Gattai Girls 7: Shinkon Gattai Godannar and Aoi Anna

Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.

Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.

For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.


This Gattai Girls entry is a bit unusual because I’ve already posted a review of the series before. Moreover, with a series like Godannar, I’ve already written extensively about the the portrayal of female characters because it’s all but unavoidable. If the prevalent fanservice wasn’t enough, there’s the fact that over half of the cast is women. While I’ll inevitably retread some old territory, this time around I’m going to focus more heavily on the main heroine of the story, Aoi Anna.

Godannar follows 17-year-old Aoi Anna, who’s engaged to burly, veteran robot pilot Saruwatari Gou in a May-December romance. Years ago, he rescued her from a monster attack, and eventually their feelings blossomed into love. But while she’s no slouch herself when it comes to mecha—she’s a prodigy who’s dreamed of fighting in a robot since childhood—Gou forbids her from becoming a full-fledged defender of the Earth. The reason? That’s how he lost his previous lover and trusty co-pilot. Still, Anna and Gou are humanity’s greatest weapons, as their robots combine into the might robot, Godannar Twin Drive, the “marriage of god and soul.”

From a characterization and narrative perspective, Anna’s story stands out in a way capable of overshadowing even the infamous double decker cheesecake of Godannar. Romance traditionally takes a backseat in many giant robot series, and when it does show up, such as in Macross, the two sides are often from different worlds, either metaphorically or literally. In Godannar, however, not only are Anna and Gou equal partners, but they have to work together as a team both personally and professionally. The cockpit becomes a second home of sorts, as they iron out their differences and fight the enemy. The series literally has relationship plot and mecha action resolve simultaneously, as if the two sides are permanently fused together, and it’s glorious. In a way, this is the story about the power of love, but it’s less “love defeats everything automatically” and more “love opens them up to resolve problems they couldn’t otherwise.”

In a certain sense, this heavy emphasis on relationships plays into the stereotype of girls only caring about guys, and one might even feel that Anna’s character is directly tied to her connection with Gou. While I think there’s some truth to that, I also find that Godannar‘s direct focus on its main couple (as well as many other couples throughout the series) is a big part of its, and by extension Anna’s, appeal. It’s basically a story about newlyweds who are also co-workers, and having to navigate that tricky interpersonal landscape. Through it all, Anna’s inner strength stands out. When Gou first tells her to stop piloting for her own sake, her response is that they have a duty to take care of each other as husband and wife. At one point, she feels herself unable to fight as Gou’s equal, but is able to find the motivation within herself to not back down in the end. By the end, due to unfortunate circumstances, she’s actually the one having to do the lion’s share of the work, to make up for what Gou can no longer do. Her strength, perseverance, and caring make her one of my favorite characters ever.

I’ve already made mention of it a couple of times, but when it comes to how women are depicted in Godannar, the series heavily sexualizes on a level where few other series can compare. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. When the girls, including Anna, are piloting their robots, they’re in ultra-form-fitting suits that leave less than nothing to the imagination. During combat, their breasts jiggle to and fro as if made from some alien substance. Even when they’re in regular clothing, the fabric hugs every curve as if holding on for dear life. The camera angles can also be extremely voyeuristic. Even if I wanted to say, “You should really just ignore all this,” that’s pretty much impossible whether you’re into heavy fanservice or not. There’s an incredibly good series with some strong, well-written characters both male and female there, but it requires either an acceptance or tolerance of just a non-stop barrage of sexual imagery.

One last aspect of the series I want to talk about is the interesting way it addresses the topic of gender roles. In the second season of Godannar, the enemy monsters begin to utilize a different tactic. Instead of just trying to out-muscle Earth’s giant robot forces, they also evolve to spread a virus that specifically targets hot-blooded, macho men—the very people who are supposed to excel at being mecha pilots. As the men become increasingly unable to fight, the women, led by Anna, have to take a stand. On the one hand, this plays into the idea that men are supposed to be strong and tough (though it should be noted that a more masculine girl gets hit by the disease while a more effeminate playboy guy does not). On the other, it brings up the notion that hyper-masculinity can become a weakness to be exploited.

