training camp mode.
What this entails then is a rather large amount of wheel spinning. Needing to get to the site. Meeting a new team of potential rivals in the form of White Wolf. Having two members of said team acting like jerks for a time towards our main kids, with a leader to keep them otherwise in line. A challenge. A summary off screen smackdown of the same team we were just introduced to by someone else much stronger than all three of them combined. And so on.
Even the editing seems to we rather aggressive, knowing this is mostly transition material. A scene where Sekai has misplaced his Build Burning Gundam, for instance, and the rapid search that entails as they are late to their challenge is resolved off screen. We are only told about where it was as they rush down the hall. Apparently it was under a bag of candy. What gets me about a sequence like this is I feel it would be more effective if we saw the process of Sekai finding the Gundam there. The dialogue would essentially stay the same, as they are indeed already late, Sekai can not believe it was under there, and Yuuma implores him to take better care of it. One could do all that, then cut as they head out the room or such.
It is not like this is an essential scene, by any means. So I understand some corner cutting, saving some time and animation money by doing things as they were. But when an episode is already largely transitional padding for our lead characters to space out their main arcs, such sequences do also stand out more and become more prominent.
Our big moment comes in the form of a big mobile suit though. Gundam The End.
Which is to say, that is the literal name of Saga Adou’s machine. As befitting a hotshot from the Gunpla Academy in a second season series, The End is a heavy customization job. The hands of a GNMA-0001V Regnant. DE Fangs which can be mobilized into positions impossible by normal Fang use. Some aspects from the JDG-00X Devil Gundam like aspects suspiciously similar to the Devil Finger. A huge revolver as if it was someone how taken from a Mobile Police Patlabor AV-98 Ingram kit. And so on. With the flowing mantle and faces on its hands which can bite and consume, The End reminds me a lot of D from the Vampire Hunter D series.
What is all amounts to is Saga was the competitor who defeated Yuuma on such an overwhelming scale that he quit Gunpla Battle entirely for the two years afterward. Or at least, Yuuma is very convinced it is Saga. The man himself has no recollection of this event, but also admits that he fights enough people on a regular basis that Yuuma would have just been another loser in a vast sea of many others. The whole “For you… [it] was the most important day of your life.For me, it was Tuesday” opinion of the big boss from the 1990’s Street Fighter movie.
Yuuma’s skills are still not up to snuff enough to take on Saga by himself however. With both his teammates entering the battlefield though, as well as Tatsuya in his full Meijin Kawaguchi regalia, I do wonder which direction or messaging they are going to want to go with. It is not a question so much of “if” Saga will be pushed out of this fight, but “how.” Not just on a practical combat level, but what it may set up on the thematic front as we move towards the second half of the show.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode thirteen]
The Towasanga fleet arrives in full force after making themselves known last time around.
They were, of course, always going to show up. It was merely a matter of time. But but throwing yet another vector into the political and military mix, the constraints this series is already seeking to support itself under creek all the more.
In a select sense, confusion and inexperience with battle is the name of the game here today. The soldiers from Towasanga are causing explosions near Sankt Porto despite clear orders not to. In turn, being both yelled at by their commander as the one board political leadership sighs about it requiring another hundred years to train true forces. Meanwhile on the Earth side the equation, we have a hastily assembled joice force between the Capital Army, Ameria, Capital Guard, and the other associated units with them. Klim’s grand idea is to put together a mobile suit group, head to the capital ship of the moon forces waving a literal white flag, and then proceed to open fire to disable the command structure of their opponent.
With the very aggressive editing of this show however, where it often feels like two characters are talking past each other or lines were otherwise squashed out of the dialogue as if it were a compressed script, I am torn on how to interpret the planning by the multinational Earth force. On a base level, Klim’s plan is a dreadful one from our modern interpretation. Outdated idyllic folly at best, to assume so little of the enemy forces that it would work, and at its worst in dire violation of anything someone who watches international news or studies the history of conflict would consider legal or ethical. While the Reguild Century has been recovering from the horrors which ended the Universal Century, it is not like Klim is from the Capital Guard like Bellri. He is the son of the Amerian President, a nation which has been fighting active wars with Gondwon for some time now, so such conflicts would have been a topic around him.
