In addition to my con report of Anime NYC, I also sat down with Kate and Al from the Reverse Thieves to discuss New York’s latest anime convention!
NOTE: This review is part of the 2016 Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa Project
While I don’t religiously embrace the works of Matsumoto Leiji, I consider myself a loving fan. The Rintaro-directed Galaxy Express 999 film is far and away my favorite work of Japanese animation ever, and the gravitas-laden feel of Matsumoto’s manga never ceases to draw me in. When approaching the film adaptation of Queen Millennia, however, I came to it with a vague inkling that I should expect something different. Years ago, the film was discussed by the podcast Anime World Order, and the main thing I remembered from that review is the fact that its director, Akehi Masayuki, is not exactly known for subtlety. With films of bombastic super robots and handsome shounen heroes to his name, my expectations could be summed up as “Matsumoto through the lens of wild action and spectacle.”
Queen Millennia certainly lives up to that expectation, but what I find more prominent is just how discombobulated the entire film feels.
The story of Queen Millennia is set in the far-flung year of 1999, and centers around a woman named Yukino Yayoi, who, unbeknownst to her co-workers, is actually the secret alien queen of the Earth. Having overseen the Earth for the past 1000 years as one of many millennial queens dating back to time immemorial, Yayoi (real name Promethium II) is set to abdicate her position for the next successor and return to her home planet of La Metal. However, La Metal has its own plans and now seeks to destroy the Earth. Queen Millennia must now defend her adopted homeland from her own people with the help of a young boy named Hajime.
There is a generally haunting quality to Matsumoto Leiji works that appear even in adaptations, and Queen Millennia is no exception. Scenes of destruction, pans over wide swathes of land and outer space give the impression of an expansive universe with a great deal of history. However, at numerous times during the film, the atmosphere feels as is if it all but takes over the film, sacrificing the coherency of the narrative along the way. There are numerous plot points in the film come too abruptly and then fade away, as if the viewer is only given the Cliff Notes version of events.
We learn almost immediately that Yayoi is Queen Millennia, a role whose purpose is woefully under-explained. When the soldiers of La Metal attack the Earth with their futuristic spaceships, they’re held back by the weapons of Earth, including fairly outmoded ones such as harpoons and catapults. For some reason, despite ruling over the Earth secretly for thousands upon thousands of years, and even bringing up the fact that humankind is violent and prone to war, the La Metallians mention that they did not expect the people of Earth to have spears and rocks. The film picks up towards the end, especially when the spirits of the former Queen Millennias are summoned, and they each have secret space battleships buried in the Earth with their faces emblazoned on the bows, but that sort of energy and bizarre presentation feels like it should have come much earlier.
I suspected that Queen Millennia was suffering from being a film adaptation of a longer series, and I was right. There was both a five-volume manga series by Matsumoto, as well as a 42-episode anime. If you go to Wikipedia and read the plot summary, it makes a lot more sense and gives the impression that many important plot points are set up and executed over a long period. The Queen Millennia film, in condensing all of that into two hours, leaves a good deal of story by the wayside.
However, this issue cannot fall squarely on the shoulders of being a “summary movie,” because other even longer Matsumoto works have been successfully adapted to film. The aforementioned Galaxy Express 999 film takes a massively long-running manga and anime and transforms it into a feature-length work, but the compromises made for time help connect the narrative rather than scramble it. They visit far fewer planets, but the ones they do are directly relevant to the events at the climax of the film. Notably, when they reach the last stop, the name of the planet is changed from “La Metal” in the original to something that effectively drives home the major plot twist while also transforming what took minutes in the anime TV series into mere seconds. While I haven’t actually taken a look at the TV series or the manga of Queen Millennia, very little gives me the impression that it has these sorts of considerations built in.
Ultimately, I think the positive qualities of Queen Millennia are its excellent atmosphere, its strong emotions, and its visual spectacle. The issue with it is that these qualities come at the expense of a coherent story, and much of the time devoted to showing fights or the world could have been used to provide a better sense of the stakes at hand and the significance of Queen Millennia herself much earlier in the film. By the time the film starts to pick up, it’s already about two-thirds over, and it leaves a feeling of what could have been.
Last note: What is going on with this guy’s hair helmet? He’s taking the Jotaro hat-hair thing to a whole other level.
Hulu is removing hundreds of anime from its catalogue on June 1st, and I hopped onto the Speakeasy Podcast with Alain to talk about it and to speculate about what it might mean for anime streaming in the future.
If your favorite show is on Hulu, there’s a good chance it’s also on other legitimate streaming services, but it’s still notable because of how big Hulu is.
Sadly, this means Hulu viewers might no longer be able to experience the excellent Show by Rock!!
Whether you visited family or went to Comic Market or something else entirely, I hope everyone had a delightful end of the year. January means a new season of anime, reflection the last year’s, and a time to see where this crazy train takes us.
As always, I’m here to thank my Patreon supporters. They’re a strong reminder that my way of writing resonates with people, and for that I’m ever grateful.
Yoshitake Rika fans:
Hato Kenjirou fans:
Yajima Mirei fans:
I’m happy to see that patrons are taking advantage of the Ogiue Maniax sidebar. Don’t forget, if you’re already pledging $2 or more, you can put your website on Ogiue Maniax without any added cost!
Also, due to work I may have to slow down the pace of Ogiue Maniax a bit. As stated in last month’s Patreon status update, I’ve been trying to bump the rate to three posts a week, but I might have to bring it back down to two on average. I hope this doesn’t cause any problems!
