This Week: Tenchi Muyo! Love, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Gundam Reconguista in G , and Sega Hard Girls.
Late December and early January are always a crowded mess for the personal life, even when some productions go on break or end early, so let’s finally box up the last of autumn before breaking open another season.
Tenchi Muyo! Love (Ai Tenchi Muyo!) [Episodes fifty five through sixty]
One last rotation, and though my numbering includes the recap episodes there are none to be had in this final set.
I am not an impenetrable force field, so I am able to acklowagle in full that this series of episodes is by far the most focused the series has been. Wobbly animation and the like seen not that long ago is in short supply here, with the storyboarding and general shot framing aiming to be more ambitious as well. Most of the fanservice and leering body shots are tossed aside. Hiroshi Negishi and his team attempt to steer this in for a multidimensional time and space continuum landing, as the device dropped by the Galaxy Police (and in short order taken over by Washu) attempts to fight a tear in the universe which could consume our entire star system while Tenchi ends up encountering different Momo’s of varying ages in assorted places.
It all sounds (perhaps) compelling on paper, and again to be sure it is the most poignant the show has ever tried to be. Tenchi meeting a lonely Momo at different stages of life to give encouraging words and the like, culminating in these becoming memories the Momo of the present then has rush back into her so she can thank him before being zapped back to the past for good (with Beni in tow). In isolation, it is not a terrible series of events, and indeed is about as pleasant of an ending as I could have been able to imagine. All the more given how much I have not enjoyed the overall show.
It also though, at the same time, does reveal just how extraneous a lot of the material is.
Momo and Beni aside, all the other new girls introduced via this series have nothing to contribute to the finale.
They barely even appear in these episodes at all, by and large placed to the side while the core Momo and Beni issue is resolved. The most significant appearance they do make is part of a chain where Washu is granted permission by the Galaxy Police to stop the dimensional rift issue (in exchange for her charges being dropped). Free from custody, she deploys the Science Club via Yuki and Aoi to plug into the law enforcement equipment so she can make use of it. Cue cursory scene of police trying to stop them, the remaining Student Council members arriving to stop the police, and Ukan breaking the whole thing up as the police withdrawal.
While perhaps justifiable, in the sense Washu would have been speaking with high level Galaxy Police leadership and the troopers on the ground may not have gotten the message yet for who has allowed to do what, episodes of this show are also not very long. In practice, this sort of thing eats up a lot of time. When considering further this scene of the show is on a base level the most involvement any of these individuals have on the ending and the most screen time they receive as a part of this last package of episodes, it seems more like a lackadaisical way of thinking they need to be to shoehorned in somehow rather than a compelling narrative need.
By contrast, consider how the finale of a packed to the gills with girls series like Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara at least gives everyone an individual scene and line readings as part of a larger ending push. No matter which character a given viewer may have become a fan of, there will be a little something for them and there is the feeling everyone gets to participate in the conclusion. Heck, even in Tenchi Universe, which Negishi himself also directed, the escapades that are a part of the last push to the final boss are designed in such a way where characters get to individually shine through a line of varying encounters.
For this iteration of Tenchi Muyo! then, this ending shoving so many other characters out of the way shows us something. All of the service shots, cleavage heaves, upskirts, groping, wardrobe malfunctions and so on are solidified as the sole reason for any of these characters to have been introduced at all. When the sexualization mode switches almost entirely off (and to be sure, this ranks among the most service oriented of the vast array of Tenchi Muyo! productions), the production has virtually nothing else for these characters to do.
And that is a real shame, when considering the whole cloth of the show.
Their inclusion into this series gets to amount to so little as active agents. The series spinning its wheels for so long for the promotion and championing of these characters with so much screen time over their classic counterparts. It is not even a matter of being disappointed to not see a well liked personal favorite participate in the finale as much as it is the thought that these new characters were never utilized in a manner where I was able to find myself attached their personalities and antics at all.