Godannar is a contradictory anime. Its unrestrained sexualization of the female body makes it seem like a series all about pure objectification of women, but at the same time its female characters, notably its main heroine Anna, are fully realized characters who have goals and dreams and a desire to stand on their own feet. They’re fleshed out as human beings, but also practically the embodiment of “temptation of the flesh.” But if marriage is a union of separate yet compatible beings, then Godannar is an unlikely marriage of disparate elements that somehow, some way, work to make something beautiful.

 

 

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From Cutie Honey to Keijo!!!!!!!!: The Rise of Big Butts in Anime History

NOTE: This post is NOT SAFE FOR WORK

yamato2199-moriyuki-characterlineart

Introduction

For as long as there has been fanservice in anime, there has been an emphasis on rear ends. Few things are more associated with anime (for better or worse) than the panty shot, and the form-fitting suits in works such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell have helped to bring posteriors to prominence. However, I believe that buttocks have not remained static over the course of anime’s history and that, over the past 10-15 years, we have reached a point where big butts are “in.” The purpose of this post is to show this gradual change in tastes while also positing some possible reasons that this change has taken place.

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Kill la Kill = Exploitation + Empowerment?

Kill la Kill for all of its visual creativity is a pretty controversial show, if only for its main heroine’s outfit and how it’s used in the series.  Whether Ryuko’s uniform (or lack thereof) is a symbol of feminine power or yet another case of women being objectified in media is the point of contention. I find that it can be difficult to navigate the intersection between “exploitation” and “empowerment” in Kill la Kill, partly because when we think of those ideas we usually find them mutually exclusive to the extent that one can only grow at the expense of the other, whereas I actually believe Kill la Kill is honestly and genuinely trying to do both at once.

Kamui_Senketsu

One of the key examples of this duality is in Ryuko’s transformation sequence, which ends in the pose shown above. Her uniform is ridiculously skimpy, but her actual stance exudes power and confidence, sharing more in common with the type of posing done by a tokusatsu hero rather than the almost fashion model-esque poses common to magical girl shows (and also JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure). It’s showing her body off to the world at the same time it shows off her will and determination.

Outside of Kill la Kill, of all the series I’ve seen which attempt this combination the one that tries the hardest is probably Shinkon Gattai Godannar. There, the fanservice is arguably more extreme and pretty impossible to avoid in its own right, but I find that its ideas and themes resonate with a desire for women to be the heroes of their stories. With either Kill la Kill or Godannar, it’s possible to “look past” the sexualization (or not), but neither the image of exploitation nor empowerment are necessarily merely in service to the other, as if one is an “excuse” and the other is the underlying true meaning.

It’s easy to think of the people who made Kill la Kill as perverts, and it’s maybe even true, but I wonder if the show is actually saying something along the lines of, “Hey, perverts can be feminists too!” Whether this approach is okay or not is of course still up for debate, and differs from show to show, or perhaps even episode to episode. Personally, I’m pretty okay with it but recognize the potential, positive or negative, in combining this imagery in that it can be appropriate and used according to the viewer’s wishes.

The Feminine Touch to the Manly Spirit

Whenever I listen to the full version of the opening to Brave of the Sun Fighbird, a particular lyric gets my attention. Not present in the TV version, the line says, “Kanashimi o kudake, taiyou no tsubasa,” or “Crush sadness, oh wings of the sun.” The way the singer Yasuko Kamoshita emphasizes each syllable of “kanashimi o kudake” sends a jolt of excitement through me.

I think the reason why I notice it so much is because it’s a super robot theme sung by a woman. However, it’s not just because it’s a female vocalist, but because I feel like given the exact same song with the exact same fiery lyrics, male singers and female singers for super robot anime produce different results. Music’s not my strong suit, but if I had to describe the difference, it’s that the male singers tend to sound more passionate while the female singers tend to sound more heartfelt. When Kamoshita tells Fighbird to “crush sadness,” you can hear a twinge of sadness in her voice too.

You might be thinking, “But wait a second, it might just be because this is a 90s anime and at that point anime songs were changing!” And you’d be right on both points, but I think that this feeling extends back towards previous decades as well. Let’s not forget that female singers for super robot anime have been around for quite a while. I get the same impression from Horie Mitsuko’s work on Super Electromagnetic Machine Voltes V and Space Demon Daikengo, as well as MIO/MIQ’s Aura Battler Dunbine and Heavy Metal L-Gaim openings, though those two  are real robot shows so that genre shift factors in as well.

