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What does it mean to create a follow-up act to a multimedia franchise as successful as Love Live!? That’s the challenge facing  Love Live! Sunshine!! To fans, each of the original girls is something special, something unique, and renewing that fervor can be like catching lightning in a bottle. Of course, a franchise like Love Live! is designed to do just that, across different characters and different iterations of the concept, but it’s still not necessarily an easy task. Though I might be jumping the gun with what I’m about to say, I think the people in charge of Love Live! might now have a much clearer idea of what is most effective, and this potentially manifests in the physical appearances of the characters themselves.
I decided recently to see how the physical characteristics of the μ’s girls stack up to those of Love Live Sunshine!!‘s Aqours. Thanks to Reddit, I found a convenient chart comparing all of their heights and bust sizes. What’s noticeable is that the Aqours members are all closer to each other physically. Toujou Nozomi and Yazawa Nico are at the extremes in terms of bust size (to no one’s surprise), but a character like Hanayo who is above average compared to the rest of μ’s is decidedly normal in the world of Love Live! Sunshine!! Similarly, while half-Italian American Ohara Mari is the tallest, the other girls are also relatively close to her. Keep in mind that the disparity is not especially large, especially when it comes to height. The difference between “tiny” Kunikida Hanamaru and “towering” Mari is a mere 4 inches (or 10 centimeters). Already, there’s a certain narrow range median that reminds me of something anime voice actress Nonaka Ai once mentioned when I interviewed her: she wanted to be an actress but was considered too tall. Similarly, Hanayo’s voice actress Kubo Yurika is the tallest of the μ’s cast. Like Mari, she is 5’4″ or 163 cm.

I think it’s worth entertaining the thought that the success of Love Live! School Idol Project, which grew gradually from a modest success to a cultural phenomenon, has informed the current version in terms of what is the best median to take, at least in terms of physical traits. Moreover, given the seaside venue of Love Live! Sunshine!!, I believe that there is a greater push for sex appeal, though I’m sure they’re aware that keeping the fanservice from going too overboard is important for maintaining Love Live!‘s large female fanbase.

That being said, while they’re more similar in size, I’m not sure the same applies to the characters’ personalities. In many ways, they feel more extreme and more adhered to certain archetypes, such as Yohane’s chuunibyou identity, Kurosawa Dia’s “Kanzuki Karin” levels of haughtiness, or her sister Ruby’s ultra moe shyness. The closest we have to Ruby in in the original was Hanayo, and at this point we’re aware that Hanayo is kind of a maniac. That doesn’t mean the Aqours characters are bad, however. In a way, perhaps it helps to distinguish them further from each other.

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fumitan

I stopped by the Veef Show to discuss the latest Mobile Suit Gundam series, Iron-Blooded Orphans. Have a listen, as we have fairly different perspectives on the show, and I’d love to know what you think of the series as well.

For reference, the post I mentioned about McGillis can be found here, and the series I mention at the end of the podcast that I have begun chapter reviewing is here.

So in conclusion, Fumitan Admoss is the best.

I wrote a post looking at Voltron: Legendary Defender and its transformation sequence compared to that of King of Braves Gaogaigar. You can check it out at Apartment 507.

McGillis_Fareed-5_G-Tekketsu-5Ever since Char Aznable became one of anime’s most memorable characters, many Gundam series have included similar rivals for their heroes. In general, they’re enemy pilots of roughly equal power who wear masks or something similar to hide their faces, and who often have their own ulterior, if noble, motives. Most recently joining the likes of Zechs Merquise, Harry Ord, and more is McGillis Fareed from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and his approach to being “a Char” is probably the most well-realized out of all of them.

Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans spoilers below.

Throughout the original Gundam, Char Aznable is willing to (and has!) back-stabbed even his closest friends because his true goal, to get vengeance for the death of his father, overrides any sort of sentiment he might possess. McGillis is incredibly similar. He’s willing to sacrificing childhood friends for the sake of accomplishing his motives, but in a way he might also be even more scheming and cut-throat than Char himself. While Char might sabotage some of his own side for personal reasons, he never actively leaked information to the enemy or tried to orchestrate both sides to fall in his favor.

McGillis has gone from being a fairly interesting character to being one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the next season of Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Given the overall quality of the show, I really, really hope the series doesn’t suffer from Sunrise “half-way point syndrome” like so many of their mecha anime, where in an attempt to become more successful a show loses what made it special in the first place.