That Tenchi Muyo! Love is designed in such a way where they are so shoved to the side at the end rather than woven into the proceeding in a more comprehensive manner reminds me of al the glut and bloat that permeates this show. The recap episodes, the barrage of how many shorts were released each week, even the heavy redesign work applied to the classic characters while at the same time trying to prop this work up as a twentieth anniversary piece.
This series was, again, funded in large part through by the city of Takahashi, Okayama as part of an initiative to promote tourism. I doubt this was ever the legacy they wished to be attached to. I have to wonder if there was such a time and space rift occurring near the real world analogues of a lot of these sets, if the local board responsible would consider making use of it for entirely different purposes relative to their support of this show.
Perhaps all the worse, as someone who did have the core Tenchi Muyo! entries as a part of their more formative years with anime as an entertainment option, for all the anniversary trimmings this show never felt like a celebration of the franchise. It never even came across an an obligatory office party in the break room, let alone a festive time at home with loved ones. The experience has instead been one largely consisting of alienation and isolation.
We used to be friends, Tenchi Muyo!
But this latest entry really does feel like it came from a different world.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode twelve]
Tatsuya Yuuki has been doing so well as Meijin Kawaguchi in the seven years since the conclusion of the previous television season that he won the World Championship three times in a row and received automatic entry into the Hall of Fame.
It is not an unbelievable chain of events, as he was clearly always very talented and posed as a rival to Reiji and Sei for good reason. With the two of them off to who knows where (at the moment) in their different capacities, there would have been a sizable level of room for Tatsuya to advance a small reign over the virtual battlefield for a period of time. Though I do also wonder, with the introduction of a Lady Kawaguchi and both her and Tatsuya taking different members of Team Try Fighters under their wings this week, if the series will be looking to have our main characters take over those roles by series end rather than achieving success on the global stage winners in general like Reiji and Iori.
It would still leave the question of what the production could aim to do with Sekai. But he is out of commission this episode through due to his overactive Gunpla synergy and acquiring physical exhaustion and injury due to the performance of his model kit. I imagine the mysteries therein would be the natural road to explore, as it will need to be explained at some point.
Though to what end and how much that makes or breaks the series beyond merely becoming the best in Gunpla Battle tournament competition is going to be rather crucial.
Focusing in though on the two characters who are conscious this week however, Yuuma and Fumina have testing sessions to manage and lessons to learn. By being put through the quasi-pep talk performance ringer of some of the very best in the Gunpla Battle business.
As this arc of the show is still very much part of the bridge connecting regional qualifiers to their more imposing upper level counterparts, this would be expected of most sports series. Yuuma had his willpower shattered after seeing his Lighting Gundam smashed by the same guy he lost to a few years ago, coming to the extended conclusion that he had not advanced at all as a competitor, builder, and so on. One often may not take the words of their own friends to heart in a situation like this. So a figure like Tatsuya rolling in after monitoring the training match to pump him back up again is the sort of thing that functions not only as a narrative function of amping Yuuma up again but a way of weaving the prestigious fighter naturally into the characters own personal worlds.
The baseline result of this, course, would and does play out in the exact fashion one could imagine. The champion demonstrates and teaches a lesson of how Gunpla Battle is not merely a matter of natural talent or raw performance alone, but a matter of the heart and personal desire as well. Given the nature of this very particular sport, Tatsuya can just swap out machine with Yuuma, in turn the Hall of Famer taking command of the damaged Lightning Gundam while the aspiring hopeful is granted use of the “Red Warrior,” Perfect Gundam III. While the younger fighter finds the championship tier machine to be a wonderful work of craft, engineering, smooth performance, and impressive assault capabilities, he is outright trounced by Tatsuya making excellent use of the crippled Lighting Gundam.
Model damage is set all the way down to C, so it is not as though any further damage was on the line (and Tatsuya could by all means build a new machine if push came to shove, given the facilities at his disposal). Even so, a demonstration such as this is the kind of well worn but nonetheless useful tool that is deployed to encourage a crestfallen lead to keep going (especially in a sports show aimed primarily at a younger audience than other Gundam titles), and I believe it manages the task well.