“Men and women sound different!” seems like such an obvious thing, but it really makes me aware of how the same song or piece of art can take on varying emotions once you change certain pieces.

For a fun comparison, let’s look at various openings throughout the decades featuring duets between Horie Mitsuko and anime song legend Mizuki Ichirou.

The Personal Side of Giant Robot Fighting: Shinkon Gattai Godannar

When it comes to Shinkon Gattai Godannar, everyone’s first impression is this:


Exhibit A

Followed by this:


Exhibit B

And they’re definitely right in that Godannar contains both, but unfortunately those are the only things they notice, and will often-times write the series off as trash. I’m here to tell you, however, that while those two elements featured above are ever-present, to the point that you’ll be seeing them invariably in every episode, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. I want to try and set the record straight, even though I’m well aware that it is in many ways a futile effort and that Godannar is just about the most difficult show to convince people to watch who aren’t enticed by Exhibits A and B.

If it sounds like I’m being defensive, it’s because I am. It’s just that I know how difficult its shell can be to penetrate, and I’m tired of people writing the show off as some vapid exercise in fanservice. Don’t get me wrong, the girls in this show are hot, with character designs by Kimura Takahiro of Gaogaigar, Betterman, and Code Geass fame, but they only scratch the surface of what’s really there.

Aoi Anna is a 17 year old girl who is the target of affection of every guy at her school. She’s beautiful, buxom, has a great personality, and is a match for anyone when it comes to physical competition. But while many girls her age are dating, Anna already has a fiancee. And while many teenagers are only beginning to consider their future, Annas already has a goal: to become a giant robot pilot. Her husband meanwhile is Saruwatari Gou, a man widely respected as the greatest robot pilot ever known.

Gou, however, is not a hot-blooded, gung-ho, never-say-die teenager, but rather a 30+ battle-scarred veteran able to temper his ferocious passion in battle with experience and foresight. He once lost the love of his life, a casualty of his life’s duty as the world’s greatest pilot, and has sworn to never let it happen again. With the aid of giant robot teams from all over the world, Anna and Gou must defend humanity by piloting the mighty robot “Godannar” while also living together as a newlywed couple.

Godannar is a very atypical giant robot anime, something which becomes more and more apparent as the show goes on. For example, the enemy in Godannar is a race of grotesque creatures of unknown origins known as the “Mimetic Beasts,” and that is all you ever learn about them. They are not Dr. Hell or Zeon or the Vajra, they do not have a mysterious past to delve into or personalities to hate. Instead, the real function of the Mimetic Beasts is to act as a backdrop for the characters to develop their relationships and grow.

While the show features robots prominently, its real focus is on characters and romance and on the relationships and bonds that develop between comrades-in-arms, instead of the conflict, politics, and the character development through antagonism that you usually see in giant robot shows, real or super. It is a more personal look at the men and women who defend the planet by jumping in steel golems and punching aliens.

Yes, if you watch Godannar you’ll be getting a faceful of cameltoe on a regular basis, but if you think the show is going to be about a guy who walks into girls changing and then gets punched through the roof, then I am glad to correct your mistake. Unlike what you might expect out of a typical fanservice anime, the men and women of Godannar barely bat an eyelash at the skintight suits and giant breasts which populate every scene, as if such scenery is merely commonplace in the world of the future. Instead, the only female characters to whom the men of Godannar react to are the ones they care for the most, which only reinforces the true theme of the series: love.

And through it all, particularly with the sexual aspect of the character designs, what may be most surprising of all is how strong the female characters are in Godannar. Not only are they on equal terms with their male counterparts, being every bit as capable on the battlefield as the guys, but they are also full of confidence, intelligence, and compassion, and never are they forced into the role of the damsel. There are no Aphrodai A’s to rescue, and for that matter no Boss Borots to bumble along to reinforce the idea of how strong Mazinger Z is. Each character and each robot pulls their weight in the heat of battle, and every relationship is equal, even if they may at first appear otherwise.

Godannar can be a difficult show to approach and to get past that initial impression of boobs and metal, but if you want to see a show with very good characterization and relationship development which also plays with the common tropes of anime to create a stronger story overall, then I think you should check it out. I know that the series is not for everyone, and for those who are not as familiar with super robots the clever subversion of the genre which occurs in Godannar may be lost or a non-issue, but I think many more people would enjoy the series than are willing to give it a chance.