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This post is dedicated to Anime World Order‘s Daryl Surat, who over 10 years has pointed out repeatedly that people will bring up the relationship between the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion and Space Runaway Ideon without knowing exactly how they connect.

Love it or hate it, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is one of the most influential and well-known anime ever. The story of youths with crippling psychological problems who must fight to save the Earth resonated with many, and anime came to copy, challenge, and rethink Evangelion in the years since. However, Evangelion itself carries its own influences from shows of yesteryear. For this post, I’m going to be writing about one of the major progenitors of Evangelion, Space Runaway Ideon, because it’s often brought up as evidence against Evangelion‘s originality and innovation, without thorough understanding as to what Ideon did and did not do relative to Evangelion.

Evangelion is just a rehash of Ideon,” the argument goes, but structurally they don’t have very many things in common. The city structure, otherworldly invaders, time limits, and the sense of scale when the titanic EVAs fight the similarly enormous Angels all come from Ultraman. In fact, if you want to see just how much Ultraman influenced director Anno Hideaki, check out the manga Insufficient Direction, drawn by his mangaka wife, Anno Moyoco (Hataraki Man, Sugar Sugar Rune). The escalation of trauma and the mistrust between humans comes from DevilmanIdeon, while bearing a few minor similarities to these series, brings something else to the table.

To understand Ideon, it’s useful to start at the beginning. Its story takes place in an era of space exploration and colonization. A group of archaeologists discover three ancient vehicles, which they find out can be brought together to form a giant robot called Ideon. During this time, they also encounter an alien race of conquerors called the Buff Clan, who possess legends about Ideon as a mighty god of ancient times. Though they take a number of casualties, the humans escape with Ideon, and spend the rest of the series fending off attacks from the Buff Clan with the help of the Ideon.

This sounds pretty par for the course for the time in which it was airing (early 1980s), but one thing made Ideon, as a mecha, different: it didn’t like to behave. The pilots from the very beginning are even unsure as to how to rouse Ideon from its dormancy. It powers up and powers down seemingly with a mind of its own, as indicated by a mysterious display called the Ide Gauge. If there’s a pattern as to how strong Ideon will be in any given fight, it is utterly unclear to the humans responsible for it. It is ancient alien technology that they are unable to fully grasp.

Then, deep into the series they find themselves cornered and at the brink of death. Suddenly, the Ideon achieves a power greater than anything seen before, and wipes out the enemy in an instant. Though they’re happy to have escaped with their lives, one important detail looms over their thoughts: it was not by the humans’ actions that they were rescued. Rather, they were at the seemingly serendipitous whims of the Ideon itself. As they continue on their journey, and as they continue to fight the Buff Clan, the heroes are made increasingly aware of the fact that the Ideon is powerful enough to destroy entire worlds, rend galaxies into nothingness, and wipe out civilizations… and they have absolutely no control over it. In the Super Robot Wars games, the power of the Ideon’s strongest attacks, Ideon Sword and Ideon Gun, are labeled as having infinite range as a reference to this, though the mechanics are gamified into something manageable).

If you’ve seen Neon Genesis Evangelion, you probably know where this is going. Some of the most iconic scenes in Evangelion are when the EVA-01, the protagonist Shinji’s mecha, goes berserk. During these pivotal moments, Shinji somehow falls unconscious or is unable to fight, and the EVA roars to life with a mind of its own. It fights like a beast, clawing, biting, and tearing. Its chilling cry becomes a wake-up call to the human characters who believed that they could control all of this technology and power. In the cases of both Ideon and Evangelion, the power granted to the heroes ironically creates a sense of helplessness because of the loss of control. Unlike older giant robot anime, such as Mazinger Z or even Reideen the Brave which featured a similarly sentient super robot, the spirit of the hero, or indeed all of humanity, is made to feel small and insignificant in Ideon and Evangelion. Where Evangelion differs is in its deeply introspective focus, of characters and the deep, torturous labyrinths of their psyches, and so it would be incorrect to say that Evangelion simply copied Ideon.