Fumina’s time with Lady Kawaguchi receives significantly less screen time by contrast, though I am willing to chalk that up more to Yuuma being much further down in the dumps and needing the immediate narrative punch up. Given how little information there still is on Lady Kawaguchi (not even her real name), I do hope that there is a good story and character development there for her and Fumina beyond mere “A young woman also become a Kawaguchi, and Fumina followed in her footsteps.”
There would be a lot of potential moments that could be made out of a mentoring or sharing session about achieving that level of success in a male dominated field, so while we did get to see the two of them battle for a bit this episode there is the ideal of more to come down the line.
Gundam Reconguista in G (Gundam: G no Reconguista) [Episode fourteen]
We enter the second half of the show, and there is bad news surrounding things all around
First up, on an external level from the show: The first home video sales numbers have started to come out. Bluntly, things do not look good. Projection estimations were upwards of seventeen thousand units for the first volume, between combined Blu-ray and DVD purchases. Even taken as an overestimation, the expectation would still be for impressive numbers with Yoshiyuki Tomino returning to the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise for a fresh series after all the years since Turn A Gundam. Actual performance rests in the high 4,000’s. Which this would be considered a success for many anime television productions on a raw level, this is not an encouraging sign. A near eighty percent difference between expectations and sales reality is a colossal indicator of underperformance. Percentage wise, the only series that beat G-Reco at this are three volumes of The Severing Crime Edge, but the pure scale of the numbers is in entirely different universes given how that later series was never gauged to be a blockbuster to begin with.
Gundam Reconguista in G is the single largest flop since when numbers started being tracked for this sort of thing, when accounting for the size of expectations to actual real world purchases.
It is by all means one hell of a legacy that will take quite some doing to beat. I do not think that is unfair to say. But I very much do not think this nightmare scenario is what the producers had in mind when greenlighting the return of Tomino to his legendary Gundam series, what may well be his last entry in both it and perhaps even his career as a whole.
I would hope that, through my writings, you have seen how hedged I have been on this show. That I want it to be a good time and tickle my fancy, insofar that I want any long lasting and influential creator like Tomino to be able to participate in having the ability to have a swell final ride. And Turn A Gundam was always going to be a hard number to follow up after, such is the respect I have for it. But even so, this has been an underwhelming ride to say the least, and as time has gone on you have seen how much less and less rope I am willing to grant it to play with.
The actual episode this week does not start off on a great foot either.
A lot of chatter was had about why the first opening credit sequence seemed unfinished, as it had bits of original material but was otherwise largely recycled footage from the show.
The response was that the “real” opening would have spoilers in it for later events, so it was on hold until then. Fair enough, and it has certainly been deployed to swell effect in other works. Even the entire first half of the show using the same introduction sequence could be written off to one level or another as providing potential for the second, especially now that the people on the moon have arrived in the narrative proper. Our second opening arrives in full this episode and it is…. now all recycled footage, just different and from later episode points than the previous recycling.
Barring a dire emergency, like the new opening song needing to contractually play for a set number of episodes but a “real” opening did not meet a pre-New Year deadline, this is discouraging. At best it would imply a gross level of mismanagement, for so many weeks to elapse and such a hypothetical opening to not be complete. Assuming this is a permanent and intended situation, things then turn towards willful misdirection and “technically, we did not lie” style shenanigans. Given how much good will the series has already exhausted in the eyes of many Gundam fans, as I flip through Twitter timelines and message board posts, few are in a mood to be as kind to this sort of thing as they may otherwise be. It is not like the opening itself is crucial to the in-show narrative, after all, but the larger conversation regarding the series is one of disappointment and confusion.
This merely sets a viewership tone right from the get go, and provides more mental ammo to the cause.
In finally getting into the meat of the episode, Raraiya is now able to talk in full sentences with complete competency and verbal fluidity.