2000-2009 Part 1: Looking Back


Ogiue Chika, Goddess of the 2000s

Introduction

We are on the cusp of a new decade, and with such a benchmark on the way it’s only natural for people to reflect on the past, to review what has happened to them and everything they care for. Anime and manga fans are no exception. After all, it’s normal for us to assign certain traits to specific periods of anime and manga, whether it’s nostalgically remembering the “time when anime was GOOD” (which depending on your mileage can be pretty much any period) or analyzing the trends and developments in anime from decades prior, and to really be compelled to fight for the medium we love. Anime and manga thrive on emotion and reflection, and we love it for that reason. With all that in mind, I asked myself a question.

“How will this decade be remembered in the eyes of future anime fans and scholars?”

After much thought, I decided on nine ideas in total which I feel are significantly representative of the 2000s.

The Dawn of Digital Animation and the Proliferation of CG

For about as long as there has been an animation “industry” to speak of, cartoons were done on cels, painted and layered by hand, resulting in a cost-intensive and laborious process. When graphic technology progressed far enough that it became possible to animate shows “digitally,” it’s no surprise that the Japanese Animation industry, known for its significantly lower production costs compared to western counterparts, would by the early 2000s embrace this change. As of today, about the only cel animation holdovers that still exist are Sazae-san and Ponyo. Going hand in hand with the switch to digital is the increasing usage of cg and 3D graphics in anime, again generally as a cost-saving measure. Though 3D graphics in anime have been around since the late 80s (see Char’s Counterattack for example), it was the 2000s where it became a common sight.


Athrun Zala from Gundam SEED (left) and Gundam SEED Destiny (right)

The unique properties of the digital format influenced every aspect of animation production and aesthetics. Looking at character design for one example, characters are made to be colored digitally now and their features are drawn in ways which facilitate digital animation. As such, the impact the switch to digital has had on anime cannot be underestimated.

Digital Anime is a little over 10 years old now, which is a lot of time and yet not very much at all, and this decade has seen it go through some serious growing pains. In particular, it’s gone under scrutiny as critics from every level of anime, from the highest industry intellectuals to the fans, have pointed out how much it isn’t cel animation. Personally speaking, the classic example of awkward digital animation for me is Gundam SEED, where characters in zero-gravity environments looked like cut-outs awkwardly motion-tweened against a background, something which improved with SEED Destiny. Over time, animators have become more adept at using these “digital shortcuts” more effectively, and now just as you have people championing the days of cels, you also have people who think that digital animation is inherently superior.

The real answer of course is that each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that it’s best to understand that, but that’s another talk for another day.

Character Over Story

Though there are still plenty of series which try to tell stories and have greater themes, the overall trend over the past few decades has been an increasing focus on the characters in those stories and to view them on a very personal level. While Evangelion is often marked as one of the major points where character emphasis began to supercede story emphasis, it is after 2000 where story truly begins to fall by the wayside. Taken to the extreme, these shows focus everything on intimate character portrayals with little to no narrative progress, eschewing narrative entirely, effectively creating a time capsule where characters are defined more by their static qualities than their active ones. Putting aside slice of life shows such as Hidamari Sketch and Azumanga Daioh, even series such as Haibane Renmei and Eureka Seven which place great emphasis on the grand scope of the world tend more towards the personal. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi in particular is a show whose story and events are more backdrops to display the characters and their workings.


Suzumiya Haruhi and the SOS-Dan

Essentially, this decade of anime and manga has been very much about “getting to know the characters” and treating them as “real.” Sometimes you’re a voyeur, peering into their most private moments. Sometimes you’re a close friend who gets to see them as they really are. In every case, it’s as if the goal is to have an anime viewer see a character and say, “I know what you’re really like.”

Moe

I could discuss moe all day long, but that’s not as important here as the fact that it became such a publicized word in anime fandom around the world. Whatever moe “is” or “is not,” in this decade it was clear that fans wanted it and that companies were eager to sell it.

While the word had been used prior to 2000 (such as in the 1999 visual novel Comic Party), it was after 2000 that the concept exploded and transformed into the beast that everyone knows and loves (or loves to hate). Moe became a buzzword, a rallying cry, and a point of contention as people inside and outside of the industry, as well as fans new and old, debated the effects that the popularization and push of “moe” had on the industry, the art form, and the people. The best example of how far the idea has reached would probably be the fact that Pokemon of all things featured a cute, spunky female character named “Moe” who had a crush on Satoshi/Ash.