The Ideon TV series ends more abruptly than almost any other anime you will ever see, and a proper finale would be provided in the form of two movies, one recap and one conclusion. In the movies, the secrets of the Ideon are explored, and it’s through those secrets that further connections to Evangelion can be seen. The second movie, Be Invoked, reveals what causes Ideon to awaken and gain power: life energy. The Ideon throughout the series appears to respond better to children than to adults, and even better to babies. Though there is nothing explicitly written as to why this is the case, and I’m inserting my own interpretation into this to an extent, I believe that it has to do with the fact that children are both more full of life, and are not as warped by their experiences as the cold, cynical adults.

As the fight between the humans and the Buff Clan rages on, it turns out that meteors have been raining down on both planets, wiping out their homes. The implication behind these mutual apocalypses is that the Ideon itself and its Id energy have been testing the two sides to see if they can reach some sort of peace. Because the two sides refused to understand each other and just kept on fighting, the Ideon basically decided that both civilizations are not worth saving as they are. Hence, meteors. Ultimately, even as this is all happening, the Ideon fights the Buff Clan’s ultimate weapon, the Ganda Rowa. The two destroy each other, triggering a massive explosion that wipes out life on the surrounding planets. The spirits of those who died, both human and Buff, gather together as if all is behind them.

A few similarities to Evangelion appear here. First, the effectiveness of children as a source of “power” for the Ideon is similar to how the Evangelions appear to only function when piloted by 14-year-olds. Second, the protective element of the Ideon towards those children resembles how the EVAs have souls within them that (for the most part) are the mothers of the pilots themselves, who go berserk to save their children. Third, the Ideon’s desire to bring these two warring civilizations, and the final moments of Ideon itself, resemble the Human Instrumentality Project at the center of Evangelion. The Human Instrumentality Project is the idea that, by having all of humanity merge together, we will be free from the problems caused by people being unable to properly communicate their feelings. When we are all as one, there will be no suffering. Again, however, even if you factor out the newer works (the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, the manga’s alternative ending), Evangelion does not say the same things because of the greater focus on individual characters and their personal emotions. Ideon thinks on more of a macro scale than Evangelion‘s micro approach, despite the fact that both series involve the death of humanity.

Overall, the influence of Ideon on Evangelion can be summarized as the exploration of humans having to deal with powers beyond their control, and the apocalyptic consequences of those who continue to make mistakes even with this knowledge in mind. I hope this has been useful to you, and if there is anyone who would like to add new points, expand upon the existing ones above, or even argue against them, I welcome you to make a response.

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As the progenitor of the “real robot genre,” every time a new Gundam series comes out the question of its realism comes up. Even though its robots tend to be brightly colored and increasingly full of weird weapons, the simple formula of mecha as tool of war endures. Just this past year, we’ve had both Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, which follows a group of child soldiers, and Gundam Thunderbolt, which combines a gritty feel with a more hard science fiction feel. Which is more realistic? Does it matter?

I don’t intend to actually answer these questions. Rather, I’m bringing them up to try and start a discussion about the ways in which we try to position the idea of realism in something like Gundam. It’s not the first time I‘ve talked about it on this blog, either. With the first episode of Gundam Thunderbolt available, however, I can’t help but feel that it’s probably the Gundam a lot of the fans who revel in a certain image of realism have been looking for. One might call it the Macross Plus of the Gundam franchise in this respect. Its hard SF aspects, both in terms of presentation of technology and its expected character types, provide an interesting contrast to Iron-Blooded Orphans, which has a more contemporary “anime” look, cute girls and handsome boys and all. One can almost detect a generation gap in Thunderbolt vs. Iron-Blooded Orphans in terms of anime fandom; Thunderbolt feels like it came out of the science fiction conventions from which anime cons originally grew from.

In turn, Iron-Blooded Orphans seems more divisive in terms of what it tries to do with its realism, its young boys trying to carve a place in the world because of their circumstances as child soldiers. Of course, child soldiers aren’t new to Gundam. One could argue that the earliest protagonists of Gundam were child soldiers, but in this case it’s more the young guerilla archetype, seen also in Gundam 00. I do see Iron-Blooded Orphans get a bit more flack, and though my sample might be skewed by the fellow fans I interact with and observe, I think it has to do with how Iron-Blooded Orphans, unlike Thunderbolt, carries a kind of more “feminine” aesthetic that does not jive with more traditional images of realism as gritty.