The cause is not granted to us in-universe, and the resulting series of character events is difficult to parse out. Aida knows Raraiya can speak well enough that when they are observing a conference discussion from above she asks her questions about the political and military leadership of the moon people. But how Aida knows Raraiya can be relied up to answer such inquiries thoroughly, let alone without leaping into a zany series of choppy words, is never established. Further, Raraiya is with Noredo and Bellri both before, during, and after this same conference but do not know Raraiya can now use full sentences until near the end of the episode. On top of that, Aida seems to either forget she knew or otherwise oddly out of time congratulate Raraiya on her verbal skills returning, as part of this scene where Raraiya is saying the name of everyone. Raraiya never particularly left the sight of most of these characters from what we understand of what they were doing when scenes cut over to Captain Mask and the like, which complicates matters further. It would indicate her change in demeanor and behaviour was either never noticed or put out of mind by other characters.
More practically, this is the sort of thing where one rewinds through episode a fair amount just to see if the events really were as choppy as they felt in the moment. The sequence of events confirmed, questions begin to bubble up of it the writers remembered what was going on from the start of the episode to the end.
There is alphabet soup style bits of theoretically interesting events playing out through the twenty minutes. Captain Mask firing off messages in a tube to enemy forces a-la message in a bottle antics to avoid electronic transmissions. Talk of plans for assassinating major leaders of the moon people. Our motley crew of Earthnoids bringing Second Lieutenant Ringo Lon Giamanotta into custody after his willful surrender, and in turn his encouraging them to head for Towasanga because in his words nobody there is expecting people from the Earth to arrive.
But things are very, very messy at the moment. Not even as much on the political, military, societal fronts, but the basic flow of the episodes continues to slip into sputtering fits and full on breakdown territory.
I do not feel the series is going to be able to turn around, the concern instead being more of just how badly its collateral damage is going to be as its per volume sales performance is calculated in the weeks to come.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode twelve]
The final test of the Sega Girls, as they again face their greatest kind of foe: hacking incidents.
While not directly related to the plot here at all, it is personally interesting to me that all three systems had online functionality. Dreamcast most famously with their built-in modem, but there were also the Sega Saturn Net Link and Sega Meganet devices, as well as the Sega Channel service. Though, as our consoles traverse a virtual theme park of games, it is also very easy to see a nice connection there, intentional or not.
Lest I get too far ahead of myself: rather than a return of Dr. Robotnik / Eggman, our perpetrator is another force entirely. Center has been captured, and Black Asobin has acquired the reigns to command (in turn draining all the girls hard won medals but one). So, something else which has been cursory to the entire experience of this show but I have not brought up really at all since it was not, well, front and center.
Professor Asobin was a fancy white rabbit character, complete with a top hat and monocle, who in practice was the first unofficial mascot of Sega and the design after which Center borrows his appearance. A lot of his appearance is based off the White Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland, and Asobin was referenced as a small joke by Mega Drive episodes ago, but it was not significant enough to go on about at length at the time. But, nevertheless, Professor Asobin made appearances in practically giving advice about gameplay mechanics within nearly every manual Sega produced from 1983 – 1987, barring an absence in 1984. And he continued to make visual appearances in Mark III manuals after 1987, though his gaming tips and tricks instead turned towards instead providing care and maintenance information for cartridges. He faded out, though Alex Kidd never managed to capture mascot status and there was even a short reign of Opa-Opa, the spaceship from Fantasy Zone.
Space Harrier, it should be noted, takes place in the same universe as Fantasy Zone. It is how the game even audibly greets the player (“Welcome to the ‘Fantasy Zone’! Get Ready!”), right from stage one, which the series retains when Sega Saturn enters the game world. So there is this interesting element, in having Black Asobin challenge the girls to a game of Space Harrier for their entire educational career.
Likewise also with designing exploitable faults, like a single missing pixel for a one hit kill, into his own design.
Black Asobin, of course, was never a real threat.
He was Center, all along, albeit as rushed as that felt given the smaller episode size of this series and trying to spin a whole lot of reference plates at once. But I liked the design, the aesthetic, of Black Asobin World, even if we do not get to see all that much of it between the JoyJoy Room and the Space Harrier shenanigans.