The entire cast, especially Captain Mask, are all in agreement with Klim’s plan. So, this can be taken as either Klim being just that convinced in his idea being a good one, and nobody else has any better considerations and it sounds compelling enough in the moment. Another could be that Captain Mask may well be mocking Klim’s ideas, as he is knee slapping and having a grand time talking to him and praising the plan. It could in a way be seen as him kissing up to and effectively mocking one of the leaders of who was not that long ago also one of his enemies. He even gets a mental jab in about it being the kind of plan he would expect from the President’s son. But because of the way dialogue is handled in this series, it becomes harder to parse out if Mask is being facetious in his praise, or is genuinely complementing Klim.
The mockery train of thought somewhat derails when one considers Mask made no plans for a backup or escape vector for his own forces. Given the situation, that leads me to want to believe more that Mask genuinely had faith in Klim’s operational objective, as they have not framed him as a man who is callous towards his comrades fates. I do not think Mask would throw his peers away in a potential suicide attack.
So his encouragement for the plan may then also reveal some of his own issues with conducting warfare and further inexperience on the larger Capital Army side as well.
If the series wanted to be about nations with high powered equipment and soldiers with less institutionalized battle philosophy, to where they are all effectively children playing with the most dangerous of matches, that would be valid. The mechanisms for that are in the series to be delivered on, if the right buttons and dials were adjusted. There is a relevancy there and a good thematic ideal to deliver, if sought out.
But to do that, it helps to be able to know how to read a character like Mask’s reactions better. Tomino has stated before that he thinks Gundam should be more of a thing for children rather than otaku, while at the same time this is a late night series. I am willing to grant Tomino likely has little control over his time-slot, but I feel this series would be even more confusing to children. Kids are able to make grand leaps of faith than can paper over various aspects of a production, to be sure. But I also do not think it should be necessary, as tightly written animated programs for young audiences do exist. If I were to interpret this series and the events of this episode within the “Gundam is for children” framework Tomino has raised before, I feel they would at least think Klim’s plan is silly. And I do think the viewer is also supposed to take his plan as one which is in no way going to work out. Beyond that base however, things get murky.
It is never good when there is a division on if one should be laughing at or with the jovial military commander and if they are taking the white flag plan seriously.
On a related matter to Mask: we know from episodes ago that he is a Kuntala, and the history that entails. This being said however, he also actively derides a naval crew member for being a Gondwan man, who as such may not be able to wrap their head around the concept of the Towasanga colony. I had hoped that with Mask’s Kuntala pep talk rally for his forces, and his being granted even a scene of him crying after a failed mission as others deride him, that more would be done with his identity politics. I even went into a whole spiel about it at the time.
Now, one who considers themselves oppressed lashing out at another as a means of asserting some self of power, there are certainly cases of in real life. It would still be a valid thing to do with Captain Mask and/or Luin, depending on how his wearing the mask or now would symbolically change his outlooks. That said however, I am also unsure I am supposed to be reading such a deeper meaning as him trying to fight for Kuntala equality as a group while he derides the populace of an entire country. His background has come up so little for episodes at a stretch, and to pin so much of his potential views on various populations on such a singular throwaway line seems ill advised.
We do get our title drop for the entire series as well this week though, as would befit what is in essence the thematic if not literal midpoint. As established even in pre-release information, “Reconguista” is an adjusted form of “Reconquista,” a Spanish word meaning “Reconquest.” Taken a step further, it is a term we use in our own history to refer to a series of wars from 718 to 1492, a campaign hundreds of years long waged by various Christian kingdoms to retake the Iberian Peninsula.
This, of course, was all known well prior to even the first episode. True enough to form, in one of Klim’s outbursts he exclaims that he considers the actions of Towasanga and the associated building of a military space fleet by the moon forces to be indicative that they are planning to make a campaign for the Earth.
I will take this expected path over Tomino fiddling around with something else, given the history of the term. And there is by all means a whole lot of religious trappings in this show, from having a Pope for SU-Cordism down to the Tower itself potentially being able to be read as a minaret for a mosque that is the Earth itself.
If you will pardon the expression, it is a tall order.
The Megafauna is now heading to Towasanga, to see the much talked about the place themselves during what may well be a short remaining window before full scale war makes it impossible. There is the possibility that the series may finally get to turn the corner, having rushed so far and so fat to get to the moon.forces around the midway point. It could unpack a bit and relax some, even in combat, as through extended scenes we in turn would learn more of its world and the emotions of those in it.