Of course, grittiness does not automatically equal realism, but I think we’re trained to believe it. It’s one of the biggest trends of modern video games, and while there are plenty of games that push against it, many kids are growing up being taught by games and media that this is what “real” looks like. That said, Gundam Thunderbolt still has elements of the fantastic, and perhaps in the space between it and Iron-Blooded Orphans we can find versions of “realism” to satisfy all of those looking for it.

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g-reco-op

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Gundam Thunderbolt seem to be the Gundam anime a lot of people are looking for. Whether it’s the story of child soldiers of the former or the hard SF feel of the latter, they both capture in different ways the idea of Gundam as that realistic war story with a science fiction twist. While I’ve been enjoying both of these quite a bit, I wanted to step back and look at the previous Gundam anime, 2014’s Gundam: Reconguista in G, because I think it was a legitimately strong series whose merits went underplayed and under-appreciated.

Gundam: Reconguista in G has a reputation for being confusing, convoluted, and nonsensical. Even the writer and director himself, the original Gundam creator Tomino Yoshiyuki, considered G-Reco a disappointment. I disagree. While the series is rife with Tomino-isms that make the narrative and its characters’ decisions hard to follow, one thing rings out loud and clear: G-Reco is the story of people who, for better or worse, have no true connection to war.

G-Reco takes place many years after the end of the original Gundam timeline. In this new era, the Regild Century, voyage into space is restricted, and energy resources are rationed out to prevent the world from falling into the same catastrophes which scarred previous generations. Over the course of the story, characters frivolously and repeatedly switch sides, the ones most eager to fight have the least conception of war’s effects on humanity, and ultimately even as soldiers die left and right, the consequences of their warfare, if you can call them as such, are vague and ambiguous. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be a story worth following, but I believe that it all emphasizes a central point, which is that the more humankind is distanced from war, the less they understand its repercussions.

Tomino was born during World War II, so it should come as no surprise that the original Mobile Suit Gundam had a strong anti-war message. While the children of that generation weren’t born in an era of conflict, the adults knew full well what post-war reconstruction was like, and many anime and manga creators have strongly believed in the dedication to pacifism stated in Japan’s constitution. However, G-Reco debuted in a different era, in this current time when forces in the Japanese government have clamored and have now even successfully reduced the influence of the Japan’s official stance on pacifism. Similar to Gatchaman Crowds Insight, G-Reco argues that, while there are merits to a world where large-scale global conflict is a distant memory, namely because it means people don’t have to suffer to the same degree, it ironically pushes war and violence even further into the realm of appealing fantasy. It becomes about heroes and villains, about glory and pride, rather than death and destruction.

At the same time, the characters in G-Reco are largely positive and optimistic, and while its ending is rushed and its final scene is undoubtedly the most confusing part of the anime, it also speaks towards a great deal of faith in the youth of today. They make plenty of mistakes, and they’re in some ways just as guilty of treating war as play, but they’re also not beholden to the manipulations of adults and the older generation. In this respect I get a vibe from G-Reco not unlike that of Evangelion 3.33, though the unique tendencies of their respective directors make for different overall presentations.

I think it’s fitting that the last battle in G-Reco concludes with no clear winners and no real fallout, but also has some notably unceremonious deaths. It pushes the idea that war is both meaningless yet full of things that cannot be undone, and it is up to the current generation of humanity to take advantage of our distance from war by keeping it there, while remembering that such distance comes with its own perils.

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BEST MALE CHARACTER

Sunakawa Makoto (My Love Story!!)

In the narrative of My Love Story!!, Sunakawa is naturally handsome, intelligent, and charismatic to the point that girls from ages 8 to 80 seem to fall in love with him at first sight. However, what makes him truly stand out aren’t his looks or his smarts, but his genuine bond with his best friend, the seemingly brutish Gouda Takeo. Sunakawa’s opposite in practically every way, but the two share one important thing in common: big hearts. Sunakawa sees not only the goodness in Takeo but the petty shallowness of those who judge people only by their looks, which affects him just as much as Takeo himself.

Takeo is also a worthy pick, but it’s the way Sunakawa looks out for Takeo that makes him the Best of 2015. Whether you want to be Sunakawa or have him watch your back, there’s no better best friend in all of anime (except maybe Tomoyo).

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

Koizumi Hanayo (Love Live! The School Idol Movie)

Last year, Koizumi Hanayo was in the final running for Best of 2014, but ultimately the immensely powerful personality of Kill la Kill‘s Kiryuuin Satsuki won out. Now, with Love Live! The School Idol Movie being the swansong for the original Love Live! girls, I thought it best to call Hanayo Best Female Character of 2015 because there might never be a chance to do it again.