Moe‘s name is also a pun on her usage of Fire-type Pokemon

At this point, it seems that moe has reached the height of its popularity and will become a genre that can be utilized in part or in whole. I suspect it will still be revisited in the future, but never again will we have this “moe mania,” perceived or otherwise.

“Softened” Character Designs

Chalk it up to “kawaii” or “moe” or “digital animation” or “influence from visual novels” or anything else, but character designs became softer in the period of 2000-2009. What does “softer” mean? It means rounder facial features, it means smoother curves on characters, it means subtle changes to color palettes that give off a sense of warmth, even in shows where you might not consider that appropriate. That’s not to say of course that “soft” character designs never existed in prior decades, but it was never to the same degree, and it did not seep into nearly every level and genre of anime in existence as it has here. It’s not just the Dengeki Daioh shows which went through this transformation.

It would be very easy to show you a picture of some gruff, manly shounen anime from the 80s and then put it next to something more modern and have people go, “Wow! That’s so different!” but there would be too many variables there, such as the inherent styles of the artists. Instead, I’m going to use a more subtle example.

Suzuki Mikura, Mezzo Forte (left), Mezzo Danger Service Agency (right)

Mezzo Forte is from 1998. Mezzo Danger Service Agency is from 2003. Both character designs are by the same person, Umetsu Yasuomi (who also directed both shows), and both of them are supposed to be the same character as well. Now Umetsu was always known as a skilled animator and character designer whose style leaned a little more towards the realistic side of things. And yet, look at what a difference five years make! If someone like Umetsu felt the winds of change to this extent, I think you can see what happened to character designs in anime as a whole.

Otaku in Fiction

Like many things on this list, the idea of otaku appearing in anime and manga isn’t new or unique to this decade, but the 2000s were when the concept exploded. While you had a handful of works in the previous decade, most notably Gainax’s Otaku no Video, the period from 2000-2009 saw such a growth of stories centered around otaku that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. Genshiken, Welcome to the NHK!, Lucky Star, Fujoshi Kanojo, Otaku no Musume-san, Rabuyan, Mousou Shoujo Otakukei, Tonari no 801-chan, Akibakei Kanojo, and of course Densha Otoko are among the many works which have thrown anime and manga fans into the fictional spotlight. Densha Otoko requires special mention, as its supposedly true story was partly responsible for Akihabara receiving much more mainstream media attention than in the past.

Not only are there stories about otaku now, but the “otaku” and the “fujoshi” have themselves become archetypes used in anime and manga. Go back to previous decades and only rarely will you find an otaku character who’s called an “otaku character.” Rarer still will you find them as main characters. The establishment of the otaku and fujoshi as character types in the world of anime, manga, and beyond is arguably a bigger impact than simply having works centered around otaku. Sanzenin Nagi would most assuredly have found a difficult time existing prior to this decade.


Sanzenin Nagi from Hayate the Combat Butler, Otaku Heroine

The arrival of the “otaku hero” is itself indicative of the increasing desire to appeal towards otaku. Just like how many shounen heroes are designed to appeal to kids by being more like them, otaku heroes are created to market towards anime and manga fans, to make it easier for them to relate to the characters and world of the story. At least, that’s the intention. Actual results have varied.

Greater Reverence for the Past in Remakes

Every decade has its remakes of famous and beloved works from the past, but there was something different about the way the 2000s went about it. In order to show just exactly what that difference is, we’re going to take a trip back over 40 years and start at the beginning.

In the 1960s a black and white cartoon called Tetsujin 28 appeared on Japanese television. Taking place in that era (or in “2001” if you follow the Gigantor version), the show followed a boy detective named Kaneda Shoutarou and his remote-controlled giant robot “Tetsujin 28.” He would traipse about the world in his plaid suit and short shorts, righting wrongs and fighting crime, and the show was very popular among kids.

In 1980 someone decided to revive the franchise and Tetsujin 28 underwent “modernization.” Referred to either as New Tetsujin 28 or Emissary of the Sun Tetsujin 28, the new anime sported updated redesigns for both Shoutarou and his trusty metal companion, with Shoutarou ditching his semi-formal wear for an open button-down shirt over a striped t-shirt and Tetsujin 28 slimming down and gaining more “realistic” human proportions. The art was less like its predecessor and more like the other anime coming out at the time.