Alternatively, the Megafauna on both a literal and metaphorical level may well be charging headfirst into a whole new set of problems it may well not be equipped to deal with.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode eleven]
At the start, I was worried if this episode would be too cramped.
Its stated goal is to try and tackle two of Sega’s most prolific roleplaying game franchises within the same ten minutes or so. Phantasy Star can be traced back to 1987 on the Master System, while the bloodline for the various Shining titles originated in 1991’s Shining in the Darkness on the Mega Drive. To do either one of them alone could be a pretty large task in and of itself, were a select entry to not be chosen for dedicated focus. Center even flat out says there would be too much history here for him to cover in one of his introductory bits, and for viewers to go and Google it. The television show going with making use of some of the most recent versions of each game series via Phantasy Star Online 2 (a PC and mobile MMO) and Shining Force Cross Exlesia (an arcade enhancement for Shining Force Cross on Sega’s RingEdge hardware) I can at least understand from an editing and cross promotional standpoint.
But, I can not deny that it was disappointing from a larger Sega history perspective that some of the more classically influential entries of either series were not selected to showcase. We are getting also getting dangerously close to a point of the console girls adventuring in recent titles to almost the same extent as some of Sega’s historical achievements, which is somewhat worrying in its own way as well. One or two recent games in a thirteen episode show I can more than understand, even if the girls do not visit a game each episode. Getting past that though, and juggling multiple recent games to boot, and things begin to look less like a history and trivia celebration lovingly mocking various Sega properties.
That Sega Hard Girls has traditionally been at its strongest when it is allowed to run hog wild like that stands out all the more. I begin to wonder how much the production team are holding back, and thus need to default to a standard set of moe girl anime antics when dealing with the more recent game titles, as part of any sort of “Do Not Damage This Active Brand” oversight.
We approach matters then as a play on a previous real life event: Phantasy Star Online 2 had a promotion for Shining Force Cross Exlesia that involved special costumes and the like. So, our girls head out to adventure around in SFCE each wearing a set of PSO2 clothes.
Which in this case, is applied as each of them getting a Rappy costume.
In the larger Phantasy Star franchise, the Rappy is a notable fluffy chicken like creature.
First appearing in Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, one could consider them similar to the image of the Chocobo in Final Fantasy. But, there are key differences. Rappy’s are far more akin to a large landbird, while a Chocobo can be ridden around like a horse. Also, Rappy’s are massive cowards, often playing dead during battle. In the original Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast, there was even an entire side quest called “Fake in Yellow”, where the player goes down to the forest area of the planet Ragol and must search through packs of the birds, looking for a biologist who has convincingly costumed themselves as one. This, in turn, is where the Rappy costumes the girls wear this week originate (and the ensuing confusion over who is and is not a Rappy).
So on the one level, there is a more classic sort of cartoon humor. The Rappy’s all lining up and hiding behind Saturn as she looks around, the misunderstanding and inclusion of a regular Rappy into their quest party due to confusion over where Dreamcast went, and so on. None of the jabs are particularly stinging or surprising, as one has more than likely seen similar setups and executions a thousand fold over the course of their media consumption in all kinds of formats. These antics are the equivalent of the show doing stock gags on a three camera sitcom set.
Right down to lines about using a mother-in-law as a weapon.
And therein lies something of a problem as well. The episode is entirely functional on a base level, but this is also 2014. It “works” in such a way where it near washes over the viewer in a haze of having seen these performances who knows how many times before. As an episode about an in-game promotion event it is, well, rather uneventful itself.
There are some nominal gameplay gags, such as Dreamcast’s overenthusiastic camera use. There is a /”/a cam” command one can use as a lobby action in PSO2, and trigger a silly set of associated animations. Saturn’s inability to change direction once she starts her multi-hit punching combo is a holdover of a bad design mechanic I remember well even from PSO1 days. Attacking locks one into moving directly forward, and rhythmically continuing the three button attack press even if you missed your target completely was often about as fast as just outright stopping depending on your weapon. So one may as well push buttons anyway while waiting for the animations to complete. But in the grand scheme of things, it is a pretty bare-bones attempt in a series which has done far better in prior excursions.
For our penultimate episode time time around though, things look be drawing heavily from Space Harrier for our near finale push towards graduation and perhaps learning the secret of Center.
And I am still looking forward to that very much, as again: this is the sort of material the series has often been at its sharpest with. A strong two episode punch at the end can easily forgive some of the antics of recent weeks.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.