Highlights from the past month include my annual picks for best characters of the year, and of course the monthly Genshiken review. In fact, there was (sort of) another Genshiken post this month too, as I compared Oshino Ougi from Owarimonogatari to Ogiue herself. Are they twins separated at birth?
Thanks to the Reverse Thieves, I got plenty of other opportunities as well. I appeared on their S.W.A.T. Review podcast to discuss the interesting and somewhat controversial Smile Precure! dub known as Glitter Force, and even wrote a follow-up post about some of the censorship that has gone on in the series. I also participated in their Anime Secret Santa project (an annual tradition), where I finally tackled the yuri science fiction anime Simoun. You can even check out my thoughts on other bests of 2015 on their blog.
The last post I’d like to draw attention to concerns my thoughts on the idea of the “Mary Sue.” It’s become an increasingly prominent term when discussing media, so I think it’s worth remembering where it all comes from.
While the requirement for me to write about something at your behest is a pledge for the “Decide My Fate” Tier on Patreon, I am curious as to what my readers would like to see more of from Ogiue Maniax. For example, I’ve been doing more video game-related posts, though they’re not super common. Obviously I’d never abandon the anime and manga aspect or reduce its importance on the blog, but would people for example like more general fandom posts like the Mary Sue one?
My first exposure to Simoun came about 10 years ago, when many of my online friends had been discussing the series. As my friends were fans of cute, sexy girls, and girl-girl relationships of both the Ikkitousen and Maria Watches Over Us variety, at the time I had felt it difficult to genuinely gauge the series based on their positive responses. Though my wariness caused me to set aside Simoun as an afterthought, more recently it was chosen for me to review as part of the 2015 Reverse Thieves Anime Secret Santa. Having finished the series I realize now that I had unfairly judged Simoun for its surface qualities, and that is in fact a very strong, emotionally-oriented science fiction story that fits in and exemplifies a long and evolving tradition of science fiction anime and manga.
In the world of Simoun, everyone is born a girl and choose their genders when they become adults. The main character of Simoun, a teenager named Aer, joins the Sibyllae, priestesses who fly divine vessels known as Simouns. The Simouns and the priestesses, normally meant to fulfill a religious role, are also thrust into conflict because their vehicles can be weaponized, though unlike conventional crafts they fight primarily by inscribing patterns across the sky that trigger magical effects. The key to the Simouns, and why Aer and the others are chosen to be Sibyllae, is that they can only be piloted by those who have yet to become adults. Simoun Sibyllae form close bonds with their co-pilots, signified by a kiss before they take flight.
Sometimes there will be an anime where where you can maybe argue that it’s concerned with gender and sexuality, women’s rights, and other similar topics, but that requires a fairly loose reading. Simoun is not one of those anime. It is a work, and a world, where questions about sex, gender, and sexuality are front and center. For example, while it’s not difficult to see why Simoun is labeled as a yuri series, in many ways it defies that categorization. Though everyone enters the world as a girl, the paths they make towards their ultimate choices are contingent upon the circumstances of their world, who they fall for, and how they go about navigating their lives in general. Children who fall in love as girls might both become women, or men, or any combination.
I have to stress how much this series plays with the ideas of gender and sexuality, because it’s such a major factor in Simoun. Girls, as they become adults, slowly transform into their new bodies, so a girl, even a buxom one, will only start to resemble a man after a few years. While the idea of transitioning between sexes is nor considered the norm in our world, in Simoun this is just the natural way of things, both physically and culturally. One interesting choice Simoun makes to emphasize this fact is that all characters, from children to bearded old men, are voiced by women.
Simoun features a very emotionally and environmentally robust science fiction narrative that interestingly is tied strongly to the emotional weight of its characters. Romance is a part of their world, but it’s not their entire world. Other countries attack Kyuukyoku because the Simouns do not pollute the sky like their own aircraft. The war itself is ever-present, and the Syballae put themselves on the line, but they’re shown to also be somewhat disconnected due to their positions as religious figures. The girl-girl kissing that happens before every battle might be seen as a thrilling yuri moment, but it’s not necessarily the case that the characters need to form romantic relationships to fly their Simouns.
The very power afforded those who have yet to become adults, the power of potential, is integrated into the very core of the narrative and its explorations of this alternative universe. Even the Simouns themselves have a certain bizarre quality in their designs that make it difficult to ascertain how much they’re truly divine aircrafts and how much they’re simply highly advanced technology.
Part of the reason I had my slight misgivings over Simoun back then were that the character designs are very reminiscent of more fanservice-oriented series. While I myself like the designs, and Simoun does not have a great amount of sexual allure on display, it’s enough in its promotional materials and its general aesthetic that one could, even while watching the show, take only shallow titillation from it. This isn’t inherently bad, but I can imagine there are others like myself who approached the series with an eyebrow raised because that was all it appeared to be. Moreover, there are elements that might have come across as merely fulfilling certain fetishes, such as large age differences, incest, and more. However, they are for the most part developed well, and exist as a few of many possible relationships in the world, and just in general I do not feel like they hold back Simoun to any large degree.
Overall, I would highly recommend Simoun to just about anyone, but especially those who want to see an anime that fosters thought and discussion. It presents a unique and robust world of utopian/dystopian imagination full of limitations, possibilities, and unique characters.
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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?