The series was remade again in 1992 under the title Super Electric Robo Tetsujin 28 FX. Taking place many years into the future, the main character this time around was the son of the Kaneda Shoutarou. Kaneda Masato looked completely like a 90s anime character, sporting wild spiked hair and trading in the old remote control for a remote control gun. The new Tetsujin 28 meanwhile was the biggest departure yet, with its massive armored frame, oversized shoulder pads, and angular features. One look at this show and its designs, and you would be able to determine its time frame almost instantly.

Then in 2004 another Tetsujin 28 was announced. Would the story this time be about Tetsujin 28 fighting terrorists in the 21st century? Would Shoutarou’s be changed into a bishounen? Just how would this Tetsujin 28 update itself? The answer, it turns out, is by revisiting post-war setting of the original anime and manga, putting Kaneda Shoutarou back in his suit and short shorts, and returning the titular robot to its round and cumbersome-looking original design. The main difference was, this time around they could tell an on-going story that wasn’t possible with the episodic nature of the first anime.


Tetsujin 28, 60s (top-left), 80s (top-right), 90s (lower-left), and 00s (lower-right)

 

Here we see the level of reverence that animated remakes in the 2000s have for their source material. As cool as Sugino Akio’s Black Jack from the OVAs looks, it’s more a Sugino design that it is an adaptation of the Tezuka version. Whether it’s the new Black Jack, the new Towards the Terra, or the new Glass Mask, these remakes over the past ten years have all derived their aesthetics from the originals and tried even in their updated redesigns to capture their visual essence, as opposed to re-envisioning the characters almost entirely to fit in with the current trends of animation. Re: Cutie Honey in particular is a prime example, when comparing its opening to the original’s. Even adaptation of 90s series such as Itazura na Kiss and Slayers Revolution went about trying to capture that 90s anime “feel.”

Overall, this decade has done a much better job at looking back then the decades previous, but that might just be because anime is old enough at this point for that to happen in a proper fashion.

The Kids’ Manga of Yesterday is the Adult Manga of Today

Tying directly into the remake reverence, nostalgia for anime and manga has become a greater factor in the industry than it ever has in the past, and it has everything to do with appealing to the adults of today who were once kids. As with the example of Tetsujin 28, the revivals of today differ from the revivals of yesteryear in that while the previous ones tried to update the series for the kids of that era, more current series tap directly into the adult market who have a longing for the anime and manga of their childhood. Whereas Kinnikuman and Hokuto no Ken ran in Shounen Jump (the current home of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach), Kinnikuman II (1998) and Souten no Ken (2001) run in adult magazines high on nostalgia.


Hokuto no Ken’s Kenshiro (left), Souten no Ken’s Kasumi Kenshiro (right)

Nowhere is this more evident than in the way the super robot genre has been approached over the past ten years. Arguably starting with 1997’s Gaogaigar and its realization that adults are watching this kids’ show, super robots have tried to tap into the childhood of those 18 and up. One only has to look at Gurren-Lagann, Godannar!!, Koutetsushin Jeeg, New Getter Robo, Shin Mazinger, Aim for the Top 2 and others to see this trend. While not all of these shows go out of their way to alienate new viewers (and shows such as Gaiking: Legend of Daikumaryu try harder to focus on a younger audience), they are still homages to the themes and tropes of decades past, trying to attract yesterday’s fan today.

 

Accelerated Access to Anime

Looking at the way we watch anime and read manga now, with our streaming videos, official online comics, torrents, rapidshares, and just ease of access to the product, it can be easy to remember that there was a time when getting any anime at all was a diffcult feat, and any show we saw was many years old at that point. But let’s not step back too far, and just consider the fact that there was a time before stores had “anime” or “manga” sections where you could easily buy the latest volume of your favorite series (or not buy, as the case may be).

Speed of information. Speed of communication. Speed has defined this decade as a whole, let alone in the realm of anime and manga, but it’s in the easy access to large amounts of media that anime began to feel like a juggernaut. On the up-and-up, you could buy anime DVDs and manga in mainstream stores and chains, or watch anime about fighting with monsters on Saturday Morning cartoons, or catch Cartoon Network’s Toonami and Adult Swim. On the illegitimate side of things, people began to produce “digisubs,” obviating the need for VHS fansubs and tape-trading. IRC downloads gave way to Direct Connect, which was succeeded by the Bittorrent, which in turn was overtaken in popularity by a new website called YouTube, which ushered in an age of streaming video.