And I have to admit, Space Harrier is one of my favorite video games of all time, Sega or otherwise. I enjoy its bright colors. The upbeat music. A world where clouds can be made of stone, and cyclops mammoths exist within the same world as giant robots and dragons with faces at both ends of their body. There are seemingly endless possibilities in its world, a most genuine fantasy zone, and that is something I appreciated a lot as a kid. Perhaps even all the more now as well, as so many games have turned to draber color scenes and more realistic tones.
I did not grow up in a time where my local arcade had a Space Harrier machine or the like, as that was phased out in favor of other spectacle things like deluxe light gun cabinets. But I did get to somewhat simulate that experience via Shenmue and its sequel on the Dreamcast, where you can choose to visit the local coin operated game establishments for a variety of classic games. And I think it speaks well that even within what was at the time the bleeding edge of 1999/2000 era gaming, I still made a lot of time for going to the arcade for Space Harrier.
Within weeks of Shenmue’s launch in western markets, and with it the arcade, Sega announced they were withdrawing from the console video game market.
Next episode: graduation.
Sega Hard Girls (Hi☆sCoool! SeHa Girls) [Episode thirteen]
Sometimes, this series had had pacing problems. Trying to find a balance.
Time spent in-game and doing reference and character humor that way. Out of game and the more social gdgd Fairies style hangout scenes. Doing such segments as their own episodes, such as the clean breaks at the start between Virtua Fighter or Space Channel 5. Aiming to blend them into the game episodes themselves, like the Jet Grind Radio adventure being less funky and punky and more moe girls anime sticker booth fun, without bringing in much of the cast from the actual game.
But the series has its heart in the right place here. I feel it is appropriate to have the cast not within a selected game world itself, but speaking more generally among themselves outside. Though the idea of what constitutes “outside” here becomes a debatable subject.
We establish that the universe, as the Sega Hard Girls have ever known it to be, is not in fact the “real world.” They are figments of imagination within their creators minds, and having qualified for graduation they will need to exit this plane of reality to enter production as physical consoles. I will not attempt to pretend this is some sort of groundbreaking narrative device, but it is one I think is applied well and makes for some cute scenes and character reactions. There is a pleasant element of heart to it all, Center speaking of the console girls having been raised with lots of love and the kinds of endless opportunity that exists for them.
This is still all Corporate Branding, of course, and I am well enough aware of that.
But, it strikes me as as a nicer sentiment, as these are all machines whose heydays have long since passed.
There are people in high school now who were born when the Dreamcast had its curtain call. For people who would have been babies at the time, and thus would not remember the final Sega console period anyway, and they are university students now. So while there there are elements of hope as the machines set out, the trepidation of if they are going to be good at what they were born to do, there is also a certain kind of sadness as well. They can not dominate forever, even when some of them were successful. And the regional successes of the three do vary wildly. The viewer would already know what happened to these consoles, after all, even if only from online encyclopedia articles.
Intentionally on a metanarrative level or not, it is appropriate for Dreamcast to be the most worried about their future prospects. The pause the most. To question if they will really be considered good hardware. But an entire room of Sega properties gives them the go ahead and a unanimous confidence vote. Effectively, the hopes and dreams of an entire company. And there she went. A sadness also exists within that.
She forever remains the youngest child, and had the shortest life of her group.
I like the little ending credits nod a lot, as small as it is. An off screen child of some unknown age unboxing a gift, and it turns out to be a Dreamcast rather than the new unnamed console they wanted instead. And the youngster is quite incensed by this development! But an off screen adult explains that they used to be quite a gamer themselves, back in the day, and their aim is to be able to play some of those games now with their kid. To pass things on, as it were. Those who would have been young teenagers during the last Sega console cycle would be at an age now where some may be considering raising children of their own, if they do not already have them already. There is the encouragement to share both the gaming time and the memories, while also creating new ones all the same.
Of any possible parting message a series like this could have, it is the single most important thing it could have said.