If there’s one word I would use to describe Hanayo, it would be “passion.” It’s her nearly unrivaled love of school idols, along with some support from her friends, that allows Hanayo to take the step from fan to idol in the first place. The fiery look in Hanayo’s eyes and her characteristic “quiet scream” when something big is happening is unmistakable. When Hanayo helps Rin overcome her negative self-image, it’s from a place of genuine care and compassion. And when Hanayo goes on a rant about how rice is the central component of a proper meal and that this is one of America’s most critical flaws, why, it’s only appropriate. Hail to the Rice Goddess.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to determining my favorite characters in anime, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that they often possess either admirable qualities I would like to emulate, or traits that I can directly relate to. Sunakawa’s perceptiveness and compassion are things that my oblivious self would love to have. Hanayo’s devotion to food is a match for my own constant desire to find the latest, greatest things to eat, and her instant switch from shy to fervent fan also reminds me a lot of myself. Of course, these are not their only criteria, and ultimately it is their impact on their friends and loved ones that is in a way much more significant, but there’s something about both Sunakawa and Hanayo that makes them both like quiet fist pumps in anime form.

Yesssss.

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Whenever I think of Christmas and anime, my mind immediately goes to Initial D: Third Stage. Does that count as a Christmas anime? I’m going to say yes, and try to make it official.

Here are this month’s Patreon supporters. As always, I’m happy that they have my back.

General:

Ko Ransom

Alex

Anonymous

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

We even have a new Yajima fan aboard! Seeing as how the character’s been developing in Genshiken as of late, I wonder if more will join.

It’s a pretty subtle change, but one thing I’ve been trying to do over the past month is put out content three times a week. I used to do at least two posts a week, with a Fujoshi File every other week, but I felt that it wasn’t quite enough.

Speaking of the Fujoshi Files, at the moment they’re on a brief hiatus as I use that time to indulge in my love of Super Smash Bros. After the recent announcement that Cloud Strife is going to be a playable character (!), I’ve gone back to an old love of mine and have been designing movesets for what-if Smash characters. So far I’ve done Pitfall Harry from Pitfall and Zoma from Dragon Quest III, and there will be at least a couple more on the way.

I have more reviews this month, though as always they toe the line between review and analysis. Of course, there’s the requisite Genshiken chapter, and if you’re a Sue fan this is the one for you. I also wrote something about the use of kanji and words in Aquarion Logos, and then there’s my review of the new Digimon anime. If you haven’t heard about that last one, it’s actually a sequel to the original, with all of your favorite characters in high school. If you like giant robots, I also appeared on the Cockpit podcast to talk about Gaogaigar. I even made a new 1 Minute Review to celebrate the release of Girls und Panzer der Film!

As with every month, if you’re interested in requesting topics for me, it’s a reward for those who pledge $30+ on my Patreon. I of course don’t mind coming up with my own topics (and in many ways it’s actually kind of easier),  but I do miss being “forced” to look at something I might not have otherwise. In the meantime I’ve replaced the Ogiue Maniax Skype group reward at $2.00 with a new feature: I will include a link to whatever you want (within reason) in a special section in my sidebar. Remember, if you’re pledging already, you already have access to this, so send those requests my way!

The last thing I’d like to talk about is the whole social media thing. In the past, I’ve tried to make it so that each site I used had a different specialty. My tumblr, for example, was mainly for video clips. However, I realized that many people only look at their favorite social media platforms and rarely venture outside of them. That’s why I’ve been getting a bit more redundant with posts across different sites, to reach more people. My question is, are you someone who sticks to just one, or someone who sees different value in Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, etc.? I’d like to have a better idea of how to interact with my readers, so that I can foster interesting or even delightfully frivolous discussion.

 

As a long overdue follow-up to our discussion on Brave Police J-Decker, I was invited along with the Reverse Thieves‘ Kate to talk about King of Braves Gaogaigar on Space Opera Satellite’s “Cockpit” series. Many have called it the best show in the Brave franchise, and it’s been 10 years since I first finished Gaogaigar, when that sentiment was at its strongest.

For your reference: Silverion Hammer

The real question is, why are there so few King J-Der toys?

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