The ease with which we could find anime made the world feel a little smaller

At anime cons, industry representatives have talked about how Bittorrent, while significant, didn’t cut into their revenues nearly as much as streaming video had. Streaming anime was fast, easy to understand (no “What’s a Torrent?”), and of course it was free. That’s why so many companies are trying streaming video right now; they know that this is where people are turning and they want to get something out of it rather than trying to squash it entirely. Even the Japan side is getting more savvy about this, with Bandai Channel getting into the mix and the rise of Nico Nico Douga. Now we actually have shows which are accessible to international audiences at nearly the exact same minute as a broadcast in Japan. And ironically, some people have shown that it’s still not fast enough.

The Ups and Downs of Internationalization

Back in 2000 I saw the second Pokemon movie on opening day, as I had with the first movie. I distinctly remember it being the summer of 2000, seeing as how the English title for the movie was Pokemon 2000 and all. But as I sat in the theater with friends that morning, I looked at the entrances for a moment and then…they came. Children flooded the theater, seeping into every row and every seat that they could like a single Pikachu-loving blob. In a couple of minutes the theater was packed. This was Pokemon. This was where anime had gone.

Then years later I went to see the 5th movie, starring Latios and Latias in theaters. Once again it was opening day, but this time I was the only person in the theater. Looking back, this should have told me everything I needed to know about the life of anime and manga in this decade.


The Pokemon movies from 2000 and 2003

The anime and manga industries of today struggle as their peers and rivals fall victim to a mix of overzealousness, bad decisions, and a market that just isn’t there even though they wanted it to be. But whether there was ever any actual success, or whether it was built purely on kindle and gumdrops from the beginning, the fact that these companies were even around to be eliminated, the fact that someone could actually think an “Anime Network” would succeed, the fact that another person would think, “We have to make our cartoons more like that anime stuff,” the fact that Anime and Manga could even give the impression of “Making It Big” is amazing in itself.

Conclusion

Anime and manga in the period from 2000-2009 has undergone changes in almost every area imaginable, from the way it’s watched to the way it’s created, from storytelling styles and character aesthetics, to perceptions of the past and the future. Whether it’s for the better or worse, I think ultimately history will have a neutral opinion on this era as the good inevitably came with the bad.

While these changes have been quite major, they do not exist in a bubble separate from history, and if you look closely you’ll find strong connections going back to the earliest days of anime and manga that continuously resonate from past to present. And in a way, this decade was not so different from the ones previous to it in the sense that every decade has brought with it changes to how anime is perceived, received, and produced. What’s different this time though, is that everyone around the world can see them more clearly and talk about them with ease, as we are doing right now.

So that’s 2000-2009 and the look back. Get ready for Part 2, where I talk about where I think anime and manga will be going in the coming years.

Make Way for the New with Super Robot Wars K AND GODANNAR SERIOUSLY WHOA

Super Robot War K has been announced for the Nintendo DS, and the lineup consists almost entirely of shows that have aired in recent years. While it’s kind of sad to not see some of the old guard there, it’s also a big deal that they would include shows like Koutetsushin Jeeg, Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu and even SHINKON GATTAI GODANNAR.

Those of you who know me might know that there have been two series I’ve really wanted to get into SRW: Eureka Seven and Godannar. Eureka Seven made it in with Z, now Godannar has its chance to shine.

Godannar is a seriously good show to put in SRW due to the fact that all of its robots are AWESOME. You won’t run into the problem of having useless units from the series taking up space or having missions where you’re forced to use them be unpleasant. Every single one is supposed to be able to carry its weight.

The list so far (who knows they might reveal more later)

Mazinger Z
Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu-
Koutetsushin Jeeg
Zoids Genesis
Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!
Shinkon Gattai Godannar!! Second Season
Gun x Sword
Haja Taisei Dangaioh
Overman King Gainer
Soukyuu no Fafner
Cyber Troopers Virtual On Marz
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED C.E.73-Stargazer-

SHINKON GATTAI GO

GO GO GO

-ING TO CHINATOWN TO BUY THIIIIIS